Why you should ask for help

People in workshop

When Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest in 1953, he didn’t do it alone. He hired expert help, in the form of Tibetan Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

The pair made history together, as the first men to stand atop the famous summit.

While Hillary got the credit and Hillary and Norgay both earned a place in the history books, even then, they weren’t alone in their achievement. There were at least 10 climbers, 20 sherpas and 350 porters in the Everest expedition.

My point here, if you haven’t clocked it by now, is that none of us truly achieves anything on our own and greatness, in particular, requires excellent support.

So, why do so many of us, in life and in business, not ask for help when we need it? One theory is that people fear asking for help because they’re worried about looking stupid. If that’s what it is then, to my mind, that’s back-to-front thinking. You look more stupid if you try climbing the mountain without help than if you bring in well-qualified support.

Asking for help has many more benefits beyond simply making success more likely. It’s also a great way to foster relationships with others. People like to help. They like to feel useful. They might even be flattered you’ve recognised their expertise. It builds trust between you. When we do this in business, you give someone else a stake in the success of your enterprise. It puts another enthusiastic shoulder to the wheel.

Not asking for help is allowing our egos to get in the way of the optimal result.

Higher-performing individuals in all walks of life know this, and they will often seek advice from their colleagues, peers and mentors. They know they don’t know everything and they want to learn and grow.

When we don’t ask others for help, we risk making poorer decisions that rely exclusively on our own past experiences. But our own experiences may not have prepared us for the challenges we’re facing.

Acting in isolation can lead to worry, self-doubt and stress, which can develop into a mental health crisis. Sharing the burden by accepting help can provide a sense of relief and deliver a positive energy boost.

Getting help means enjoying the benefit of someone else’s experience, knowledge and skills. You can learn something new. I often find if I have a difficult problem that only I can address, I will confide in trusted people to get different views and opinions. This helps me to frame my thoughts and decisions and how I am going to approach a situation.

The author Brené Brown once wrote that “vulnerability is courage in you, and inadequacy in me”. This quote neatly shows how common and easy it is to believe that others see our vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but the truth is almost the exact opposite: others think of our vulnerability as a sign of courage. Remember, no-one ever reaches the summit without help. Not even Edmund Hillary.

This article was published 01/04/2022 and the content is current as at the date of publication.