Leadership Voices: Why Women Should Get Comfortable Asking for Help at Work
I was already well into my career when I realized the power of asking for help. I received constructive feedback on my first-ever board presentation, which I had worked particularly hard to prepare for (but worked alone and hadn’t asked for help). Afterwards, our CEO shared with me that it was too in the weeds, then too high-level, never quite hitting the mark. I realized that I should have previewed the presentation ahead of time, rather than try to do it by myself in a silo.
The next time I presented to the board, I took a different approach, asking for help from a marketing counterpart and my boss before finalizing my deck. This time, my presentation to the board went much better, proving that it is important to view asking for help as a normal course of business.
I’ve come to understand that asking for help is in fact a sign of strength, even if it’s something that may not come naturally to everyone.
It can be especially difficult for women to ask for help. We’ve been conditioned as givers, so taking doesn’t feel natural. It can also feel like a sign of weakness. Many women feel like they will only succeed if they are competent, hard-working, humble and helpful to others, and may be ashamed if they ask for help and it doesn’t go their way, or if someone says no.
While we are practical and assume that figuring it out on our own will be easier than outsourcing or asking for help, many times the opposite is true. Asking for help can be powerful. Rather than being a sign of weakness, admitting that you can’t do everything on your own is a sign that you’re able to clearly see what you’re good at – and humble enough to acknowledge areas you want to work on and improve.
The best leaders I have worked with exhibit these signs, and they are thoughtful about how and when to ask for help – and also whom to ask it from. I’ve been privileged to work alongside many excellent leaders who are great at giving and receiving help – including some amazing female leaders here at WELL Health.
I’m also a member of a professional organization of executives who come to ask for help and give help. Asking for help also implies a willingness to give help when you can, and that’s something I’m grateful to see from many of my professional colleagues. It’s a two-way street, and in the end, everyone wins.
Asking for help may not always get you the perfect solution right away. But it will at least push you in the right direction and initiate an important conversation. After asking for help, I always feel like I’m advancing toward a solution and that my decision to be vulnerable was the right one.
Next time you’re in a pinch for time on something you’re not familiar with, or could use a second perspective – I encourage you to ask for help. You might step away surprised, and better for it.