Do you feel compelled to always figure things out on your own? Do you worry that asking a question demonstrates weakness? Unfortunately, it is common for people to have these feelings in the workplace and as a result they undermine their own credibility and success. It is important to your success to ask appropriate questions and to accept assistance when needed.
Ask once – Particularly in a new job or new responsibilities, it is expected that you will have questions. You can save yourself and others time by asking insightful questions. It can be helpful to keep a list of questions as they arise so that you re prepared when you have a few minutes with your manager to review your outstanding questions. Being prepared makes a positive impression. Keep track of the questions and the responses so you do not ask the same question repeatedly. Your manager or co-workers will grow quickly frustrated if you continue to ask the same questions.
Curiosity is an Advantage – Use questions to demonstrate your curiosity and inquisitiveness. Don’t just ask how to do something. Also ask questions about why things are done a particular way. Ask where the input data comes from and how it is collected. Ask what happens with the analysis that you prepared. It is important to understand how your work fits in the larger picture of the organization. Asking these types of questions demonstrates your interest in understanding the process not just performing your step of the cycle.
Assistance Required – If you are unable to perform a key part of the process, ask for help. Take notes and ask appropriate questions so you will be able to do it next time. Don’t wait until the last minute to let your manager know that you can’t do it. At the last minute there may not be other resources available and the stress of missing the deadline could eliminate or reduce the learning opportunity. Admit when you don’t know how to do something but show a clear interest in learning.
Advance Warning Please – If you miss your deadline, someone else relying on your input will also miss a deadline and on it goes through the organization. If you are moving more slowly than antipcated, give your manager advance warning. With some advance warning contingency plans can be implemented to keep the project on track. If you wait until the end, you’ve eliminated many of the other options. Of course you want to meet deadlines whenever possible but when you hit a significant roadblock let your manager know that you need help.
Knowing when to ask for help can be a sign a self-awareness and valuable project management skills. Asking for help appropriately can be a strength not a weakness.