I know what it is like to change careers and to grow a business. I studied to be an urban planner and ended up working at a fast-moving West African startup and online business. Over four years, I helped Jumia House build and grow in two key markets. In my work, I constantly fielded questions and requests for assistance from my teams and those above me. Now with professional coaching credentials and a leadership-focused MBA underway, I have started my own coaching and consulting business. Why? I want to help others be more intentional in their work and life. While offering help and guidance has come naturally to me, the same cannot be said for receiving help. It is a lesson that has taken me years to learn. Nonetheless, knowing how to ask for help and receive it is a valuable skill to have.
Learning How To Ask For Help
As a super independent person, I hated asking for help. I remember feeling weird asking a former classmate for assistance in finding a well-paying internship opportunity in Ghana. My brother actually asked on my behalf and I was able to secure an internship that covered my moving expenses. Since returning in 2012, I have signed up for projects and activities that force me out of my comfort zone.
(I thought) I knew very little about how to approach my first real job and constantly read about how to build a team. Additionally, I sought advice from my colleagues and quickly realised that was not enough; I wanted to be better and more efficient. So, I attempted to leverage my network and had to learn to become comfortable seeking advice outside of my company. I spoke with other leaders and attempted to extract lessons from them. What I realised was that many times the experts I needed to leverage were my team. They had experience engaging with the customers and they knew what was motivating to them. All I had to do was draw out that information and use it.
Coaching – A Crash Course In Asking For & Getting Help
Beyond my job, I started looking for alternative ways to get help in approaching decision making and facilitating my growth. I was introduced to coaching by a former colleague after I asked for help on practicing leadership. Coaching helped me better understand myself so I could be more useful to others. Consequently, I practiced being vulnerable and open to feedback and became even better at asking for help. Two essential things I learned about asking for help are the importance of reflection and being intentional.
I have found that looking inward is just as important as being able to receive feedback from the outside. Though not always welcome, getting outside feedback from different individuals has helped me see different perspectives. Sometimes it helped me shift my mindset.
Becoming more self-aware allowed me to open myself up to feedback and assistance from others. Reflection, which I would describe as being somewhat self-critical, was key to me becoming more self-aware. Yearly, I set aside time to think about the highs and lows of the past year. I try to think through the lessons I have learned from both the positive and negative and choose phrases to serve as my vision for the year. When I feel like I am getting off track, I look back at the vision phrases.
That is not to say that I am always on top of my emotions and what I have done wrong. It just means that every so often, I stop or slow down and think about how I can do better or be better by extracting lessons to apply them moving forward. I try not to get stuck in the past although it is sometimes hard not to.
Living with Intention
Reflection was important but I also needed some direction. I had to decide why certain things were important and why I was speaking to particular people. Learning to be more focused and deliberate actually opened my eyes to more opportunities and allowed me to have more constructive conversations. For example, when I decided I wanted to take a shot at self-employment I reached out to as many coaches as I could. I made sure to be open about my need for assistance and wrote down what I hoped to accomplish through our conversations. I could not achieve or exceed my expectations without setting any goals or having an idea of what I wanted.
Coaching helped me better understand myself so I could be more useful to others.”
Reflecting and being intentional and open have helped me get to where I am today. It is easier to pursue what you want in life, career or business when you know how to ask for help. The best part? Asking for help gets easier the more you ask.
Akua Nyame-Mensah is a strategic advisor and certified professional coach with start-up executive experience in emerging markets. A People + Business Strategist, she works with passionate and high achieving individuals on how to identify and achieve their goals. She also works with individuals to mobilise their teams to drive them towards real results.