What a concept! How effective are you, when asking for help? Do you get what you want, when you ask for it? Or, are you often frustrated with how hard you need to work, in order to get valuable answers to your technical questions? I know exactly how that feels, as I have worked through quite a few difficult cases of acquiring technical insights, which were essential to meeting commitments that I had made. Fortunately, reflection on these stressful exchanges revealed an opportunity for improving my experience in a very surprising place: myself!
What!?! It can’t be me!
No way!!! The other person doesn't seem to want to help me!” “ I am perfect (and humble, just ask me….LOL)!” Perhaps nobody else has done this, but at times in my career, I have been unwilling (or too slow) to consider the influence that my approach (and behaviors) has on these important discussions. As a result, many of these discussions took longer than necessary, they consumed more resources than were necessary and they created residual strain on important relationships.
Through careful evaluation of my experience and by observing people that I respect, I learned that I have a lot more influence over this process than I would have ever imagined. Even better, I learned that the changes that I needed to make were fairly simple and actually helped me in other parts of my work. Even better still, I found that these small changes produced very significant improvements in the outcomes of each engagement. Answers came quicker, they took less effort and these important relationships were actually strengthened through the process. There is nothing like developing trust, credibility and mutual respect…with people that you admire and respect!
So, what was it?
In essence, I learned that the quality of support that I receive from someone else is often going to depend on the quality of effort that I invest in helping myself, before I ask for that help! Within that context, the “investment” refers to doing whatever is necessary to help the other person understand your problem, your desired outcome and all relevant circumstances surrounding your current situation.
Before asking others, I ask myself....
- What I am trying to accomplish?
- How am I approaching this goal?
- Why am I approaching it this way?
- What do I expect to be observing?
- Why do I expect this?
- What am I currently observing?
- If I was being asked to help with this, what information would I want to have access to?
My Personal Challenge
Fortunately, I work for someone that I respect, so I like ask myself the following question, as I prepare to ask for help:
“If my boss was on the other side of the world and could only use my initial request to understand my problem, what information would I include in that request?”
Some cool quotes
- A poorly defined problem has no solution
- A well-defined problem is nearly solved
- Many fail to prepare, so in essence, they are preparing to fail!
How well do I do at this? Not as good as I can, but most certainly better than I used to be! My encouragement to you is that when you spend time time thinking about the other person in a conversation, you are preparing for a successful dialog...you are Asking for Helping Yourself.