Above the Line, Accountability, Ownership, Responsibility, Success

Barbara Corcoran’s Worst Way to Ask For Assistance


One of my favorite activities while behind the wheel driving to and from the Berkshires is listening to one of the SUCCESS Magazine monthly audio CDs.  This past weekend I was inspired by a segment with Barbara Corcoran on the June 2016 CD.

In answer to the interviewer’s question about some of the worst things she has heard from the entrepreneurs she has invested in, she said that  the absolute worst was “What should I do about … ?”  She made it very clear that there is nothing worse than asking her for help that way.  It is not that she does not make herself available to assist and advise her investees, quite the contrary.  She just knows that “What should I do … ?” is the wrong way to request assistance.

Why?  That particular phrase and its variations demonstrates a lack of Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility (OARAbove the Line of Choice – see The OZ Principle by  Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman) for the implementation and outcome of the advice.  If someone tells you what you should do to solve an issue and things do not go well, you can lay Blame at the other person’s feet (Below the Line behavior).  Or if you don’t implement or botch the implementation of the other person’s recommendation, you can still operate Below the Line by making some sort of Excuse.

So what is the right way of requesting assistance from your advisor?  The answer is a very subtle, but significant change to the phrasing of the request to “What would you do in this situation … ?”  When you ask for assistance or advice using this wording, you are taking Ownership, being Accountable and Responsible for both the implementation and results of the suggestion.  Classic Above the Line behavior.  Sounds subtle but the difference is massive.  Furthermore, the advice you receive is more likely to be well thought out.  And due to your OAR, the results you achieve in solving whatever issue you sought assistance for will be faster and better.  When you operate Above the Line positive results are easier to achieve.  As the old (actually very old) television commercial said “try it, you’ll like it.”

If you wish to delve deeper into living Above the Line of Choice in order to accelerate and magnify your results, my ActionCOACH colleagues and I are ready to assist you.  All you have to do is contact us.

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