I was speaking to a colleague last week about some problems he had working with his peers, and his boss for that matter. We talked about the dynamics when he and his teammates worked together. He was getting some feedback that put him in the position of darned if you do and darned if you don’t.
I asked him what he’d done about it so far. In the absence of an obvious path forward, it’s human to just keep doing what we’re doing and hoping for a different outcome.
We eventually came up with a plan. Without going into too much detail, we talked about him engaging his boss with ideas to deal with the feedback he was getting. We talked about how he could pitch it positively. We expect his boss will probably go with the plan.
We don’t think to ask.
My colleague’s reaction was interesting to me. He’s a genuine and grateful person, but he was particularly appreciative that we’d come up with a plan. He said our approach had not occurred to him, meaning, to ask the person who SHOULD be helping him, i.e. his supervisor.
What holds us back from that? I’m no different than anyone else. There are times when I don’t think to ask for help – sometimes from the exact person who can help me!
You could be thinking, “Well, your colleague did ask you for help…” Well, sort of. He was sharing a story. I asked if he was open to suggestions.
The U.S. in particular is known for a culture of rugged individualism. (“I don’t need no stinkin’ help. I can do it myself.”) Depending on your job, this can be reinforced even more so.
If you are a boss or executive, you are expected to have all the answers. Add the dynamics of gender, race, age, etc. and you find yourself completely bound up thinking you need to solve everything yourself. Never let ’em see you sweat.
Ask. Accept. Create goodwill.
You know that problem you are struggling with? Who have you talked to about it? Have you asked for help? Generally, good people want to be helpful. Don’t deny them the opportunity to give that to you. Don’t deny yourself the gift of receiving it.