Won’t You Please, Please Help Me?

When I was younger, so much younger than today,

I never needed anybody’s help in any way.

But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,

Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.

– The Beatles

Do you help when you can?

Not just your family or your team or when someone asks

But when you look up and see someone headed toward the same mistake you’ve already made or headed into some danger you’ve seen before do you speak up and help?

If someone were to you offer unsolicited help, are you prepared to hear them?

A Story That May Help

I was running through the woods on a beautiful Fall day. I passed a woman walking from the other direction. I smiled and she nodded, but she looked at me with a funny expression. I ran on a bit further straight into a scary situation. A strong and frenetic man was screaming obscenities and intensely thrashing around a very large stick. He was clearly stronger and crazier than me, so I quickly turned around and picked up the pace.

The woman I had passed earlier saw me coming back and said “yeah, I thought that guy was pretty dangerous. I thought about warning you.” I wish now I had asked her the obvious question.

As I ran on, I passed another young woman wearing headphones, headed toward the same sticky situation. I stopped her, and gave her the warning. She looked at me like I was crazy, put her headphones back on, and just kept running toward the man with the big stick. Hmmm, maybe that’s the reaction the first woman was worried about.

Perhaps the situation was truly dangerous, and perhaps it was not. I will never know. What struck me most was that there was an opportunity for the 3 woman in this story to warn and help one another if they were willing and open.

Could We Help One Another More?

I see similar behaviors in organizations. The sense of internal “competition” surpasses collaboration between individuals or workgroups. Or for some reason, people just don’t help when.

  • best practices are carefully guarded
  • mistakes are kept quiet
  • data is withheld
  • warning signs are not shared
  • key learnings are held close to the vest
  • people think it’s “none of their business”
  • ???

On flip side, I see people working alone when there are people all around who would be willing to help if only they asked by…

  • seeking out advice
  • looking sideways for what’s working
  • sharing best practices
  • collaborating and learning
  • ???
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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

7 Comments

  1. Thanks Karin – I think our hesitation to give and receive all the help we can is often based on made-up stories we tell ourselves and “lies” we’ve learned and perpetuated. “I might look stupid,” we think. “I’m supposed to know how to do this, so I can’t ask for help.” (Especially if we’re the leader.) Or “They might not want my help.” “They might think that I think they’re stupid, or incapable.” We’re taught at a young age to not want people laughing at us and to do what we can to avoid it – and so we avoid being human, looking human and capable of needing and offering help, and connecting as humans. Great, great topic.

  2. We’re open to asking for help or advice based on the environment.

    If you feel others will make fun of you or think lesser of you because of not knowing, you won’t reach out for help.

    Then you read stories where people tried playing good samaritan and it didn’t turn out well.

    A great show to watch is “What Would You Do.” They create mock situations with actors in compromising situations and then see how people react.

    • Great input, thanks, Steve. I guess that begs the question… as leaders, how do we create the environment where helping (and asking for help) feels safer.

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