It is funny how many people will not ask for help, even if they are on the verge of a complete meltdown. As a manager I tell all of my team members I am here to help and serve them. I have always believed that a strong leader needs to understand that they are in that position to serve their team, not the other way around. However, even though I have expressed this many times, many of my team members treat ‘help’ like a four letter word. To be honest maybe I set a bad example because I am as guilty as everyone else about asking for help. I must say though, I will ask for help before it’s too late. Maybe it is years of conditioning that only the weak ask for help? I can’t answer why the culture exists, but only to the risk that exists, if ignored.
Too many people in today’s times are afraid to ask for help and feel that they are expected to ‘go it alone’. As many of you already know my football analogies, the truth is a Quarterback cannot score all by themselves, they need the help of the entire team. While it may be admirable to be a martyr, most martyrs end up getting sacrificed. You really need to ask yourself the following question, “Will my manager be more upset if I ask for help, or if I crash and burn?”
Let me start off by saying that if your manager gets upset about you asking for help, then you have bigger problems than just being overwhelmed. However, most true leaders will not get upset, or even bothered about one of their team members asking for help. In fact most leaders live for the opportunity to help others. When the waters get a little muddy, it usually comes from the way that the team member asks for help. If you go to your manager with questions such as “what should I do?”, or “I can’t do…” this can make a manager, who already has a full day’s work themselves, feel that you are asking them to do your job for you.
Throughout my career I have always tried to bring solutions to my manager, not problems, as I stated in a previous bolg. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help, but do give it some deep thought before you ask for help. One successful way to accomplish that is to try to follow a few simple guidelines:
1. Whatever you ask your manager, should be able to be answered with a “yes” or “no”. This will show that you have put thought into your dilemma and have possible solutions; you are just looking for direction.
2. The support you are asking for is equipment, or labor based. These requirements will come up from time to time and you should never feel that you are encumbering your manager with such requests.
3. Specific information, policy, or advice. It is a manager’s job to help guide you in the right direction, so don’t feel in the wrong asking a direct question to help you decide the proper approach.
4. Finally, asking permission. This is the one issue most people don’t have an issue with and will engage their managers with just to make sure they cover themselves before moving forward.
As long as you respect the fact that your manager also has a large amount of work to complete, and you show respect for their time, you should never have to feel bad about asking for help. Remember that you are part of their team, and your manager wants you to succeed. However, they are not mind-readers and with today’s economy they are as overwhelmed as you are, so there is a good chance they may not ask you if you need help. If you don’t tell them you need help you can be assured you will not receive any. If you decide not to ask for help and your project crashes, you have no one to blame but yourself. The end result will affect your manager, your team, and your own morale, just because you were too proud to ask for help. Chances are if that happens, help isn’t the only four letter word that will be tossed around the office.