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Ask for Help to Show You Can Handle Anything

Past Social Capitalist guest Jodi Glickman, author of Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say it. The Secrets of Getting Ahead, laid out how asking for help
with new projects shows strength, not weakness.

The way to ask for help at the outset of a project has three steps. It’s 1) be proactive – show me that you’re enthusiastic and excited about the project. But also be honest. “Jodi, that sounds great. I’d love to work on Buzz Metrics. That’s actually a new term for me. Could you define it?” Or, “I’ve actually never worked on something like that.”

Then, 2) ask for resources and guidance up front. Don’t ask, “what should I do?” Ask, “do you have an example I can take a look at? Do you have a recommendation of someone I should speak with? Do you have an outline or a template in mind?” Ask me to give you the resources so that you set yourself up for success. That shows you to be smart and thoughtful and have good judgment. That doesn’t show you to be helpless.

Then, 3) on the off chance that I actually don’t have any resources or guidance to provide, then you go with plan B: Offer interim steps or milestones. So it would go, “Jodi, thanks so much. Can you tell me a little bit more about what Buzz Metrics mean in this context?” I explain it to you. “Okay, great. Do you have an example of something someone has done recently?” I say no. Then, your next course of action is, “Okay, I’d like to take some time and outline my thoughts and come back to you with a first draft.” Or, “Why don’t I start on a couple of key sections and come back to you and get your sign-off to make sure I’m moving in the right direction or to make sure we are on the same page?”

Don’t go down the path of spending two weeks spinning your wheels on an assignment when you’re not sure you’re moving in the right direction. Keep your manager engaged. Ask to provide some work product along the way so that you don’t come back with a deliverable that’s a disaster. That’s going to look far worse than you asking for guidance or resources up front.

For the entire transcript and MP3 recording from Jodi's Social Capitalist interview, click here.


Darby's picture

Keeping this post fresh front and center. I wish I had this advice decades ago. Not everyone (e.g. your manager) will be hip to this approach. But it is your choice whether to continue with them.

Kent's picture

Hi, this is so true. Most people give problem, while in building relationship, we give solution. Because keep problems to others only make them feel frustrated.

Mike's picture

Great reminder on how to tackle new projects and get expectations set up-front.

One additional point that can be important in #3 is to set an expectation of when you will have something back for review.

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