The second reason Sarah Robb O’Hagan — CEO of Flywheel Sports and former president of Gatorade — lost a job in her 20s is that “I was actually not courageous enough to ask for help.” (The first reason was cockiness.) In her Big Think+ video “Propel Yourself Forward by Asking for Help,” O’Hagan talks about what she’s learned since: That there’s a tremendous amount of power in asking for help from others with whom you work.
As O’Hagan admits, “I kind of had that fear of, if I acknowledge that I don’t know how to do this, that, or the other, people are going to think that I don’t deserve to be in this job.” Now she sees this attitude as a “huge, huge mistake.” Today, even as a boss, she doesn’t hesitate to reach out even to people who work for her.
O’Hagan’s come to realize there are two big benefits that come from asking for help.
First, there’s a connection to be made
There are inevitably areas of her company about which O’Hagan wants to know more. If she asks, “Hey, I need help because I don’t know how to do x, y, z,” she finds the reaction’s just the opposite of what one might initially think. “It’s extraordinary how those people will then go, of course I want to help you!” Daring to ask for assistance makes you more relatable, and communicates respect for the other person’s knowledge and intelligence as you make clear you feel they have things to teach you. “It’s amazing how people will want to help you because you’re showing vulnerability.”
Second, your success becomes theirs
Once someone invests time in expanding your knowledge, they’re unlikely to disinterestedly send you off, unconcerned about how you do with the help they’ve provided. After all, should you wind up falling short, it means they haven’t satisfactorily accomplished their job of helping you. There’s a sense of, as O’Hagan puts it, “And by the way, now that you’ve brought me into this, I want to help you be successful.” Really, it becomes a simple equation: Your good work going forward now equals their good work, and your achievement becomes theirs as they see their guidance in action.
It’s also not unlikely that the helper’s increased investment in you will extend beyond the area in which they provided help and to your success in general.