The “H"elp Word

How often in the last month have you used the “H” word? For most leaders, there’s a direct link between the number of H’s and the effectiveness of their leadership. That is, the more H’s, the better the results. Check out your leadership grade:

How many H’s in the past two weeks:

Number of H’s = Grade:

  • 0 = D
  • 1 - 3 = C
  • 4 - 6 = B
  • Over 6 = A

SPEED BUMP: To get an A, you need to be asking for help at least three times a week.

Skip the part about how you ask, and what the topic might be. If you need help on those, it’s a different discussion.

Once you decide to ask for help, whom do you ask? Here are the likely suspects, in order of helping power (1 is more powerful than 4):

Helper = Helping Power Rating

  • Boss = 4
  • Peer = 3
  • Direct Report = 2
  • Outside advisor = 1

You may think this is backwards, but here’s why it is often correct:

1. Outside advisor: Forces you to face reality, not your fantasy. An outside advisor will challenge you with a clear motive of helping you. (Yes, some folks in your firm may not want you to succeed.)

  1. 2. Direct Report: Asking her to help you can give you a realistic perspective, though it may be narrower than you prefer. The realistic look often will send you down a different path, allowing you to refine your solution to what you now see as the real problem. It will also give her a chance to grow and develop confidence in her skills.
    1. 3. Peer: If you can get your peer to stop and listen closely (requires time and unselfish focus), you sometimes get both insight and other useful data. It can also help bridge department differences (advantages obvious).
      1. 4. Boss: Requires you to frame carefully and listen closely, and then test to see if the boss solution really is best. Her title doesn’t guarantee good answers. (The best boss will give you questions instead of answers.)
      2. Asking for help boosts your confidence in both your skills and your resilience, because it lets you be uncertain and wrong. Uncertain and wrong people who ask for help are a delight to work with.

        SPEED BUMP: Step up and be the one who asks for directions. You’ll get there sooner.

        Asking works because it provides at least these benefits:

        1. Forces you to frame the issue clearly.
        2. Gets it outside the clutter in your head.
        3. Pulls in another person, providing either better data or commitment or both.

        ACCELERANT: When this week did you ask for help?


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