Resigned, Andrew finally tapped on Jane's doorframe. He needed help and he hated needing help, but Jane was the right person to ask. "Andrew. Come in," she said, grabbing her coffee mug and rolling over to her conference table. Nobody had ever seen Jane more than two feet from her coffee mug. "So…" she said.
"Marigold won't make the date," Andrew began, "and I have to tell Emmons in an hour. I remember you had some success with him when Metronome was late, so I thought you could give me some insight."
Jane sipped as she looked at Andrew across the top of her mug. "Sure," she said. "The key is to ask him for help."
Dejected, Andrew sighed.
Andrew has struggled to ask Jane for help, and now he's learned that he'll have to do it all again with Emmons. Why is asking for help so difficult for so many? Here are three reasons.
- Education and training
- Although We sometimes fear
so much that we risk
failure rather than
ask for helpteam projects in school are common now, they were rare even ten years ago. Most of us were expected to work independently all through our education. To do otherwise was "cheating." We carry with us a sense that asking for help is a mark of inadequacy.
- Deep cultural values
- In many cultures, we learn at a young age that individual accomplishment is most prized, especially if it's achieved in opposition to conventional wisdom. Asking for help, we "spoil" any chance of becoming the lone hero we so admire.
- Fear of imaginary consequences
- We sometimes fear undesirable consequences, especially from those with organizational authority over us. Even when these fears aren't supported by actual data, they can be so strong that we risk failure rather than ask for help.
As leaders, we can do much to encourage help seeking.
- Ask for help
- When you need help yourself, ask for it. Be open about the request, and be open about having received help.
- Be explicit
- When you charter an effort, be explicit about your expectations: "I think you have all you'll need for this," or "If you run into any problems I might be able to help with, let me know." Be clear about your own expectations.
- Establish and maintain the universal context
- Define and clearly communicate your expectations about assistance with load management, resource allocation, or politics. Be consistent. And when asked for the help you've been promising, deliver it.
When we need help, and we delay asking for it, we squander the most important resource that people need to help us address the problem: time. What do you need help with right now? How soon can you ask for it? Top Next Issue
Love the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!
Next time: tips for asking for help.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrengTUAmvHBdPtPnXxzner@ChacPRajdYamyjbjfrasoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Shape of the Table
- Not only was the meeting running over, but it now seemed that the entire far end of the table was having
its own meeting. Why are some meetings like this?
- How We Avoid Making Decisions
- When an important item remains on our To-Do list for a long time, it's possible that we've found ways
to avoid facing it. Some of the ways we do this are so clever that we may be unaware of them. Here's
a collection of techniques we use to avoid engaging difficult problems.
- Double Your Downsizing Damage
- Some people believe that senior management is actually trying to hurt their company by downsizing.
If they are they're doing a pretty bad job of it. Here's a handy checklist for evaluating the performance
of your company's downsizers.
- In the Groove
- Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?"
Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.
- Take Charge of Your Learning
- Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you
can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 19: I Don't Understand: II
- Unclear, incomplete, or ambiguous statements are problematic, in part, because we need to seek clarification. How can we do that without seeming to be hostile, threatening, or disrespectful? Available here and by RSS on June 19.
- And on June 26: Appearance Antipatterns: I
- Appearances can be deceiving. Just as we can misinterpret the actions and motivations of others, others can misinterpret our own actions and motivations. But we can take steps to limit these effects. Available here and by RSS on June 26.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrengTUAmvHBdPtPnXxzner@ChacPRajdYamyjbjfrasoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.