Yesterday’s Advisor presented an article by learning and development industry veteran Jo Eismont on how to ensure your organization’s culture makes it OK for employees to ask for help. Today we’ll go over more from Eismont on this important part of the learning process.
There are certainly ways to ask for help that will be better received than others. And, one way to get a warm reception is to drive the conversation towards a solution.
Employee: Help, I’m stuck on this project, and I have absolutely no idea what to do next. It’s all going wrong!
This approach is problems-driven. The manager in this scenario is likely to get that sinking feeling that means a crisis has just been dropped onto his or her desk and that he or she will have to fix it. The employee also runs the risk of being seen as someone who panics in a crisis.
As opposed to:
Employee: I’ve been really struggling with my next move on this project, but I have a few ideas I’d like to discuss and get your opinion on.
This second approach is solutions-driven. The manager is immediately reassured that, although their input will be needed, there are already some possible solutions in the pipeline and the project hasn’t veered off course irrevocably. The employee here is likely to come across as honest and a proactive problem solver.
There is no problem in the world that can be solved by sticking heads in the sand, procrastination, or denial. Reassure people in your organization that asking for help is best confronted when the problem arises. If an employee wastes time worrying how to approach the difficult conversation, then the project he or she is managing risks running into serious problems in the meantime.
Show employees that you understand that asking for help can be scary, but that there will be a much better outcome for the project if they get the right support on board—at the beginning. And when the right people are asked for their input, the project is much more likely to be a success, leaving employees with their reputation and professional pride intact.
There are a great many reasons to ask for help and almost no good reasons for delaying it or not doing it at all. In organizations that don’t encourage admitting to weakness, you can be part of the cultural revolution that says asking for help is more than OK—it’s natural, it’s a sign of strength, and it makes for more successful outcomes.