Be Prepared to Give Someone the Chance to be Helpful

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful.

Ric Ocasek

Asking for help can be frightening and challenging, and maybe even slightly damaging to the ego. My suggestion is to ask for help anyway, then celebrate that you were not only able to identify that help would be useful, you were able to ask for it as well. That’s huge!

I have had a number of occasions over the years when I have identified that help would be useful and I have had great outcomes as a result of asking for and accepting that help. I have also a number of times where I didn’t identify that help would have been useful, and the outcome wasn’t great.

For me, asking for help does not come naturally. I have really had to work at it. Losing some ego helped. Realising that I am respect worthy also helped significantly. For, if I am respect worthy, then I am worthy of respect for realising that asking for help will serve me. I won’t judge myself for it; I will respect myself for it.

I currently work in a very supportive workplace, where people will drop everything to help a colleague. It is a very healthy culture, and it is wonderful. But, even in a wonderful culture like this one, it is important to remember that you may still have to ask for help. People are focussing on their own issues and, as genuine and willing as they may be, they just may not notice that you are struggling. Or, they might think that you are coping fine without them. Or, they might think that you just don’t want help. Have the missing conversation with them, and tell them what you need. They will respect you for it and, you may also respect yourself for it. So many times over the years, I have kept trying and kept trying until things have got completely out of hand, and I have realised that if I had just asked for help, the outcome may have been different.

One occasion on which I did identify that I wanted help was a couple of years ago, when in a very challenging leadership role. It was a brand new programme, with processes not really in place, and a culture that wasn’t conducive to outcomes. My assessment is that the programme leadership was not at its best, and I felt that my own leadership was starting to suffer as a result. My self doubt increased, and I identified that I wasn’t heading in a direction that was going to work for me. I made the decision to seek help in the form of executive coaching. It was tough to admit to someone that I didn’t have all of the answers, and it was tough realising that some of my behaviours weren’t serving me well as a leader. However, this became one of the biggest learning moments of my career, and helped to steer me in a direction that worked for me. Asking for help can have fantastic results and, on this occasion, it did for me!

Your request for help may be for a single, specific situation; it may be for a single skill that you would like to develop; or, like me, it may result in a huge overhaul of how you are being as a leader. Whatever it is, though, always be willing to give someone the chance to be helpful. And, when you have done that, remember to congratulate yourself for doing so.