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Ask for the boss’s help intelligently

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in Workplace Communication

Being afraid to ask for help can land you in deep water. So learning how to ask for help—and doing it right—is critical to your success as an administrative professional.

For example, Alexa is working with her boss to start a new regional initiative for the brokers in their commercial real estate firm. It’s a great opportunity for her to show off her skills; her boss has given her plenty of creative leeway in getting the project started.

What she’s thinking is, “How should I go about this?” But that’s not the best question to ask her boss if she wants to show off her smarts. Asking for some guidance, however, will save her from missteps and wasted time.

Here’s a question-asking strategy to use:

1. Start your question by stating what you know. Do some research. Let the other person know what you’ve already accomplished, then explain where you’re struggling.

In the example above, Alexa could start by saying to her boss, “I’ve found plenty of supporting data from our region, but I’m not sure how to evaluate it. Could you help me put this into context?”

2. Suggest a course of action, and ask for feedback.

Example: “I’m thinking of sending out a mass e-mail to the brokers, but I’m not sure if that’s the most effective format. What do you think of that approach?”

3. If you don’t know the direction to take, ask for the tools you’ll need to make that decision yourself.

“Have any of the company’s other regions done a similar analysis? If so, it would be helpful to see it.”

Asking for help doesn’t have to make you look dumb. In fact, it shows you have good judgment, and that you’re aware of what you don’t know.

— Adapted from “How to Ask for Help—Without Looking Stupid,” Jodi Glickman Brown, Harvard Business Review blog.

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