The Right Time To Ask For Help On Your Work

Let me do a quick reflection that’s just for me as it can be for anyone who may read this later.

Since joining my new company, if there’s one lesson I have learned that determines a lot of your success, it’s the importance of seeking help and feedback early.

We work in a fast-paced environment where keeping up is itself a lot of work. Aside from the environment being fast-paced, the complexity of nearly all your tasks also means you are most likely not going to have all the answers in the palm of your hand. If you observe enough, that’s what you will see. And I think that point is obvious enough that it sometimes doesn’t need to be spelt out.

So no contention.

Where the bulk of work is though is knowing the balance. Knowing when to seek help, when it is too early to seek help when it is too late to seek help and balancing them all.

Seek help and when to seek help dynamics

You need an understanding of what is expected of you. If you don’t know what it is you need to find out immediately. Often not by asking but by reflection. I said that because I believe the job wasn’t handed to you over a platter of gold. You interviewed for it and it was made clear. What reflection also adds are other subtle expectations or boundaries of expectations.

Knowing this is critical because if you are not clear on it and you ask for help for what should be an obvious thing (consistently), it may impact people’s perception of you negatively. And in a world where perception is the bulk of what takes you far, that’s something you want to protect.

3 things I’ve introduced now. Seek help, the time to seek help, and the perception you have to protect.

Again, you can’t do all the work alone. So to seek help can be eliminated from what needs serious consideration. That is a given, you will have to seek help.

When to seek help is what most people struggle with the most.

Seek help too early, and you appear clueless. Some people might even see you as not taking initiative. Seek help too late and you might run the risk of slowing the whole project down and that’s not good for you my friend.

So what’s the in-between? Before I answer that let me tell you that seeking help also builds a collaborative environment. Humans like the saviour status. We like to be there for others and to have contributed to the success of others. Fostering a collaborative environment also means people want to work with you. And since they will need help now or later, they will also feel confident to come to you for such help.

Now to my question when to seek help?

In my experience, the best time to seek help is when you have given thought to the challenge/task yourself enough to come up with what can be termed a v1. That is version one of the potential final state.

Sharing a v1 would have allowed you just enough time to do some research and enough time to show that you have put in some effort.

Most importantly though, it also makes helping you easier.

It is easier to say, “oh, you are thinking about it this way, but this is how to think about it” than to go expecting the helper to do all the work for you. Remember it is your burden in the first place.

Sharing a v1 also means you are iterating fast. Like in an agile environment, you get feedback fast enough to change course when needed or maintain course when you are in the right direction. And this also boosts your confidence.

Do it this way, and your reputation will also be preserved. No one will see you as being clueless and no one will say you have delayed a deliverable. And until the end of the project, as you implement the feedback, go back with a v2 to confirm again. Repeat until the end of your task. It helps.

Hey, I know these can’t be applied to all tasks. But I trust that you will understand the spirit of the word.