When and How to Ask for Help

Asking for help is an essential skill that can make a significant difference in your personal and professional life. Before we go any further I want to emphasize one word in that first sentence. Skill! Yes, asking for help is a skill. The most successful people are simply better at it than less successful people. 

One way they achieved success is by not flailing around trying to figure out problems on their own when help was readily available. They spoke up. The were not embarrassed or ashamed by gaps in their knowledge or ability. They know their ultimate success depended upon closing those gaps and they did whatever was required to close them. Even if it meant asking for help.

If you’re struggling to reach your full potential it may well be that you have a gap or two yourself. It may also be that you’re not sure how to ask for help or even if you actually need help. So let’s talk about that now. Here are some ideas on when and how to ask for help that you can use when you’re feeling a bit “stuck” and you’re not sure how to get “unstuck.”

  1. Recognize when you need help and know that without a doubt it’s okay to ask for it. Everyone, and I mean everyone, feels stuck or overwhelmed sometimes. That’s perfectly normal. Rest assured that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  1. The next step is to figure out who can help you with your problem. Think about people in your network, such as friends, family, colleagues, or mentors, who may have the expertise or knowledge to assist you. Don’t be embarrassed about asking, if you’ve asked the right person they are likely to be honored that you asked. 
  1. When asking for help, it’s essential to be specific about what you need help with. Provide details about the problem and explain what you’ve tried so far. This will help the person you’re asking for help to understand the issue better and provide more targeted assistance.
  1. Understand that asking for help doesn’t mean demanding or expecting the person to drop everything to help you. Be respectful of their time and schedule, and ask if they have a few minutes to talk or if you can schedule a time to discuss further.
  1. When asking for help, be open to feedback and suggestions. Listen actively to the advice you receive and ask questions to clarify any confusion. Remember that you’re seeking help to learn and improve, so embrace the opportunity to grow. If you’re going to ignore the advice entirely then don’t waste the other person’s time or your own. Continue to flail away on your own while other people pass you by.
  1. After receiving help, take the time to express your gratitude and thank the person for their help. Showing appreciation can strengthen your relationship and build goodwill for future requests. And don’t forget to pay it forward. Be on the lookout for others you can help too.

Asking for help is a part of success. It is a skill that can be developed. It requires recognition that you need help. It requires that you know, with specificity, what kind of help you need. But if you’re open to feedback and sometimes challenging suggestions, that help can make a positive impact on your success. 

Want more of LeadToday? Speaking of help and helping…I’ve changed things up on my Twitter feed for subscribers. I recently began publishing two videos each week focusing on an element of Authentic Leadership. I’ll post these videos each Tuesday and Thursday morning. They will be about 10 minutes long so we can get into the topic in a more meaningful way. The investment for subscribers in still only $5 a month. That’s for at least 80 MINUTES of quality video content on leadership a month. 

If you’re interested in taking a look head on over to my Twitter profile page. If you’re not a follower yet just hit the follow button. It will change to a subscribe button and once you hit that you’re on your way. You can cancel at any time you’ve decided you have nothing left to learn about leading the people who you count on for your success. 🙂

Here’s the link to my Twitter… https://twitter.com/leadtoday 

Don’t be Surprised by Surprises

I like surprises. Well, actually I like some surprises. I like the ones where I get something out of them or when I’m able to surprise someone else with something they will enjoy. 

The surprises that pop up unexpectedly that do nothing but cause problems or force me to change my plans, I don’t like those surprises at all. But are those kinds of surprises really surprises at all? 

Stuff happens. Despite our best plans and attempts to prevent the unexpected things from happening they can still happen. That’s why successful people and experienced leaders are prepared to deal with those “things.”

The first thing I recommend doing when the unexpected happens is nothing. At least for a while. Take a breath, examine what happened as dispassionately as you can. Don’t rush into a decision or take action until you understand the implications of that decision or action. It’s possible, probably unlikely but possible, that no action is required at all.

The other advantage of pausing instead of panicking is you appear under control to those watching. They want to see how you respond to this unexpected situation. The reality is you’re not really doing nothing during this pause. You’re  gathering information, facts, options and most importantly your wits. 

You’ll want to determine if this is a temporary situation or a new permanent wrinkle. It’s seldom wise to make permanent changes because of a temporary problem. 

The second suggestion I’d offer people dealing with the unexpected is to stay positive. If you have any experience at all, in life or in business you’ve likely overcome other unexpected and unwanted situations in the past. Remind yourself of those successes because the fact is, if you’ve overcome the unexpected once you can do it again.

Finally when facing the unexpected, especially when the unexpected includes many unknowns, I encourage people to ask for help. Knowing when to ask for help and having the courage to actually ask for it is not a weakness, it is a strength. 

You may be tempted to think “handling” unexpected circumstances on your own makes you look like a leader but it may make you look like the opposite. Leaders work well with other people, lone wolves go it alone. Lone wolves make very bad leaders.

Ignoring the experience and skills of co-workers and colleagues most often makes it harder on yourself. Rule number one when dealing with the unexpected is NEVER make anything more of a challenge than it needs to be. 

The next time you’re facing the unexpected pause for a bit, remind yourself you‘ve got this and seek help and advice from others. You may just find that this surprise is a pretty good surprise after all.