A friend called me the other day to ask if I would meet with a friend of hers who is looking for some advice on writing a letting to someone. “She really wants to work for his company but English isn’t her first language,” she said. “Can you help?”
Of course, I replied.
The next day we met for coffee and the other woman explained the situation. “I know I can offer them really great services,” she tells me, “but a friend of a friend asked the woman who runs the office to look at my resume and she refused. I thought if I wrote a letter to the owner, I’d ask him for a job.”
“Do you know if they’re looking for your kind of service?” I asked her. “Looking at their brochure they don’t offer what you provide.”
“But wouldn’t it make sense that they do?” she queried. “What I do would definitely benefit their clients.”
I agreed but cautioned her. You don’t have enough information. You don’t know what they’re planning, what their build-out model for additional services is. It’s possible they already have a business plan that includes expansion into the areas you are suggesting, and are not yet there. You are an unknown. Asking them to consider adding you into the mix without understanding where they’re at in the big picture, is presumptuous. It’s important to first ask questions so that you understand their perspective — before offering them a solution to a problem they may already have identified and be working on resolving, or simply not believe its part of their core business practice, no matter how much sense it makes to you and me that adding services of the kind you provide would enhance their business model.
She agreed, though it wasn’t necessarily what she wanted to hear.
Helping a friend was easy. Speaking the truth, giving an answer that wasn’t specifically what was requested, not as easy.
But it was important.
To have supported something I didn’t believe was the appropriate path would have compromised my values. It would have meant I was offering something up that I didn’t believe in. Even if my advice was free — only telling someone what they wanted to hear would not have served anyone well.
Making a difference requires a commitment to doing the right thing. It means ‘turning up, paying attention, speaking the truth and staying unattached to the outcome.’
I loved this woman’s enthusiasm and desire to make a difference in the world. Sometimes, however, enthusiasm sweeps away our common sense and our ability to take one step at a time without leaping to conclusions that serve our purpose before serving others.
Making a difference is about affecting change in the world — based on what the world needs now, not what serves me best and then the world.
It can be challenging. I get where this woman was coming from — I’ve been there!
The lesson for me is — asking questions to understand what others (the world beyond my tunnel vision) need is the foundation of building trust in what I can do to make a difference in the world.
Jumping in just because I think I know what others need to do does not build trust, nor does it serve anyone else but me. And in the end, it doesn’t serve me that well either as I’ve not built the foundation to make a safe place for my difference to count.
It was a good lesson for me.
Helping a friend gave me an opportunity to help myself to important knowledge on what it means to make a difference.