4 Powerful Words Employees Need to Hear
BY Jeff Haden
There are lots of ways to make a positive impact on your staff. But the best involves four simple words.
Four simple words, used correctly and with the right intent, can make a powerful impact on your business, your life, and other people.
When you need help, start by using these four--and only these four--words:
"Can you help me?"
And then, for a moment, stop there.
You're not a kid anymore. You're an adult. You're smart and experienced and savvy. You've accomplished things. You've earned your place in the world.
So when you ask for help you also tend to unconsciously add image enhancers. For example, if you need help with a presentation you might go to someone and say, "I'm meeting with investors next week and my slides need a few formatting tweaks."
The problem is that wording serves to frame and signal your importance and ensure your ego is protected. Okay, you may need a little assistance with some trivial matter like a PowerPoint layout, but still: You are the one presenting to investors. You do the heavy lifting around here. You are the big dog in this particular hunt.
Plus you haven't really asked--you've stated. (When you're in charge and accustomed to directing others, turning requests into directives is a really easy habit to fall into.)
Here's a better way.
When you need help--no matter the kind of help you need or the person you need it from--take the bass out of your voice and the stiffness out of your spine and the captain out of your industry and just say, with sincerity and humility, "Can you help me?"
I guarantee the other person will say, "Sure," or, "I can try," or, "What do you need?" No one will never say "no," even a stranger. "Can you help me?" speaks powerfully to our instinctive desire to help other people.
Then make sure not to frame your request. Don't imply that you place yourself above the other person. Don't make your request too specific. And don't say what you need.
Instead, say what you can't do. Say, "I'm awful at PowerPoint and my slides look terrible." Say, "We absolutely have to ship this order by Tuesday and I have no idea how to make that happen." Say, "I'm lost and I can't find my hotel."
When you ask that way several powerful things immediately occur--especially for the other person:
One, you instantly convey respect. Without actually saying it, you've said, "You know more than I do." You've said, "You can do what I can't." You've said, "You have experience (or talents or something) that I don't have."
You've said, "I respect you." That level of respect is incredibly powerful--and empowering.
Two, you instantly convey trust. You show vulnerability, you admit to weakness, and you implicitly show that you trust the other person with that knowledge.
You've said, "I trust you." That level of trust is incredibly powerful--and empowering.
Three, you instantly convey you're willing to listen. You haven't tried to say exactly how people should help you. You give them the freedom to decide.
You've said, "You don't have to tell me what you think I want to hear; tell me what you think I should do." That level of freedom is incredibly powerful--and empowering.
By showing you respect and trust other people, and by giving them the latitude to freely share their expertise or knowledge, you don't just get the help you think you want.
You might also get the help you really need.
You get more--a lot more.
And so do other people, because they gain a true sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from being shown the respect and trust they--and everyone--deserves. Plus you make it easier for them to ask you for help when they need it. You've shown it's okay to express vulnerability, to admit a weakness, and to know when you need help.
And then, best of all, you get to say two more incredibly powerful words:
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden