Happy Lunar New Year and welcome back to "To Be Clear..." - and this year's first refreshing sip of regular coaching clarity in your inbox where I share a couple of brief ideas which I hope that you can apply in your work life.
I hope that 2023 has begun well for you. As we get going, this first part of the year is often a time when many of us consider exploring new initiatives, approaches, directions, projects or even new roles. Certainly, it tends to be a key time for many of the teams, organisations and individuals with whom I've
worked. If you, or anyone you know, would like to discuss some focussed help with making new things happen, do make the most of the early in the year momentum by putting them in touch or getting in touch to schedule a conversation with me.
This issue looks at a key ingredient for successful development at work which many of us avoid and shares an exciting announcement to which many of you have contributed...
Get by with a little help...
The prolific 17th century poet, soldier, scholar and Christian pastor, John Donne, famously wrote in one of his Meditations (on mortality), "No man is an island,
entire of itself." Well no team, business or organisation is an island either. We all need help at work - to grow, to develop new skills and capabilities, to discover key information, to build our teams, networks and connections, to deliver projects, to offer different perspectives and provide vital accountability. And yet, we are often loath to ask for help. It's an issue I work on with even my most succesful clients. Indeed, it's
often the case that the more they want - or even
need - help, the less inclined they are to ask for it.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended an excellent workshop
on referrals* in which I learned that, whilst 20% of salespeople ask for referrals, 60% of customers are very willing to give them. If that gap is true for salespeople, it must be even truer for the rest of us. It speaks to a normal human reluctance to ask for help which is far more about perception than reality. We fear looking weak, stupid, needy or like we don't know what we're doing; we fear feeling obliged to others. Closely examined, none of these fears makes any
Let's take looking weak or incompetent. Of course, people can ask for help at the wrong times and in the wrong ways. However, when done thoughtfully,
asking for help can be a sign of strength and self awareness, indicating that you are sufficiently confident to be honest about what you want and how to get it.
What about the worry that asking for help will make you look stupid? Experience tells us that a sure sign of intelligence is knowing that you don't know everything. As the saying goes, sometimes the only stupid question is the unasked one.
Finally, far from making us seem needy or placing burdens on people, our request for help can be a gift to the person we ask. It signals trust, it places a value on their insight and assistance and it builds the relationship. If you don't believe me, think about the last time someone asked you for help at work which you were
happy to give. How did it make you feel that they had chosen you? What did it say about your credibility, capability, reputation, and relationship? How did it help you to help them?
Time and time again, learning how to ask for help at work in the right ways - graciously, thoughtfully, boldly - has been a game-changer for my clients, it has resulted in new business, new projects, pay-rises and promotions, it has increased their confidence, skills and visibility and helped them to build vital relationships and connections.
When it comes to clarity at work, asking for help is a key way in which you can grasp more clearly where you stand and what you need. The power of that ask and what it delivers is one of the reasons that asking for help is
baked into ONION especially in the Now layer (expert help for objectivity) the Ideas layer (non-expert help with creativity) and the Next Steps layer (outside help with
Why not set an intention to ask for more help at work in the coming lunar year**? As you do that, you'll not only gain more clarity at
work but you'll find that you're increasingly helpful to others. (If you're a founder or self-employed, this article might be a help.)
Whatever your role, the key, as always, is to be intentional; perhaps start with the following questions: 1) With what would you like help at work? (Be specific - is it advice or practical help, what will it look like)? 2) From whom are you going to ask it? (What makes them a good person to
ask? What's your relationship like?) 3) When are you going to ask them? (Set a clear timeframe - ideally in the next couple of weeks) 4) What might get in the way? (If it's any of the above fears, address them and ask how much they are unfounded or a hangover from past messages or professional experiences which are no longer valid
- the subject of a previous
Finally, it makes sense to ask for help from those with whom we have a positive relationship but, sometimes, asking for help where there's
friction or even an impasse in a working relationship can work wonders in moving the relationship forward. My experience is that, in some circumstances, humility can disrupt - and even dissolve - hostility.***
All the best as you put this into practice and get going on asking for help at work. Here's a well known cover of a Beatles classic to inspire you. As always, be in touch if you'd like some help and to tell me how it goes.
Next up, an exciting announcement which I hope you'll enjoy and share with others. Drum roll, please...
On the subject of asking for help, some of you may remember that, last summer, I enlisted the help of the brilliant "To Be Clear..." readers (i.e. you)" on ways to share
ONION and the improved clarity and results it brings with more people. You delivered in spades!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, ONION for Cats (!) did not make the cut but two ideas were particularly popular and, I'm pleased to announce that both of them are in process and one of them is at the test phase.
So - with a little fanfare - I am delighted to announce and share with you, hot off the press...
....the ONION Coaching Card Deck - a pack of 60 beautiful, top quality cards designed around
the ONION coaching framework to deliver deeper clarity and more effective action and results at work for both teams and individuals.
Thank you for all your help and encouragement so far - thank you for contributing ideas for sharing ONION more widely (shout out to those who came to the office to share their thoughts), many thanks to my global team of eagle-eyed proofreaders (superstars all...) and thanks for letting me know the results and benefits you've experienced from using ONION; your positive feedback has been a great motivation for developing new ways for others to experience those benefits as well. (If this were an awards ceremony, the "That's enough!" music would have definitely have started playing by now...)
The deck is packed full of content and I wanted the quality of the thinking and results which people generate from using ONION to be reflected in the quality of the cards. To that end, rather than outsourcing the print job online, I collaborated in person with a London-based company to produce a test run of something beautiful and robust of which anyone who uses it could be
My photos do not do the deck - or the great job the printers have done - justice. It's been great to work with the lovely Phil Heron, the lovely Anne-Marie Heron and the brilliant team at Heron, Dawson & Sawyer - they are a fantastic, Clerkenwell-based, family-run printing business with a great
reputation who do pretty much everything on site and who have been producing beautiful printed materials for over 50 years. Indeed, someone at another (very reputable) printer to whom I showed the deck today, commented, "These are really lovely. We could never have produced anything of this kind of quality."
I'm currently looking at options for packaging. Some samples arrived just this afternoon. See below and let me know if you have any thoughts!
It wouldn't be ONION without some clearly mapped out Next Steps and the Next Step with the ONION deck is to road-test this first run of the deck more widely; I'll be reaching out to some of you for help with that. Do be in touch if you want to know more.
Wishing you a clearer week (and Year of the Rabbit!) ahead.
* - Given by the author of this excellent book on the topic
** - Perhaps, we could check in on progress on 10th February 2024
*** - Feel free to contact me if you'd like to explore this further!