How to Ask for Help and Not Feel Weak When You Do

“Deep down inside each of us is a fear that ‘we’re not good enough.’ We overcome this fear by asking for help and discover, ‘we are good enough.’” Jeannette Seibly

“Asking for help is indeed not a weakness. It’s super powerful to understand when to ask.” Simon Sinek

Do you know how to ask for the help you need? Many would say, “sometimes.”

You’re not alone. No matter where you are in your career, understand all current and future leaders have the same fear and confusion. “When is the right time to ask for help?” and “How do I ask for help and not feel weak?”

The issue is, you, and many others, subscribe to the saying, “If they need help, they’ll ask.” But this is seldom true. That’s why your boss or project manager seldom asks you, “How can I help you?” They are waiting for you to ask or fear being labeled a micromanager. Either way, making assumptions doesn’t work.

When a project is late, you have a dissatisfied customer, or the boss keeps making changes, it’s time to ask for help! It’s time to stop the do-it-yourself thoughts. Otherwise, you risk poor work quality, team conflict, and team members watching from the sidelines. This bad habit will cost you future career opportunities.

Susan, a long-time project manager, knew from experience how to get the customer’s project done. She’d achieved great bragging rights. But refused to ask for her team’s help in building on past results. She didn’t trust their insights and experience. Even when team members would ask, “How can I/we help?” she ignored their questions and did it her way. But when the customer complained that Susan wasn’t listening, her boss interceded. “You need to delegate and allow others to help. If you don’t know the answer, don’t dismiss that it was unimportant. Ask the team for help! Otherwise, I’ll replace you with someone open to asking for help and accepting it.” Susan felt unappreciated after that meeting and quit her job the next day.

She failed to see the lost opportunity for leadership growth by asking for and accepting help.

Six Tips to Ask for Help and Feel Confident

1. Set Aside Your Ego. This is critical. If you’re unwilling to ask for help and listen to someone’s ideas, you will lose out on new ways to get the results that work for you and/or your project. For example, “But this is the way I was told it must be done at a recent workshop.” This is what it looks like when your ego takes over.

2. Don’t Wait Too Long or Until You’re Stuck. The sooner you anticipate needing help the better. It’s harder to ask for help once you’ve sabotaged yourself (usually unintentionally) and created a lot of excuses that now feel like facts. For example, “It’s due to the economy and COVID. Otherwise, I’d have gotten that promotion and pay increase by now.” Clearly, this person waited too long and failed to ask for help.

3. Don’t Wait for Clarity. (It seems counter-intuitive.) Instead, ask a person that is not a member of your team to act as an independent reviewer. Ask for their insights and take notes. This is NOT the time to defend and protect your own ideas of how you believe things should be done.

Share in concise statements:

  1. Goal of project or issue
  2. What has been done to-date
  3. What is slated for the future

Then, ask for help: “What do you see is missing?”

4. Be Coachable. Listen and learn from the “coach” or “mentor.” Don’t defend beliefs that can sabotage your success.

Recently an author told me that bragging was nonsense to her. She had a lot of experience and didn’t have time or the need to learn how to brag. Yet, marketing her book and self-promotion is paramount to selling copies! Instead of being coachable, she kept repeating, “I don’t see the value and I’m too busy.” Even after others chimed in, she refused their help to overcome a self-limiting belief of promoting herself for success.

5. Make Asking for Help a Habit. It helps you produce results faster and easier each time. It also helps you grow professionally and become a recognized leader when you are being coachable. For example, acting like you have it all handled, and failing to ask for help or ignoring help will derail your career.

6. Make Your Requests for Help Clear and Concise. Allow for the team member to say, “yes” or “no.” Also, include other’s ideas to make the “yes” work for everyone.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2021 All Rights Reserved

Jeannette Seibly is The Leadership Results Coach. She has been an award-winning executive coach, management consultant, and keynote speaker for over 28 years. Her focus is getting leaders and their teams unstuck and able to achieve dynamic results. Contact Jeannette for a confidential conversation. 

A note from Jeannette about asking for help. Asking for help is a skill everyone needs to develop to achieve desired results. If you don’t develop this habit, you will risk losing out on good ideas, intended cost-effective results, and credibility. Do you fear looking weak when you ask for help? Do you want to become successful as a leader? If you do, it’s critical to develop the habit of asking for the help you need. Ask for help now … contact me for a confidential conversation.

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