When it comes to pretty much any dimension of our lives, we face roadblocks, setbacks and challenges. Obstacles we need to overcome, and challenging courses to navigate. During these times, it can sometimes feel scary to ask someone to lend a hand. For so many reasons, we can get caught up in the situation and feel it’s easier to just try to figure it out on our own. But asking someone for help is often the very best step we can take. Need more convincing? Read on.
But first, a story.
A few years ago, my role changed at work, and with it came new projects and initiatives. One assignment in particular was particularly challenging, with new stakeholders, new objectives, and new processes. But what I struggled with the most was that my normal tactics for leading change and getting things done seemed to be falling short. The tools in my toolbox didn’t seem to be working which was puzzling and concerning.
This came up at one of my weekly 1:1s with my manager, and he pointed out that I could always come to him for help and guidance. He and I could hold working sessions to discuss the details of the work and next steps, he could attend future meetings to keep us at task and share his expertise, and I could come to him with specific questions for coaching.
* AHA MOMENT! * While it sounds intuitive, I had never even thought of asking for help.
Whether it be that I’m an independent person, have gotten used to having a lot of autonomy, or like feeling in control of projects I’m managing, I sort of forgot about that option. Plus, I liked the thought of being able to manage everything on my own. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized I was wrong. Ultimately, I jumped at the chance to gain his input, and the project benefited from it greatly.
Here are some reasons asking for help is something you should never shy away from.
It Betters Your Chances of Success
The first and most obvious reason to ask for help, in both work situations or otherwise, is that it betters your chances of success. “Two heads are better than one” and liaising with someone who has expertise in a specific area you’re working on is even more effective.
Not only will this improve the chances of the project being successful, but it will do so in a way that is far more frictionless.
Help is Motivating
Second, having an ally does wonders for motivation and energy. I had been feeling sort of isolated in this project, but once I engaged my manager in the process as more of an involved stakeholder, that changed. My anxiety eased, I felt more supported, and I had greater confidence overall in my own abilities.
It Can Help Others
Lastly, asking for help can also benefit the helper. It provides them with an opportunity to coach someone, impart their guidance, and better identify where their unique skills and experience lie. When I, for example, think of the times I’ve helped others, I can identify patterns which provides insight into what my “special sauce” is and how I can be most effective in making a difference.
I talk about this more in my post on why it really pays to be a curious person.
How to Ask for Help
When it comes to actually asking for help, there’s a right way to do it.
First, anticipate future needs so that you can engage the right stakeholder(s) early and provide them with ample time.
Second, ask kindly, be gracious, and don’t take their guidance for granted.
And last, don’t let pride stand in the way of absorbing their feedback. You asked for their help for a reason, and you should therefore be open to listening to what they have to say. After digesting it, you can take what you wish, and make your own decisions about the task at hand.
While this is a work example, the general principles can apply to other areas of your life. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and by supporting each other, we’ll all end up in a better place.
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