It’s easy to point out the splinters in other people’s eyes and miss the plank sticking out of your own. This is particularly true when it comes to the idea of asking for help. No doubt you will have experienced the frustration caused when a member of your team or an individual you’re working with has made a complete mess of a task by trying to go about it without really knowing what they’re doing. ‘Why didn’t you ask for help?’ is often the resulting question.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the answer. Most of us associate asking for help with weakness. The further we progress along our careers, the more acutely this is felt. The more experience we have gained, the damning it would seem in the eyes of others if we were to admit that we didn’t have all the answers and were forced to ask for assistance. The hypothetical individual didn’t ask for help for exactly the same reasons we wouldn’t.
However, if we are able to put pride to one side and think about the situation logically, there are obvious benefits to asking for help and avoiding the potential pitfalls of trying to go it alone. The fact that business has become so specialised in recent years helps to reduce the worries about doing so. IT specialists, for example, exist because not everyone can be expected to be an expert in technology as well as in their main role.
Using IT as an example brings to mind the phrase ‘have you tried turning it off and on again?’ which serves as a reminder that whilst there is no shame in asking for help, it pays to first explore the options which are obvious or clearly within your grasp. Coming to terms with the acceptability of asking for help does not absolve you from all responsibility. This is yet another balancing act. You need to refrain from taking the easy option and passing the buck but possess the discretion to recognise when you need assistance.
Not only does ensuring you’ve investigated possible solutions yourself confirm that you really do need help with your issue, when asking for help it is always beneficial to accompany a request with evidence that you have attempted a solution and, importantly, what you’ve identified won’t work.
Even better is to arrive with a set of options you’ve compiled outlining possible solutions that may prove successful but that you need help implementing. If this all still smacks of weakness to you, remember that if a problem has ground you to a halt, at the very least you could bounce ideas off of someone else.
Things are slightly different outside of the corporate structure and as a sole practitioner it is not so much the shame of asking for help that holds people back, more the fact that the thought doesn’t occur. You have talented individuals amongst your contacts so why bang your head against the wall when one of them might have the solution to hand.
Running ideas by other people isn’t a fully collaborative project, but it’s always good to be able to be able to repay someone for their help. If you possess a strong presence on social media, a piece of advice can always be repaid with an online mention, thank you and the publicity this brings. However, you’ll never know if anyone can help unless you ask them.