By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
“Asking for help” * can be seen be leaders as a sign of weakness and lack of competence. Here are five reasons to consider flipping that perspective:
*I am talking about authentically asking for help when a leader feels their own skills, resources, experience etc. are not sufficient
1. Promotes Innovation and Creativity:
Leaders want new ideas, systems, products, and processes brought forward. The problem is these same leaders often neglect to recognize that their culture rejects vulnerability e.g. risk taking, making mistakes or even failing along the way. Last I checked, failure has always been a prerequisite to innovation. And, creativity without some messiness is not likely to be very creative.
Asking for help is a step into vulnerability. Brene Brown, in her extensive corporate work around vulnerability points out that you can’t get innovation and creativity without making it ok to be vulnerable:
“We want innovation but we have no tolerance for risk or vulnerability–and vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity... If we want people to come to us and say “Hey, I don’t really understand this and I want to understand it, I need some help,” then we have to model that behavior.”
2. Enhances Accountability:
Holding folks accountable in a way that enhances performance is a tough nut to crack for many leaders. Accountability in its most mission oriented form means ownership. When a leader authentically asks for help, an invitation to collaborate is extended. The giver of help becomes actively invested in the outcome as a co-creator of that outcome – they give a damn about the results. The stage is set for the creation of Steven Covey’s sixth habit, Synergize.
“When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they're open to each other's influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.”
Asking for help shapes cultures that promote shared ownership.When I “own” my work, I am more likely to be highly accountable to it.
3. Drives Motivation:
We are in the knowledge worker age. As Daniel Pink’s research shows, the desire for “mastery and purpose” are two key contributors to knowledge worker motivation. A leader that asks for help opens both doors at once. When a leader asks for help they recognize a way forward based on my command of the issue at hand (mastery), and they bring me into the fold of meaningful contribution (purpose).
4. Increases Engagement:
U.S. employee engagement is at around 32% as measured by Gallup. According to Gallup, “Workplace recognition…. makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”
I don’t know about you, but if my boss authentically reached out to me for help, I’d take that as positive recognition.
5. Creates a Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop:
The adage “it’s better to give than to receive” is supported by neuroscience. Oxytocin and Dopamine, the human bonding and feel good chemicals, increase when you give to someone else. This suggests that “giving” help may create the conditions for a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop. When a leader asks for and receives help the conditions are ripe for “YES, more of that!”
And, what leader doesn’t want more innovation, creativity, accountability, motivation, and engagement within their organization!
Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC is an Executive Leadership and Professional