HOW TO ASK FOR HELP (EP.15)
By Justin Kerr
Is something bothering you? Do you have a secret you aren't telling anyone? Is there something at work - a skill, a meeting, a formula - that you just don't understand? MR CORPO talks about how to ask for help in the workplace and encourages everyone to be more like Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen and LET IT GO! Asking for help doesn't have to be scary - in fact - it can be an opportunity to further your career if you approach it in the right way. This episode includes a BONUS SECTION encouraging you to tell your boss how annoying they are.
How to Ask for Help (12/21)
JUSTIN: Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Help!
JUSTIN: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Mr. Corpo podcast. This is the last podcast of 2016, because we're gonna take next week off for the holidays. But I wanted to say a quick thank you to all the listeners for all the love and support, all the shoutouts, all the passing along my book, all the passing along the podcast, everything. You've made me feel amazing. It's been an incredible year. I'm excited to get the Mr. Corpo brand up and running in 2016. And I think there's only bigger and better things coming in 2017. So thank you, a sincere thank you. I appreciate you as a listener.
Okay. So now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about today's episode. Today we are gonna talk about how to ask for help. We all know the cliche, "honesty is the best policy." But I want to go beyond generalities. And I want to get specific. I want to talk about the benefits of asking for help. Oh, and we've got a super special bonus section at the end of the episode, so stay tuned for that. Okay, so let's get to work.
Is there something that you're hiding? Is there something that keeps you up at night? Is there something that you're not good at? Free yourself. Free yourself from this burden. Let go! Be honest. Ask for help. Because here's the thing: people want to help you. People like to help people. In fact, it makes people feel good to help other people. So I want you to stop being selfish, and give someone else a chance to feel good. Ask for their help. It can be big, it can be small. It doesn't matter. Free yourself. Let go.
I'm gonna start by sharing a personal experience. I was young, I was a senior merchant, I was three years out of college, I was a high-riser, I'd gotten a bunch of promotions really fast, I was doing a great job. Everything looked great from the outside. I walked down the hall, and I felt bulletproof. Ask me about anything, it doesn't matter. Pull me into a room, I'm there. I'm ready. I felt confident. But -- and this is a big but -- there was one thing that I just couldn't understand. It was a meeting that was called the Open To Buy (?) Meeting. It was basically a monthly financial forecast meeting. And I go into the meeting and everyone's talking about the financial forecast, and they're talking about numbers, and I was staring at this piece of paper that had thousands of numbers on it, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I literally could not find -- they would say a number, I couldn't find it on the page. I didn't even know what section of the page -- I didn't even know what quadrant of the page they were looking at. I had no idea. And it made me fee so insecure. So then what I did, I was in the meeting, and if I was getting worried that they might call on me, I would lean down and untie my shoes, and then re-tie my shoelaces. Or, another one of my favorite moves was, I actually would put my fingers in my eye and pop out my contact, have it fall into my hand, and that was good for about 60 seconds of being distracted so that no one could tell, "Hey, we can't call on Justin, he's trying to put the contact back in his eye." That was actually a move I specifically did because I was so worried someone might call on me. Popping out my own contact and then taking my sweet time to put it back in. Anything I could think of, just to avoid being called on because I was so worried and so insecure during this meeting.
And it wasn't just this meeting. It was the night before. All of a sudden, I would feel an anxiety. It was hours before. People are talking to me, I'm thinking about this meeting, I'm thinking about -- I might be exposed, something might go wrong. Oh my gosh, what's gonna happen in this meeting? I can't even concentrate on what's in front of me. So this was eating at me. And afterwards, I would breathe a sigh of relief and I would think, "Okay. I live to fight another day." 05:00 And I would feel good about life, bulletproof, confident in everything until 29 days later, 30 days later, when I had to do this meeting again. On and on. This is no way to live. You cannot live your life like this. And I thought, "I need to fix this." But why wasn't I? I was embarrassed. But actually it was more than that. I was scared. I thought if anyone found out I didn't know how to read the numbers, I would be seen as a fraud. Worse, I might get fired. With so much at stake, it felt like my only option was to hide this as a dark secret that no one could find out. But here's the thing: it was eating me up inside. I couldn't sleep, I was stressed, I felt insecure. It was horrible. And the thing is, I knew what was making me miserable, but I felt ashamed or incapable of fixing it. The solution was simple: I just had to ask for help.
So I'm sure you're wondering what happened. Well, let me tell you. In my case, I finally decided I had to fix this. I couldn't live like this anymore. I couldn't go on. And it wasn't just about me. I had direct reports who were looking up to me. They were asking me questions. They were looking to me for knowledge, and there was one part of our entire work that I just felt like, "I really hope my direct reports don't ask me about this, cause I have no idea." It was no way to go through life. So I finally asked for help. And the truth is, it was almost anti-climactic. I asked a peer who I respected. I said, "Can I steal 30 minutes of your time?" And of course they said yes. It was the easiest yes I've gotten my whole life. So we sat down and I was honest. I said, "Look. I really don't feel as confident as I want to in this meeting. It seems like you're really good at this. Can you walk me through, really slowly, and explain how you read this report?" Thirty minutes later, it was like a 5,000-pound elephant had been lifted off my shoulder.
And here's the thing: did you see what I did with my conversation with the person? Do you see how I introduced this idea? First, I admitted I felt insecure about something. This honesty set the tone for the whole conversation. It created a safe place. I showed my vulnerability, which invited the other person into me in an authentic way. Only the cruelest of human beings is going to attack a vulnerable person, especially if that person is asking for their help. So use this to your advantage.
The second thing I did was, I flattered them. I said, "You're good at this thing." I'm building them up. I'm making them feel good about themselves. Yes, you are good at this thing and I recognize that.
The third thing I did, after I humbled myself and built them up, I asked for their help. Not only did I humble myself, build them up. Now I'm giving them a chance to help me. A chance to show off their skills and to be a teacher. It's a win-win. You'll solve a problem. They'll feel good, like they made a difference in someone's life today. Asking for help is the answer to everything. That sounds like an overstatement, but I truly, truly believe that.
So here's what I want you to do. I want you to go out there. I want you to think about something that you wish you were better at. Something that you've been hiding from everybody. I'm sure you already have something in mind. Everybody does. Take action. Do it today. Start 2017 with an open mind and a clear heart. Let go. Ask for help. It's that easy. Ask someone for their help. Now look, I'm tempted to go into more examples of when or how to ask for help, but I'm gonna leave it there. I'm gonna keep it loose. So send me your questions, send me your concerns, if you feel like, "I just can't ask for help in this situation."
Heck, ask for my help. I'm Mr. Corpo. I have a podcast. I practically give work advice for a living! So write to email@example.com. Tell me what your concerns are. But really what I want you to do today: I want you to hang up this podcast. I want you to go into work. I want you to face your demons, and I want you to fix something that's been bothering you. It's probably gonna take 10 minutes or 15 minutes. And at most it's gonna take one hour, or two 30-minute sessions. And guess what? The rest of your life you won't be worried about that. Doesn't that sound good to you? So stop whatever you're doing, throw away the excuses, and get to work.
10:00 Alright, that is that. And this is this. And this is the bonus section. Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus section! Bonus! Section! (clapping) I love you.
Hi everyone, and welcome to the bonus section of today's episode. I am actually re-recording the bonus section from Tokyo, so if this sounds different, that's because I'm recording on my Voice Memo app on the phone. I got a little bit of feedback from the producer and a few other contributors to this show that the original bonus section was a little bit too sexually explicit for the audience, so I'm re-recording this in a kinder, gentler, we'll call it a PG version of the bonus section.
So on today's episode, we talked about how to ask for help. And one of the elements of that is being honest. And what I wanna talk about today is a related topic. And that is: is there something that bothers you? Is there something that you wanna say to somebody, to your boss, to your co-worker, to someone that you interact with, but you haven't been saying anything, and it bothers you every time? Or there's something that this person said to you a month ago or six months ago or yesterday or this morning and it really bothered you and you're just -- it's eating you inside, you can't stand it and it's bothering you all the time?
I want to talk about let it go. Not the song, not the Disney song. I'm not gonna sing it. What I wanna talk about is let it go. Be honest. Talk to the person about it. It's not worth carrying this burden every day and letting it bother you. Chances are, maybe the person doesn't even know that they've offended you, or bothered you, or something's wrong. It's getting in the way of you skipping through your day, being happy, being that little bit lighter. So I don't want you to be afraid to confront somebody, ask if you can have a moment of their time, and remember what we just talked about in the episode. You can go to someone, and if you're really honest with someone and you say, "Hey, you know, can we talk for a minute?" And you get in a private room, and you say, "You know, there's something that's just been bothering me and I just wanted to get it off my chest and be open with you so that we can move forward and be positive. And if you can frame it in just the right way, this isn't intimidating, this isn't, "I'm accusing you of anything." You're just letting them know how you feel. So you wanna say, "I just wanna be honest for a second, there's been something that bothered me, and I wanted to get off my chest so that we can move forward, feel good together."
And with that type of framing, no one's gonna take offense. You're inviting them in, you're letting them know, and you're not accusing them of anything. And if anything, it's gonna clear the air. You're gonna feel better, they're gonna feel better. Chances are, they're feeling the same tension you are, and maybe you can't get your finger on it. And I've done this a thousand times with my bosses. I've done it with peers. If I have an argument, if something bothers me, I won't even go home that day and carry it with me. I just wanna walk right down that hall and just say, "Hey, that interaction felt a little bit difficult. It felt a little bit challenging, or it seemed like you were mad at me in that meeting. Was I reading that correctly? Was there something I've done?" And just offering that question, being honest and acknowledging that maybe something had happened, or something's going on is an invitation for someone else to say something that's bothering them that maybe they don't have the courage to otherwise say to you. As a boss, you can do this to invite your employees to be honest, share with you: what did you do that bothered them? You may not even be aware of it. But you've gotta be open so that they can feel like, "Hey, they're giving me a chance to talk about this thing and I'm gonna mention it." And guess what? If you get that feedback from someone else, you're gonna be the better for it. You're gonna be interacting with hundreds and thousands of people if your career. You better know what you do that bothers other people, otherwise you're gonna go around like, bothering everyone else. And if you've got something that someone's doing that bothers you, I encourage you to start the conversation. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Don't make it a big deal, don't schedule the time, you can put it at the end of your one-on-one meeting, whatever you wanna do. But the point is, let go of this burden. Be honest. And mention it. And just say, "Hey, I wanted to mention this so we can move on and you know, be positive together."
So I just wanted to share from my personal experience, don't carry this around with you. It's not gonna resolve itself. Don't be worried. No one's gonna take offense at this. They're gonna admire you and actually I've found, as we mentioned in the Keith George episode, my entire friendship with Keith was born of the fact that he walked into my room and said, "Hey, you know that thing you said earlier? I don't really agree with it and it bothered me, and I'd rather you just talk to me directly so that we can solve these things." After he did that, I looked at him and I said, "I love you." Because being honest with someone, being able to be radically transparent, that's what true friendship is, that's what true respect is, that's how you build a real, lasting relationship where you can both help each other out. 15:05
So the -- I felt like this topic was related to being honest, asking for help, and resolving open issues that you might be carrying around with you. So that's today's bonus section, calling in from Tokyo, first time ever, super fun. Thanks for listening.
Alright. We stepped out of the workplace for a moment there, but now we're coming back into the workplace. A safe place, a less treacherous place, a place I'm more comfortable giving advice. But look, I had to say that. That was on my heart. So there you go. Rob, I'm gonna end the episode. I wanna say thank you for a great year. It's been an incredible 6-month journey on this podcast. I met you eight years ago maybe? I was playing a New Years show in Iowa City, you were the opening band, your band was called Beowulf. We hit it off. We had this great time. We went to Lawrence, Kansas together. We talked a little bit. We kind of lost touch with each other. I was walking down the street in New York City. I look up on a street corner of Broadway and Houston and I say, "Rob Schulte?" And you look at me and you say, "Justin Kerr?" And I say, "What are you doing here?" And you say, "I just moved to New York City. I'm a podcast producer." And I look at you and I say, "I've always wanted to do a podcast." Fast-forward six months, here we are. We're 15, 20 episodes into the Mr. Corpo podcast. I couldn't be happier to be sitting across from you. Thank you for everything that you do. You gave me the confidence to do this. You made it sound great. I really, really appreciate you. So bigger and better things in 2017 together, alright?
JUSTIN: Thank you so much. Alright. That's it from the Mr. Corpo podcast. Signing out for 2016. Good luck, everyone, in 2017. Let's get to work.