Welcome to the June 2012 issue of Alignment Solutions! Here’s what’s going on:
This month’s theme is it takes a strong person to ask for help. Despite the stigma associated with asking for help in the U.S., successful people DO ask for help. Successful business leaders, elite athletes, and savvy people from all walks of life have coaches to help them optimize their strengths and talents. Often their success has been boosted by a mentoring relationship as well. If you have ever needed assistance but refused to ask for it, even when the consequences of failing to complete the task were serious, then this month’s articles are for you! Collectively they address the ways in which you can change dysfunctional behaviors around asking for and receiving help so that your life can become much easier than it is when you try to tough it out on your own.
The Feature Article, “The Paradox of Asking for Help,” makes the case that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. In fact, asking for help is a critical success factor for leaders. We point out some benefits to creating a workplace norm that enables people to ask for help without worrying about negative consequences.
In “6 Steps to Asking for and Receiving Help,” the Business Solutions section provides specific suggestions for improving the quality of your life by asking for – and accepting – the help that you need to be fully successful.
In the Personal Solutions section, “How to Stop Allowing Your Ego to Make Your Life Difficult” identifies they dysfunctional results caused by an ego that runs amok, and suggests three exercises to help you rein it in.
I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!
Do you know someone who could benefit from the value we provide? If so, let’s create a win-win-win situation! Contact us about how we can make this happen.
The Paradox of Asking for Help
How often do you ask for help? No matter what your answer is, it probably represents a small fraction of the times you would have been well served to request assistance. Why is it that so many of us actively resist asking for help?
For some, the reluctance comes from a belief that asking for help makes us seem weak, particularly if the issue is something we think we “should” know, or know how to do. Some leaders fear that admitting to subordinates that there are gaps in their knowledge or skills makes them less credible. Others buy into the fallacy that their selection into a given job means that they are expected to know everything about it. If they ask for help, they fear, they will be fired because they don’t.
I have two words for those who buy into any of the above beliefs: you’re wrong! Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Paradoxically, showing your vulnerabilities and imperfections increases your credibility rather than diminishes it. Why? Because it takes a person who is confident in his/her abilities to ask for assistance. In fact, asking for help is a critical success factor for leaders: when they ask for help themselves, they are giving others permission to do the same. Their example establishes a norm that it’s okay to request help because no one is expected to know everything, not even the boss.
The fact is, we all have talents and strengths in some areas and not in others. Those who believe otherwise are fooling only themselves. Leaders who leverage their strengths and find ways to manage their weaknesses create a synergy that energizes them, empowers employees, delights customers, and makes the organization an inspiring place to work. Superb athletes all have coaches who help them optimize their performance. Marshall Goldsmith, a world renowned and highly sought after executive coach, works only with highly successful leaders. And he has a coach as well.
For those who think I’m overstating the case for asking for help, let’s consider a workplace in which people choose not to solicit others’ assistance. For example, when employees are afraid of losing their jobs if they seek help, they may make uninformed decisions or take actions that are inconsistent with the organization’s mission or values. As a result, they waste time, energy, and money because someone has to re-do the work or repair the damage that was done. When the organizational culture doesn’t support information sharing, valuable institutional knowledge walks out the door with employees when they leave. Not asking for help also is bad for employee well-being: people who feel they need to cover up the fact that they don’t know everything expend a lot of energy in maintaining the pretext that they do. It wears them down physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it’s so unnecessary.
Instead, imagine the resources that could be put to more productive uses, and how much more quickly people could move up the learning curve if they felt free to request assistance as needed without giving it a second thought. Asking for help truly serves everyone well: the requestors learn something useful, the responders feel good because they are able to share their knowledge or talents, and customers and the organization reap the benefits of great service and productivity. In short, everyone wins.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and increase your credibility by asking for help!