The Hardest Ask
November 4, 2013

People often discuss the hardest things in life to ask for – and recently, I’ve heard the same two answers: money and help. While I agree, from my vantage point, the hardest ask is for someone’s time.

I have been reminded of this in recent weeks as we planned ParenteBeard’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee Forum.  This year, we built a dynamic panel of speakers – a real “wow!” – with former FBI Director, Louis Freeh, serving as our Keynote Speaker. Other contributors include Jeanette Franzel, Board Member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board; Lon Greenberg, Chairman of UGI; Eileen McDonnell, CEO of Penn Mutual Life; Robert Schimek, CEO of the Americas for AIG Property Casualty; Tom Smith, Vice President of Corporate Audit at Campbell Soup Company and Alan Stone, Practice Group Leader of Litigation & Arbitration Group with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

In securing this panel of speakers, the final “ask” for many of them was on me.  And when you ask someone to give their time, you immediately feel a different sense of responsibility.  You want the experience to be worth their time.  You want to be sure that it’s a “wow” for them too.  You realize that you are asking for something that there’s just too little of for all of us these days.

I feel fortunate that all of those we asked to participate in our Forum saw the value of this event and graciously agreed to share their time and expertise.  But it isn’t lost on me that there might have been other “asks” of them for that afternoon.  I am deeply grateful but I am also relieved that I don’t have to make this “ask” again until 2014!

What asks do you struggle with?  What have been your experiences in asking for a person’s time or perhaps, in being asked to give of your time?

Thanks for stopping by.

10 Responses to The Hardest Ask

  1. Jacqueline Coe says:

    In my experience, the most important part of asking for someone’s time is that you show your appreciation for their time. My most recent experience with this was at a volunteer event that I help run at a local camp. I asked 9 people to volunteer their time to help winterize the camp. After the event, I made sure to sent everyone a handwritten thank you card. This was a very important part of asking for their time. I have received a lot of positive feedback from these cards. One volunteer was frustrated about the event being a little disorganized and might not have been willing to come back again if he did not receive the thank you card. Another volunteer already committed to coming back to help in the spring. I think that the value of a handwritten thank you card is something that not many people think about until they receive one.

  2. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    Jacqueline – thank you for your comment and great idea about timely follow-up. You’re absolutely right. So often we host events or meet with someone and forget the value of a unique “thank you” note afterward. In today’s world, so many “thank you” messages lose significance when sent as an email, text or social media message. I enjoy sending my team personal congratulations and thank you notes when appropriate. I’m impressed by your commitment to making the local camp a better place and securing lasting volunteers. Looks like you’re off to a good start securing volunteers and showing them your appreciation.

  3. Imad Khoury says:

    My team and (Learning and Development and Talent Acquisition) are in the business of asking people for their time. Time away from client work but time well spent whether it being to help us identify the future talent of the firm or to help develop our staff/team members through Learning and Development Activities. We would like to thank all of them for agreeing to give us their time and want them to know how appreciative we are.

  4. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    Imad – I appreciate your consistent efforts to advance and expand our current team. It’s important that we have representation from all our regions and practice areas at our major recruiting events. I am also grateful to our many team members that have given their time to make these events interactive and to provide valuable insight into our firm’s culture. Keep up the good work.

  5. Norberto Rafael Saraceni says:

    I think is very important show appreciation every time When somebody helps us. Especially in labor. When we need some team member incurs overtime to finish a job

  6. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    Norberto – Absolutely. When team members go the extra mile or put in significant amounts of time to meet a deadline, it is important for them to feel appreciated. Overtime, they will continue to work hard if they hear how important their efforts were to helping the team. Thank you for the insight. I enjoy hearing from other members of the Baker Tilly International network.

  7. Charles A. Morgan says:

    It’s very difficult to ask for someone’s time when you can tell they are having a bad, or “off” day. It’s equally difficult to ask for someone’s time if they seem bothered, or less-enthusiastic, to assist you. I do my best to remember that when I’m asked for help.

  8. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    Charlie – Thanks for your comment. Agree. Timing is always tricky when asking people for their time. I too try to consider my experiences of being requested to give time when I ask others for theirs. It’s a good strategy for making an effective ask. If the request is positive, then the requested “time” will be something they look forward to.

  9. David J. James says:

    In some cultures, there is less thanking practiced and expected than in the American culture. But in those cultures there is sometimes an alternative way of expressing appreciation, namely what the Chinese call “guanxi” – I did this for you and I don’t expect thanks, but I do expect to be able to ask you for the same. Some European countries seem to be on the spectrum between the two extreme cultures.

  10. Bob Ciaruffoli says:

    David – Great point. Many cultures have different ways of showing appreciation. When we’re partnering with someone outside of our country it’s important to consider how that professional would want to be thanked. It’s always interesting to see how “thank you” is communicated around the world. Thanks for the comment.

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