Leveraging the skills and talents of others is why we organize and work in teams. Asking for help when we need it is both smart and imperative to produce the best work product possible.
Yet, many team members become overwhelmed or disoriented during tasks and are reluctant to ask for assistance. They falter and deliver sub-par work (if they deliver at all) without leveraging the support of other colleagues. Worse yet, they often repeat the same dysfunctional pattern over and over. They’re continually lost and never think to ask anyone for a map.
Why would they refuse to ask for a lifeline when they are clearly drowning?
Those who are reticent commonly have one or more false beliefs and cling to these fears to justify their silence. First among these beliefs is the idea that asking for help shows weakness or a skill deficit. Others hold the view that everyone else is too busy to help. Some even convince themselves that it is not their place to ask for the support that should be offered freely.
In the best teams, leaders create a “Bill of Rights” that suggests everyone is expected to ask for help whenever they need it. In these teams, it is often stated that the only thing worse than failing miserably is to fail without asking for help.
We want the norm to be that everyone, including the most experienced team members, asks for a hand whenever they need it. Discussing the misbeliefs surrounding resistance as a team encourages a healthier view of collegial support.
Good leaders also keep a sharp eye on those who are working longer or harder than everyone else, especially colleagues who are new to a role or lack experience with the task. They frequently ask how these colleagues are managing the workload and what help they might need. This encourages them to fess up and admit they may need some support when it’s true.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. It shows you truly understand what it means to be a colleague.
I enjoyed this piece.
As I thought of reasons I might not ask for help, what came to mind is the balance between "solving my own problem independently" and "always asking for help before really exploring possibilities". We've all known the person who did not seem to know how to use the search function on youtube or google. It's fine being needed occasionally, but when it is incessant, you wonder why this person is getting paid. I don't want to be that guy. Is that a common reason people don't ask for help?
Does a culture of "asking for help" ever lead to dependency & lack of initiative?
Also, you mentioned "Why would they refuse to ask for a lifeline when they are clearly drowning?" I wonder how clear it is to a "drowning" worker that he/she has passed the point where the job is just difficult to the point where the job is on the brink of failure?
Finally, it takes time to ask for help. There's the initial request, a summary of the problem, an agreement to listen, a more in depth explanation of the background context etc. It could be seen as a risky use of time when a project is teetering, to stop production and step away to pursue a consultation. Am I alone in this thought or have others observed the same in themselves & coworkers?