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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It is OK for kids (and adults) to ask for help

There is often a tendency for parents (like me) to force our kids to do things for themselves.  When they ask for help we say, "figure it out" or "look it up" and feel that we are teaching them to be independent.  It is interesting to note, that success in business is not connected strongly with independence but rather relies on interdependence.  Some of the best executive managers have achieved their success because they are not afraid to ask for help. Proactively recruiting supporters for a project not only helps the project to succeed but displays the manager's abilities as a leader.  Asking for help makes it possible to achieve more than if the manager works alone.  In the book, Blueprint to a Billion: 7 Essentials to Achieve Exponential Growth, one of the essential elements to success for the companies described was that they were managed by a team of two complementary executives.  One focused on sales and the other on operations.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for one person to be an expert in everything.  A willingness to admit this is one of the first steps in asking for help.

A comfort with admitting a weakness or lack of knowledge combined with the confidence that a solution or answer can be found through asking is a valuable attribute.  This is a challenging skill to teach to an adult as most of us have already developed a phobia about admitting any weakness, especially in the workplace.  We will be giving our children a very useful tool by helping them to ask for help early in their lives.

In the job search it can mean the difference between getting the job your child wants and spending another 6 months borrowing from Mom and Dad and moping around the house.  When my son or daughter starts their job search, they will certainly need help and guidance.  Depending on which source you look at, applications to published job advertisements account for less than 30% of jobs filled.  The rest are through networking.  And what is networking? When your child is job hunting it will mean asking for help.  Prior to an interview at their dream company, being able to call or email someone who works there to ask for advice may be the key to acing the interview.

How to ask for help is important and how we respond to our child's requests both in tone and content will decide their ability and willingness to continue asking as they grow up.  Teaching by example is always a good approach.  For young boys it is especially effective if they see their fathers asking for help.

Teach your kids to state clearly what kind of help they are requesting.  If they need help with their homework, make sure they can be specific.  It is important for kids to learn where the line is between asking for help and asking for someone to do their work for them.  Encourage them to explain to you which parts of the homework they already understand and which parts are difficult.  Avoid the easy way out by doing the work for them!  The next step is to ask them what they think they should do.  This process takes patience. It is not the long division that is critical here.  We want out kids to feel that if they need to ask for help, they can do so and we will listen and respond without anger ("Stop wasting my time and get back to work!") or ridicule ("Can't you do anything by yourself?!").  Maybe through this approach it will become easier for me to ask for help as well...

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