One of the many traps of leadership is believing that you have to be responsible for everything, know everything, and do everything. Leaders who take that approach are susceptible to burnout, often fail to create the space they need for creative work, and miss opportunities to move up the ladder because they are too busy handling urgent matters. In addition, their drive to do it all themselves denies colleagues and junior staffers the chance to learn new skills and further develop their abilities.

All too often, leaders don’t prioritize asking for help, delegating tasks, or protecting a little white space for deep thinking. How do you know if you fall into this camp? Think back over the last few months. How often have you requested assistance in desperation or because you simply couldn’t handle the work load? Now, think back and remember the number of times you passed work on to someone else to lighten your load a little or because it would benefit them to have the experience.

In most situations, a leader needs to be strategic, nurture relationships with stakeholders, and be able to see past the work of the day. That mean protecting your space to think deep thoughts, generate new ideas, and craft meaningful plans. So how do you ask for help in a way that doesn’t make you look weak? Review the suggestions below and see what might work for you.

Identify Potential Contributors

Finding the colleagues or junior staffers who are looking to develop their skills or fulfill their ambitions is your first order of business. You want to locate those who want to do more, who are eager to prove themselves and ready to learn while doing. While observation plays a key role in this process, also consider asking a few casual questions at lunch or over coffee. Try inquiring about their long-term goals, their desire for more challenge or learning, and their areas of interest that may not be activated in their present role.

Articulate the Learning

Once you’ve selected the person or people who might be able to help, set up your ask as a win-win proposition. They get new skills or experience. You can see their work up close and potentially provide a reference for them. It’s a great benefit to someone just starting out or looking to make a move to have a champion like you on their side.

Follow Up

Once you’ve made the assignment – clearly and concisely – make sure you check in. You want them to succeed and you don’t need any surprises. So set a calendar reminder for yourself to see how they are doing at regular intervals. At the close of the project, be sure to express your gratitude and fulfill your promise to look for other opportunities for them. Those opportunities might be lunch with the boss, advance notice of a job opening, or another “perk” that would appropriately recognize them.

Don’t get too busy to get help. As the old saying goes, many hands make light work – and it can help prepare the next generation at your company.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson


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