I’ll be honest; I’ve done some of these myself. Not only might you say the same thing, but you might also recognize when you have tried to help others, but they killed your enthusiasm to help them.
If you know me, you know that I share the following with total love and support and only with the highest intentions of raising your self-awareness so that you can make changes where it makes a difference to the results you want in your life. No judgement here.
No one you admire rose to success without the help of others. You need it, so if you are doing any one of the following, I suggest you own it and correct it, perhaps even address it with those who have tried to help you. Restore their faith that their efforts to help you will be appreciated and promise that you will take action. Then, keep that promise.
Now review the list, which is by no means exhaustive, and ask yourself honestly – have I done any of these?
- Not Asking For Help or Not Being Clear How Someone Can Help You
It’s obvious, right? I would have to guess most of the population of the world can say at one time or another, they failed to ask for help or ask for specific help.
Part of the problem is that people who have a sincere desire to help aren’t trained in needs assessment, and they don’t read minds. They may be very general and vague, such as saying, “Need help?” or, “Can I help?” or even, “How can I help?” Unintentionally, this puts a burden on you to figure out exactly how this person can help, without knowing if they even have the resources or knowledge you need. Furthermore, if you are under stress, few personalities can see clearly what is needed to help a situation.
The more specific you can be about what you want, though, the more help you will receive. Specific action plans and follow up items (with due dates) are how things get done. Ask any project manager. See your transition or goal as a project. Break it down, even on paper. Look at it visually and it will help you identify where there are needs, so that when someone asks with what you need help, you can run off a list and they can either respond with something they can do to help immediately, or stay alert for how their network might assist.
2. “I did that already.”
I’ve been guilty of this, and it’s been true, so I was fully justified in answering this, right? Yeaaahh, but… I can remember vividly many conversations that went like this. I was at the end of my rope – I’d already exhausted my options and was feeling frustrated and desperate for help, even though I had very little hope of receiving it. In the end, the person who was just trying to be helpful felt just as frustrated as I was and felt bad about themselves and me. I know I started to sound like someone who’s almost insulted that this person wouldn’t think I’d tried that already. That’s not how you want the person who is trying to help to feel. I’m glad to have become aware of how I was making them feel, but I can’t undo the conversations; only do things differently next time.
Number one is to warn them that there was a long list of advice you’ve received and things you already tried, but so far nothing solved your dilemma. Give them a disclaimer that while you appreciate their desire to help, it may lead nowhere new. If they’d still like to help, promise that you will not be defensive, and keep your promise. Stay calm, detach from the frustration for the moment, and take a deep breath after every suggestion. When they offer a suggestion you already tried, tell them why it failed to bring about the desired results. Maybe they can troubleshoot your approach and you can retry something in a new way that is ultimately successful. If you get to the end and there is no new information, let them know that just their willingness to help was meaningful and appreciated.
3. Not following up on leads promptly
When someone makes a powerful introduction on your behalf, they turn a cold lead into a hot lead. Ideally, you are positioned as a solution to a problem or a catalyst toward an important goal. People have become all too accustomed to people not following up and responding. When someone follows up immediately, it’s exciting and keeps the momentum high. There is a much better chance of a great outcome when action is taken and responded to promptly.
On the other hand, a hot lead will cool down, and even forget why they were excited in the first place. Think about how many things can happen in a day, then multiply that. Not to be cliché, but strike while the iron is hot. If you don’t, you’ll find other people will feel less compelled to follow up on your behalf as quickly, and then their enthusiasm and the details they remember wane. This leads to a lot less powerful and enthusiastic introduction if people don’t completely lose interest or forget that they were even supposed to do anything on your behalf.
Timing is everything!
I’ll give you this – sometimes delays are fortuitous, so even if some time passes, follow up. However, I’ve seen many more great things happen from a cascade of timely actions than from delayed reactions.
4. Not researching people before you connect after being referred/introduced
With LinkedIn at your fingertips, there is no excuse not to do at least some minor research on who it is that someone has recommended you to or introduced you to. Skipping the “getting to know you” part of the conversation and digging right into the “How did you find that experience” conversation will help you accelerate building rapport and put you in a better position to earn trust and additional action on your behalf. Come to these conversations prepared to reference what you have learned about them and a clue as to how you can be of assistance to them.
5. Making it difficult to schedule something
Few people know about complicated logistics better than a work-at-home mom who operates as a single parent (seasonally.) For many years while my kids were small and not in school full time, there were few hours I could make available to people on a regular basis. From October through March, my husband’s busy season, most scheduling was based on trying to arrange childcare around other people’s schedule. I tried to instruct people to offer me 3-5 times and days, but I often received responses like, “Whenever it works for you.” So then I would ask a babysitter what they could offer me and pass on that availability to people. But then often by the time they got back to me, the babysitter’s availability would change and I would either have to find a new babysitter who could be available during that time or get a whole new set of available days and times to offer.
You can see how many people would just give up and opt to work with someone who had more traditional hours. This was just one complicated scenario out of many complicated scenarios that arose frequently. I know from studying user experience – the more hoops you make people jump through, the more barriers you are putting in building rapport and creating synergy – the less prone people will be to take action. I had to make things simpler.
I tried two different calendar apps – Meetme.com and Calendly.com. They both integrate with my google calendar so that times I block off don’t show up as available. I stayed with Calendly because it enables me to create different types of calendar events at different lengths with required and optional questions or information fields. I can even accept payments through this app. I also integrated a Facebook messaging app from my company page so that people can find the option they want and book me right from there. If I need a certain amount of notice for a meeting, in case I need to arrange childcare, I can adjust that setting as well.
Now if someone doesn’t schedule, I at least know it’s not because I made it too hard. And I’m not making people feel like they’re not important or like they are burdening me.
6. Being wishy-washy about what you want
I get the logic that if you leave your options wide open, you’re expecting more to come in. It just doesn’t work as well, however, as giving people a crystal clear idea of what would light you up and help you thrive and succeed. That’s just so much more motivating because it FEELS better. Don’t underestimate the “feels” part of getting people to help you. The better you make them feel, the more help you can expect.
Also the better you can articulate the value you bring to particular people and situations, the more people feel capable of selling you to others, and the better they think you’ll make them look when you come along and save the day.
I didn’t include things like offer your help back. Do I think it’s a good practice? Yes, but I think it’s even better when you ask specific questions that enable you to identify for the person what you can help with and then just give it as opposed to making a general, “Hey, if I can help you, too, let me know.” Take the burden off people to figure out how you can help.
Also, there are some people who would rather you pay it forward than pay it back. That is essentially the ideal outcome of offering someone help – you create a win-win for two people you want to help by introducing them.
Make sure you update the people who help you on what happens, especially the good stuff. A thank you card is a dying, but uber appreciated gesture of gratitude.
Being aware of these practices and taking corrective action can mean the difference in generating momentum toward your goals and being stuck in an abyss of frustration.
What are some ways people have discouraged you from helping them?
Carole King sings ‘It’s Too Late’ from her 1971 Ode album ‘Tapestry’ – one of the best selling ever. This song written by King and Toni Stern reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, won the Record of the Year Grammy and is on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, will be an Associate Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department in 2019, and is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.