The Lost Art of Asking for Help

The Lost Art of Asking for Help

I was attending a webinar the other day. As the speaker shared their ideas, my mind began to wander…

For some reason, I began to think about the overall reluctance of folks to ask for help. As I reflected on it across my 30+ years of experience, it’s something that I’ve continuously observed. It seemed like individuals, teams, leaders, agile coaches, and nearly everyone (me included) had an aversion to asking for help.

And while there are clearly reasons for not asking for it, I wondered about any positive outcomes of asking for help.

  • First and most importantly, it helps you.

  • It also humanizes you.

  • It allows others to, as they help you grow themselves.

  • It creates a culture where others can ask for help based on your example.

  • It can increase psychological safety.

  • It avoids us pretending that we know everything or doing things we aren’t skilled to be doing.

  • It’s simply a more honest and open way to operate.

As I began to think about it more deeply, I came to the conclusion that the simple act of—

Saying—I don’t know.

Asking—Can you help me or I need your help.

It can change the entire cultural landscape of your team or organization. I think it’s that BIG of an idea.

 Why not?

I brought this idea up in a Moose Herd conversation the other day, and there were a lot of counterpoint ideas around why it was a bad idea. For example—

  • I don’t want to show weakness. I’m in a leadership role, and I’m supposed to know this.

  • It’s unsafe to say I don’t know or ask for help. I’ll appear not to know what I’m doing.

  • What if nobody wants to help me? What then? I’ve shown vulnerability, and it just bites me.

  • It would cost us money to ask someone else to help us. We don’t have the budget.

  • But I DO know everything, and I never need help.

As I listened to these valid concerns, I landed on the following…

I’m not saying to say I don’t know when you do know. And I’m not saying to ask for help when you don’t need it.

But, if you don’t, and you do, then have the courage to admit it by saying it.

Don’t view it as a weakness. Instead, view it as a strength. Strength of character and strength of simply speaking the truth.

And when you do it, do it from a mindset of expecting folks to help you. And then, be grateful for that help.

An experiment

So, here’s a challenge for you in the next day, week, or month. Try to overcome your impediments by admitting you don’t know something and asking for help. Then, see what happens.

And do it in a 360-degree fashion. Ask your colleagues, team, peers, and your leaders.

My experience is that magical things can emerge when we show some vulnerability, but I’m curious about your results. 

Now, if you could, please HELP me by sharing this post.

Stay agile my friends,


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