Want Help at Work? You Need to Go Beyond Just Asking For Things

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One of the things that I observe over and over again is just how much help highly successful people get from others.

Whatever they are doing, they seem to have a vast cross-functional team of people at many levels, from many organizations, who are part of an unofficial project team that helps them achieve their objective.

I refer to this as your “extra team.” (There’s a section about this in RISE in the Get Help chapter.)

Expand the conversation

But there is one key idea that has been on my mind lately and that is: If you need someone to help you, make sure that your relationship with that person goes beyond only asking them for things.

If the only time you ever talk to someone is to say: “please fill out this compliance report,” or “I still need that product information,” you have not made this person part of your “extra team.” You’re just that annoying person who is always asking for things.

If you are trying to influence someone, the best way you can do that is to actually relate to them. Communicate with them when you don’t need anything, show respect for their work and their time, share valuable information with them, eat or drink with them — offer to help them with something.

Make the conversation more than just the asking

A good way to get someone to care about you and your work is to imagine that they are a good friend.

How would you feel about asking a good friend to work late to do an analysis that you need for your project plan? How would you ask? How would you show your appreciation? How would you make it up to them?

The people you work with deserve this same level consideration and respect.

If you take the time to do this, then when you finally ask for the help you need, you have made them part of your extra team – the team of people that wants to help you.

Increase your fund of knowledge

If you are inclined to work alone on all of your work, you will be at a disadvantage because you are relying only on your own “fund of knowledge.” What I mean by that is how much you know and can research on your own.

If instead, when you are faced with a big task you are inclined to say — who is an expert in this? Who might be able to help me do this even better? Who are the people I can learn from? — you will greatly increase your fund of knowledge.

You will get better. You will do a better job. You will have a highly capable extra team.

I recently wrote an article called The Accidental Expert which makes the point that I typically do a better job at things that I don’t know how to do, because on those things, I get help from experts!

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It works for work, too.

While increasing your fund of knowledge is great, people with strong “extra teams” also have people that will help them get work done.

Successful people get more done because they have more people doing the work (even if they are not managers!) Motivating people (who don’t work for you) to want to do work for you is a very valuable skill.

By the way, for managers, I also advocate using this approach with the people who report to you. Why just order people around (just because you can) if you could motivate them to want to do the work instead?

People you don’t like

The hard part about this, is that often the people you most need to influence, or that you most need help from, are people you don’t like very much! So the thought of this extra-relating is kind of distasteful.

In my experience, it always gets better if you expand the relationship beyond the single point of the work or the budget discussion.

Even if you don’t want to drink or dine with this person, knowing more about what they enjoy, care about, and struggle with, will help recruit them to your team as someone who is at least slightly inclined to help you.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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1 Comment on “Want Help at Work? You Need to Go Beyond Just Asking For Things

  1. Patty, all of your points above are true! I am not a manager yet I know that I get a lot of things done in a timely manner and with expertise because I ensure that my working relationship with my colleagues extends beyond a task list. I also ensure that proper credit goes to the individuals who helped me complete tasks/initiatives. This is huge for me as I am sure no one likes not being credited for their hard work and due diligence. Thanks for the post!

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