Culture of Confidence

Why You Must Make Strong “Asks” for Our Campaigns

Photo: Moyan Brenn via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: Moyan Brenn via Flickr (Creative Commons)

As I was walking into a store recently someone was there running up to people and handing out coupons. She had a huge smile and seemed so excited to share this opportunity with people.

She just came right up and asked “would you like to hear about our latest deals?”

I couldn’t help but be more interested in what she was handing out and her attitude made my day that much brighter.

Then I realized “how come I don’t act like this when I’m talking to people about my own projects/campaigns?”

If our organizing for social change really is as critical as we know it to be, then we need to be out there on the streets or calling people up to let them know.

I know I still get nervous or quiet when I’m publicizing an event or initiative in-person or over the phone`.

Ideally I would love for people to come over to me and ask what I’m doing and then I would be totally comfortable sharing! Unfortunately for my ideal setup, this doesn’t happen too often.

However, now I believe it’s much better that I should be the one to start the interaction with others. Shouldn’t I be stoked to be letting folks know about this important campaign that they really would love to hear about?

Even though I know this positive outlook is true, it will still be hard for me to work up the resolve from time-to-time.

What I need to keep in mind is that making the “ask” is essential to the success of our campaigns.

So how can we go about making sure we have strong “asks?” Well let’s take a look at a few tips.

  • Stand in front of the table (if you have one)
  • Go up to people, don’t wait for them to come to you
  • Pick up the phone and call. Email should be your last option.
  • Keep at the front of your mind why this is so important to you and why you think others would find it important
  • It’s up to the campaign leadership to make sure to take the time to train and make sure everyone feels confident
  • Remember if you value the work you’re doing, others will most likely value it too so you’re supporting them by telling more about your efforts
  • Be energized!
  • Remember to listen and not just talk! Engage people in a conversation

These are are just a few ideas to keep in mind. However, the most important is just remember why you are doing this and that your efforts matter.

If you’re like me your “asks” may not be the smoothest at first, but if you keep it up then you’ll be sharing so many new opportunities with folks to get involved or support the campaign that may never have had the chance before.

What helps you make the “ask?” Give your thoughts below!

Culture of Confidence

Why We Must Push for a Culture of Excellence

Photo: Alan Levine via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: Alan Levine via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One common refrain I hear in the empowerment/leadership development realm, is that we need to “let people develop their own potential.”

The implication is the individual knows best how to grow their own abilities.

How often is this actually true though?

I know I’ve had the opportunity to grow into the organizer and person I am now because I had numerous people at different stages in my life pushing me to exceed even my own expectations.

This idea of “the learner knows best” also fosters an individual-centric model, instead of a community of teaching where everyone contributes to personal development.

I think it’s time our social change training modules take a cue from those dedicated folks in the K-12 education sphere.


What K-12 education can teach us about supporting changemakers


What I’ve discovered, through my incredible partner who teaches 1st grade, is that exemplary K-12 educators are those who both push for and support a culture of excellence.

In this case “excellence” means to demonstrate a high level of mastery of a certain topic (whether it be reading or facilitating a meeting) independent of test scores, comparisons, or statistical averages.

This model also acknowledges that people will have different background experiences and may need more coaching to reach “excellence.”

Also, in this context we should take into account each person’s needs and aspirations at the moment. Maybe they need just a bit more time to reach where they want to be, but they should know we will always seek to push for and support them to achieve excellence.

We don’t need to be mean and punish people if they don’t reach a state of excellence, but instead we need to dedicate more of our energy to making sure they can.

We must never “give up” on someone and think they cannot achieve something because “they just aren’t good at X [e.g. public speaking or coordinating].”

If either the individual themselves, or the people around them, have this mentality of “I’m just not good at X,” then it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Remember, not everyone has had a mentor, family member, or friend who consistently encouraged them to do more than what they believe even for themselves.

That’s why we have to create a culture of excellence where everyone expects that they will push themselves AND have the support of those around them to help them in this pursuit.

Whether this is in our trainings, our campaign teams, or with the community members we work with, we must remember that we don’t know what someone’s capabilities will be so we have to aim to stretch their skills.

I may wish I consistently had this mindset of not expecting the extent of someone’s capabilities, I know sometimes I haven’t given every person I’ve worked with the chance to exceed what I think they can do.

I may believe I’m open to someone beating my expectations, but if I don’t give them the resources or have challenging conversations about where to improve, then I’m short-changing both of our potential.

I’m lucky that I have a very supportive teacher in my life who has taught me the value of always “pushing for the best” out of every person, including myself.

Have you ever been in a position where you aimed for excellence yourself or supported others? Or maybe a time looking back you might have wished to do more? Leave a comment below!