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Asking for help: a key to Sustainable Human Performance

TIGNUM Thoughts

July 7th, 2018
By Scott Peltin

Over the years, as we travel around the world working with all types of executives from companies of every size across multiple sectors, we've often been asked the question: “What are the differences you notice between those who truly become Sustainable High Performers (at work and at home), those who become intermittent high performers, and those who become consistent underperformers?” This is a great question and as you can imagine, it's not easy to pick one, two, or even three common things. Having coached thousands of top executives over the past 14 years, I will say that the most successful people I have ever seen and worked with have one common skill that they have purposefully and consistently developed. This is the skill of learning how to ask for and accept help.

When you look back 20 years at professional tennis or golf, you basically see a solo athlete trying to figure out how to win on their own. Today, even these individual-sport athletes are surrounded by a team of specialists, they are coached daily, and they are constantly asking for and receiving help. They ask for help in recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, help in assessing their current status and progress, help in developing their physical and mental capabilities, help on mastering the skills and techniques that they will depend on for success, and even help in answering questions from the press. The Sustainable High Performers are no longer lone athletes; they are part of a team, and they learn how to ask for help, receive help, and grow.

It would seem natural for us to know how to ask for help since we all come into this world helpless and in need of assistance to take care of every critical situation we face. Yet somehow, as we move up through the education system and later through the corporate hierarchy, many of us have lost this critical skill. We start to see asking for and needing help as a sign of weakness or ineptitude. We become afraid that if we show any vulnerability, people will see us as weak or incompetent. Unfortunately, this path impedes any ability to become a Sustainable High Performer and maximize our impact on the world. At the same time, when you are part of a team that depends on each other and you don’t ask for help, the entire team suffers. You don’t achieve your full potential, develop your full talent, and actualize your full impact. In these situations, the team is often blindsided when they find out you needed help but didn’t ask for it and the entire flow and rhythm within the team are disrupted.

Asking for help draws on several key Performance Mindset skills including vulnerability, courage, confidence, openness, self-awareness, growth-oriented mindset, concise communication, etc. Every time you ask for help, you inadvertently develop these skills, which continues to develop your Performance Mindset. To get better at asking for help here are a few suggestions:

  • _Set some clear intentions before you ask for help to avoid being defensive or closed to the input.
  • _Be concise with what type of help you want and need. Asking for help is asking someone else to take the time and energy to help you (something almost everyone is very happy to do). The more precise you can be, the more respectful you will be and the more they will want to help you.
  • _Be gracious for the suggestions they provide even if their help wasn’t exactly what you felt you needed. Even imperfect coaching or advice can provide valuable insights to you on what you really need or what solutions may really solve your challenges.
  • _Be honest, be vulnerable, and be willing to show that you aren’t perfect and you don’t know all the answers. Perfectionism is one of the biggest roadblocks to asking for help and actually growing from the help you receive.
  • _Don’t be needy, and don’t be a drama king/queen (I’m a victim, they're a villain, I’m helpless). While drama is as human as breathing, it needs to be shut down if you're going to be able to truly receive the help you need.
  • _Don’t ask for help if you really don’t want the help or aren’t going to even consider the person’s support or advice. This is one bad habit that will quickly change the equation where almost everyone wants to help you grow and succeed.
  • _Practice often with small stuff so that you start to feel more comfortable. (i.e. Can you help me create a meaningful agenda for this upcoming meeting? Can you please help me clean up the backyard? Can you help me understand how we will measure success at this offsite?)

Asking for help is a skill, an art, and a critical part of exploring your full potential and becoming a Sustainable High Performer. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Even better, if I could ask you for a little help... could you please let us know how we can best help you with making our blog meaningful, powerful, and applicable to your performance challenges (both at work and at home)?

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