Help! I need somebody. Help!
We recently hired a few new employees. As their supervisor walked them through our facility and introduced them to everyone, I was reminded of a process I follow with my own direct reports. On the first day, I sit down with the employee and basically say, “OK. You have the job. In our lengthy interview and hiring process, you may have fooled me and been able to oversell yourself a bit. If so, that’s OK. At this point, you’re hired and I am fully committed to making sure you are successful.” I let the employee know that if there is ever anything that they need help with, don’t understand, or if they are just in over their head, that they should come to me. That may seem a bit unusual but I believe a supervisor’s main job is to help the folks who report to them be successful.
The key then is for the employee to ask for help. The problem is that it goes against human nature to ask for help, particularly in the supervisory relationship. That’s because everyone wants to look good to their boss. But the reality is that the boss wants their reports to do good, not just look good. That’s how work gets done well and everyone succeeds. So don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for help when you need it.
Sometimes work situations are delicate and an employee feels uncomfortable asking a supervisor for help. That’s when a mentoring relationship may be the place to go for guidance. We have a formal mentoring program for new employees. It works quite well. I’ve also seen many informal mentoring relationships develop. I know this kind of relationship has been very helpful to me in my career. If you don’t have a mentoring program in your place of employment, I strongly encourage you start one or seek out an informal mentor.
Business owners and managers who don’t have a supervisor or mentor inside the company may consider Board resources for help and assistance. Boards of Directors or Advisory Boards play a critical role. A board is great both for specific issues that are brought to the board for action, and for individual items that come up between meetings in which a specific board member has expertise. Leaning on the experience of these business advisors is a valuable resource that’s available to companies who are wise enough to put a board in place.
No matter what your position, knowing when to ask for help and having a place to go for this help is critical for success. Establish those resources for yourself and your company. Even if you have them in place, often times the hardest part is the willingness to ask — don’t let your ego get in the way!
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