I’ve shared before about how essential it is in your professional and personal success to ask for help, yet I consistently see that this is not easy for everyone. Because it’s so important, in this blog, we’re going to dive into how to do that so you’re set up for success.
Heads up too, that fellow thought leader and speaker, Christine Laperriere, is writing an amazing book that will dive deeper into this; in the interim, I’ve learned so much from her about the importance of strategically building “relationship currency”. In fact, as the Executive Director of the Women’s Advancement Centre at the Toronto-based Women of Influence, she teaches this to counteract some of the 7-pitfalls their research has found that squashes women’s careers or at least delays their success. Ladies, keeping your head down, hoping someone will see how hard you’re working, and being hesitant to ask for a help in your career (or even in your current project) isn’t helping you. To dive further into this, check out a great TED Talk Teach Our Girls Bravery, Not Perfection which found, in a nutshell, girls are less likely to ask for help at risk of being seen as incompetent whereas boys are more likely to ask for help.
Whether you’re a man or woman, if you’re not asking for help, you’re roadblocking your growth and progress.
That said, it’s important to ask in the right way. That’s what we’re going to dive into here. Why? Because you need to show that you value them and are not using them. You need to nurture a sense of connection versus it seeming one-sided. You need, depending on how big the ask is, to make it personal (a text or email won’t always do the trick); let’s pull our head up from those screens and connect.
When asking for help doesn’t work, it becomes self-serving. It’s about me and it’s not about you. I win, you lose. The other problem is that sometimes people feel like you’re asking for their most precious commodity. Time. We have to earn our right to use people’s time. When people don’t ask for the support of others’ greatness, it makes them look like they don’t have greatness themselves. In other words, people aren’t able to see their unique talents, passions, and virtues. Instead, they only see somebody who wants something and let’s face it, everybody wants something from us these days.
So let’s dive into some of the more effective ways to ask for help:
- Do your homework
What is it this individual can do for you and why do you need to ask them for support? What do you know about their likes, dislikes, passions, life or career mission, family? Do you have something in common? Do you even know them beyond their credentials? You may not share any of that in your conversation, but you have that if there is an opportunity. This helps to build what Christine calls “relationship currency.” If you both have a very strong family-focus and you’re there to talk about how to move into an executive role without sacrificing seeing your kids growing up, you have a huge connection factor. Furthermore, you don’t end up in territory where there’s a disconnect. By not doing your homework, by not researching, it’s like you’re saying, “I want some of your time but I don’t actually care about you enough to see you as a person.”
- Be clear on specifically what you need
Be really clear about exactly what you’re looking for from them. Are you looking for one meeting? Are you looking to potentially explore doing business together? Are you looking for some mentorship? What are you looking for? Ask for the smallest amount that makes them able to say yes. When folks are able to say yes they feel good. People generally don’t want to be in that place where they have to say no. Ask for the smallest amount so you can get what you need (which is why you do your homework and are super clear on what is most important to get out of your time together). If there’s a good fit then you can ask for more, but not until you’ve earned the right into that person’s life and mind.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do for them
When you’re asking for something like a sale, someone’s time, an endorsement, consider how you can offer something in return. You might not be sure, but you can leave a minute at the end of your conversation to ask, “Is there anything I can do to support you and what do you most value?” Maybe they don’t want or need anything from you. Maybe you can pay it forward to someone else. If you have an idea, perhaps you feel it’s appropriate to suggest it. Even when you’re asking for help, keeping a service mentality keeps you mindful of the two-way benefit that can come from you initiating the relationship through that ask for help.
So really honour your own greatness, honour your own integrity by asking for something you can stand behind and respect, and by doing that then you also respect the other person that you’re asking from.