3 Easy Ways Managers Can Offer Psychologically Safe Help

4 mins

Sometimes the hardest thing for people to do is ask for help.  

For employees on your team, this could be for lots of reasons.  There could be personal ego involved to the point where they don’t want to appear incapable or ineffective for needing assistance, they may be territorial about their work, and they might even be afraid of how someone might respond to them when they ask for help.  Some people fear that by sharing a task they’ll then also share in the reward for completing it, and this fear of an outcome that might negatively impact their achievement or value to the group can also inhibit their willingness to ask for help.  

The reason this matter is simple:  People who need help but don’t ask for it are more likely to fail at whatever they’re trying to achieve, and assuming what they’re working on matters to the company and its customers, this is a real risk for organizations.  This awareness is important for effective leaders and is why one thing I talk to new managers about quite often is the importance of offering help consistently.  

Every day here at Rhabit I usually close out our morning standups with some variation of the same phrase “I’m right here if you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out”, and I think my team knows I genuinely mean it. Still, I never assume that they do when I’m checking in with them on their work.  Instead, I’ll try to be purposeful with offering help, often in the form of simply checking over something early on in a production process as opposed to when it’s complete.  

Here’s how we suggest managers can create teams where people feel comfortable asking for help:

1. Be Specific, be consistent.

I’ll ask if they want me to look at a draft of something, maybe it’s a deck for a webinar or some copy or a mockup, etc.  I do this to remind them that it’s ok to show incomplete work and I try really hard to do this in a way where they can politely decline my involvement - because here’s the catch - it doesn’t matter if they need my help or I end up assisting them at all, it’s much more important that they feel the security that comes with an environment where it’s ok to ask for help.  

Yes, it matters how you go about offering your involvement to your team, but as much as the technique of how you offer help matters, I actually think that the more important element is that you do it and you do it relentlessly.  

The things that create the culture in your work environment aren’t the things you do infrequently, it’s the things that get repeated over and over and over.  

2. Frequency is the key to success.

By offering help frequently, by casually reminding them that my job here is to help remove barriers and support them, I’m setting a culture as their leader that hopefully they’ll parrot and mimic when dealing with their teammates, and that’s where the big win for the organization comes from.  Socially when people feel comfortable communicating, sharing ideas, and asking for help, people will be more optimistic about their interactions with the folks around them, and are more likely to put more effort into their work and derive more joy from completing the things they’re tackling as there’s more group awareness of the work that went into them - it makes things a real “team” environment.  

Another thing I encourage managers to consider is asking for help themselves, talking about times when they’ve needed help with tasks or other folks have bailed them out of a jam.  Normalizing that it happens to a person of authority within the group makes it more and more acceptable as part of the work culture, hopefully leading to more people asking for help instead of struggling and failing to deliver on what their objectives are.  

3. Be relentlessly helpful (no, really!).

For new managers, I think it’s easy to get caught up in seeking opportunities for improvement and correction, and in cases where things are going well, they simply leave people alone.  It’s my opinion that this is fundamentally a mistake and that a better way to lead teams is when folks are effective and doing well, keep offering support and reminding them that it's available.  

If you combine that with some well-timed heapin’ doses of praise and recognition for their accomplishments, you’ll set yourself up for having a great micro-culture within your team, and by making this a standard if you’re lucky enough to have a high-performing team that then grows within the organization, you’ll further shape the larger culture of the company as a whole. 

Rhabit Analytics is developing helpful leaders all over the world. Want to learn more? Schedule a time to meet with a Rhabit expert who will show you more!

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