Thursday, August 15, 2013

The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray. ~ Robert Green Ingersoll

If one is sincere about wanting to help (and most of us are when we do), it makes more sense to offer specific help rather than just to make a general offer.

We've all heard it.
We've all said it.

"Let me know if you need anything."

In personal matters this can make you feel even more overwhelmed than the reason (or look on your face) that prompted the person to make this offer. People don't normally say this randomly, it's usually prompted by a rant, venting session or an obvious need for assistance.  "Letting someone know if you need anything" requires more work to already burdened mood; then you have come up with a list (whether written or mental) of the things that need to get done so you can FIND something in order to TELL someone what they CAN do to help. When your head is already spinning, the last thing you want to do is analyze what someone who's offered help can do to decrease your load, so most of usually say
                                       "Thanks, but I'm..."

In business, it's downright frustrating especially if you're a Type A, let's get this sh*t done (like yours truly). I'm going to return to using personal life examples in an attempt to make my point as most of us can relate to those best.

If you've joined a committee, whether it be a sports team, moms group or PTA, you know the circles those quick meetings can potentially spin into, fast, and you end the session wondering if anything was truly accomplished. I hate that feeling because you showed up to help and left a little more confused than when you arrived for volunteer duty.

When working within a volunteer organization, your business dealings, hell even friendships it is extremely helpful to be very specific.

If you genuinely have help to offer try...

"Let me pick up the ice cream cake on the way to the party. 
Will you make sure to pay for it before I arrive?" 

You have offered help with a specific task you're aware needs fulfilling, you've set a boundary for your offer and explained that you're not in a position to foot the bill. Plus you're driving right by Baskin Robbins on your way up to the party AND have offered relief by eliminating one less, time sensitive task for the hostess.

"I've got fifty extra bucks in my wallet, hand me your grocery list. 
I'll be back in 20 minutes."

You went by your buddy's house who's down in the dumps over his recent divorce. You see empty containers of Cup O' Soup on the counter and spoiled milk in the fridge. You've got a little time and money to spare to help a friend out, especially knowing it's his weekend with his kids. Don't ask. Just tell, then do. Done.

"I'm going to be at the (_______) at 2 pm anyway, I'll pick up your kids today. 
Should I drop them off at your house or...?"

You notice the kids of the mom, who recently had to return to full time job, always being the last ones to be picked up from school. You know times are tough and you're there every day, on time, to pick up your two in the car you own that seats eight. I'm not suggesting you become a free bus service or offer free day care, but if you know you're helping out someone during a rough transition, don't offer vague help ("Sorry things are so rough, let me know if you need anything!"), instead offer minor, specific relief. Now if mom shows up with the smell of cocktails on her breath about four hours later, don't make this offer twice, but you may want to speak to the school counselor.

If you're the person in need (or in charge) state clearly:

"I need three people to set up the snack booth at the football game on Friday nights, two to set up one to tear down. There are two two-hour shifts at the home games. Please check the (sport's) calendar and sign up for one or both shifts."

I love being on the receiving end of requests like these and, quite frankly, I reply more quickly than I would to a request for volunteers with only a date mentioned for fear I may have volunteered all of my Friday nights away (again).

"ABC Corp donated (______) last year to (your group) and you, Johnny, work right next door. Could you please go by on Tuesday and confirm that we can count on them again this year?"

One simple, convenient task instead of a long list that every looks at and passes on to the person sitting next to them with a shoulder shrug.

Now let's do an example at work:

"Board members are coming in Tuesday. Order lunch for ten under $150. Delivered by noon to east conference room. Put it on (corporate officer)'s expense account."

I can't begin to tell you how many execs say "order a nice lunch" without any of the details, leaving you to wonder if it's too elaborate, too expensive, too cheap or even enough food.

It's pretty simple yet we all fall victim to this trap with our I'd-LOVE-to-helps and our let-me-know-if-you-need-anythings.

The moral of this story is BE SPECIFIC.

"No problem can be solved until it is 
reduced to some simple form." ~John Pierpont Morgan

BLOG POST AUTHORED BY: Julie Miller, President of Lady Luck Consulting


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