Marigold was now hopelessly late, which is why Andrew was now sitting in Jane's office, asking for advice. "So you think asking Emmons for help is the way to break the news," he said.
"Yup," said Jane. "Worked for me."
Absorbing this, Andrew realized that Jane probably knew how to go about it. "OK, but how can I make sure we get the help we need, and not what he thinks we need?"
"Easy," Jane said, "you do your homework first. Show him what's going on and why, compressing it to keep his attention while you lay out the story. You have to make it interesting."
"Sounds good, but how?"
"Start by asking him for ten minutes — that should be enough. Then you lay out the headline, and go from there."
Jane has just given Andrew three of the keys for asking for help successfully. Here are ten tips for asking for help.Work with your peers
before you go upwards
in the organization
- Do everything you can do first
- Ask for help only after you've done what you can in your own circle of autonomy. Work out whatever you can with your peers before you go upwards in the organization.
- Choose your forum
- If your needing help would be embarrassing to you or to anyone you ask for help, think carefully about the forum in which you make the request. Be discrete.
- Ask permission
- Work out a mutually agreeable time and setting for making your request.
- Ask early
- The temptation to delay is strong, because we often hope that the problem will resolve itself. Resist temptation. If you wait until panic sets in, you risk foreclosing options.
- Deliver the headline first
- Begin with the big idea — don't build up to it. For instance, Andrew could say, "Marigold will be late, and I need your help."
- Organize your options
- Have in mind at least a couple of kinds of help. The third one can always be: "Can you suggest something else?"
- Have a clear objective
- Define the problem, and then describe the solution you have in mind. Whether you need advice, expertise, or resources, ask for it specifically. Be clear, but be open to alternatives.
- Explore alternate solutions
- Be prepared to justify the solution you've selected, but be ready to explore alternatives. People tend to feel uncomfortable about helping the unprepared or the narrow-minded.
- Make it interesting
- Present your problem in an intriguing way. You'll be presenting a solution, too, so touch hot buttons that will intrigue the listener.
- Use what you get
- Because rejecting or ignoring help you've asked for can create real problems, be prepared to accept the help that's offered.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
Why is asking for help, or remembering that we can ask, so difficult? How can we make it easier? Read about it.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenHGtALUxkZpreVfRiner@ChacNVEcdozxCHNdoDPEoCanyon.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:
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Organizational Loss: Searching Behavior
- When organizations suffer painful losses, their responses can sometimes be destructive, further harming
the organization and its people. Here are some typical patterns of destructive responses to organizational
- Symbolic Self-Completion and Projects
- The theory of symbolic self-completion holds that to define themselves, humans sometimes assert indicators
of achievement that either they do not have, or that do not mean what they seem to mean. This behavior
has consequences for managing project-oriented organizations.
- Overconfidence at Work
- Confidence in our judgments and ourselves is essential to success. Confidence misplaced — overconfidence
— leads to trouble and failure. Understanding the causes and consequences of overconfidence can
be most useful.
- Understanding Delegation
- It's widely believed that managers delegate some of their own authority and responsibility to their
subordinates, who then use that authority and responsibility to get their work done. That view is unfortunate.
It breeds micromanagers.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZMbCjyLKrPxtBMjUner@ChacBqUYgbNfCTnUUMWtoCanyon.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.