“I should have known that” is one of the least relevant thoughts you can have when participating in a conversation… and this is my eliminating the barrier between my private and work-life. Same as the quote “worrying is to life what chewing gum is to solving algebra”, when you think about the end result, it carries no relevance to the desired outcome.
But it’s easier said than done, which is why overcoming the fear of asking for help is such an underrated skill to have.
The first thing that comes to mind when avoiding help is the fear of failure. The reason for someone to need help with something is, after all, their incapacity to do it unassisted. But why is this a form of failure? To put it another way: why is the act of not being born knowing something a form of failure?
While I cannot give you a comprehensive psychological explanation of the underlying semantics of failure, I can detail some forms to overcome it, justifying this post’s headline from a leadership and a team-based perspective.
First, the punch-line: if you dare to ask for help, it means that there is enough reciprocal trust for that not to lead to judgment or feelings of failure. It means that you and your counterpart have nurtured a healthy relationship, where the goal is clear and individual competition is secondary.
When I say nurtured, I mean that no relationship starts with that system in place. An employee is afraid of being seen as dumb for asking. A leader might think himself less competent than one of his teammates. A parent wishes to show the world and, more importantly, their partner that she or he is capable of carrying the load by themselves. It is a natural aspect of human nature to be proud and insecure at the same time, but we do live in a society, after all.
So, how do you overcome that? Well, talk to people. If you change your perspective a little, different forms of team-building suddenly gain additional relevance instead of being scrutinized as a team-benefit mandatorily added to the budget. You need your collaborative partners, at work, at home, and in life, to feel comfortable enough around you so that help is not about shortcomings, but rather about filling gaps that get complemented by the whole.
This is why frequent retrospectives should not be as neglected as they frequently are. Retros need to be an open-hearted affair, a circle of trust where problems are tackled and feelings are shared so that blockers and impediments are removed and the goal is more easily reached. [PS: drop me a comment if you would like an article on my do’s and don’ts for retrospectives].
Take pride in what you can share, but even more pride in having people around you whom you can equally ask for help.