Asking for help demonstrates psychological safety

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Social psychologist Heidi Grant's interesting TED Talk video providing advice on how to increase the odds of a positive outcome when we ask someone for help was published this week. Three of her four tips are to be specific about the help required and why it is needed, to not apologize for asking for help and to make the request live in person or over the phone.

While this advice can be applied to any situation, in a delivery scenario if team members are regularly demonstrating these steps it is evidence that they feel safe working with one another.

Being specific about a request forces a requestor to be more vulnerable. It's much easier to say "I could use a hand with my development work today" than to say "I really have no clue as to how to code this data interface to meet the performance criteria". It also puts the target helper in a greater position of vulnerability by requiring them to respond if they believe they have the necessary skills to help or not. Comfort with expressing vulnerability is a key attribute of psychological safety.

Helping someone is supposed to feel satisfying and should feel natural when we have a healthy working relationship. Canadian stereotypes about saying "sorry" aside, if someone apologizes to me when asking for my help, it makes me feel that they don't feel comfortable with our relationship. In a team with a higher level of psychological safety, team members are confident that they can count on one other.

Finally, if I don't feel comfortable asking someone for assistance and am pessimistic about the likelihood that they will help me out, sending the request via e-mail or leaving them a voice mail message is a safe way to avoid a potentially unpleasant interaction. On the other hand, if I feel that my colleague has my back, I'll have no concerns with speaking with them face-to-face or over the phone to ensure clarity of understanding and a timely response.

"Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on" - Bill Withers

 

Posted on: June 30, 2019 06:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Thanks, Kiron. It is just so fundamentally important to the success of the team and individual. If we cannot feel that is okay to ask for assistance or make a mistake, the team and organization will suffer.

Kiron, thank you for this blog. Very important topic and need. I also found this article helpful. Please check it out if you haven't already. I

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html

Thanks Andrew & thanks for the article reference, Deepa!

Kiron

Thank you, Kiron! Very important words.

Some companies have a culture of fear, and these are the ones where people are afraid to ask for help, to the company's detriment. Thanks Kiron.

A great piece Kiron, thank you. I agree Sante, however, I look forward to the day this culture is eradicated

Thanks Kiron, an important that we ask for help it make the individual that ask to learn and some other in the team

Very useful aproach. We are strong when we are united, but separate, we are weak. We must help others using our special abilities, and let others help us in areas we need improvement.

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