A few C-Suite clients have called in the last month or so and they are frustrated. Even though they have offered my services to their managers and employees, assuring complete confidentiality — no one is reaching out to have me assist them in applying new strategies and skills back on the job.
How do you get people to ask for help?
I know that it is hard to ask for help in an environment that expects and sometimes demands self-sufficiency. A request for support can make people to feel ashamed, fear the loss of control, and worry that they will appear “less than” in the eyes of those who matter. And often those that matter are the same ones that hold the keys to the next promotion.
They are often unable to see that self-sufficiency minus the accomplishing goals or improving performance actually reflects poorly on them. When organizations provide resources and people don’t use them, it makes the C-Suite wonder why they should bother providing support.
If your organization has no one at the top that models the same behaviors they request of others (e.g., asking for input from someone else or getting support from an outside source), the message gets lost.
What can executives and managers do to model the behavior they hope to see in others?
Talk about help you have asked for, how you asked for it, what you learned, and how it made a difference in the outcome.
Ask, “What stops you from using this resource?”
Be direct – “I’d like you to connect with Larry and see what ideas/strategies/skills he can help you develop.”
Notice – “I’m glad you’re reaching out and using Larry as a sounding board. I have noticed the improvement in your _______________.”
Follow-Up – “Tell me how using Larry made a difference for you?”
If you want people to ask for help, tell them you hope they will ask for help. Then follow up and ask them if they have asked for help or reached out to connect with Larry. Tell them why you think it’s important if they haven’t, and ask them what’s stopping them from taking you up on your suggestion, and then tell them you think it’s a good idea if they reach out to the resource.
There are some Executives who might think that using consultants is only for people who can’t do their job and need remedial help.
I asked a client I’ll call Murray if he went to the doctor when he was sick, and he assured me that when he was ill (usually waiting until he was really, REALLY sick) he’d make an appointment to see his doctor.
I asked Murray if he ever went to get a routine physical, and he assured me that he got one annually. Sometimes it was standard and boring. Sometimes Murray had the chance to ask questions about things he had noticed and get some good information. In fact, twice his doctor caught something early that would have developed into a bigger problem. Getting help when you need it and support when you can use it makes a lot of sense.
Self-reliance is still seen as a badge of honor is some circles. Asking for help and support go against everything people have been told about career development. But not using resources to increase professional effectiveness is a good way to sabotage a career.