People putting there hands up with questions

Asking for What You Need in the FamBiz

This week I want to look at what seems like a pretty simple topic, but after we get through it all, you may agree that it’s not as simple as you first thought.

We’re going to look at the subject of asking for things, which some people do with ease, while others do with trepidation.

When you’re dealing with family members, it should be easier, right?  Well, not always.


Asking for Help

The first way that this topic landed on my potential blog post list came last year, when I attended a coaching workshop and someone asked one of the course leaders for ideas on how to get clients.

The answer was “if you want to coach someone, ask them”, which seemed both too simple and too difficult all at the same time, to the questioner and many others.

Then a couple of months ago on LinkedIn, I came across a quote from Simon Sinek, which read:


                               “To overcome our challenges, all that is 

                                 required is the courage to ask for help”


OK, that sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?  But remember, simple and easy aren’t the same thing.  If it were that easy, and it worked, the world would be a happier place. Oh yeah, and there’s that part about “courage” that’s often in short supply.


“Help” Versus a “Resource”

This post’s title is about asking for “what you need”, while Sinek’s quote encourages us to “ask for help”, so there’s a nuance there, unless what we need always comes down to help.

I’ve written about asking for help before, notably here, 5 Things to Know: Asking for Help for a FamBiz, but the context there was mostly about a family situation, where they get to the point where they realize that they need help from the outside.

People who interact with me regularly, and those who’ve read Interdependent Wealth, will know that I’ve been trying to eliminate the word “help” from my vocabulary lately.  I find it has too much of a “One up vs. One down” connotation, and that sometimes causes its own issues.

I seldom offer to help anyone anymore, preferring instead to offer to be a resource to them.


Help Isn’t Always Helpful

I wrote about this almost two years ago in When Is Helping Not Helpful

Yes, it usually feels really good to help someone else, and more people should do it. I can assure you, though, that when you do the exact same thing, only framed as being a resource, it feels just as good.

And while it feels just as good to the “helper”, I think the person who was helped probably feels better about it.

This gets close to another topic, the one where we feel like we need to “fix” someone, which brings with it a whole slew of other issues that are beyond the scope of today’s post.


“What You Need” Versus “What You Want”

Anyone who’s a parent is probably familiar with the importance of making the distinction between what you want, and what you need.

It’s a basic concept that many parents try to explain pretty early on in the lives of their children. It’s also a concept that can be taught in conjunction with the idea of delayed gratification. See Marshmallow and Filet Mignon.

So I mention teaching this to children, and that may make you think of youngsters, but I can assure you that there are plenty of “adult children” (a.k.a. “former children”, or, my favourite label “offspring”) who could use some brushing up on the differences between wants and needs.


The Business Family Version

We’ll wrap up with some thoughts on how this topic relates to business families, especially as they mature and prepare for intergenerational transition.

Too many subjects are left too late in such families, and I always encourage them to begin talking about important subjects early on, rather than waiting too long.

One of the simpler ways to do that is to ask people for what you need from them.  I said it was simpler, not necessarily easier.


It Works in Both Directions!

The good news is that this works just as well for parents asking things of their offspring as it does for the younger ones to ask their parents.

Sure, it takes a bit of courage to get started, but once you begin, it’s a lot easier to keep it going.

You might even start by asking someone to read this post, and go from there…