Why asking for help is a vital skill for both intra- and entrepreneurs

By having a more positive mindset regarding giving and receiving help, we'll create a culture where givers thrive, and we all win. 

The hype surrounding both intra- and entrepreneurs has never been as high as it is today - and with good reason. The media is full of inspiring entrepreneurial stories about how passionate individuals are building ground-breaking businesses, raising millions in funds and changing the world with disruptive concepts. 

But the truth is, real success is always a collaborative effort. 

As an entrepreneur, I can tell you first hand it’s an extraordinary journey but impossible to navigate without the proper support and collaboration network. Even legends like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs credit a significant part of their accomplishments to having the right support system backing them. 

Let’s take a closer look at why having the right support is vital to successful entrepreneurship and the four tips that will help you get that support more effectively.   

The lone-wolf syndrome

Despite the evidence to the contrary, many entrepreneurs today still operate under the misapprehension that they can “do it alone” - leading to needless struggle, burn-out and decreased emotional well-being. This is because asking for help is often thought of as contrary to the glorified myth of the “hero”, “shark”, or “lone-wolf” entrepreneur who can build an empire with just his own two hands. 

Then, of course, there are the perceived social threats associated with asking for help:

  • Risk of rejection - Having your request negated by peers.
  • Uncertainty - Insecurity about how to make the request or what approach to use.
  • The risk of decreased status - The fear that peers might think less of you.
  • Potential loss of autonomy - Fear that people will lose trust in your decision-making ability.  

Each of the threats listed above can be grouped under one specific negative emotion: fear

In fact, according to Social Psychologist Heidi Grant, they affect the same areas of the brain as actual physical pain, making the response quite understandable - even for people who are seemingly comfortable asking for help.

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A new mindset

The good news is that most of the challenges that make it so difficult to ask for and get the support we need can be eliminated with a changed mindset. The reality is that:

  • The more support you have, the higher your chances of success
  • We are social animals that thrive on interaction, basically hardwired for collaboration

More often than not, colleagues, partners and stakeholders are happy to collaborate, get involved and do what they can to take your project to the next level. In fact, in her Ted Talk, Grant explains that helping others increases our sense of belonging, heightens our self-esteem and solidifies relationships - essentially providing the helper with the opportunity to feel good about themselves. 

The trick is knowing how to get the support you need effectively, and we have four practical tips to help you achieve that goal.

Four practical tips for effective collaboration

Author and Creativity Strategist Jeffrey Davis has come up with four tips to make asking for help a more straightforward process and increase the chance of getting a “yes” response.

Tip #1: Be Concise and specific

Clear communication is a crucial part of both asking for and providing assistance. When approaching someone with a request for help, do your best to: 

  • Describe exactly what the task is
  • Communicate why it’s important
  • Explain exactly what you need 

Taking these steps makes your request transparent and gives the other person the information they need to accurately judge whether or not they’re in a position to help. It also ensures that the help you receive is in line with what you need, avoiding any confusion and enabling the person who’s helping you to feel good about their contribution. This, in turn, increases the chance of collaboration in the future.    

Tip #2: Don’t apologise 

We’ve all experienced the “apologetic ask” once or twice, where the asker begins the request with something like:

  • I’m so sorry to ask, but…
  • If I could do this any other way, I would but…
  • It’s a really small thing, but…

Starting your requests this way immediately sheds a negative light on the situation, minimises the contribution and undermines your relationship with the other person. Resist the urge to apologise and opt for a genuinely appreciative tone instead.  

Tip #3: Make it personal, not transactional 

When possible, avoid requesting help in writing. Although it’s much easier from your side, it’s also way easier to say no from the respondent’s side. According to Davis, making a face-to-face request improves your chances for a positive response by 34%.

You can make your request even more personal by explaining why the other person’s skill set makes them uniquely adept. This facilitates the understanding that you wouldn’t just ask anyone, that you value the person’s contribution and that the help granted will make a positive difference. Who can say no to that?

Tip #4: Share the good results

There are few things more satisfying than lending a hand and then seeing the positive results your contribution helped bring to life. Make sure to share the fruits of your labour with the people who helped out along the way. Seeing the tangible results of their contribution makes helpers feel effective and increases the chances of future collaboration.

Aside from the obvious return, it’s also a great way to show sincere gratitude and appreciation. 

Final Thoughts

The expression “it takes a village” rings especially true for both intra- and entrepreneurs, whose job it is to bring the next generation of disruptive ideas to life. Knowing how to get the help you need is essential in becoming a genuinely great intra- or entrepreneur.   

Organisational Psychologist Adam Grant (no relation to Heidi Grant) studied over 30,000 people and found that:

  • 25% were givers - People who help others for the greater good.
  • 19% were takers - People who are mainly interested in gains.
  • 56% were matchers - People who like to help but expect a return.

The data showed that the givers not only made their organisations better, they also had some of the best career results - proving that it really does pay to give. Remember that next time you invite someone to share their insights or skills for one of your projects (or when you yourself get invited). 

By having a more positive mindset regarding giving and receiving help, we'll create a culture where givers thrive, and we all win.  

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