Why We Resist Asking for Help, and Why it’s Time to Make a Change

Categories: Association Leadership

I am frequently amazed at how often we as professionals feel the inherent need to try to solve problems on our own. In pursuit of successful careers, many of us have grown up and developed a sense of self sufficiency, a “can do” attitude that has typically been rewarded with even more success.  Our parents and teachers would be proud of us, we think, as they always preached that hard work, dedication and ethical decision making will ultimately lead to success. Thus, as a result, we have become accustomed to relying on ourselves, too stubborn to collaborate with others for help and believing that we have both the experience and knowledge that we need to arrive at the best possible answer.

I am a big believer in personal accountability.  Accordingly, I want, and expect, every one of my team mates to have the highest level of personal accountability as well.  This “ownership” of results and outcomes allows members of high performance teams to trust in, and rely on, each other to deliver on our commitments.  At the same time, there is always a risk that this intense personal responsibility and accountability for delivering results can be taken to such a high degree that we don’t ask others for help, even if doing so would ensure a successful result, or at a minimum, significantly improve the outcome.

Although many of us are aware that each and every member of our team possesses a diversified skills set, characterized by differing strengths and weaknesses, we too often fail to utilize the expertise and abilities that can be offered by others. I know I have certain skills that are second to none on our team.  I also know many of the things I am responsible for could be better accomplished by someone else on the team, or at least better accomplished if I would seek help from another team member. Thus, a very important question begs to be answered: Why do we resist asking for help?  Why don’t we simply assess the situation, evaluate who we can consult as an expert (assuming there is usually someone on our team or within a phone call who knows more than we do) and just ask them for guidance, assistance, or advice?

Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are three primary reasons we fail to seek out external help.

  1. We let our ego interfere with our success. We believe we can “figure it out,” and so don’t let others (who might be more qualified to deal with the issue at hand) know we need their help.
  2. We don’t want to “bother” others. We genuinely want to respect their time and commitments and don’t want to burden them.
  3. We may simply not be “practiced” enough in asking for help.  Despite being presented with daily opportunities to make a simple request of another by saying “Let me ask your opinion on this,” we fail to do so as we have neglected the practice of asking for help on a regular basis.

The success of high performance teams can be limited if you and your fellow teammates are failing to leverage each other’s strengths and simply ask for help. Don’t be afraid to “bother” your colleagues and utilize their unique skills if the end result will be optimized, and challenge yourself to practice asking for help every single day. I know this takes some thought and subsequent action; however, if we seize upon the opportunity the results will be surprising.

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