3 of the strongest words in business: “can you help?

As a society, we truly suck when it comes to asking for help! Just the thought of having to do so can make us feel shame, failure, and self-insufficiency. If we are asking for help, then we are obviously not good enough!

We’ve all been there. We’ve had a problem, not wanted to risk exposing a ‘weakness’, and instead sat behind our screen pulling our hair out, Googling the answer, trawling through forums, and desperately trying to translate what we’ve read (theory put directly into practice is rarely a good idea by the way). Did I mention lack of sleep and grumpiness?!

Another major misconception is that the more senior you are, the less help you need. Whether you’re a Founder, Manager, or Team lead, with more responsibility, more pressure and more people to care for, comes an ever-increasing need for support.

We hire people into our businesses because we can’t do it all.

We hire people into our businesses because (ideally) they are better at doing certain things than we are!

Tip! Always hire people better than you in specific areas! Make sure that each person you bring in adds something to your overall company’s skills mix and level up your team. Not only will your business benefit, but you and your team will learn tonnes from them.

We need to rely on our teams and on external support more than we currently do!

Asking for help cultivates a particular kind of culture in a business. One that is genuine and supportive of high performing teams. You can’t expect help if you never give it and vice versa. Setting the right precedent for your company is easy: just lead by example. If you want your team to ask for help when they need it (it is much faster to solve a problem with more brain power), then you need to role model it by asking for help yourself.

No-one can do everything but everyone can do something. Your business is full of people with different and unique talents and the reason they’re there is because you trust them, their knowledge, and their skills – so utilise them! And if people in your business can’t advise or guide you, then seek the help of external experts! Reach out and lean in – that’s what they’re there for!

We have a client who uses this approach as a tactic for developing what is a very high performing team. The founder wants to truly up-skill everyone that they hire, enabling him to promote from within and facilitate internal moves across teams based on potential and passion. For each team in the business, he gets external senior support to fill strategic gaps, enabling the team to learn from different, expert perspectives of people who aren’t caught up in the day-to-day. THIS IS SO COOL! And actually, we have a number of clients that we work with where our experience is also utilised in mentoring roles either for less experienced People people or for those who have a particular specialism in People (eg: Talent Acquisition) rather than being expert generalists across the whole People & Culture remit.

I ask my team for help all the time. They are part of Unleashed because they are experts at what they do. I simply cannot be as good as 5 other people put together, so why try? I learn from them and they learn from me as a result. Actually, without sounding like too much of a hippie, we all learn from each other!

I also ask for external help! I’m a People & Culture person. I happen to be quite commercial but I’ve never grown my own business before. Fortunately, a lot of the skills that I have lend themselves to leading a team and running the internal practices of a business. But finance?! Not a clue… hello Accountancy firm! Growing a niche and specific client base and looking at proper business metrics? Not a clue… hello mentor! Mental wellbeing – a little bit of a clue but I still need support in dealing with imposter syndrome and the general stress of being responsible for the financial security of amazing people … hello coach! (Helpfully my business mentor and coach are the same person so that is particularly cool! Thanks Liz Whitney!)

The moment you accept that you can’t do it all, you shouldn’t do it all and that even if you can do it all, you’ll never do it all as well on your own as with others, you’ll benefit from:

  • More time to focus your energy on other areas in need of your attention. Trying to solve problems you’re not 100% familiar with soaks up masses of your day, but someone who knows what they’re doing will probably find a way in a fraction of the time.

  • Building trusting relationships with those around you. Admitting you don’t know everything and asking for help engenders trust between you and your team – regardless of whether or not you seek their or external support. It shows you’re human and you expect of yourself as much as you expect of others. (And you CAN’T expect it if you don’t role model it!)

  • More confident teams. Turn to a team member and ask for help = they solve your problem = you thank them for a job well done = their confidence will inevitably rocket = that can do a lot for their progression = your business’s ability to retain great talent increases. Whoop whoop.

  • New perspectives. When you’re too close to something, it can be difficult to see seemingly obvious obstacles, ideas or insights, so turning to someone else can open up a whole load of fresh, and maybe revolutionary, angles. As a leader you need to scale up as your business scales out, so sit yourself at the top of the jungle canopy!

  • Knowing who’s ready to progress and when. Giving someone extra responsibility will enable you to understand where their leadership and/or skill levels are at, which can, in turn, shape future promotional decisions.

  • And let’s not forget velocity! Delegating work successfully will help with moving at pace and in the same direction – and getting help will enable this.

Ask for help and focus on what you are great at!

Excellence is hard to keep quiet!

As a result, you’ll also be asked for help for your skills. It feels good to have impact!


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