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How to Ask Your Boss for Help

By: Bob Sutton, Vanderbloemen Search Group

One of the jobs of a great church leader is to get the most out of their employees by encouraging and empowering them to achieve bigger and better things. As someone who has worked under both great and not-so-great leaders, I realize this is a challenging thing to do. There is a constant dance: trying to challenge your staff without overworking them. 

For several years in my career I worked under bosses who wanted more but did nothing to help me get there. They were not approachable, and as a result, I didn’t feel like I could do my best work. I’m fortunate enough now to work with some great leaders, and at the same time, I’m learning to lead and empower my own team to achieve more.

From this vantage point, I know more about the dance that good leaders are doing everyday. As an employee, I know it can be tough to approach your boss to say you’ve got too much on your plate or that you need help on a project. Is it ok to ask for help? Yes, (absolutely!) and it is better that you do.

Here are some practical tips for asking your boss for help in your church job:

1. Ask for some time.

Before you ask for help, request a few minutes of time when it is convenient for them (or the appropriate amount of time needed), and be sensitive to whether your request will need to wait for a better time. There may be many things going on for your boss at that time, so allow them to make space for you. Otherwise, anything you request might not be given the consideration it needs. 

2. Come prepared with solutions.

Your boss will be much more open to discussing issues if it is obvious that you’ve put in the effort to think through possible solutions instead of only identifying problems (that’s the easy part).

Being solutions-focused can keep confrontation with your boss positive.

3. Stay kind.

Kind words go a long way. If you are soliciting help on something they are an expert in, make sure to show thanks and compliment their expertise. Some may call it flattery, but I call it encouragement.

4. Request a few minutes for feedback.

Requesting some intentional time to talk with your boss will always pay off. This feedback (assuming they give you some) can be a great launching point into what you need help with. Not only that, but I can help you learn more about what you are doing in your church job that they value or need most.

5. Know how your boss communicates.

Depending on whether your leader is detail-oriented, driven, outgoing, or relational, you’ll want to customize your communication style to connect effectively. No matter what, be clear. Church leaders are generally busy, so don’t waste time by talking too long or confusing your message. 

If the only communication you have with your boss is to ask for help, you may need to do more to build that relationship. If this continues for the long run, they may just want to avoid you. Make sure to seek other opportunities to be social and talk about wins you’ve experienced together.

If you aren’t confident enough to ask directly or if it is going to be a lengthy discussion, craft an email that outlines what you need help with. Incorporate the tips above as well. If you work for a great leader, they will likely be glad that you brought something to their attention.


This article was provided by our church executive search partner, Vanderbloemen Search Group. To learn more about Vanderbloemen Search Group's recruiting services and how they can help you fill your open position, click here. To read more insightful articles on Vanderbloemen's blog, click here. 

Posted in Career Tips

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