It seems most of us rarely ask for help at work, even when we really need it.
There are all kinds of reasons why we don’t want to ask for work-related help, and many of these play into our fears:
- Others may view that we aren’t capable enough to do things on our own
- Everyone else is busy; we don’t want to be known as a burden to others
- Our self-reliance or pride won’t let us become dependent on others
- What if we ask and are rejected?
- Leadership may see our asking for help as a sign that we can’t get things done
This fear-based thinking can drive us to work longer hours, get more stressed and become more isolated. Often, it leads us to be stuck in a very narrow, restricted thought process on how to approach an issue that perplexes us. Not asking for help can overwhelm us and perpetuate the negative cycle of stress, long work hours and isolation. We can end up feeling like we are getting nowhere, unable to succeed.
I write from experience. More times than I care to admit, I did not have the guts to ask for help. Sometimes this was because of the fears stated above, but other times it was because I was overconfident I could handle things on my own. Fortunately, along the way, I also learned that asking for help and being open and appreciative of what others provide through their insights, expertise and coaching enabled me to see new perspectives for resolving situations and helped me accomplish organizational objectives.
We all need help at various times in our careers. Maybe you’ve just been promoted and are facing issues you’ve not encountered before. It could be that the project you are leading is much more difficult and bigger than anticipated. Possibly, you’ve been asked to take on a new assignment at the same time your work-life balance has taken a serious hit. Whatever the reason, you don’t have to go it alone. You only need to summon the courage to seek help from others.
To effectively solicit help, do your homework first. Be prepared to articulate the issue and discuss your research on the various approaches you’ve considered or have tried. Remember, your intent is not to lay your problem at someone else’s feet, but rather to inquire about perspectives that you may not have considered and learn from similar experiences or insights others may have on how to approach the issue.
People generally want to help – especially those you’ve sought out for expertise or insights. They often know others who may be helpful based on the situation or can assist you in brainstorming additional opportunities to solve the problem. By having the courage to seek others out while still owning the problem or situation, you’ll engage or expand your network while demonstrating many traits that organizations desire:
- Willingness to collaborate with others to solve problems and achieve goals
- Open to innovative ideas and perspectives, not tied to one train of thought
- Team player; readily seeks to involve others
- Ability to build beneficial relationships across the organization
I’ve needed to ask for help on multiple occasions during my career. I’ve sought expertise or guidance from others who had specific skills or experience that I lacked. I’ve asked to meet with people who had previously been through situations similar to what I was facing so I could gain from their knowledge. I’ve also asked for coaching which enabled me to broaden perspectives, change some behaviors and expand capabilities in ways that helped me be viewed as a more collaborative leader.
In fact, in most aspects of my life I’ve discovered that having the courage to ask for help leads to better solutions. I am so grateful for the many people – in my work and home life – who have come alongside me in such instances, and I greatly respect those individuals for their contributions to my development.
I’ve also been on the giving side, sharing my experiences and insights, offering advice or providing coaching to help others find optimal solutions. Quite honestly, I like being able to help others in these ways when asked. It makes me feel better about myself as a person. Showing empathy and helping others are powerful emotional catalysts for creating and sustaining meaningful relationships.
It takes courage to ask for help. You don’t have to reach a breaking point. You just need to ask and be open to those who want to help you.
How can executive coaching help you achieve what’s next?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Find out more about Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at oppnacoaching.com