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Help – It’s Not a Dirty Word!

Help is not a Dirty Word 2

With 2012 staring us right in the face, I thought I’d dust off an old post as a useful reminder as you plan the year ahead –  “help” is not a dirty word. I have always believed asking for help is a sign of maturity as a leader. I think John Lennon said it best: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” So my question is this – are you easy to help? Think about it…do you make it easy for others to want to help you, or is your demeanor such that most people won’t lift a finger to assist you in a time of need? How many times during the course of your career have you witnessed executives and entrepreneurs who desperately need help, but either don’t recognize it, or worse yet, make it virtually impossible for someone to help them? In today’s post I’ll address the importance of positioning yourself to be helped…

If your pride, ego, arrogance, ignorance, the way you were raised or any other excuse (yes I did say excuse) keeps you from asking for help, it is precisely those traits that will keep you from maximizing your potential. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t know everything or everybody, so why even bother pretending that you couldn’t use a bit of help? No single person can or should go it alone in today’s business world. The more partners, sympathizers, champions, allies, supporters, enablers, influencers, advisers, mentors, friends, and family you have helping you succeed, the faster you will achieve your goals. Without question the most successful business people on the planet are those that have learned to blow through self-imposed barriers to openly harness the power of broader spheres of influence.

I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of all the “self-made man” propaganda floating around business circles. I sincerely believe there is no such thing as a “self-made man”. While I take complete responsibility for all my failures and shortcomings, I take very little credit for my own success. Virtually all of the good things that have happened to me over the years have been the result of the collaborative efforts of many. I don’t see asking for help as a sign of weakness, rather I see it as a very smart thing to do, and I therefore tend to seek out help wherever I can find it. I have long made it a practice to encourage others to help me succeed. My personal and professional network are far more important to my success than my individual competencies. My clients hire me not solely on the basis of what I can personally do for them in a vacuum, but rather what the collective influence of my network and resources can accomplish for them when I operate outside of my own personal bubble.

If you take anything away from today’s post let it be the following two statements: 1.) If a single day passes where you don’t ask for help you have failed yourself and those around you, and; 2.) If a single day passes where you have not helped someone else you have failed as a leader. If you desire to enlist others in your success the following 5 items are the basic prerequisites for getting others to help you:

  1. Be Trustworthy: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’ll do. By simply honoring your commitments and being reliable you’ll be someone who easily engenders the trust and confidence of others. People clearly do things to help those whom they trust, and will quite obviously avoid going the extra mile for those whom they don’t.
  2. Don’t be a jerk: While people don’t necessarily have to like you in order to help you, it certainly doesn’t hurt. However I can promise you that if you’re perceived as a jerk people will not only go out of their way not to help you succeed, but they will do everything possible to impede your success. I have long been a believer that contrary to popular opinion, nice guys (and gals) do in fact finish first.
  3. Go out of your way to help others: Do unto others – what goes around comes around – you reap what you sow, and any number of other statements to that effect ring true more often than not. If you are sincerely interested in helping others, and make it a habit to go out of your way to do so, then those people will likely be inclined to reciprocate.
  4. Know what you want and focus your efforts to that end: You must develop a clear picture of what it is that you want to accomplish, and then apply laser-like focus in the pursuit of your goals.
  5. Make your goals known to those that can help you: It is not only important to communicate your vision to those in a position to help you succeed, but always make sure and ask for their help. Don’t be bashful or embarrassed, but rather confidently recruit others to become enablers and evangelists of your cause. You need to believe that one of your top priorities is team building, and consistently seek out greater numbers of people to champion your cause and scale your efforts.

In the final analysis it’s really all a matter of perspective…you can either view yourself as part of a hierarchical world sitting at the top of the org chart puffing your chest and propping-up your ego, or you can view yourself as the hub at the center of a large and diverse network. The latter is both more profitable and enjoyable than the former. You can either choose to build your personal brand and your success at the expense of others, or by helping others.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the importance of asking for help no matter what your title is, or where you sit on the org chart…Thoughts?

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    November 22, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Thanks Mike for this subject and a lot of the other blogs.
    I guess it is an important question to ask and i think it is not wrong when you know were you are going with a definite purpose. The only problem I see is the attitude you use to seek for help. If you start saying how will people say about me with such title and qualification of this size and all that. It will be difficult to humble yourself to the people you are leading. And it makes me to believe that the people who makes a lot of mistakes are those who are too proud to admit that they need help one way or the other. Help is all we need and that's the reason we have mentors and counselors to help us along the way with their experience and the ability to look at situations through wisdom and advise sincerely. We as the youth we are blessed to have people like you Mike helping us through the jungle of business while we strive to make it a success.

    For sometime now believing in the power of mentor-ship. It paramount and necessary. Its easy to ask for help when you first make a decision and develop it as a habit. It will help you as an individual weather in business or employee or just life in general to avoid some silly mistakes which we can help from those around us.


      November 22, 2010 at 12:49 am

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. The important thing to remember is asking for help should not be age or experience dependent. The best leaders humble themselves to others on a frequent basis to be challenged, motivated, and to avail themselves of a full array of options. Thanks again for your comment.


        November 22, 2010 at 12:52 am

        Yes Mike its true. And its important to have humility every time when seeking help and nothing more than this can get us across to were we are going. I believe that there are a lot of things that we have to deal with when we think about seeking help. Mostly attitude determines how far we can be bold to this subject.
        Thank You again Mike and i believe there is a lot we can explore on this subject.
        Just addition to what i said previously.


    November 22, 2010 at 2:38 am

    The CEO's and C-level executives that are members of Vistage International understand these principles well. Meeting in small group think-tanks, they allow themselves to be vulnerable, to ask for and give help freely, and readily acknowledge that the "new normal" makes it even more foolish to think that they can make it alone. As a consequence they are stronger in their roles and personally. The ability to ask for help should be one of the job requirements for any senior position.


      November 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

      Nice commercial for Vistage 🙂 All kidding aside, I agree with your point that the ability to ask for help should be a job requirement for any senior executive. There's also a flip-side to this coin – one of the most powerful questions a leader can ask of team members is "How can I better help you?"

      Thanks for sharing.

    Una Doyle

    November 22, 2010 at 3:35 am

    I completely agree – and further to what you've said, it is only possible to work to your strengths when you truly collaborate with others from a place of trust and integrity. When this happens performance shoots through the roof!

    It's often so challenging for people to do this though, partly because of what they learned about 'standing on their own two feet' and partly because of personal trust issues.

    It can really help for people to work on the 'inner stuff' to be able to do what they know makes sense… 🙂

    As I always say… "Business IS Personal"


      November 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

      Great insights Una – I not only agree that business is personal, but leaders who don't personalize business will never establish the trust bonds necessary for effective leadership. Thanks for sharing Una.


    November 22, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Thank Mike for your article.

    All we need to understand that help not as a sign of weakness but wisdom.
    As we have to ask one question, How Will You Measure Your Life? http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-
    Everyone need help.
    Thanks Mike,


      November 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

      Thanks for the comment and the link Sami – I'll be sure and read it later. Thanks again for stopping by Sami.

    James Castellano

    November 22, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Great post, asking for help is like crying to some. Doing each is a sign of strength not weakness.

    Mark Oakes

    June 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Mike, Great post on a very interesting topic!

    Our willingness (or lack thereof) to ask for “Help!” stems from our perspective on GROWTH. I referred you to a book a while back by Carol Dweck entitled: ‘Mindset’. Carol spent years researching the differences between those with a ‘Fixed’ mindset versus those with a ‘Growth’ mindset. The cliff notes description of the difference is that those with a Fixed mindset believe that talent/ability/etc are set in stone and can’t be improved upon over time. As a result they view everything through the lens of ‘Performance’ and anything that threatens their perceived performance is a threat. Growth mindset folks, on the other hand, believe that growth is limitless and is a process that accrues over time. [Note: I’m not doing Carol justice with this abbreviated description]

    OK, so how does this impact our willingness to ask for “Help!”?…

    If we have a fixed mindset we’re hyper-concerned about ‘appearing’ as though we know what we’re doing. The validation of others is uppermost in our minds and we don’t want to do anything (including asking for help) that will give others the impression we’re not performing well. Since there’s no hope of improving and our talents are fixed in place, asking for help is moot. Bear in mind that this has less to do with pride and more to do with how we view ourselves (self concept).

    Growth mindset people on the other hand are constantly scanning the horizon for every means possible to continue the growth process. They don’t view failure as bad. Rather they see it as a necessary iterative process for continual improvement. Asking for “Help!” is viewed simply as another means of accelerating the growth process. As a result they are very comfortable surrounding themselves with folks who are a lot smarter than they are and constantly asking questions that help them ferret out the next step in the growth process.

    In closing, we all have elements of both a fixed and growth mindset in different areas of our life. Know this, though,… they are both products of our formative years. Hence, if we have a fixed mindset and aren’t comfortable asking for “Help!”, this can be changed by correcting our mindset.

    Blessings, my friend!!


      Mike Myatt

      June 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      Hi Mark:

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing your insights. For those of you not familiar with Mark, he is a talented CEO and an exceptional leader. His response above is absolutely indicative of the depth of thought and reasoning he uses in assessing all things. I would strongly recommend following Mark on Twitter @MarkOOakes

      Thanks again for sharing Mark.

    Dan Rockwell

    June 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I’m on board with you. If the people around you want you to succeed then helping them help you actually helps them.

    It’s tough to get away from arrogance on this one. The myth of the omnipotent, omniscient leader still exists in some circles. 

    Last year I wrote a short article “Helping others help you” Perhaps it will be useful to your readers. http://bit.ly/bQFjMH

    You’ve helped me. 

    Thank you,


      Mike Myatt

      June 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Dan:

      Thanks for comment and for sharing the link to your post. I love the phrase “helping others help you” – a concept we all need to have a better grasp of. As a leader, the upside to the equation was eloquently stated in the opening paragraph of your comment: “If the people around you want you to succeed, then helping them help you actually helps them.” Thanks Dan.

    James Strock

    June 4, 2011 at 2:33 am

    What a terrific post! As you, so too Dan Rockwell in his comment, illuminate, the deadly sin of pride seems to find an opening with most of us now and again, enabling delusions of ‘independence.’ 

    To be fair-minded, our culture helps make this happen. Certainly this is true our educational institutions, with all their longstanding emphasis on measuring and honoring individual accomplishment, far too little on helping others contribute.  

    Your Lennon example has another benefit: it’s a reminder that education about leadership principles is universally applicable and can come from anywhere. John Lennon had a lot to teach on this score, both in theory and practice.

    If we could time travel back to the release of ‘Sergeant Pepper,’ 44 years ago this week, how many ‘sophisticated’ observers would have guessed that future leadership educators of the 21st century would spend more time and attention on John Lennon than, say Harold Geneen or other famous ceo’s of the time? 🙂

      Mike Myatt

      June 4, 2011 at 3:20 am


        James Strock

        June 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        Mike, if not for your provocative post I wouldn’t have been thinking about the song and the album and the date etc. Yet another example of your point about friends helping friends! 🙂

    Michael Manos

    December 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Insightful post mike that got me laughing in a good sense because it accurately photographs my 3 year performance at my last employer as well as the reasons of my departure. Although i always strive to be a positive influence to those around me, it’s not always possible. Bad boss, bad colleagues, Jealousy, fear, backstabbing … a multitude of factors and situations. From my last job, i really didn’t want to leave but one way or another, everyone was showing me the way out.

    As you’ve said in one of your tweets, i too think that from the moment you’re not motivating people to become better, you’re simply solving the problems for them and for me that’s a cue to leave.

    I would be very interested in reading your thoughts on a “When and why leaders refuse to lead” type of article that addresses situations where “Going out of your way” attitude is doing more harm than good.

      Mike Myatt

      January 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Hi Michael:

      Thanks for your comment. Many of the posts on this blog address the issues you raised in your comment. I would suggest spending some time perusing the leadership category and you’ll find several pieces that address elements of the “when to lead” theme.


    December 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    i think all men hate to ask for help.


    January 6, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Being able to ask for help is so important. Knowing you can’t and should not do everything allows you to reach out and get help. I don’t remember who said it but, “All of us are better than one of us.” If we want to move forward and see better results then asking for help is a must. Thank you for the reminder.

    Jonathon Wilson

    April 18, 2013 at 2:42 am

    As others have said before me, Great post.

    It seems that the last comment was posted nearly 2 years ago, I wonder how far everyone has come since then?

    I’m here today asking for help and promoting myself as well. I have recently finished a post on my blog, containing another take on asking for help, I’m sure you readers would be more than interested and will offer great insights to share.

    Thank you for you time and consideration


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