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The Power of Asking for Help

| | Leadership | 5 Comments
The Power of Asking for Help

One of the hardest parts about starting a new job is the sheer amount of information that needs to be learned. You ask questions – and a lot of them – just to wrap your head around all the procedures, expected behavior, chains of command, and contingency plans. Thankfully, a few weeks into the job, that volume starts subsiding.

Unfortunately, so do the questions.

After a few months on the job, we feel embarrassed to stumble across something we don’t know. We try to juggle the facts as best we can to figure things out on our own. And to some extent, we need that challenge in order to grow and succeed at our jobs.

But we also need to learn that it’s okay to ask questions! Here are 5 reasons why:

1. If you’re wondering about something, someone else has probably wondered it too. There is very rarely any truly “unique” question! Speaking up could help out others who need the answer just as much as you do — and it also lets the person you ask know that something needs to be clarified or explained better.

2. Asking for advice gives someone else a chance to offer help. It tells someone that their advice or experience is needed and valued – which, in turn, boosts their confidence and strengthens their courage. It builds trust with others by letting them know you value their insight.

3. You get less egg on your face when you stop to ask for help. When you charge ahead with something – knowing you aren’t sure what’s expected or how to accomplish it, but failing to ask for help – you not only lose an opportunity to grow in your job, but also usually make more work for yourself! There is a fine line between asking for help and being helpless, but that’s defined more by your mindset than by how many questions you ask… and you can tell the difference by what you’re asking.

4. Teams and organizations are more effective when individuals communicate about problems, concerns, and uncertainties. Not asking for help when you need it could hurt your team as a whole, if it results in inferior work, which then results in decreased sales or poor customer relationships. Mark Twain said, “It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” It’s always better to know something for certain – even if it requires asking a “rookie” question – than to make an incorrect assumption.

5. Asking questions make you a more effective leader. Admitting that you don’t know everything is a sign of wisdom and humility – both hallmarks of great leadership. Asking for someone’s help takes courage but it displays authenticity and a willingness to learn – both of which make you more approachable to others.

As Nobel Prize Winner Naguib Mahfouz wrote: “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Yes, you should be thoughtful in how you ask – but it is almost never wrong to ask something if you aren’t sure of the answer.

No man is an island. No matter who you are, no matter how successful you become, you will always need the ideas and experience of others.

Remember, it’s okay to not know everything. It just makes you human!

Tell me something! Do you find it easy or hard to ask questions in your job? Why?


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About The Author

Elizabeth Johnson loves the color yellow, strong coffee, long books, and mountain trails. She’s currently enjoying a brief sojourn in the green desert of Kemmerer, WY, where she and her husband are serving a church internship. She also blogs about Christ-centered living at, and usually has a book project in the works as well. Connect with her on Twitter @DogFurDandelion.

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What People Are Saying

Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen)   |   27 October 2015   |   Reply

Elizabeth, I really enjoyed (and related to!) this post. Especially with a virtual team, which is the case for so many of us at Weaving Influence, questions are key since we don’t “overhear” the kinds of things you hear in a typical audience that sometimes provide context and clues.

ElizabethJohnson   |   27 October 2015   |   Reply

Thanks for your encouragement & help, Paula! 🙂

Jane Anderson   |   27 October 2015   |   Reply

Excellent, Elizabeth. Great advice. Can I add something? If you are the one who is being asked for answers, remember you once knew nothing. And let’s admit it. You might learn something knew about the subject that’s fresh and perhaps deeper. Be thankful that you have the knowledge to share.

ElizabethJohnson   |   27 October 2015   |   Reply

That’s excellent advice, Jane! Thanks for contributing. 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   03 November 2015   |   Reply

Excellent Elizabeth! One of the biggest career limiting moves is worrying more about looking good than doing great work. Balancing self reliance and interdependence is also important and requires that we take full responsibility for our own learning.