If the reward for solving problems is more problems, and the sign of improvement are harder and more challenging problems to solve, at some point we need help. Asking for help feels hard, but it’s a great way to allow others to contribute their value and earn recognition for their growth.

A good time to ask for help is when presented with a complex problem that is really a series of gnarly problems mashed together.

It can feel overwhelming to unpack and figure out the right problems to solve, in the right order, and in the right way to deliver value. This situation comes with an urgent deadline and a need to make sure our approach reduces friction instead of ramping it up, making more work for other people.

The good news is we’re not alone.

In fact, this is precisely the type of problem we need others to help us with. That’s because complex, multivariate problems often need unique experience to make sense of what’s going on.

We need help to understand the situation — as it is — to make the wise choices on which problems to solve and the right way to solve them.

We need to invite people with other perspectives, approaches, and ways of thinking to make sense of what we see and help explore the risks and rewards of various pathways. They help us identity and reduce friction to make better decisions faster.

Once you get the right people together, it might help to start with a few questions:

  • How do they evidence the problem? Or what evidence do they cite as the problem?
  • How do they describe the problem?
  • Do they have an ideal and acceptable outcome?
  • What are the current costs and consequences of the problem?
  • Do they have any suggestions on how to solve the problem?

Listen to the words they use — especially if it’s different from your experience or what you expected. Their insights are valuable clues to the situation. Most people know how to describe the current pain and why they want the pain to go away. Let them use their experience and insights to help capture the problem to gain a better, deeper understanding of the problem.

While it’s worth asking if they have an outcome or solution, most people don’t know or aren’t sure. If that happens, skip it to see what else they can share.

Taking the time to unpack and understand the problem with the help of your colleagues allows them to contribute their value while you gain the insight to solve the problem and deliver value faster — fueling your growth and theirs.

About the Author Michael Santarcangelo

The founder of Security Catalyst, Michael develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success.

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