Self-reliance is an admirable quality to develop in ourselves and others, it’s also self-limiting. The
Dr. Wayne Baker
fact is, you can’t really be successful in any endeavor, business, or career if you don’t ask for help sometimes.
Help is hard to ask for, so how can you make asking for help easier?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is an American author and sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He’s studied self-reliance and its counterpoint – help – and he’s found a few shortcuts that can make helping, and asking for help easier:
- Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place. By building a positive reputation as someone who helps others; others will then want to help you – even those you haven’t directly helped
- Ask SMARTly. Many requests are so poorly worded that it’s difficult to respond. A well-formulated request is SMART: Specific, Meaningful (why you need it), Action-oriented (ask for something to be done), Real (authentic, not made up), and Time-bound (when you need it).
- Create a culture where asking for help is encouraged. Make it easy to ask for and give help by setting the tone, norms, and practices in your work environment.
This last point is illustrated best by Baker’s research with Zingerman’s, a Michigan-based food company, that has a positive culture of helping.
During the introduction of new employees (known as managing partners at Zingerman’s) attendees are asked, one by one, to state how they will help the new employee to be successful. These public commitments to help make it easier for new people to ask for help. The two founding partners at Zingerman’s participate, modeling their expectations about helping.
Creating a culture of helping pays off in good ways: more engaged employees, better decision making, and even better service for clients and customers. So pitch in, lend an idea, or share a connection and don’t forget to ask the same of others when you need a little assistance.
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