A brilliant mentor of mine once told me that the only competent people he ever saw fail, were the ones who didn’t ask for help. I was at the beginning of my career as a nonprofit leader, and thought I understood what he meant. But as the years went on, I realized how critical that point really is in the complex nonprofit world. (Thanks Gene!)
I’m not talking about making a repair with duct tape and rubber bands. I am referring to the real stuff – like how to increase earned revenue, or suggestions for managing a difficult staff situation, or looking for effective innovation strategies, etc. Being resourceful has made me an expert problem solver and I am grateful for the lesson.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Collective wisdom is a powerful thing. When you get that feeling in your stomach, that signals a lack of confidence in knowing how best to move forward, then reach out. We talk about the strength of diverse perspectives, so now walk the talk. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help – it is smart.
- Don’t be stubborn; be curious instead. Even when you think you have it wired, it makes sense to get feedback from others. You can avoid serious oversights, or learn to expand upon a great idea. It’s possible you may not know everything quite yet.
- Be clear about the question. We don’t always know what we don’t know, but being able to articulate your goal, and where you are getting stuck, is key. Regardless of how you are reaching out, understanding the question is an important part of the formula.
- People are generous. We all want the same thing – to be successful and proud of our accomplishments. When we can help others in their search for greatness, we want to pitch in. Besides, people typically are flattered to be asked for advice, so why not make them feel good too?
Some thoughts on where to find help and advice:
- Internet – the web can be helpful as a general source of information, or as a guide to specific answers (what did we do before Google? Really – what DID we do??). Of course, you must be willing to sort through the search results. There are also webinars and expert blogs out there about most topics.
- Education – when you have a need to learn more deeply about a subject, consider taking a class (online options make this much more convenient and affordable), or read a well recommended book. Find out what professors are teaching on the topic locally, and take them to lunch.
- Crowdsourcing –this is meant to solicit large groups of undefined publics, either online or offline. An open call for solutions can be invigorating! Regardless of whether you use social media, or put a jar for comments in the local coffee shop, you will likely receive some creative ideas.
- Your network – it surprises me how much we under utilize our own fans. People who are connected to you will be most likely to assist; and don’t forget about their networks. If you aren’t sure who may be the best equipped to help, check out who your LinkedIn connections know. You have more fans than you know.
How you go about reaching out, is up to you, and often depends on how much time you have to get answers. But don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone……it’s the only real way to learn.
Cindi Phallen has more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the nonprofit sector. She is the founder and president of Create Possibility, which works to help nonprofits grow and accelerate their impact. For more information, visit possibility-cp.com or call 858.618.4762.