I work as a leadership and transition coach, and recently joined Actionable as an Integration Coach, helping our partners integrate the Conversations platform into their business. As such, my work often involves helping others find the answers they need to challenges they’re facing, whether large or small.
As part of my onboarding, I had an opportunity to experience a Conversation first hand. After a great one hour discussion, I made a daily commitment to ask for help from the people around me, both in my personal and professional life. It sounds simple, but the insights I gathered through the process were a revelation.
The act itself of asking for help wasn’t that hard—in fact, when I put my mind to it I was surprised at how easy it was to frame the request. And while I wasn’t all that consistent to start, the daily commitment check-in from the Actionable dashboard and periodic check-ins from my accountability partner were the gentle nudges and reminders I needed to make this a more habitual action.
The surprising part was the outcome. I anticipated that people would largely be supportive, if not overly enthusiastic. What I didn’t anticipate was the extent to which people went out of their way to help. To be clear, I wasn’t asking for people to run my errands or take over my work—I asked for opinions, expertise, and advice. The results were astonishing.
As an example, I recently joined a community orchestra, and struggled to figure out the violin fingerings and bowings on my own. Everyone around me seemed to know what they were doing. When I received a reminder of my commitment through the Conversations Platform, I resolved to ask for help. My deskmate was thrilled to show me how she was playing a specific phrase in the music. When I ventured further and engaged the section leader and then the conductor in my development, they were just as keen to share.
This practice has also been extremely helpful as a new team member at Actionable. No question has been too stupid (and believe me, I’ve asked some doozies!), and people have generously gone out of their way to be of assistance. My biggest fear was that I would be seen as incompetent, unqualified, or even as an imposter if I asked too many questions—someone who didn’t deserve to be where I was—but it was entirely unfounded. Teammates even reached out to thank me for asking questions, as they’d been wondering the same thing themselves!
Throughout this process I’ve learned that most people are far more willing to help than we give them credit for. They also judge a lot less than we think.
But the most important takeaway for me is that I would not have discovered the enthusiastic support of my network if I hadn’t forced myself to make a commitment to changing my behavior. It’s nice to think about all the ways I can improve, but action didn’t occur until I had the accountability support of an external system. I wasn’t just thinking about it, I was constantly reminded to take action.
As a result of this small behavior shift, I’ve started to develop the habit of reaching out for support, and actively engaging others in my development. I have been rewarded, not only with their expertise, but with their enthusiasm. The look of excitement that crosses their faces when I recognize their input or skills is a reward on its own.
From my regular conversations with consultants and coaches, as well as my own practice, I know that it can be challenging to ask for help—after all, we are supposed to be the experts. However, my experience has taught me that people respond best to authenticity and vulnerability. You can pitch your solutions until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t regularly engage with your own process, your clients will sense that you aren’t genuine. It’s harder to sell the value of something when we don’t appear to value it ourselves.
As I work with consultants and coaches who are integrating Actionable into their practices, I often return to my own experience. Of course you want to land big deals, provide meaningful impact, grow your business, and make a good living in the process—but are you practicing what you preach? Are you making a commitment to behavior change that will have a positive impact on your business and your life?
At my most recent rehearsal with the orchestra, the last before our first concert of the season, I asked the conductor, in front of the whole group, how he was counting a certain section of the piece. After he answered I heard another violin player whisper to her partner, “I’m so glad she asked that because I couldn’t figure it out.” I was pleased to be the voice of someone nervous about asking the question. It’s a habit I plan to keep.