My nineteen year-old son is “hard to help.” He knows everything, looks to his peers for validation and information, and seems to  challenge or disregard advice that requires him to change his views. Some of this current state is being a teenager, some of it is probably that I am his mother. But, some of it may be an aversion to being guided or helped.

Is it any different in the work world? Do you work with people who are hard to help? Are you?

I remember talking with a group of new hires when I was head of HR. The conversation was about performance reviews and feedback from their managers. The gist of the conversation was an objective to reduce or eliminate any development needs. I asked, “Are you saying you want to avoid development needs?” to which they resoundingly said “Yes!” These associates had somewhere between 1-3 years experience.  My perspective, unless you are done with life, you have development needs or opportunities.

Our young consultants also tended to talk to each other about “how to be successful.” When someone got promoted or terminated or passed over for advancement, they would talk amongst themselves and interpret the path to achievement. I would tell them “Talk with someone who actually knows the answers—senior people who have made the journey.”

Back to you (and I’m thinking of myself as well).

  • Are you open to feedback and ideas from someone who is fundamentally different from you?
  • To what degree do you need to have the right answer?
  • Do you genuinely ask for feedback informally? Do you ask the right person or people?
  • When someone offers help, do you stop and consider the opportunity? Do you accept the help when you can or should do so?
  • Are you so used to doing everything for yourself that you quickly reject help?

What about me? While I am open to different views, I know that I get stuck when I think I am right. Mostly, I am not particularly adept at accepting help in the form of favors or when someone wants to take something off my plate. “No, I’ll do it.” Sounds a bit like my two year-old granddaughter.

This week, I’m going to start noticing new opportunities to get help—how about you?