Never be too senior to ask for help

I’ve been leading design teams for quite a while, I think the first proper management role I picked up in 2006 building a design team from scratch.

When you first step into a design leader role (and I suspect any leader role) you assume people expect you to have all the answers… in fact, you yourself might assume you have all the answers!… but that stems from you not knowing what you don’t know.

I believe it was Socrates who said, “I know that I know nothing”. A follow up to that should be “but I know somebody knows”.

My challenge and the daunting task of asking for help.

I’m currently looking at strategic challenge and felt a bit stuck. I know there are things I don’t know I don’t know.

I realised I need a sparring partner to break through to move forward, but I also realised that people I would normally reach out to would all have a skewed view on this challenge.

So, I contacted a person at ExCo level. Somebody I know is neutral and with much more experience than me in these matters.

I won’t lie. I was nervous asking for help as I didn’t actually have a clear ask. I always tell my team that if they have to reach out to a senior leader, have a clear ask. I was about to reach out to one of our top leaders… but with no clear question in my mind.

In hindsight it is quite clear what I was looking for. I wasn’t looking for answers. Those are for me to find, but I was looking for a push out of the mud I was stuck in.

And I got it. Ofcourse I did. A fresh view point. Anecdotes from their experience. Similarities with challenges they are facing. All really made me look at the challenge in a different light, shaping new patterns and possible solutions.

Conclusion: Socrates is wrong.

My point with this story is, no matter where you are in your leadership journey, there is always somebody more senior, more experienced you can ask for help.

I am lucky I work in a big organisation like Sage with so many talented people. But if you are in a small business, look outside, maybe to an old boss or somebody you connect with at a conference or online.

Because Socrates is wrong. Everybody knows something. Something somebody else do not know.

Ask them. And help if you yourself are being asked for help.


A London based digital native who's thumb is rarely seen more than 2 inches away from the nearest 'Tweet now' button.

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