7 Ways Strong Leaders Ask for Help

One of the best coaching questions you can ask is: “Who can you ask for help?

I’ve never met anyone who knew all the right answers. You probably haven’t either. Or you may have met people who thought they knew all the right answers. But the truth of the matter is that we all need help at one time or another.

Am I describing you right now?

If so, don’t be ashamed. It is natural to ask for help or to seek advice from someone else.

So why is it that many leaders tend to think they need to have all the answers? Why is it that people accept the lie that they have to have everything figured out if they are going to be successful? If we all realize that we don’t have all the answers, then why do we all (at one time or another) resist calling and asking a friend for help?

Insecurity. Arrogance. Fear. Pride. Shame.

My guess is that all of these play a role in our efforts to figure things out without asking for help. In one sense, they are all rational thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, they are irrational thought processes that block our ability to make the right decisions, to find optimal solutions, and to grow from the knowledge and experiences of others.

Here are a few ways to ask for help from others when you aren’t for sure of the best decision, solution, or path forward is for your current challenge. Remember that strong leaders ask for help.


1) Ask a colleague.

Your colleagues (for the most part) are motivated to help you succeed. They want to see your organization benefit from solid solutions and will usually have some industry experience that can give you helpful ideas, in addition to personal experiences within the industry.

When consulting your colleagues, be careful that the people whom you ask for input aren’t trying to give input in order to gain an advantage over you at your organization. (I almost didn’t include this disclaimer, but unfortunately it is reality. Chose wisely.)

If your organizational culture is built around organizational effectiveness and not internal fighting, you ideally will find colleagues genuinely willing to help with ideas, perspective, solutions, and connections that can help you succeed.

Be brave. See if someone else in your organization can help you to succeed. Strong leaders ask for help. You may find that they come to you with questions the next time they need help, because you were brave enough to collaborate first. Another benefit is that you will begin to learn who the true team players are and who has expertise/experiences that can benefit not only you, but others in your organization.

2) Ask the crowd.

In our world today, you can poll an online audience very effectively to get a sense for what others think. Obviously, this realm of advice would not apply to confidential information or situations; however, there are many situations where the crowd is very interested in helping you more than you might think.

Your challenge (most likely) is not unique to you…and others have experienced it as well. Try asking a question on your blog, social media sites, or some other venue to see what suggestions people have. You can do this when seeking a software application for a business challenge, when evaluating potential book covers on a new book or other product, or when seeking out creative approaches to leadership or teamwork in a situation like yours.

If you are concerned about posting challenges publicly, try creating private groups in LinkedIn, Facebook, or other platforms that only a few trusted professionals can see. These groups allow small groups of professionals with high trust to learn, share, and grow as a group. Oftentimes the one thing holding you back is your fear of getting a group started.

3) Ask a client.

Clients are professionals too. They have likely experienced similar situations and have knowledge and expertise to tackle your challenges.

A side benefit of asking your clients is that you show the human side of your organization. People see your organization as real people that experience real challenges rather than corporate hoarders unwilling to interact with a world of great knowledge and expertise. Your clients don’t only want to see your human side. They want to see that you are teachable and that they can help contribute to your success. This type of relationship will build trust and probably create future opportunities to provide your services.

4) Ask a consultant.

Many times you will have to pay for the advice of a consultant; however, doing so will reduce the time it takes for you to come up with the solution. You will eliminate the lost revenue from unnecessary trial and error, and you will create a relationship with a company that can help provide you with solutions during times of crisis or seemingly insurmountable challenges in the future.

Consultants don’t always have all the answers. Sometimes they do.  But you will find that consultants usually have experience in your industry, know someone who does, and/or know what resources you should read/watch to gain the expertise needed.

5) Hire a coach.

Coaches don’t provide all the solutions…at least good ones don’t. As I’ve coached professionals within many industries (some industries in which I have little or no experience), I’ve found that most successful professionals get stuck because of reasons unrelated to knowledge or expertise. Some examples are:

  • They focus on doing things the same way.
  • They are too busy to try something new. (At least they think they are too busy.)
  • Their stress has blocked their ability to think clearly.
  • They need an outside perspective to push them to consider new solutions.

Coaches do their best and most authentic coaching when they are NOT experts in your field. This may challenge your idea of coaching. There are so many people who call themselves coaches, but they are actually consulting (giving advice and solutions). I wonder if they have blurred the definitions of these terms and industries.

Don’t hire a coach to give you all the solutions. Hire a coach when you have succeeded and need to take the next step forward.

Don’t hire a coach to prescribe a plan of action. Coaches ask you the right questions to push you to create a customized plan of action rather than giving you the plan themselves.

'Coaches ask you the right questions to push you to create a customized plan of action.' - @bradbridges Click To Tweet

6) Ask a family member.

Family members are usually disconnected (not always) from our work environment. When you ask a family member for help or advice, they usually give input that isn’t driven by a desire to profit off of you or gain an advantage.

If the challenge you are facing can be shared with a family member (i.e. — it isn’t a situation or challenge protected by a confidentiality agreement), find a family member with experience in your field or a similar field and ask for input. Be careful to only share what’s necessary and don’t tell your family member that they are responsible. Seek their ideas, input, experience, or advice in order to gain a better perspective or confirmation of what you were planning.

7) Ask a friend.

Friends don’t let friends make the same mistakes over and over again. Ask a friend for their input and see if they have any perspective that could help your thinking.

I distinctly remember a client who asked a friend for help with a HR challenge at work. The friend didn’t have any experience in HR, but did know my client well enough to point out where my client was likely making mistakes. My client owned the problem and came up with a solution that I never would have given my client. Nor would my client have come up with the solution without speaking to his lifelong friend who knew him better than most anyone in his life. Strong leaders ask for help and this individual saw the benefit in asking for help.

Who do you need to ask for help from today? Identify a challenge and ask someone for insight. See if you get some helpful insight, ideas, or plans moving forward.


Look over the other 9 coaching questions leaders of change ask or dig deeper into a specific question.