Marigold was now hopelessly late, which is why Andrew was now sitting in Jane's office, asking for advice. "So you think asking Emmons for help is the way to break the news," he said.
"Yup," said Jane. "Worked for me."
Absorbing this, Andrew realized that Jane probably knew how to go about it. "OK, but how can I make sure we get the help we need, and not what he thinks we need?"
"Easy," Jane said, "you do your homework first. Show him what's going on and why, compressing it to keep his attention while you lay out the story. You have to make it interesting."
"Sounds good, but how?"
"Start by asking him for ten minutes — that should be enough. Then you lay out the headline, and go from there."
Jane has just given Andrew three of the keys for asking for help successfully. Here are ten tips for asking for help.Work with your peers
before you go upwards
in the organization
- Do everything you can do first
- Ask for help only after you've done what you can in your own circle of autonomy. Work out whatever you can with your peers before you go upwards in the organization.
- Choose your forum
- If your needing help would be embarrassing to you or to anyone you ask for help, think carefully about the forum in which you make the request. Be discrete.
- Ask permission
- Work out a mutually agreeable time and setting for making your request.
- Ask early
- The temptation to delay is strong, because we often hope that the problem will resolve itself. Resist temptation. If you wait until panic sets in, you risk foreclosing options.
- Deliver the headline first
- Begin with the big idea — don't build up to it. For instance, Andrew could say, "Marigold will be late, and I need your help."
- Organize your options
- Have in mind at least a couple of kinds of help. The third one can always be: "Can you suggest something else?"
- Have a clear objective
- Define the problem, and then describe the solution you have in mind. Whether you need advice, expertise, or resources, ask for it specifically. Be clear, but be open to alternatives.
- Explore alternate solutions
- Be prepared to justify the solution you've selected, but be ready to explore alternatives. People tend to feel uncomfortable about helping the unprepared or the narrow-minded.
- Make it interesting
- Present your problem in an intriguing way. You'll be presenting a solution, too, so touch hot buttons that will intrigue the listener.
- Use what you get
- Because rejecting or ignoring help you've asked for can create real problems, be prepared to accept the help that's offered.
Why is asking for help, or remembering that we can ask, so difficult? How can we make it easier? Read about it.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
- Dealing with Deadlock
- At times it seems that nothing works. Whenever we try to get moving, we encounter obstacles. If we try
to go around them, we find more obstacles. How do we get stuck? And how can we get unstuck?
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- Once you find a task that you can tackle as a "barn raising," your work is just beginning.
Planning and organizing the work is in many ways the hard part.
- How to Reject Expert Opinion: I
- When groups of decision-makers confront complex problems, they sometimes choose not to consult experts
or to reject their advice. How do groups come to make these choices?
- Holding Back: II
- Members of high-performing teams rarely hold back effort. But truly high performance is rare in teams.
Here is Part II of our exploration of mechanisms that account for team members' holding back effort
they could contribute.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 24: Unresponsive Suppliers: II
- When a project depends on external suppliers for some tasks and materials, supplier performance can affect our ability to meet deadlines. How can communication help us get what we need from unresponsive suppliers? Available here and by RSS on May 24.
- And on May 31: Unresponsive Suppliers: III
- When suppliers have a customer orientation, we can usually depend on them. But government suppliers are a special case. Available here and by RSS on May 31.
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By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and
portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development
to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program.
Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- Holiday Inn I-64 West End,
2000 Staples Mill Road, Richmond, VA 23230: May 17,
Monthly Meeting, Central Virginia Chapter of The Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Holiday Inn I-64 West End, 2000 Staples Mill Road, Richmond, VA 23230: May 17, Monthly Meeting, Central Virginia Chapter of The Project Management Institute. Register now.
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Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date
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Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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