“How can I help you?” Why you need a better answer to this question.

“How can I help you?”

It’s the first question I ask when I’m working with someone. I need to know what you want to manifest in your future. Why? Because I’m the Fairy Godmother, it’s my job to help you make it easy for people to say YES to the Future You.

Think about it for a second. Cinderella’s future self wanted to dance with the Prince at the ball. The whole shoe-on-foot, ride off into the sunset, and “live happily ever after” goal was not part of the original plan. 

The ask was simply, “Get me to the ball.”

Here’s where the Fairy Godmother did her thing. What we saw was not just a makeover but an entire strategy executed to make it as simple as possible for the future Cinderella wanted to manifest. Yes, you and I saw Cinderella get a new dress, fabulous shoes, a coach, entourage, and a sort-out of her hair and makeup.

It was so much more than that. Let me unpack the Fairy Godmother’s strategy.

  1. Cinderella needed to believe in the Future Her. I’m fairly sure about myself, but even I would have a hard time holding my own if I showed up at a ball in rags. Would you glide down the main staircase (when it’s worth noting, the Prince noticed her) or sidle in a side door? By transforming what Cinderella believed about herself, the Fairy Godmother helped her feel like she belonged in the room. I do not doubt that having all the kit-and-kaboodle made Cinderella FEEL more confident about herself. With this boost of confidence, it made it easy for the Prince to see her. If he didn’t see her, he couldn’t ask her to dance. 
  2. It was never just about the Prince saying Yes. How many people do you think Cinderella had to pass by before she made it to the ballroom floor? There’s the handful of guards doing their thing at the gate to the palace; I’m guessing a foot-person or two helping people alight from their carriages; at least a dozen or so characters in the building as she passed through the halls. Here’s the thing to remember, at no point did the Fairy Godmother magic an invitation. So let’s be conservative here and say that about twenty people had to think, “Yes, lovely person, you may keep going.” Even with the fancy outfit, had she showed up at the front gate without a “How do I make it easy for others to say yes?” strategy, the story would have ended then and there.
  3. Here’s where the Fairy Godmother’s brilliance really comes into play. While Cinderella’s goal was to get to the ball and hang with the Prince, the Fairy Godmother recognized that the Future Cinderella had potential. Limiting Cinderella’s time with the transformation magic forced Cinderella to make that critical decision on the stairs. LEAVE THE SHOE. The shoe became a reminder to the Prince of why she was brilliant. Do you think he would have tracked her down without it? Probably not.

Here’s the essential part of this whole strategy. If the Fairy Godmother didn’t know that Cinderella wanted to go to the ball, NONE of this magic would have happened. It started with the ask, “I want to go to the ball so that I can dance with the Prince.”

A very simple what and why. 

Let’s move briefly into the real world and a conversation I had with a brilliant marketing executive the other day. When I asked him (yes, Cinderfellas exist too) how I could help, his answers were the usual:

  • I want to be a better leader.
  • I want a promotion.
  • I want to lead a team.
  • I want to grow professionally.
  • What should I do?
  • What do I need to fix about me?

Sound familiar? Power Up Tip – don’t be boring with your ask. You’re not boring.

My next question was, “Because why? What is your ball?”

The subsequent conversation allowed us both to explore the Future Him and, ultimately, what was important to him. He now has a clearer picture of the Future Him. He knows on his adventure, who needs to say yes to this plan and how to make it easy for them. And lastly, he now knows how to start placing his own “shoes” along the path, so people have a clear idea of who he is and why he’s awesome. Now he’s on an adventure to make that happen. I’m curious to learn what magic manifests from it.

The question, “How can I help you?” is an offer of magic. So the next time it happens, remember the Fairy Godmother. Imagine the asker (your boss, your mentor, your sponsor, your coach) surrounded by sparkles and a wand in their hand. Don’t you want to maximize their magic? They can’t do that if they don’t know what you want or why you want it.

So let me ask you? How can I help you?