How and why we need to get comfortable with asking for help
Being a consultant for many years now, one of the things that still surprises me is when someone who very clearly needs help/ consulting, is in constant denial to seek this help. It is obvious to even the untrained eye that this person can certainly use the help of someone with a different perspective, or a brainstorming session with someone outside of his or her business or even just extra pair of hands to help out. And for a very long time, this has perplexed me and I have started to notice this pattern in life away from work as well. For some reason, admitting to needing help or asking for it equals to being incompetent in our minds.
I believe this might have something to do with the way our society is now structured. We’ve now become very individualistic when it comes to problem solving. Whether it is asking for directions or completing a report, we try and solve the problem on our own. Additionally, leaders (Specifically C-suite) are viewed as all knowing, the ones that stand above the others and are expected to have all the answers. This is damaging, not just for the leader, but also for the business as whole.
There may be many reasons for this, first of them being that people don’t want to come across as not knowing things, specifically leaders. The thing to remembers is that there is just too much body of knowledge out there, too many disciplines for one person to know it all. Just as an example, the other day my father and I were discussing immigration and its pros and cons (at this point you should know that my father has been a career diplomat and his knowledge on security policies is very vast). However, while debating this, there were things I had researched that he had never come across. In no way do I know more than him, I had just researched it better than him. Asking for help is not admitting that you do not know something, it is just acknowledging that people might have more information than you on a particular topic. I think one of the most important things to remember is that most major problems require a community to solve.
The other reason I came across is, the vulnerability that comes with asking for help. We feel that if we were to ask for help, we surrender all control and the person helping us becomes in charge. This fear can sometimes be justified depending on who you ask for help. However, we need to get comfortable with this vulnerability and be able clearly articulate the boundaries of the person we ask help from (we call this scoping in consulting). Clearly define this and you won’t have a problem anymore.
Lastly, we are not taught how to ask for help properly. We tend to do it vaguely or with guilt or tend to ask the wrong person. This can very simply be corrected by clearly defining the challenge first. Be clear on what you want to achieve. List all questions that you need answered to be able to achieve what you want. Then, see if you have all the information to answer all those questions successfully, if not ask for specific help on these questions.
We are tribal by nature; we all want to help others and be helped in return. But the first step is to ask.