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How To Ask For Help From A Colleague


So, you’ve been put on an assignment from your boss with little to no idea how to actually complete it and need to ask that smart guy next to you for help. Problem is, he’s the guy everyone calls on for help and is always overwhelmed. So what to do with this deadline looming?

My boss told me that success is largely based on our abilities to “get more than our fair share of smarter people’s time,” but how can we do so in a polite way? Some thoughts:

  • Bring something to the table: If this colleague is often asked for help, they are stretched thin as it is and certainly have no time to waste. Rather than ask them for a 30 minute meeting to review your project needs, make it clear that you value them by starting the actual work ahead of time. Even if you feel overwhelmed by the task ahead or are totally unsure how to start, use everything at your fingertips to take some of the stress off of your peer. At the very least they will appreciate your efforts regardless of accuracy.

  • Honor Processes: IT support is a great example of a place where people continually ignore processes to get what they want, however simply approaching those folks and handing them your broken laptop does not work anymore. Most companies have specific processes (portals, email addresses, forms etc..) around how to request help. Make sure you honor those processes to ensure that team keeps you in their good graces.

  • Walk the walk: Few things annoy shared resources more than when people make no attempt to understand their world. For example, sales telling a customer it takes 2 weeks to implement a software when it actually takes 4 is a common theme, as sales rarely takes the time to ask IT for their assessment. Avoid these pitfalls by ensuring that you take time to appreciate how they work and manage expectations. Remain humble and seek their advice, versus demanding they speed up.

Hope this was helpful next time you’re tasked with debugging 3,000 lines of code! For more thought leadership visit the other blogs on our website or click the link below.

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