As the saying goes, “No man is an island.” We all need a little help now and again. But sometimes it seems as though everyone is too busy with their own projects to spare any time to help out on yours. So how do you ask for help?
Well, the first thing is to ask. It seems obvious, but unless you ask you have no chance of securing help. People may not be as crazy busy as they look.
The majority of people certainly won’t turn you down flat. By and large, people are inclined to help where they can. And if they can’t help, they might suggest someone who can.
If you’re feeling on top of things, consider taking a moment to help out someone else. Perhaps they’re struggling with a task, or are feeling overwhelmed. A helping hand from you could be extremely welcome!
It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, or take too long. For example tell them you have half an hour before your next appointment, is there anything you can do?
You could offer to be a sounding board, or offer a different perspective. Or maybe you could suggest a useful approach, or know someone who can help further.
It’s worth it – for both of you. They’ll feel grateful for the help, and you’ll feel good for offering it.
Design Thinking company IDEO promotes a “Culture of Helping” to foster innovation. As IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown says: “I believe that the more complex the problem, the more help you need. And that’s the kind of stuff we’re getting asked to tackle, so we need to figure out how to have a culture where help is much, much more embedded.”
Lead by example: to embed this helping culture, IDEO leaders walk the talk by giving – and seeking – help themselves. Then, crucially, they should respect the helper by actually using the help.
Incentivise: IDEO leaders recognise and reward help when they see its positive impact. This illustrates to others that helping is an expected and rewarded behaviour. They include “help those outside your own team” as part of job descriptions or within assignments.
Show people how: IDEO uses meetings and training sessions to teach people how to seek, find, give, and receive help effectively.
It works: researchers found that the experience of successful helping boosted morale and job satisfaction. They conclude: “useful help at work lifts emotions; improves perceptions of coworkers, managers, and the organisation; and boosts intrinsic motivation to dig into the job.”