The Most Important Question You Can Ask

The Call

Christine called me late on a Friday afternoon. The conversation went something like this.

“I am so glad I caught you. I have big news. Like really, really big news,” she said.

“I’m all ears,” I said.

“Remember a few years ago when I told you I had met that one CEO at a conference and we ended up having lunch a few weeks later?”

I didn’t honestly remember, but didn’t want to be rude so I said, “Kind of.” I was lost but intrigued.

“You had just been coaching me on power of giving instead of always looking for what I could get out of a connection or a relationship. You taught me to ask ‘How can I help you?’ as the way to end every email or conversation.” I give that advice regularly so I guess I was guilty as charged.

“Oh yes, of course,” my memory did perk up a bit. It was at that point I did remember her telling me something about a CEO and how impressed she had been that Christine had asked that question.

“Steve you said it’s the best question you can ever ask if you are committed to building relationships. Well that sh*t works!” I laughed. I know it does. “No seriously, let me tell you what just happened!”

Top Of Mind

I won’t bore you with all the back and forth in our conversation. That seems too much like a screenplay and not a BLOG post. However, let me set the stage for you.

Former coaching client Christine, super excited and over the moon with a Ripple that had come full circle. Could not go another minute without picking up the phone to call me with some great news.

So it turns out Christine had received a call from out of the blue earlier that week from this CEO.  The CEO had a colleague that was looking for exactly what Christine does professionally. It turns out they had been to lunch and the CEO’s colleague had mentioned they had an opening at his company. He explained how hard it had been to find someone to fill the roll as they were looking for someone that was not only skilled but “authentic” in their communication skills. That stood out to the CEO.

The light bulb illuminated as she knew someone that fit that bill. She immediately suggested Christine and offered to make an introduction.

She followed through that very afternoon and made the connection. Christine interviewed and apparently slayed it! She had been offered the job and was calling to tell me first, even before her husband.

How Can I Help You

Completely unbeknownst to me, Christine and her CEO had struck up quite a friendship. It turns out they’ve stayed in touch regularly the last few years and Christine has used that “How can I help you” question at the end of every interaction.

As I often explain, most people won’t ever tell you what they need help with. That’s fine. Just keep asking. Because someday, they may just take you up on your offer.

One day it happened. The CEO and her team were struggling with a rather sensitive situation. She reached out to Christine for some professional advice. Christine agreed to help and actually helped craft a go forward strategy with the team. It was through her effort that the CEO had an opportunity see Christine’s true genius. When they asked how much they owed Christine for her time and expertise, she apparently told them they didn’t owe her a thing. “Just keep being my friend,” she told the CEO.

Not two months later, this CEO found herself in the conversation with her colleague. She asked “How can I help you?” a question she learned to ask often of everyone thanks to the lessons learned from Christine.

That’s when the door of opportunity opened and the Ripple returned home.

The Ripple

It’s funny how the Universe has a funny way of keep score and paying back those who most deserve it.

As with every Ripple, we seldom know how deep our actions go or how far and wide our Ripples travel. Yet somehow, when the timing is right, they always seem to Ripple back to us, often in ways we can’t possibly imagine.

Christine was over the moon excited, as she should be.

As we finished our conversation I was smiling ear to ear. Not because I knew the Ripple was in play here, but because it had paid off to someone who paid attention and kept doing it. I agree Christine, this sh*t does work.

I often tell people the most important question you can ask someone is “How can I help you?” Don’t ask it if you aren’t truly committed to stepping up to the plate to really help if called to do so. But if you do ask it and you are lucky enough to help well, get ready for where the Ripples might lead you.

Ripple On!!!


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