Have you ever noticed how many people don’t ask for help?
I’ve really become aware that many people I know, whether they are people from work or friends, don’t appear to ask for help – at precisely the moment that they need it the most!
If you are reading this and thinking of times when you find yourself feeling just a little overwhelmed by the task in hand, and you don’t know how you ended up with sole responsibility and it feels like asking for help would be like announcing to the world that you are incapable, then I hope reading this will help.
Every successful person asks for help.
So far I have found that it’s impossible for anyone to know absolutely everything. And the common habit that the really successful people, whether they are old or young, senior or junior, is that they recognise that they don’t know everything and they surround themselves with people they can ask for help. They might be called ‘advisors’, or ‘deputies’ to avoid the negative stigma that seems to go with asking for help in corporate culture these days, but ‘helpers’ is what they really are.
I’ve witnessed some really smart people’s careers come to a crunching, shuddering, crashing full stop, just because they didn’t ask for help. They didn’t know how to because no one ever told them how to!
Usually, over time, they go through a process I call the “Capability Trap”:
- I don’t know the answer, but I should do, so I’ll figure it out
- Not knowing the answer to that problem is really slowing me down; I’ll have to work harder / longer to make up
- I’m working all the hours in the week and it’s still not making me effective because I don’t know the answer to that problem BUT I can’t ask for help now because it will make me look stupid that I didn’t ask earlier
- I’m drowning!!!…
To help you, here are my 5 practical tips as to how to ask for help (without you feeling like you are making some kind of admission of stupidity):
1) Always ask for help from someone who knows
If you need help, take some time to find a person who is best placed to help you. This will usually be a specialist in the area you need help in. If you’re sick, you go and see the doctor. If you are feeling overwhelmed as a team leader, go and see a leadership coach. Etc.
2) Check your helper can help you
Your responsibility is to spend enough time to check that your specialist is good enough to help you.
3) Listen to your helper
Now is the time to shut up and listen to what they are saying to you! Your helper wants to help you because you are asking them to share their favourite subject (their specialism) with you. It’s natural for people to want to talk about what they do and it’s natural for people to want to help each other.
4) The decision is always yours
Asking for help always gives you options and its up to you to decide how you then act. Go for it! Anything you do will be better than staying in the space that you were in, because that leads to you drowning (which is not an optimum result).
5) Build your network of helpers.
Over time, build up a minimum of 5 or 6 specialists you can call on for help. This way when some of them are too busy to help (which is inevitable), it won’t put you off the process of asking for help, instead it will lead you to ask the next person in your network for help.
Now go and have fun getting helped!