How to Ask for What You Need to Be Successful
April 21, 2020

How to Ask for What You Need to Be Successful

by Brian de Haaff

“I need help.” Showing vulnerability can be scary. You might worry that you are seen as weak or that others may exploit your openness for their own gain. This is understandable, especially at work — you want to show the people around you that you are capable and resourceful. But self-reliance can only take you so far.

We all need help sometimes. This is true no matter what your role is or how many years (or decades) of experience you have. 

I know I often ask the team at Aha! for their thoughts on important matters. Hearing different perspectives gives me insights I might not have considered otherwise. I think it is important for leaders to set the tone. At Aha! we strive to create an environment where people feel comfortable asking — because they know that support will be freely given.

For example, an engineer might reach out to a co-worker to troubleshoot a tricky integration bug. Or a member of our Customer Success team might seek out additional input to best answer a question about how to help build a capacity report for a customer.

We know that when one of us is helped, we all are. And we celebrate that as integral to our company culture.

Of course, not every organization has the type of company culture where it feels safe to speak up. And regardless of your circumstances, asking for what you need requires boldness and vulnerability. Here is how to be proactive about it:

Organize thoughts
Before going to your manager or colleagues, pause to get curious. You need to make sure you really understand the details of whatever is causing you trouble. Create a mental inventory or jot down what you know about the issue. Doing this first before asking for help will often lead you to the answer.

Clarify quickly
Now you want to distill those thoughts so you can communicate clearly. The goal is brevity. This will enable you to clearly explain to others where you need help — consider the background, action needed, and any questions or approaches you considered.

Act fast
Timing matters. You want to get help when your need is urgent and fresh, so do not wait to ask. Acting with speed gives the people around you an opportunity to share their expertise with you when you need it most and can implement it.

Accept gracefully
You might not get the answer you expect. Maybe your manager gives you feedback that is more critical than you anticipated. Try not to default to defensiveness. The truth behind the comments is a learning opportunity. You can strive to approach your next challenge in a more thoughtful way.

Express gratitude
When an answer powers you forward, recognize the other person. This does not have to be a grand gesture — at Aha! we see messages daily thanking teammates for assistance. Hearing that someone appreciated help is confirmation enough. Building gratitude into how you ask and receive makes it a virtuous cycle.

Share equally
Once you feel comfortable asking and receiving, you can return the favor by offering support to teammates when they are struggling. This is where the goodness is found. When you are able to share what you know to help others then you are part of a continuous cycle of learning.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of humility and ultimately humanity.

Even small gestures can have a huge effect and contribute to a more caring and supportive workplace — where being vulnerable is not so scary.

How do you ask for what you need to succeed?

Our team is happy, productive, and hiring — join us!

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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