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Encourage People to Ask For Help

I always tell new employees to ask lots of questions.  I tell them that it is far better to ask, and get it right than to assume and get it wrong.  I tell them that they might feel stupid asking the same questions over and again … but the reality is, in our busy world we all need to hear the lessons multiple times before they stick.  It in no way means they are stupid!

I also try very hard to ensure people are not made to feel stupid when they ask questions … because that is one sure-fire way to stop the questions from coming!

“The strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it.”  Rona Barrett

I read a Harvard Business Review demonstrating that when facing a difficult task, a person you ask for advice will actually think MORE of you, rather than think you are stupid.  That “the very act of seeking help conveys a certain wisdom”.  Also they suggest that “people with knowledge to share think highly of anyone who goes to them for advice.”

“You may feel vulnerable asking for help, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all learned to depend on each other?”  Lori Deschene

This is important data that makes a lot of sense and my lesson from this study is to encourage ALL of my staff to ask more questions … not just new employees, or people new to their role.

Here are just three reasons why we should not try to do everything alone:

  1. Two heads are better than one… an old but relevant saying. With more than one person looking at the situation you will get more ideas than just one person looking at it.

  2. Avoid overconfidence. The person who thinks they know it all is delusional.  No matter how experienced you are you can benefit from input … even if it is to remind you of the point or two you forgot!

  3. Get buy-in. If the person you ask for advice is your boss, or another manager, then you are spreading the risk for your solution.  If something goes wrong it wasn’t just you who had input to the solution.  This is much more than a CYA (cover your butt), it is good governance.

The Harvard study is good supporting data, but leaders should intuitively know that encouraging staff to ask questions is just common sense!  When people guess, assume or just make it up the result not likely to be what we would want!

Do you encourage people to ask questions or do you make them feel that they should always know the answers?

Kevin Dee is founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)

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