In Blog

The 4 Most Powerful Words in Business


I need your help.

The most influential and fastest growing people know they do not know everything and they aggressively seek advice and counsel from people that know more than them.  And they do it over and over and over again.

The way to get more information quickly is simple.  Identify the people who have the information and skills you don’t have and set up time with them. Tell them what you are working on and say, “I need your help”.

Two things happen at that moment.  The person you are talking too feels good because you are asking them for help and they think you are wise for knowing it. 

Pretty simple but it works all the time.

Lesson Learned

I once worked for a high impact leader who taught me this process and how she used it to run a business that she had almost experience.  She did this time and time again and was always a high performing leader. There were a few simple steps.  

First, identify the smartest, most engaged customers, about 10-15, and set up time with them and ask them what is going on with the business and what should she have on her short list to spend time on.  Each of them would passionately give her a list of 5-10 things to fix ASAP.

The next step was to identify 10-15 internal stakeholders whose role was critical in getting the work done for the team.  This would include functions like, supply chain, finance, marketing, etc. But she would not only meet with the heads of the functions but also the key influencers of the business. She understood they were the ones who got the work done in the organization.

Last, she would meet with 25-30 leaders and influencers on her team and ask more questions. The list of questions would expand to get input on the culture of the team and how it was working.

This takes Time but Critical in Building your Understanding of the Business

The key message in this article is that she spent significant time in the first 90 days to get input from those people who would either make or break the business. 

This was 100% different that what I had observed in previous leaders.  Most leaders would start meeting with the same groups of people and start telling them what they needed to go do ASAP.  They usually threw the previous leader under the bus and made bold claims about the business with no facts or context. This came across as demanding, not engaging, and arrogant.  These leaders did not get off to a fast start, they struggled because they really did not understand the business, their plan was to just flexed their muscles, which was counter productive.

Everyone would leave those meetings and be thinking the same thing., What do they know, they just got the job?  I personally get turned off when new leaders talk trash about the previous leader.  This happened when leaders were promoted, left the company or retired.  There are some people who can’t help themselves from criticizing the previous leaders.  It comes off as weak and insecure.

Collaboration Pays Dividends

Contrast the throw the previous leader under the bus style with the “I need your help” style. The leader who asked for help was gaining support and trust from the key people that would help her grow the business.  They felt important and they became engaged was now a part of the plan for the business. The other leader turned people off and pushed them away.

Summarize into Key Themes

The next step for the more enlightened leader was to summarize all the input into 5-6 themes that she turned into strategies and tactics with date and metrics.

Next, she would circle back to all the people she meet with and review the plan and get more feedback.

Last, she would have a team kick-off meeting and start working the plan.  By the time the next plan needed to be developed she had much more knowledge and could drive more of her ideas into the plan but the process would look the same.

This process takes time and patience and you can’t let the distractions of running the business every day keep you from doing this work.  It requires discipline because at the ½ point of doing all this collaboration, you probably have more than enough input to get started but it’s important to complete it.  You can’t short cut it because that person you skip might have the most important role or information you need.

This process takes time and time is the most precious resource.  It is hard not to jump into the details of the business day one and start driving decisions.  It’s like going to a doctor and the first thing they want to do is operate before making a complete exam. No one would allow that to happen, so why would you want to do it for your business.  My experience is that the leaders who invested the time in getting input from key stakeholders have a much faster, bigger and long term impact on the business.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment