Odds and Ends

Heard a really nice podcast on Asking for Help (HBR podcasts). Got me thinking – here are some of my notes:

Why don’t we ask for help often and quickly enough?

  1. Illusion of Transparency: we just assume that everyone around us know that we need help. But it is not always that obvious
  2. Diffusion of Responsibility: It is not often clear who can offer help. Everyone thinks the other one is responsible
  3. Understand that the other person actually wants your help: we are all guilty of imposing ourselves on others.

Fear of asking help: does it make us look less competent?

  1. Evidence suggests no – in fact, asking questions/curiosity is respected
  2. People actually like you when they help you

How to ask for help:

  1. Don’t be too apologetic
  2. Don’t always make it transactional all the time – quid pro quo – goes against the social norm/feel good factor of giving help for the sake of it
  3. Communicate that the need is genuine – don’t let the giver just assume that you are lazy/incompetent
  4. Don’t fake/sell it – and try to make it look you are doing the giver a chance to do something good

How to get over the initial hump of asking help:

  1. Know that we are all wired as social beings to help – it is one of the strongest ways of well-being. People are helpful and they like it
  2. Often, we need specific help – and we feel reluctant to be specific when asking for help: how to get over that?
    1. Realize that the givers are equally unsure and mostly genuinely want to help. So go ahead and be direct
    2. Make sure you acknowledge – close the loop with the helper. Remember that we are all looking for validation. It is just who we are as social beings
  3. The Pre-commitment strategy: ‘Will you do me a favor?’ and then ask for it. Propensity to help goes up by 1.6 times. However, this could be perceived as manipulation – so be careful how you use it 🙂

As leaders what can we do to foster this culture of asking/giving help:

  1. Be a giver to begin with – that sets the tone from the top.
  2. Adam Grant in his research has found that the Givers are the most successful and the least successful in an organisation. The latter because they don’t know how to say NO and burn out. Identify and work with these kind of people in your team to guide them.
  3. Create an open environment where the above conversations can take place: don’t judge the act of asking help and don’t control these interactions too much

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