by Tony Richards
Leaders learn early on to accomplish anything substantial it will require the help of other people, often many other people. Sometimes, you may need help from someone who has experienced something similar you are attempting to do or perhaps you are going through at the moment.
Sometimes you need someone who is completely detached from the situation to help you gain clarity or focus about what you are thinking or feeling. Other times, you just need someone to physically help you. May non-profit leaders are looking for all of these types of people to serve on boards, organize committees, raise money, take tickets or decorate for an event. Entrepreneurial leaders may be looking for intellectual support, financial advice or marketing strategies. Corporate leaders may need people to serve on task forces or lead initiatives. Whatever the outcome may be, all leaders need help to accomplish vision and plans.
My writing today is for those leaders who really need help and a couple of things may be holding you back. Why don’t other people want to help you?
1. You’ve never asked. Yes, it may be that you have been hesitant to infringe upon the other person’s time or expertise. But really, it doesn’t hurt anything to ask. I believe in people more than most, but I am sure that at least 90% of the time, you will get some direction, a reference or piece of information that can help you just by asking. Please be very nice when you do and don’t pre-qualify like “I know you are busy and probably don’t have time for someone like me”. No! Don’t put thoughts there which are not there in the other person, just politely ask for a few minutes to ask some questions?
2. You feel that others really don’t want to help you. This may be because of bad relationships you have had in the past where you have been manipulated or hurt, or maybe you just feel inferior or silly asking people to help you. Again, most people you will meet, with a few exceptions, will want to help you. Be careful not to abuse the generosity and return the favor when you can. Let me share this with you to encourage you. Now, I don’t promise something like this will always happen, but I recently asked a friend to lunch because I wanted to ask their opinion on a project I was thinking about starting. This friend had a lot of experience and success in what I was thinking about doing. After we discussed it for a bit, he generously offered to send me the book he had written on the subject, electronically by email and he did so that very afternoon. Do you know how much this helped me? The priceless kind of help and advice.
3. You have a hard time asking others to help you out. Maybe you feel you are imposing, perhaps you think people who could help you don’t have time for you or maybe you can’t pay them, so you feel you are cheating them. If you are going to continue to get help from them on a regular basis, yes, you should address it by asking if they are interested in a mentor-type relationship with you, or ask them if you can hire them for their services. Most people will be cool with a couple of questions or meetings to help you, tell them they are valuable to you and find the line where you need to shift the relationship if necessary. Make sure if you are asking them to volunteer for some position or function, you have the roles, responsibilities and timing established before you ask and they accept. Most people fear getting into a situation which has no exit clearly defined.
4. You are intimidated. Sometimes we feel others who have gained a certain measure of success or have had certain experiences are on a different level than we are which causes us anxiety. I have spent a lot of time around a lot of famous people, most of the genuine ones who spent more time with me often confided the reason was that I treated them normally and as a friend. I never acted star-struck around them. I had a picture taken with Ray Charles once in which I noticed Ray was looking the wrong way in the photo. I just casually mentioned to him to look to the left, rather than the right before the picture was taken. He said, “oh thank you for mentioning that, Tony-man, I want to look good in the picture, too!” and he laughed. People enjoy being treated as friends and will respect you more if you treat them as peers.
5. You are not prepared. Before you set up some time or ask someone to help you, make sure you know what it is you need. People are less willing to help someone who seems unclear or uncertain about what they want or need help in. Don’t spend a lot of time rambling around the subject or making a long speech. If you were drowning, would you need help? Sure you would. Would you spend a lot of time explaining what you needed? No, you would get right to the point! There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to get acquainted or build a relationship, but don’t waste their time, either. Have notes and clarity so you can explain exactly what you are doing and what you need. You need to spend more time listening than talking anyway!
Today’s post is written with the emphasis placed on you. There may be other reasons people you have in mind to help you may be reluctant to participate, we’ll cover that in tomorrow’s posting.