many of us, asking for help is a difficult concept. It can
require a certain amount of vulnerability. We may feel as if
we are admitting a weakness that the world would not have known
about, had we not asked for help.
Ironically, it’s been my experience that people who are able to
deliver well-positioned requests for help are seen as very strong
individuals. When they demonstrate the humility to ask for
help, they earn the respect of others. Recipients of a
heartfelt request for help are usually honored by the
request. In turn, we are strengthened by the very help that
One of my clients (we’ll call her Kira), recently made a shift
in how she was interacting with her boss. When asked to
prepare presentations, she assumed that she was expected to go
away, develop the content, deliver it at the required meeting and
then wait for feedback from her boss. Her boss was highly
regarded for the impact of his presentations, while Kira often
felt that her presentations were lacking. When she took a
hard look at how this approach was working for her, Kira was able
to recognize that she was not fully leveraging her boss’s
support. She could learn far more about creating
presentations with “oomph” by walking-through a draft with her
boss—focusing on the content plus her delivery—and obtaining
feedback earlier in the process rather than at the back-end.
So she made the request for his upfront support.
Her boss was delighted to coach Kira and was
enthused about the opportunity to leverage his own strength by
imparting presentation skills more effectively to her.
taking the time to work together on preparation for a number of
Kira’s key presentations, she benefited from her boss’ thought
process and was able to distinguish the critical components to
enhance her own presentations. Kira’s presentations now
have punch! She delivers with the confidence of someone who
has great material and is well-prepared. She now rarely
needs corrective feedback after-the-fact. Equally important
is that in the very act of asking for help, Kira has demonstrated
to her boss that she is effectively leveraging resources around
How are your assumptions about the appropriateness of asking for
help getting in your way?
Some of us are uncomfortable asking for help because we believe
that our request places burden on the other person.
Ironically, we may be missing an opportunity to show others’ how
we value and respect them. People who know you and think
well of you, are often highly motivated to help—and with the
reality of their busy work lives, they need to be asked.
Furthermore, the more specific you can be about what you need from
them, the easier it is for them to assist you.
In the past week, how have you asked for support from
others? How clear was your request?
In recent research I conducted into the behaviours that leaders
demonstrate when they successfully transition into new
organizations, “asking for help” made it onto the list of
“Top 10 Success Factors” for the critical first 90 days with a
In this era of hyper-awareness regarding business ethics,
“asking for help” has become associated with
high-integrity. People who are able to conduct an honest
self-assessment and seek support in the areas where they lack
expertise or need to draw on skills that don’t come naturally to
them are seen as both humble and strong at the same time.
As an sole practitioner entrepreneur for the past ten years, I have
long prided myself on independence and self-sufficiency. I
now recognize that relying purely on my own perspective and
expertise can be quite limiting. In stepping up to ask for
help more often, coupled with my commitment to work
collaboratively, my circle expands exponentially through each
connection created. The impact on my business has been
nothing short of transformational.
So how can you go about asking for help?
When I broke down the formula that works for me, I came up with
the following steps:
1. Recognize that you can’t know or be able to do absolutely
everything, all the time.
2. Trust that in asking for help, you are honouring the other
3. Decide to “‘just do it”. The more you agonize, the
less likely you are to make the request.
4. Be specific. Make it easy for the other person to provide
5. Express your gratitude. Let the other person know
specifically how their support helped you.
6. Offer your sincere support in the future--not to “even the
score”, but do it because it genuinely means a lot to you to be
able to help.
What important goal are you stuck on right now? How could
“asking for help” get you jump-started?
Susan Edwards is President of Development by Design, a Business
& Leadership Coaching and Human Resources Consulting firm. Her
coaching clients are high potential leaders and profitable
business owners who are redefining the terms of their success and
taking their impact to a new level. She consults to Fortune 500
companies and smaller entrepreneurial organizations who are also
committed to creating extraordinary impact with their customers,
employees and shareholders. One of the niches of her practice is
supporting new leaders and senior professionals in successfully
transitioning into new organizations and “clearing the 90-day
hurdle”. Visit Sue at http://www.development-by-design.com