Podcast Transcriptions

Pursue What Matters

Episode 71: Why Asking for Help Will Make You a Better Leader

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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
What kind of a leader are you? Are you the knower? Who has to have all the answers? The one who everyone comes to with the questions, or are you a learner, willing to ask the tough questions, seek help and resist having all the answers? Well, your answers to these questions can make a big difference on whether others will want to be led by you.

Dr. Melissa Smith 0:30
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So a common complaint for many years is that lack of collaboration In their organizations, they’re concerned to their employees are siloed. And of course, this is such a big concern with remote working. So what’s the problem here? Is it that no one is willing to help anyone else? Is it a doggy dog world when it comes to work? Is it everyone got it all figured out? They don’t need help. So, you know, the research indicates that people are totally willing to help one another out of work. And most people really want to be collaborative, because of course, it makes work much more enjoyable. But something is getting in the way of collaboration. So what is it? So when we look to the research, the thing that gets in the way for most of us is that we aren’t willing to ask for help. So we try and go it alone when it comes to work when it comes to projects when it comes to questions. And when it comes to progressing in our careers. And we’re worse off for it. And obviously, there’s no winning formula. So today, I really want to focus on why you need to ask for help, and the difference it will make in your leadership journey. And also I want to dig into the details but how to ask for help because how you ask for help actually matters. So sometimes it can seem harder than you might think, to ask for help. And there are some reasons so few of us are actually asking for help, right? I mean, there’s a reason there’s this is a barrier. So of course each week my goal is to help you strengthen your confidence to lead and I try to do that in one of three areas. So whether that’s leading with leading with curiosity or leading with community. And this week, the focus is really on helping you lead with community. And of course, you’re not meant to lead alone, we all need community to strengthen our leadership. And this podcast, of course, is all about leading with community and why asking for help will make you a better we’re because you know, the end of the day, we want to pursue what matters, we want to strengthen our leadership, and asking for help will make a big difference. So first, let’s start with understanding why you might fail to ask for help in the first place, because this is a real issue for a lot of organizations. And again, this is only heightened with remote work. And so many of us are working remotely right now, people are more disconnected than ever, from their colleagues from supervisors, and there’s just fewer touch points. And so it’s a really important issue to pay attention to. And so, you know, let’s think about why why we might be failing to ask for help. And so, you know, first is that and this, I think, is, you know, probably fairly obvious to most of us, but it’s a it’s a big one is important one is that asking for help is often perceived as a sign of weakness, which is a bummer. This is especially true if you were raised in Western cultures, especially America, where right individualism is valued above all else. So right like I know, for me, the tribal the rural West is often taught whether explicitly or implicitly to rub some dirt on me. I’m telling you that was definitely the message to me growing up when I was hurt or in need help is just like, toughen up. Like, I want to see any tears. Like I actually remember lots of times hearing that from mostly my dad. And he’s a tender heart. But I mean, I’m like, also kind of gruff. So now what was also true was that when there was a true need, there was no better people to have your back. But there was also some serious rugged independence and asking for help could definitely be seen as a sign of weakness. So you need to be in serious trouble as in like you exhausted every alternative to be asking for help. And so those, you know, those messages are hard to overcome. And that upbringing can be challenging to overcome. And so culturally, especially if you’re in the US, or you know, you come to the US that that cultural dynamic is powerful. And so that might be one reason you’re hesitant to ask for help, because you might be perceiving it as a sign of weakness. The second reason you might fail to ask for help is that there can be a fear about being in debt to another person once you’ve asked for help. And I’ve heard this a lot from people. So this fear of reciprocity, right, like oh, no, now I’m going to owe this person and this you know, this belief of like, Oh, it’s just easier to struggle through this on my own because I want to be in debt to this other person can often come can often go through someone’s mind and so there’s a hidden belief that if you ask for help you Automatically owe someone something. So this tit for tat and, and that sort of thing is, you know, I think that’s a little bit of a cynical view that help is always transactional. And this is one of the hidden beliefs that I’d like to challenge today with the podcast, as it’s not really helpful. And it can prevent us from building really great networks and relationships with others who can strengthen us and whom we can strengthen. So I think that sometimes that can be true, but we kinda want to elevate our relationships beyond just transactional. And like, oh, now I’m in debt to this person. And we don’t want to simplify our relationships just to the lowest common denominator. And so, yeah, I just think that’s a very cynical view. And you can always run a simple calculation on how you or others may be helpful. And, you know, obviously, we don’t want to reduce our interactions with others, and that sort of calculation. So you know, as much as possible, we really want to challenge this hidden belief. So that’s one thing we might work on. And then third, you know, the third reason that you might fail to ask for help. And this, again, is especially true for American workers, is that personal values get in the way. And so again, this goes back to what I mentioned about

Dr. Melissa Smith 4:48
individualism, but for Americans, especially the value of self reliance gets in the way of asking for help. So I just believe I should be able to figure this out on my own, but we challenge that a little bit like really should you because sometimes you’re working on a new project or you know, you’re you’re new To the company or something like that, it might not be reasonable to expect that you should be able to figure it out on your own. And so waymaker, a researcher with University of Michigan, found that self reliance is one of the 10 core values that while admirable, can also be very self limiting. And one of the ways that he found to be self limiting is that in today’s work environment, you cannot be successful if you don’t ask for what you need. And so that is really the truth when it comes to self reliance. So it’s self reliance can be a really wonderful value. But it can also be very limiting in today’s work environment. Because if you think about most of our work environment, they’re so incredibly connected and collaborative. And so if you’re one of your highest values and self reliance, that value is going to undermine you in today’s work world. And so his research is very interesting. And I’m, and I’m getting utilizing some of his research in today’s podcast, I will link to some of his research and also, I think, a video of his where he discusses some of his research, but he’s from USC, Michigan, go Wolverines. I love you were, say Michigan to my internship there. So anyways, that’s really great research on this exact topic. So it’s so important pay attention to how self reliance may undermine you that work because you’ve got to be able to ask for what you need in order to be successful. So no one will be advocating for your career like you can no one understand your hopes, your desires, and your skills like you do. And also, others don’t necessarily recognize what you need to be successful like you do, right? Like they might, they might understand some of what you need. But you also need to be part of that conversation. So others may care for you, but they will not carry the same awareness that you will. And you know, by the way, it’s not their job to carry that responsibility for you. That’s your job. You need to be your best advocate. And so this is where I really invite you to own your leadership journey to really be proactive and intentional about your leadership journey and really think in terms of clarity of purpose and think about where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? And what is that? What is the path that will help you to be successful? And what what can help you today on that path, and if you don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. You don’t have total clarity about that, but really starting to be intentional and proactive about that and really only only not never, never abdicating responsibility for that. Okay, so, um, you know, don’t Don’t ever leave your career development anyone else you really you just have to own your career development. And so, as a leader, you’re the one that others come to for support and help so this is sorry, this is another reason that you Might not ask for help. So this is a fourth reason that you might not ask for help that you’re in a leadership role. So maybe it’s a little bit more of a formal leadership role, and you are the one that has come to for support and help. And so if you’re not careful, you can make the mistake of believing that you have to have all the answers and that you can also ask for help. And I am just here to say that would be a big mistake. And so, you know, from her excellent research that is covered in the book, dare to lead, Renee brown and her team found the research on the best leaders that first of all, she thought that the most courageous leaders would be the leaders without fear. So meaning right like that they would know what to do, and they wouldn’t have fear in moving forward on their leadership journey. And she was dead wrong about that. The most courageous leader said I’m afraid all the time. But they didn’t. They didn’t get defensive. They didn’t have armor up. And so they were really effective leaders in terms of emotional intelligence, and creating psychological safety for their teams, and all of those foundational skills. And one of the things that they did really, really well that was so effective for their teams. And it was, it was the best way that she found in the research, the best way to earn trust on a team is to ask for help, which is powerful. So from her research, the best way to earn trust as a team As a leader is to ask for help. And that might sound kind of counterintuitive. But what they discovered in conducting the research is that it’s acknowledging vulnerability. First of all, it’s acknowledging that no one’s perfect, no one has it all figured out. And it’s building trust to say, I know you’re not going to try and bluff and pretend that you have it all figured out. But I know that you’re going to trust the team, and reach out for help, and that we’re all in this together. And that that has a powerful effect for strengthening the trust and psychological safety of the team. And so you know, in

Dr. Melissa Smith 8:24
a very real way, asking for help makes you a better leader, and it strengthens your team, it actually makes the whole team more courageous. It strengthens the psychological safety of the team, which strengthens the culture of the team. And so really, really powerful research there. And then another reason so this is the fifth reason that you may be hesitant to ask for help at work is that as you move up the leadership ladder, right, the amount of leadership training and formal leadership training you receive actually goes down. So sometimes there can be this assumption of like, Oh, you have what you need to be successful as a leader because there’s just less of a focus on the process and development of leadership as you advance because the shift really becomes more on results and outcome metrics. So there’s less daily oversight of your leadership skills. And the focus really shifts to more results and less of the process of development. So you might have more attention on your quarterly returns, and those sorts of metrics, and less daily oversight on those process skills of leadership. And so, you know, if you’re not careful, that’s what’s rewarded. And you know, I’m not trying to say that those aren’t important, of course, they’re really important. But the process of leadership development drives the outcome measures. And so if we’re only, we’re only focusing on outcome measures, and not continuing to focus on the process of leadership development, where you have a weak system or have an unbalanced system. And so what happens for a lot of new leaders or leaders who are progressing in their leadership development, and they don’t continue to get formal for ongoing leadership training is that they, they rely more heavily on their deep industry experience. So you might have a lot of industry experience, but most leaders don’t have what they really need, which are the specific leadership skills such as the psychology of leadership. So what are the psychology of leadership skills, so the communication skills managing teams getting and receiving feedback, accountability, motivation and goal setting, cultivating strong company culture, that psychological safety right all emotional health It’s all of these psychology of leadership skills which are so incredibly important. These are the process of leadership skills, that, you know, if you’re not careful as you progress on your leadership journey, you’re not getting ongoing development in these skills. And your feedback is your focus is more on the outcome metrics, like quarterly returns profit and last, that sort of thing. And so when you’re new to a leadership role, you might it’s very common right to feel like you might be thinking, like this imposter syndrome and a new circumstance, a new setting, it’s very, very common. So reference back to my podcasts on impostor syndrome, if you want a refresher course on that, but you might feel like you’re sinking. And so new leaders tend to double down on what they are comfortable with, especially in a new position. And so what do you comfort with? Well, I’m really good at the industry specific skills, because that’s probably how you got into this leadership position. And so they double down on the industry specific skills when they really need to be focusing on the psychology of leadership skills, because as you are progressing on your leadership journey, you need to paint developing the skills of leading people, right, but you’re not you’re getting less training on that, less less development on that. And because you’re new in your role, you’re doubling down on industry specific skills, rather than the psychology leadership skills and so Talk about unbalanced, unbalanced system, right? They’re really not helpful. And so if you’re not careful you as a new leader, meaning not necessarily new leader, but maybe new to this role, you move into being a knower instead of a learner. You don’t ask questions you don’t ask for help you don’t seek feedback. This is a real problem. I was just talking to someone in my personal life who has been working at this job and said, Oh, we got a new a new person on the job. And it’s a new C level person. And the friend that I was talking to said, this new leader really doesn’t get it really doesn’t get it. This new, this new C level person is coming in as the knower talking down to us, telling us what to do. Not even trying to get to know us not asking us how we’re doing. not asking us about our jobs, not asking us about what we’re doing. not seeking feedback. Oh, and I was listening to my friend Tell me about this. I just I just all it made me so sad, because it’s a perfect example potentially, right. I don’t know everything is going on. But it’s a perfect example of what happens with so many leaders moving into new roles like Got it, I got to come in strong, I gotta come in hot and heavy, and prove that I know what I’m doing in this role, and they double down on these industry specific skills, they have to be good, or they have to be the expert. And they piss everyone off. And they’re jerks. And they’re off putting, when actually they really bite like, they already know the industry specific sales, they wouldn’t have ever gotten the job if they didn’t know those things. But they need to know how to lead people. They need to know how to collaborate, they need to seek feedback, they need to ask questions, they need to figure out how do you guys run things here, help me understand how you do it here. They need the psychology of leadership skills. So whether it’s in a new workout, whether it’s just a new role in the same organization, you got to be a learner, you’ve got to be humble. If you have to be the knower. You might have a title that says you are a leader, but you are not a leader. So you really need to be humble and back away from those industry specific sales, you know them. I’m not saying that you’re adding them of course you focus on them. But this is where you strengthen the psychology of leadership skills. This is where you really focus on communication skills, leading teams giving and receiving feedback, accountability, cultivating strong company culture, asking for help seeking feedback. Big, big, big So this is a time where you really need to lean into the vulnerability of acknowledging that right, there might be a gap between where you are and where you want to be in terms of your skills, awareness and knowledge and get to the business of asking for help. And so the real thing, the real value that that we want to guide our actions is humility. No one has it all figured out. And humility will be one of your best assets as a leader

Dr. Melissa Smith 13:20
and get we’ll get we’ll put you in a place where people will want to be led by you if you can be humble. And so let’s think about solutions. Okay, so I already talked about the research found that the most effective leaders ask for help. We know that’s true, not only from their lead research, but also from the great research from Wayne Baker and others, the most effective leaders ask for help. So one of the things that happens is that is self awareness. And so leading with curiosity is also one of the themes that I’ve highlighted here. So you got to you got to go in to your leadership journey with self awareness. What are your needs? What are the gaps in your learning who and what could help you develop these gaps? So what are your resources? And so it really is so important to have self awareness and to cultivate self awareness if you like self awareness, like I’m not what how do I develop self awareness. So have some daily practices that help you cultivate self awareness? So for me, one of the thing Do I journal every single day? And for me, that’s been the best route to cultivate self awareness. It helps me to see what am I thinking, What am I feeling? What am I avoiding when feeling anxious about, I can start to recognize themes and patterns in my life. And it’s super helpful for me. self awareness, you can read or listen to self develop books, leadership, books, podcasts, maybe this one. And those types of resources can be incredibly helpful because they invite you to pay attention to things to think about things in ways that maybe you haven’t considered before. And so self development books, leadership, books, podcast, those sorts of things can be incredibly helpful. Also, as part of that, ask for specific feedback. So one of the things that we know is that women are less likely to get critical feedback that can help them improve as opposed to men. And so it’s really important, especially for women, but definitely for everyone, but especially for women to ask for specific critical feedback and then incorporate it. Okay, so this is where self awareness is really important. So do you have a sense of what you need to work on? And if so asked for specific feedback in these areas. And then like if you get vague feedback, press your supervisor to be more specific to make it actionable, so that you can really benefit from the feedback you’re receiving. And if you’re a supervisor, right, if you’re a leader in the position where you’re getting feedback to people, make sure the feedback is special. Make sure that your feedback is consistent. For men. And for women, you need to use a forum because we do know consistently women get less critical feedback. Their feedback is way more vague than the feedback into that. And there are several reasons for that. But if you are the ones seeking feedback, ask for specific actionable feedback, it will help you grow much more. And then again, from Wayne Baker from diversity, Michigan, he identified five lessons for how to ask for help at work, and then also how organizations can create environments where asking for help is encouraged. So let’s look at some of these lessons. I think they’re really good and can provide some really nice guidance for us. So lesson one, earn responses to your request by generously helping others in the first place. So like be a giver before you make requests. And actually, I love that one because you know, don’t just go in expecting help without also contributing. So build a positive reputation as someone who helps others reputation really, really matters course we all know that be someone who others want to help be seen as a helper and more than that actually be a helper. Others will not hesitate to help you when you have a need. And you know, I think you’ll find this is true. You probably already know this that others are more than willing to help when it’s your turn. Researchers found the effects of reputation now are short list so be aware of that old reputation for helpfulness gets you nothing so you have to be consistent in your reputation for Helping so you gotta be consistent as a helper. So that was interesting. caveat, so no one down here, right? helpless, helpless is a way of life. It’s something that needs to consistently. The other point here is that we are hardwired to help one another. It’s how we survive as a species. And so others will definitely notice you’re helping behavior and that the norm of reciprocity is so incredibly powerful for us as humans, that if you help others, you really can’t expect help in return, like we really are challenging a huge social norm to not to not reciprocate to help when it’s given to us. And of course, this also generates a psychological benefit for those wary of reaching out. So it’s easier to reconcile asking for help when you have been helpful. So reciprocity reciprocity is a very powerful law. So then lesson to know what you want. And this I think this is really important, be specific in your request, I get requests all the time, and sometimes they are so vague, that it’s just not helpful. And you know, you don’t want to you don’t want to put more of a burden on the people in person that you’re requesting help from. And so you got to do your work first and be specific and request. What are you actually asking for? Don’t put that burden on the person you are making the request that is not fair. That’s not reasonable. That’s, that’s lazy. That’s a lazy ask that other person or have you. So focus on a specific project, write down your goals for it, and take Most important goal unless the action steps and the resources needed to achieve it. So these are some recommendations from bigger fish. So consider using the smart framework for both things, right? Like, all your goal, and then the objectives for it. And then, you know, what might be the steps to that goal? And then how could this person be helpful for you? Like, do you need help on one of those objectives? Do you need help on brainstorming? Do you need help on on the goal itself? Like what exactly do you need help with? So you’ve got to do your work first. And then the third lesson? This is what Megan asked smartly. So smart is an acronym. So a well formulated request is smart. So it’s specific, it’s meaningful. So why do you need it? The rationale, it’s action oriented, ask for something to be done. It’s real. So it’s authentic. It’s not me hope I like that one. So it’s time bound? When do you need it? And a smart request is easier to respond to than one that misses one or more than five criteria. So the more specific you can be with your ask, the more useful to help will be so again, don’t make your helper do more work than you’re doing. This will be read resentment, and they probably will just say no, I would. Okay, and then lesson four. Don’t assume you know who and what people know. I love this one because right like People are willing to leverage their networks. And people underestimate the willingness of others to help. So that according to research, so the fact is, you never know what people know, or how they can help you until you ask. So don’t practice what

Dr. Melissa Smith 18:08
others know, just ask them that. And it builds bridges and collaboration. So even if they can’t help directly, often they’re willing to tap into their personal and professional networks. So that’s really interesting. My husband, this was a while ago, actually, like maybe a month ago or something, he asked me to collaborate with a colleague of his regarding a professional question. And, you know, we had a great, great question. And we had a great conversation about that. And then at the end of that conversation, I said, you know, what, you this, this other person, the one somebody might not work would be a really great person for you to talk to. And so then I connected this individual with, you know, someone in my network, and, you know, hopefully, you know, they’ve had a chance to connect. And it’s, it’s so great, because, you know, you just you connect people to the networks that can be really useful for them. And, you know, I was really happy to do that for this individual. And he was really grateful for that, for that support. And it’s really great because it does build bridges and it builds collaboration. And, you know, that was not difficult at all for me, and I was happy to support that and forcing my husband was really grateful that I had taken that time and, you know, hopefully that will be They’ll be helpful for him in his career development. So they’ll be willing to help. And don’t assume that you that you know how people can help you because you just don’t. So just be willing to ask them, okay. And in lesson five, create a culture where asking for help is encouraged. And I love this one. So be a learner not unaware. So make it easy to ask for help by setting the tone norms and practices in the work environment. And this is really where we want to think about psychological safety. Is it okay to not have it all figured out? Is it okay to ask questions? Or are you ashamed? If you ask questions, or you criticize if you ask questions, are you judged? If you ask questions, are you labeled if you ask questions, so this is where the psychology of leadership skills are so incredibly important. Do you have a culture of learning and vulnerability where shame is not tolerated or rewarded, but people are invited and encouraged to ask for help? So do you have meetings where there is a free exchange of ideas? Do you have consultation meetings where open questions, debate concerns are invited and encouraged? So for instance, design teams, consultation teams, you know, creating an expectation of no perfect products, the expectation of feedback, you know, those sorts of things. So this is where it’s helpful to examine your processes, and the structure of your day to day work life and just look at Look at that structure and say, do we, you know, does our structure actually support asking for help? Or are we so tightly structured or our meetings so tightly structured, but there’s no room for questions, right? And probably not every meeting, but is there some room so you know, our team, we actually change the structure of our consultation meetings this year to actually accommodate more room for open questions and supportive consultation, because we just felt like it was a little too structured. And we wanted more room for that. And that’s been a really nice shift for our team. So of course, we must have psychological safety, where it’s safe to get it wrong, to be vulnerable to ask questions and to receive support. And leaders can model this by acknowledging their own questions and vulnerability. And so this has a powerful effect on those that they lead in the positive, right? So leaders who can show up as learners with their own questions and vulnerability really have a positive effect on those they lead. So what are the questions you can ask is, you know, what are you doing to help the new employee be successful? So this is this could be a question that you asked the team out of meeting, what’s everyone doing to help you know, the new employee, of course, a his or her name to be successful? This can be a really great question because it brings ownership home that we’re all in this together. We’re all invested in the growth of this new employee and it makes it safe For the individual to reach out for help, because this individual knows that every person has some ownership or has a stake in his or her success at the company. So I think is kind of a cool question to consider. When you have a new employee come on board, like what is each individual going to do to support you in this new role? I just, I just love it. I think it’s, um, it’s a nice statement of like, I’m here, and this is going to show up for you. I think it’s pretty cool. Okay, and then, you know, the next thing that we want to pay attention to is this idea of community. Right. So having a community will absolutely strengthen your leadership. So I want you to think about your resources. So what resources do you have within your organization within your community online professionally, personally, you know, maybe you have formal relationships with a mentor or a supervisor or sponsor, maybe you have informal relationships with friends, neighbors, peers, colleagues, maybe you have an accountability group, maybe you have developmental relationships. So this is from Murphy, women, maybe in particular need of strong development networks as compared to men, depending on the cultural and social expectations from childhood that may hinder the development of women as leaders. So this is from some research on developmental relationships and just noting that women in particular really benefit from having a strong community female leaders to support their leadership journey. Because right for many women, they they don’t necessarily get those cultural and social messages in childhood around leadership. And depending on the work environment, they may not have a lot of examples or a lot of peer support. And so sometimes, especially for women, you may need to be more intentional about building that kind of community for yourself. So you also want to give out specific people who can advance and support your career development. And this includes, you know, both career and you know, psychosocial support, so like, into personal life. So some of the kinds of developmental relationships that women in particular can benefit from, include, you know, maybe

Dr. Melissa Smith 22:31
a coach, a counselor, a leadership coach, a mentor, peer groups, accountability groups, and a sponsor, online educational courses that have a coaching component or a group component, a tutor. So there’s all sorts of options. There’s so many online options at this point that it’s really broken this wide open, and I think it’s actually very exciting. But I think the important thing to pay attention to is the need to be intentional about how you build your community because what what’s going to fit for one person might not be a great fit for you. And so the other thing I would say about this Don’t leave your growth and learning to others to create for you, when you see needs for yourself, be proactive about developing your potential. And so I hope that this has been helpful for you because, you know, here’s the thing that the most effective leaders, ask for help and asking for help will definitely make you a better leader. And hopefully the things I’ve shared today will help you take courage and take strength in being more authentic and meaning and to have vulnerability and asking for help at work. And I’m so excited because right now I got a free masterclass, it’s happening right now, Registration is open and the link to register is on the show notes. So with that masterclass, I’m actually focusing on some of these specific issues. And so the masterclass is all about helping you reach your leadership potential. And so I’m talking about three keys to really help you thrive without feeling overwhelmed, depleted or alone. And one of the three keys that I’m focusing on is how do you build a community of support so that you’re not alone on your leadership journey because oh my goodness, having a strong community of peers and make all the difference, leadership is hard enough, but you do not have to do it alone. And especially when so many of us are working from home it can feel kind of isolating, but you don’t need to do it alone. And so I hope you will consider joining me for this free masterclass. Like I said, it’s happening right now. And Registration is open. So I hope you will consider joining me for that master class. So make sure you head on over to my website. You can register for that masterclass there at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-71 one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-71. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith remember loving work working off. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.

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