Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

I get by with a little help from my team…

Or I could have called this,

Help, I need somebody, not just anybody

There are lots of song lyrics and literature references about asking for help and looking for the support of others. And also about how it feels to receive help, or even to be asked for it in the first place.

Isn’t it funny that it’s so hard to ask for help? With such strong cultural encoding, it should be the most natural thing in the world. Instead, it gets complicated by convention and courtesy. So it’s just as well that the Core Protocols offer a specific and clear way to Ask for Help, as well as how to respond and give help–or not–depending on the circumstances.

The simple act of asking for help helps you even before your helper responds. Just framing the question can crystalize important matters. For example, at the beginning of 2017, I led a Remember the Future activity during the Agile Dojo portion of an Agile New England monthly meet-up. In my letter from the future, I congratulated myself on having published a new book by the end of 2017. As December approached, there was no book—so I realized I needed to expand my team and find help from experts who could help me deliver on my commitments. The result is High Performing Teams: the Foundations, which builds on the work of many in my professional fields whose work has helped to shape my own.

I needed help then, and I continue to need more help. We’re all unique. We have different superpowers, and asking for help is a way to play to our strengths together rather than struggle with our weaknesses alone. I could do my company accounting myself, but that’s not my gift to the world, so I have a brilliant accountant who takes care of it for me. I have a great personal assistant who makes sure I have flights and hotels booked and class materials ready for my students when I arrive. This year I found a great book editor, as well. My wife, Molly, is great at reminding me to get unstuck by thinking just asking for help, even if I’m not sure exactly what help I could use. Add on my graphic designer, web hosting company, social media guru, and more—I’ve built a great team around me. All of this enables me to use my unique strengths to help other people, by teaching them about high-performing teams.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong

Although it sounds simple and obvious, a high-performance team depends on being able to give and receive help from each other at the right time; otherwise, you’re simply a bunch of individuals doing things alongside each other. The whole point of teamwork is that you bring different strengths and skills and ideas and experiences to a situation, and make something awesome together. “We’re not perfect alone. Asking for help is a way to open up new possibilities as a team,” says Agile coach, Andrea Chiou.

So don’t hold back. There’s nothing to lose. With a simple “Will you … ?” opening, the Ask for Help protocol provides an easy way to request help from another person. The built-in option of saying No makes it safe and low-stakes for the person from whom you’re asking for help. They can say No without justification or explanation if it doesn’t suit them to help you at the moment.

No man does it all by himself. I said, young man, put your pride on the shelf…

And if they can help you and they’re free to do so, then that’s a total win-win! You get the help, and they feel good about it. Because they weren’t under any coercive pressure or expectation thanks to the protocol, the help they give is altruistic and uncomplicated.

Even if it’s just a case of, “will you help me work out what help I could use?”, the gift of that time to be a sounding board or giver of advice not only helps you move on but deepens the connection between you and your teammate, strengthening bonds and helping you better understand one another’s motivations and ideas.

So what’s better: to struggle on and on and screw things up, because you are afraid of looking weak, showing a vulnerability, owing someone a favor or being judged?

Or to give a teammate the gift of your need, to offer them the chance to help you and make things better, if they are unable to do so?

It’s an easy choice. Let’s be great together, share our strengths, help each other get great things done.

So… Reach out!

Ask for Help.