There are many ways in which asking people for help can benefit us, such as asking for referrals, asking for assistance with aspects of our work that we're maybe not as experienced in as our primary role, or asking for feedback.
The fact is that people like being asked for help, provided it's done in a polite way and at an appropriate time. Asking someone for feedback shows that you respect the person's opinion, and asking for assistance shows that you value someone's skills and trust their abilities. Asking people for help in terms of a referral or introduction to someone is also entirely acceptable behavior - and could be seen that you are acknowledging that they are well-connected.
The trick with asking for help is that you choose your moment and don't do it too often - make sure you ask the right person at the right time.
A good example might be that you've been trying to break into a new industry for a long time. You haven't been able to make any headway in getting your resume on the right desks, and you find out that a certain person that you know knows someone in a key organization in the industry that you want to be involved in.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your contact to make a referral or to contact the person on your behalf. It may seem like a minor point, but there are people out there who are sometimes just a little bit too proud to ask for help when they need or deserve it. You can be sure that your competition won't be too proud to ask for the same!
Asking for feedback is another great resource. Many of us are scared of what we might hear, so we tend not to ask. The greatest fear for most people is that of the unknown. But if you don't get objective constructive criticism from someone you respect and trust, then you have no frame of reference for how you can improve your work. Those who get this invaluable input are able to continue to improve. For those who don't, they'll continue doing what they've always done, and getting the same results as before.
When I coach clients, one of my most critical intake questions is, "are you willing to change?" For people to improve, they need to do things differently. Those who are unwilling to change will stay the same. The old adage is 'If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always have.' Don't be afraid to ask for feedback, and pay most attention to the opportunities for improvement, not just the good stuff, and have the conviction to act on it.
Asking for help with something that isn't your area of expertise is another great way of improving your working life. None of us are perfect, and no-one knows everything. Having the strength of character to admit that, and calling on someone who can help you achieve your goal will help you succeed faster.
Assuming that you know what your goals in life are, how many of you have shared them with those around you?
For example, I'm pretty sure you have all been around someone who has said to you, "I have always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby" or a similar passion. A colleague of mine was a life-long rock music fan, and shared her dream of meeting her favourite band one day with some friends. One day, a friend of hers was talking to someone he knew and the person said that the lead singer from her favourite band was visiting the record store where he worked on a surprise visit to sign his solo album. He remembered his friend's ambition and told her about the album signing event, which was in a different city and she would probably not have heard about it otherwise. She was able to travel to the music store, meet her hero face-to-face and get his autograph. That was 10 years ago, and she still talks about that day!
Letting people know what your goals are is vital to helping you get where you want to go. It is another form of asking for help, albeit an indirect and subtle way. It's in our nature as people to internalize our ambitions, maybe to even keep them secret or only tell our partner. You need to understand the importance of sharing your goals with those close to you. It's just one more way that you allow people to help you get to where you want to go.
The truth is that most people enjoy helping others succeed. Most likely, the successful people you are dealing with had a bit of help on the way as well, and see helping others as a way of returning favors from the past.
So, why don't people ask for help? There are many reasons, but not many good reasons. The next time you see an opportunity to share your success with those around us, do so. They won't think less of you; quite the opposite. And, you never know, they may hold the key to your future success!
Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., a Reading, PA based professional coaching firm. She is a certified workplace productivity coach and professional speaker, specializing in leadership development and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.InboxDetox.com.