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The Coaching Corner with Michael Riegel: Is "Help" Just Another Four-Letter Word?

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There are times I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – without the murderous tendencies, of course. As many of us remember from high school English class, they were two different personalities in one physical body. So how does this relate to help? Jekyll is well-intentioned, mannered, and conciliatory while Hyde skews toward brute force. I find myself in this dilemma of sometimes being Jekyll and sometimes Hyde when it comes to offering, asking for, and giving help.

If we have learned nothing from the last two years of managing, surviving, or hopefully thriving through the pandemic it is that we can’t do it all on our own and we all could use some help. My daughter often accuses me of offering one type of help. It sounds something like “here, let me fix it for you” which is okay – sometimes. After the third time the car battery died because a light was left on or the door not closed properly, it was clear she had not learned how to use jumper cables to charge the battery. I had been doing it for her but not “helping” her acquire an important skill.

With clients, colleagues, and partners I typically get to the end of a call or meeting and offer “and what can I do to be helpful?” Most often, no request comes back. I wonder if that is about not wanting to be seen as vulnerable or incapable or maybe not really knowing how to ask for help, even if it is desperately needed. We can relate this easily to our work environments.

You can’t do it all and shouldn’t.

There is often a tendency to try and do it all. Many of my clients, like you in disproportionately male populated industries, channel their inner Superwoman. Needing to do it all without breaking a sweat. It is a relief when they give up the need to do it all, find the resources available, and delegate the tasks that others can handle.

Work on the business, not in the business.

My work with small and growing business owners uncovers a common theme. The owner spends too much time doing the technical work or projects and not enough growing the business and being a leader. I wrote a whole book about making that transition. Build Like the Big Primes stresses this idea and learning how to ask for and accept help will make the transition that much smoother.

But I will look weak.

I learned long ago that asking for help does the exact opposite. Your manager or boss will appreciate you acknowledging you need help (i.e., skill gap, client information, organizational philosophy) more than struggling through and making you less effective and efficient. Just remember to ask for help before you are into the critical path on the schedule.

For me, I am trying to be more Jekyll than Hyde, at least where my daughter is involved. You can reach me at

Michael Riegel


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