Don’t Ask for Favors, do Favors

Do you ask your friends or clients for favors?

This subject came up in a discussion with a group of consultants.  The specific question was:  Is it appropriate to ask a client (or someone you know) about job openings for a colleague?  The perception was that by asking someone about potential job openings for a friend, you are asking them for a favor.

The framing on this is wrong.  I don’t believe you should ask for favors, I believe you should do favors.  That means connecting people who will both benefit.

For example.  A friend of my daughter’s is an aspiring leader in the automotive industry.  This young man has been a top salesperson for a large dealership, and now he’s looking for a sales manager position in another city.

I had two very minor connections with people who own dealerships.  One was a man I met on an airplane, the other a friend of a friend.  If I were to approach either of them asking for a favor it would be presumptuous.  I don’t know them well at all. But the young man looking for a sales manager job is an up-and-comer.  Anyone who owns a dealership would love to have someone this hard working and ambitious on the staff.

I reached out to both owners saying, “I have someone I believe you should meet. He’s a strong sales leader.  When I heard he was looking for a position in your 22185113_sarea I immediately thought of you.”  Both owners responded with gratitude.  The young man ended up with offers from both dealerships.  And I got an email from both owners thanking me for the introduction.

Sure, I was doing my daughter’s friend a favor by connecting him with owners.  But the owners were also getting a big benefit.

Why does this matter?  Because it reframes the dynamic.  Too often people focus on one side of the equation.  People are uncomfortable asking others for what they perceive to be a favor, because they don’t think through how the other side will benefit.

In the case of my daughter’s friend, he was ambitious and talented.  He was smart to ask me if I knew anyone.   If he had been a low performer, I wouldn’t have made the introductions.  Introducing him is not asking a favor.

Asking you to feed my cat while I go on vacation is a favor for me.  Introducing you to a talented person is a favor for you.

In this case, everyone walks away feeling like everyone else did them a solid.  The young man appreciates me making the introductions; the owners appreciate me giving them a lead on top talent.  And I appreciate the young man for making me look good in front of powerful people.  They’ll remember that I was the one who sent them someone great.

People often guard their connections.  But I’ve found it more helpful to be generous with mine.

My policy is, I don’t ask my friends and clients for favors.  I do favors for them.  I even believe that asking someone to provide a testimonial about your work can be a favor to them, because it allows them to raise their own public profile.

Don’t be shy about using your resources.  Ask yourself if there is a potential benefit to the other person.  If there is a potential benefit, do them a favor, and provide them with the person or information they might need.