6 Reasons You Should Start Asking “Can You Help Me?”


Feeling overwhelmed in your leadership role? Learn how a new question not only eases your burden but also empowers and unites your team.

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Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 2:00 PM EST

What Can I Do To Help? 

I bet you ask this in your meetings all the time. It’s a great leadership move. 

We’ve all adopted some go-to questions and statements to be better leaders. The “What can I do to help?” is one of the better ones.

This question shows that we care and want to support those on our team. It displays curiosity and empathy.

Yet, it may also be showing something we cannot see.

Leaders Are People, Too

I always appreciated it when my boss or leader asked, “What can I do to help?” I felt seen and heard when they did what I asked, or at least attempted. I felt valued.

One day, while I was meeting with my boss, he turned the question around and said, “Can you help me?”

I didn’t recall being asked that from a superior before. Most leaders treated and appreciated me well, but I was there to work hard and ask them for help when I needed it. Not always, but their role as the “leader” was to guide and direct my efforts. And they asked, “How can I help?” to better understand what I was working on and how they could remove some obstacles.

When my boss asked, “Can you help me?”, I remember pausing and thinking, “Hey, this guy has some obstacles, too, and I can help him!”

You know what his question made me feel? Valued. Needed. Wanted. Seen and heard.

If you’re a leader, you should ask, “How can I help?”, but you should also incorporate “Can you help me?” when you can. 

Here are 6 clear benefits from our new question, “Can you help me?”

1. Fosters Collaboration and Teamwork: This new question encourages a collaborative environment where everyone’s contributions are valued. This approach can lead to more innovative solutions as different perspectives come together.

2. Builds Trust and Respect: It demonstrates humility and respect for the team’s skills and expertise, which can strengthen the leader’s relationship with their team.

3. Empowers Team Members: Asking for help can empower team members, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility in the organization’s success.

4. Promotes a Learning Culture: It sets an example that it’s okay not to know everything and that seeking assistance is part of the learning and growth process.

5. Enhances Problem-Solving: This question can lead to more effective problem-solving as it allows for diverse ideas and approaches to be considered.

6. Improves Communication: It opens up lines of communication, encouraging team members to speak up and share their thoughts and opinions.

Effectively incorporating this question into your leadership repertoire means understanding yourself, your skills and unique abilities, and what others on your team bring to the organization. 

When To Ask, “Can You Help Me?” 

Every leader faces moments, complexities, or obstacles where they need the help of their team. In these moments, our hubris can hinder asking. Yet, when a leader asks for help, they engage vulnerably with their team.

It’s odd and counterintuitive, but showing a need for help grows trust and influence with those on our team. Asking for help humanizes leaders. And, in case you were wondering, everyone working for you already knows you need help!

Here are some places I’ve learned to ask, “Can you help me?” 

1. Expertise in Specific Areas: Leaders are experts in some areas, but no leader is the best at everything. Great leaders surround themselves with teammates who bring unique skills and expertise.

2. Innovative Ideas and Creativity: Leaders must seek fresh perspectives or innovative ideas to address challenges or explore new opportunities. No doubt others on your team can contribute to innovative and creative endeavors. 

3. Feedback and Insight: Constructive feedback on your leadership style, decisions, and the organization’s direction can be invaluable. Every leader sees the organization from their seat. Your perspective alone is insufficient to entirely understand what’s happening in and around you. 

4. Support in Executing Tasks: Assistance in managing workload, especially in areas where team members have more direct experience or skills, is a reason to ask our new question. A secondary benefit is the leadership development of those you ask. 

5. Emotional Support: Leading can be isolating, so having a supportive team to provide encouragement and perspective can be crucial. 

6. Help in Identifying Problems and Solutions: Sometimes, leaders need assistance seeing issues they might have overlooked and brainstorming potential solutions. 

Asking for help is a sign of strength and wisdom in leadership. It shows an understanding that effective leadership is about more than having all the answers but about harnessing the collective strength and expertise of your team.

Give it a try.