Asking for help is hard. Or, at least for many of us that’s true.
When we hesitate to ask for support, however, we unnecessarily suffer through difficult situations at work, at home, or even in a relationship.
The reasons we avoid asking for help vary.
Maybe we don’t know how to ask. Maybe we are too proud or scared to show vulnerability in our Midwestern culture. Perhaps we carry generational baggage that tells us we are not worthy of needing assistance.
Whatever the barriers are, we need learn how to rise above them. Leaders who ask for help are the kind of people with whom Reach Partners thrives. They are humble and know their limitations. Leaders who ask for help tend to value expertise that others bring.
To get better at asking for help, we encourage you to think about the obstacles and why it’s worth overcoming them.
Viewed as Weakness
Too often, especially in the upper Midwest, asking for help can be seen as a sign of defeat, weakness, or inability. It also can be seen as a burden the asker is placing on someone else. We live in a “handle your own work or problem” culture, served with a dash of open pride taken in “she did it all by herself.”
Recently I posted on social media and asked for volunteers for an upcoming event. I worded the request to give enough information but not all the details and then asked for help.
My personal Facebook page got the most feedback. Some people made suggestions, others tagged a specific person, and one observed: “I’m in tears at how many responded to your, ‘I need help!’ This is so inspiring!”
Challenged to delegate
Timing is a thing. We wait to ask for help because we want to make sure we need it. We hesitate because we think it might be easier to do it ourselves. But waiting too long can affect our personal brand or organizational brand.
After all, I might be ready to accept help, but it doesn’t mean the people I’m asking are able to jump at the request. Or it takes longer than I expect to find the right person to help.
We are better together. The perfect time to ask for help is sooner than many of us are fully comfortable committing to. Take that step. Ask sooner than later.
Ignored the connections
I recently read a book by psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler. She started her acknowledgments with this statement: “It is in a very particular order that I first thank my clients. Amidst so many other lessons, it was you who taught me that there’s no line between helper and the person being helped; there’s only connection.”
If we really think about it, most of us can remember an experience in which we were the helper, and it felt good, even great. We didn’t think, gosh that person should have completed that task by themselves. We felt energized and confident – both as the helper and the person being helped. This connection has value far beyond the act of helping.
Maybe this blog post is really about me, but I have personal experiences with responsibility and how it affects asking for help and not asking for help. Responsibility is my top strength, according to the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. I still hear Norma Gilstrap Smiley, a strengths coach I worked with years ago, saying there are times to dial up a strength and times when we need to dial it down.
I finally accept that being responsible for something doesn’t mean I have to personally complete it. It only means I need to make sure that task or assignment is finished. It’s perfectly fine – and, in some cases, preferred – to share what needs to be done with others.
Here’s what I find helps: Put controls around the ask and then lean into relationships with co-workers or people in your network of resources that can be called up onto help. This is being smart, for you and your team.
The truth is:
Successful leaders take an active and intentional approach to expanding their team’s reach so they can accomplish goals and do what they said they would do. In the end, this helps to improve team trust and morale. It also enhances team efficiency and effectiveness.
Smart leaders need help.
So, how can you, as a leader, become better at asking for help?
Asking for help only makes you stronger.
Your partners in leadership.