Want to catapult your success? Ask for “favors.”

Asking for help is one of the most powerful ways to enroll, engage, create momentum and success, but… so often we hesitate. If you find yourself not wanting to ”impose” on others, or believe you “should” be able to do what’s needed on your own, understanding how the brain positively reacts to being asked for a favor along with my “5 W’s” will help you increase your confidence and create possibilities for breakthroughs in your leadership.

I’ve just returned from my first on-site week as Interim President & CEO of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra inspired, welcomed, and already seeing an exciting path forward.  My first day aligned with a celebration and fundraiser hosted by the TSO League – celebrating the orchestra’s 90th Year!  I had the honor of saying a few words and receiving generous and heartfelt invitations for me to ask for help during the organization’s strategic transition.

And I will – because I need help, and because I look forward to honoring the donors, community leaders, board and staff by asking them to share their time, unique talents, wisdom and treasure.

I remember my first “ask” for a major gift.  With a background in artistic operations and production, I had been recruited to lead the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest La Jolla and, while I deeply understood how it takes a village to ensure performing artists and the behind-the-scenes teams have what they need to do their best work, this was my first role where I was leading a development effort.  It seems like a lifetime ago, and I admit I had preconceived notions about what “development” looked like – and how I believed development professionals were supposed to ask people for money – and I didn’t feel good about doing it.

Until I did.

I had prepared, I knew what we needed and why, and I knew (from others) that this long-time donor cared about our organization.  I asked, and she said yes.

And then, she took the time to share something that changed the way I think.  She said thank you!  “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a difference.  You have honored me by your belief that I am someone who has the resources, understanding, and love to make a difference. Thank you for letting me be a part of something special.”

Now, there are some nuances, and perhaps caveats: I believe that our “asks” do have to be purposeful and with intention; creating the possibility for mutual benefit. And that takes research, and an ability to convey impact, rather than only what you will “do” with what you receive.

Additionally, when you have a challenging relationship with someone, science tells us that asking them for help can create an interesting benefit – ultimately to both parties. Referred to as the Benjamin Franklin effect, and part of cognitive dissonance theory, when someone is asked and then does a favor for someone, they have a negative attitude about, “this conflict immediately sets off alarm bells in their brain. The brain has a clever response – it goes about changing how they feel about the person asking, in order to reduce the conflict and turn off the alarms*.”

In his autobiography,* Franklin explains how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century:

“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”


As you know from my blogs and coaching programs, what you do and how you Be matters. Your family, business, community, and the world all need you to be doing that special thing that you do, in the unique way that you do it. Feeling joy, having sustainable success, and having the impact you are meant to achieve.

And you can’t do it alone!

Therefore, please share your purpose and passion with others, and honor those around you by asking for help.

Here are my “5 W’s” to be Like Ben prompts to get you started:

  1. Where are the areas where I need help? (to help me in my business/organization, personal life, etc.)
  2. When I receive that help, what will the impact be and to whom?
  3. Why are the answers to #2 so important? Really important?
  4. Who can I honor by asking for this help (who has the time, talent, treasure)?
  5. What limiting beliefs do I hold – about myself or others – that may hold me back from asking?
    • I don’t want to impose…
    • I don’t want to get rejected…
    • I don’t want to appear like I’m not able to handle my responsibilities…
    • What else…?

Now, go back and re-read your answers to #3 and make a list of who you’re going to ask for help this week!

To your success,


Do you hesitate to ask for help?  Why? COMMENT BELOW:

*Sources: “The Ben Franklin Effect”. 2014-01-29. , https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20203/20203-h/20203-h.htm

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  1. Very well written and presented. The “5 W’s” can apply to all sorts of questions to ask in any industry or career.

    These should be a handout to all new hires in every company, just imagine how a young person out of high school/college could apply these “5 W’s”.

    Again thanks for the Post.

    • Thank you, David! And I agree – the earlier we can teach and learn the strengths in ourselves the better. so many of my clients say “I wish I had known this when I was younger!”

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