I receive direct messages daily from my community seemingly asking for help with particular areas of their business and life.

These topics range from engaging staff, firing someone (this is common), moving house, changing jobs, expanding their business, following a big scary dream and many others.

They come from men and women, experienced and just starting out, people I know and people I don’t.

I really love that people are reaching out and consider me someone that could help them. However, in most cases I can’t help them. Why?

Because they can’t clearly articulate what it is they actually need from me. Their questions aren’t specific. They are vague and unstructured and show a clear lack of understanding of what they really want to know.

For example, I’ve been asked if someone should leave their job. Admittedly I have been given the backstory but I don’t even know this person. How would I know? Even if I did know them, I am not them.

I can share an experience of when I made a hard decision, or specifically how I resigned to a scary boss, or how I did a financial analysis to see if I could afford to leave. But I wasn’t asked those questions. I was just asked whether they should leave based on their story.  I really couldn’t give them a useful response.

Also, I see this regularly in business. Where leaders ask staff to do things but they don’t ask a specific person to complete a specific task, they don’t clearly outline when they need it by and in what form. They then wonder why they are always chasing staff or not getting what they want. A classic is the group email of ‘can everyone please call past clients to reconnect’ (yes that is a real-life recent example)! Who do you think is going to do it? I’ll tell you! No one! Not until a specific person has been asked to call a specific client and told by when and whatever other detail required.

I have some deeper thoughts on why I think so many people ask me for help but don’t actually ask me something specific which I will share in a separate blog.

But for now, if you need something it’s not just about the ask. It’s the quality of the ask.

I have reached out to many people over the years asking for help and I have received pieces of gold. But I have always been super clear about exactly what I need from them. I submit very specific questions. This way they can tell me straight out if they can help and if so, they can quickly and accurately give me what I need. Saving us both time.

Just like setting a goal, be specific about you want to know or need, and you will be much more likely to get what you want!

Author: Sel Watts
Sel, the Founder of wattsnext Group, is a visionary and inspiring business leader. With a deep passion for small to medium business (SMB), Sel brings gutsy honesty and commercial realism to the table. A true entrepreneur, Sel is committed to disrupting the way business owners utilise HR and increase performance and engagement. She is also curious about technology and the future of work, using her business as an experimental lab of forward-thinking methodologies to help her clients achieve peak performance. Sel is also the Co-Founder of multiple businesses and spends time coaching other business owners, keeping it real with her vast tactical experience of growing businesses. She also has a pretty interesting life story which you can check out at her personal website sue-ellenwatts.com.