One of the most important concepts I’ve learned in business is also one of the simplest: Just ask for help. Many business leaders today pride themselves on doing things on their own. They discuss how they’ve risen to the top without any help, how they’ve succeeded without leaning on anyone. But we were not meant to work alone. We were meant to help each other along the way.
I learned this early on in my career, when I was just getting started in music. In 1999, I met a guy named Joe Cerini. Joe was a low level employee at Epic Records and worked under Martin Peart, who at the time was the Senior Vice President of A&R for Epic. I asked Joe if he knew of any A&R people from other record labels or any great record producers I might be able to meet. Joe introduced me to a guy from Atlantic Records, Damon Eden, who introduced me to a producer named Santiago. I then asked Damon if he could introduce me to any other A&R people and asked Santiago if he could introduce me to any other record producer friends. Damon introduced me to 8 different A&R people from all different labels in New York. Santiago introduced me to a producer, Roy Hamilton, of Capitol Records. Roy went on to produce 24 different gold or platinum selling records, including Michael Jackson, N Synch and Britney Spears. He also had several #1 Billboard hits. Santiago also introduced me to five different A&R people at various record labels in New York. The point of my story? By me reaching out and asking three different people for help or connections, I wound up working with my first big producer and 15 different record label executives. My initiative played a huge part in helping me launch my career and led me to where I am today.
In the famous words of John Donne:
“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”
Asking for help seems simple enough, yet many business leaders don’t do it. Why? For starters, many don’t want to bother people. They feel that asking for help means “bugging” someone, and they don’t want to be a nuisance. Others fear it makes them seem weak, inefficient or unknowledgeable. If they ask for help, will others assume they don’t have it all together?Some worry that asking for help may come with a price. What if the person they ask a favor of asks a favor of them in return and they cannot live up to their expectations? Still others worry that the person they reach out to may say no, causing embarrassment on their part. This can create such anxiety that many never take the next step and reach out.
The biggest reason people don’t ask for help, however, may be that it simply doesn’t occur to them. In today’s society, people value independence more than ever. In past societies, families worked together on farms and in communities. They divided and conquered, each taking responsibility and helping out where needed. When a job became too tough, they simply asked others to bear the burden with them. Somewhere along the way, however, we’ve lost this sense of community. Magazines, TV shows and other media sources have taught usit’s “every man out for himself.” Instead of reaching out when we have a flat tire or need to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, we simply figure out a way to do things ourselves. We believe this independence makes us stronger somehow.
But it doesn’t. Asking for help is not a sign for weakness. In contrast, it may just be the best thing we ever do.
Here are some benefits to asking for help:
1. It helps us connect. Reaching out and asking for help may seem scary at first, but in doing so, we may develop unexpected relationships and connections we would have not found otherwise. By walking over to that co-worker’s desk to ask a simple favor, you may walk away with a lifelong friendship too.
2. It opens new doors, expands your network and helps you succeed. Reaching out for help means opening unlimited possibilities. In my case, if I had never reached out for help, I would not have found the success I did. What began as a simple question developed into a string of events that changed the course of my career. I can’t imagine what might have happened if I never took that first step and let fear stand in my way.
3. It gives others an opportunity to share their gifts. This may be one of the most important aspects ofasking for help. Many people have unnoticed gifts, talents and contributions just waiting to be made. They are happy to help, yet no one’s ever asked them before. Asking for help allows others to shine. Many people are happy to help, yet they’ve never been asked for help before. Reaching out may be a win/win in many cases.
Like many things in life, doing something the first time may feel scary. The more you practice it, however, the easier it gets. If you want to reach out for help but aren’t sure how, try the simple but direct approach.
Here are a few tips:
1. Be friendly but sincere.
2. Get straight to the point. Tell the person what you want. This could be done in an e-mail, in person or over the phone. If you don’t know them well, introduce yourself, let them know how you’ve met or who you know. Then ask your favor without mincing words.
3. Be confident. Simply smile, hold your head high and ask for what you want. Refrain from saying, “I hate to ask this of you…” Remember, you are not a burden. You are here to give someone an opportunity to help.
4. Assume the person will say yes, not no. Studies show that most people, when asked for a favor, will say yes. I’ve learned this to be true in my business. Very rarely have I received a “no” when I reach out. If you fear a “no,” this may keep you from reaching out, and you might miss out on unlimited opportunity. So just assume a “yes,” and if by chance you get a “no,” don’t give up. Most likely, there’s someone else out there who will be happy to give you a “yes.”
So just who should you reach out to for help? This depends on what you need help with. Many times, the person you need is right in front of you. This could be a trusted friend, a colleague, a spouse or a business mentor. It could be someone you’ve never thought of before. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when asking for help. Remember that even the most powerful-looking business man is still just a human being beneath his suit and tie. Chances are, even he had to reach out for help at some point. Never let anyone intimidate you. But don’t be afraid to reach out to the “little guy” too. In my case, I reached out to a low-level employee when I began my career, and the relationship we developed from there on out proved invaluable. The helpers are everywhere — we just have to seek them out.
Above all, remember this: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. When you reach out to others, you open unimaginable doors, leading to ultimate success. So get out there and try it today. That nextbusiness deal may be a simple question away.
For additional reading, here are some other posts:
1. Top 20 Business Schools In The U.S. Whose Graduates Earn The Highest Starting Salaries, 2015
2. The Key Global Recruitment Trends worldwide for 2016
3. Top 25 Universities In The United States Spending The Most On Research And development (R&D), 2014
4. Sick Of Seeing Other Advisors Touting Their Books? Then Get Your Own
5. 25 Most Influential People In UK Media, 2015 List
6. Top 25 World Universities, 2015-2016 Rankings, Caltech Tops
By Jason Davis, President and CEO at One One 7.