All You Have To Do Is Ask
Book report time! Just kidding, but I am excited to tell you all about a book I just read and share some key take aways about how you can be more productive (and successful) by doing something very, very simple: asking for help.
I recently had a the pleasure of reading “All You Have To Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success” by Wayne Baker. (Full disclosure: I’m quoted in this book, and my framework for how to handle mistakes with integrity is also included in the book.)
Wayne, a professor at University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and I became acquainted through Givitas, the platform for giving and asking that he co-created with Adam Grant. Givitas a simple way to connect to others, ask for something you need help with, and offer your own experience and expertise to help others. It’s a really gratifying platform to use and it’s an online corollary to the in-person exercise created by Wayne and Cheryl Baker called “ The Reciprocity Ring “, where each member in a group asks for help with something specific, and all other members provide help if they can. Simple, but, as you can read in the book, really, really powerful.
So why does this simple concept deserve a whole book? Because many of us are reluctant to ask for the help we want or need. Often, in my work with clients, we uncover reasons that they are reluctant to ask for help, or delegate. Often, these reasons center around not wanting to overburden others, thinking that they can do whatever it is better or faster themselves, or not wanting to look weak/stupid. But these fears are almost always unfounded. I’m often sharing my experiences of how asking has helped deepened my understanding of something, has fast-tracked my progress on something or has actually created opportunities for other.
While I highly recommend that you read this book, I also want to provide you with some key takeaways that you can take action on today:
Save time and money, by asking
- The book gives countless examples of how simply asking for what you need saves time and money. I specifically love one of the examples about how someone in one department of a company was able to handle some work from another department at the same company for free, saving the tens of thousands of dollars they were planning to spend outsourcing.
- Simply surfacing our need allows others to know that our need exists. If we don’t say anything, someone who could easily help us may never know that we need help. As Wayne says “asking is the catalyst to the giving-receiving cycle”.
- Have you ever worked on something for hours, beating your head against the wall, only to have someone look over your shoulder and show you a trick to make whatever you are doing quick and easy? The next time this happens to you, just ask. I bet someone you know has experience they’d be more than happy to share.
Foster a culture of asking in your organization
- Wayne’s data shows that people grossly underestimate the willingness and ability of others to help. Do you assume that others don’t have time or ability to help you? But at the same time, I bet you’re more than willing to help others, right? Flip the script for yourself and remember that others are just as likely to provide help as you are, and that if helping others gives you the warm fuzzies, the likelihood that it does for others is also high.
- Remember that asking increases others’ trust in you. Who are you likely to trust more? The person who seems to have an answer for EVERYTHING? Or the person who is willing to ask if they don’t know something. For me, it’s definitely the latter.
- The next time you’re in a meeting, and you need help, ask! When others see you ask, they will feel more comfortable asking for what they need. You will have been the catalyst for the giving-receiving cycle.
Make asking, and giving, easier
- Make your request as specific as possible; the more someone knows about your request, the easier it is for them to make connections in their own brains to info, or people, that might be able to help you.
- Give “due dates” for your requests; due dates encourage action.
Set up an informal “reciprocity ring”
- I bet you’re in at least 1 group or team. Maybe you have a book club, or a recreational basketball team, or a fantasy football league, or even just your team at work.
- The next time you’re all together, ask each person to think of 1 thing they need help with, no matter how far-fetched, or whether they think anyone will actually be able to help.
- Then go around the room, ask the question, and see if the rest of you can provide help, information, contacts, etc.