I have a confession to make. I’m not very good at asking for help. There are probably a lot of reasons for it, none of which are interesting enough to dissect here. There was a time, though, when I thought it didn’t matter…that in fact, asking for help was a sign of weakness. And, it meant obligation. Besides, there was always that, um, rejection factor. You know the one.
Lately though, I am learning that the weakness does not lie in the asking. It lies in the not asking.
In leadership this is equally true.
In my observation, Leaders who know how to ask for help; use the help that is offered; and appreciate the value of it, show strength, both of purpose and character.
So, if you are like me and want to get better at it, where might we start? Well, here’s what I’ve been telling myself lately:
Before asking for help, know what you need help with
In my experience there is never a shortage of people willing to help. In fact, helping is, I think, something that comes quite naturally to most human beings. Having said that, people who are willing to help should not be mistaken for mind readers. Some may be uber intuitive and able to discern what is needed without much discussion. But, most people will need some guidance and direction. The less specific you are in explaining your needs, the greater the possibility they will not be met.
Note to self: Be more planful. Know what you want. Learn to express it clearly.
When you know what you need help with, ask the right people
It is one thing to know what to ask for. It is entirely another to know who to ask. This requires you to understand and appreciate the skills and knowledge that others have to offer. And it means spending time with people and coming to understand what they are good at. When you know what they’re good at, you will generally know too, where their interests lie; what they like to do; and what they would be happy to help you with.
Note to self: Ask your favourite computer geek to help you understand more about the Internet. Do not ask him to help you fix your leaky faucet. No doubt, he has one of his own at his house.
Accept what is offered with grace
Sometimes the help that is needed is advice, or another perspective on something you have been struggling with. When what you really want is validation and what you need, and get, is something different, it’s tempting to rationalize it away. The thing is, people who offer another perspective on a particular situation, even if it doesn’t fit with your view of the world, are giving you an opportunity to think and do something different to help yourself. And that is an offering not to be discounted.
Note to self: Say “Thank you” not “Sorry I asked” no matter what someone might tell you. A risk was taken to offer it. Gratitude trumps disgruntlement.
So, what are your thoughts? What benefits have you experienced from simply asking for help? What gets in your way? What is the value to you of getting better at asking for help?
And just for fun, here are the Beatles, who ironically, don’t look as if they need any help at all. Enjoy.