All You Have to Do Is Ask by Wayne Baker [Book Summary – Review]

Why do some people achieve success while others do not? What makes certain initiatives succeed while others fail? Is it possible that the secret element is talent? Money? Is it just bad luck?

Of course, none of those things harm, but in many situations, whether or not you succeed is determined by a talent that is less obvious: your capacity to seek support.

Despite this, most people find it difficult to ask for help. They are concerned that making such a request would make them appear inept or that it will be refused outright. Once we allow ourselves to ask for help, though, we get access to the resources that would otherwise be unavailable to us.

Throughout these chapters, you’ll discover that the benefits of asking to extend beyond our own personal lives to our teams and companies.

In this overview, you’ll discover

  • the four giving and asking types; 
  • three stages to learning how to ask for what we need; 
  • and how to build a psychologically secure environment

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Chapter 1 – Asking for help is the link that connects us to our goals.

A baby named Christina was born in Romania. Cristina was born with craniosynostosis, a rare disorder that causes the skull’s bones to form prematurely, shortly after her birth. If left untreated, craniosynostosis can result in a permanently deformed head and face. But finding a Romanian surgeon capable of doing the surgery was challenging.

The narrative has a happy ending, so don’t be concerned. Cristina did receive the surgery. Because someone close to her harnessed the power of asking, she got what she wanted.

People won’t know what we need unless we ask them. A person cannot help us if they do not know what we really need.

Felicia, Cristina’s aunt, was aware of this, which was fortunate for her. Cristina’s craniosynostosis was made even better by the fact that Felicia was participating in an activity called the Reciprocity Ring at the time. In a Reciprocity Ring, individuals can tap into the collective knowledge, expertise, and resources of a huge network to get what they need. In order to aid her niece, Felicia, who lived in France, asked for the contact information of an expert pediatric cranial surgeon. Fortunately, one of her groupmates was a pediatrician, who introduced her to a suitable specialist who was able to help her. And the rest, as they say, is history.

If you don’t inquire, then you’ll never know what others know or who they know. To further illustrate the point, here is another example: There was a complex technological challenge that a senior engineer at one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers had to solve. In the end, he decided to contact his network of colleagues for support. It was a 22-year-old freshly recruited administrative assistant who was the first to answer. After further investigation, it came out that her father was a whiz at deciphering the problem. More than that, her father had just retired and had plenty of free time. No one would’ve expected the solution to come from a youthful administrator.

Scientific evidence backs up all this anecdotal evidence. In reality, research reveals that 90 percent of workplace aid is delivered only after a request for assistance has been made.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, don’t hold it back. Ask for aid from a coworker and you’ll be amazed at the power he/she has.

Chapter 2 – When it comes to helping others, we often underestimate their eagerness and capacity to do so.

When your phone battery runs out, you have to make an important call. Would you be brave enough to ask a stranger to lend you their phone? Assuming no one would say yes, even if it didn’t feel too awkward for you

You’d be mistaken, though. When participants in the research were asked to use their cell phones, many passersby in New York City were willing to oblige, according to Columbia University psychologists New Yorkers were willing to donate a phone in just two out of every three attempts. No, they didn’t have to invent an excuse for why they needed to borrow it.

You’d be surprised at how much people help each other. Seventy-three percent of Americans helped someone else in the past month, according to Gallup. More than half of the 140 countries examined have done the same. Gallup reports that 2.2 billion people around the world help a stranger each month. 

Despite this, many people find it difficult to ask for help from those outsiders of their immediate social circle. What a mistake that would be! They can provide a link to other social circles. Your questions may result in new information, solutions, and other resources.

In the same way, old friends can be useful. Some people may assume that their efforts to reconnect with their former pals would be refused, or that they will hate you reaching out to ask for a favor from them. It’s true that most people are delighted to hear from an old acquaintance and willing to help. Because your life and theirs have diverged, your knowledge and social networks are unlikely to intersect as much as they formerly did. It may be just what you’re looking for to fix any issue you’re having.

However, often what keeps us from speaking up has little to do with individuals and everything to do with our company’s policies and procedures. That’s what we’ll look at in the next chapter.

Chapter 3 – The culture, methods, procedures, and practices of a corporation may prevent us from seeking and providing assistance.

How much thought do you put into a company’s culture when you’re applying for a job? For some people, it’s just as significant as the job title or monetary compensation.

Now, what is the most significant component of a company’s culture? The explanation, according to Google experts, is simple: psychological safety. Employees feel comfortable asking questions, acknowledging mistakes, and bringing up issues in a psychologically safe environment.

Indeed, according to Kathryn Dekas, a senior manager at Google, psychological safety has been critical to the company’s capacity to drive product innovation.

Unfortunately, asking for help can have severe effects on some organizations. Employees and the organization both suffer in such scenarios.

There are many other factors that may dissuade people from seeking assistance. Occasionally it’s because a company hired the wrong individuals. Managers can be so focused on an individual’s talents and experience that they overlook how that person will make the squad, much alone if that person will be ready to help others or ask for assistance.

Fortunately, Rich Sheridan learned this lesson the hard way as the CEO of Menlo Innovations. Menlo Innovations used to simply prioritize software and technical skills when hiring programmers. That means people who are polite, play well with others and are eager to share. Now, it’s looking for people who have “excellent kindergarten skills.”

Cooperation can be negatively impacted by competitive rankings and individual rewards as well. It’s not uncommon for a corporation to build a competitive culture if it solely rewards individual achievements.

If a company grows rapidly, it may become fragmented into a number of small, isolated departments that impede communication and collaboration. People separated by distance, time zones, and cultural traditions may find it difficult to work together as a result of globalization.

Asking for aid is clearly fraught with difficulties. But if we comprehend the law of giving and receiving, we may begin to conquer them. Next, we’ll talk about that.

Chapter 4 – Just as vital as offering assistance is asking.

According to an ancient saying, “giving brings more delight than receiving.” Nevertheless, does this imply that receiving is a sin? The answer is “no.” Actually, the two activities are intertwined. Neither giving nor receiving is possible.

Helping those who help you is not part of the law of giving and receiving. What matters is that you give to others, regardless of whether they’ve helped you or are likely to help you in the future. In the long run, it’ll pay off handsomely.

It’s already paying off for IDEO. What makes it so successful is the company’s “culture of helping,” which encourages employees to share what they know and ask for assistance when they need it.

Giving and requesting can be divided into four categories.

First of all, there is the overly generous giver. As a result, they may suffer from “generosity burnout.” Gratitude from others is something they enjoy. Overly generous donors, on the other hand, miss out on ideas, knowledge, and chances because they don’t disclose their own needs.

Secondly, there’s the egocentric taker. As a result, they are so self-centered that they rarely if ever reward the kindness of others with anything. Even the most self-centered of takers will give at times. When their acts are made public, it is more likely to occur. In order to avoid appearing self-centered, they are concerned about their reputations.

As for the loners, they’re just that. They appreciate independence. Lone wolves rarely ask for help, and they rarely offer it either, either. Because of this, individuals are more likely to become socially withdrawn. Having this giving-and-asking style is the worst thing you can do. Anyone who wants to benefit from others is part of a network.

When it comes to giving-asking, the giver-requester is the finest. These people are well-liked by their coworkers because they are helpful. They also ask for aid and obtain it. Researchers found that givers-requesters were the most productive and well-respected employees at a telecoms company, for example

This chapter will teach us how to make requests.

Chapter 5 – When you learn to ask for what you need, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goal.

Asking is easy for some people. However, even if you are one of these people, it might be difficult to know exactly what you should ask for in return. What are the prerequisites for success? Or perhaps you know exactly what you need but don’t know who to ask. In other situations, we know what we want and who can help us get it, but we’re not sure how to say it.

Three steps are required to make an effective request. Decide what you want to achieve. What’s the harm in writing it down if it’s a struggle? Why is it essential to you? Write it down.

Your request can then be developed utilizing SMART criteria once you’ve determined your goal. For example, SMART stands for specific and meaningful. As long as your request includes all of the above, it’s likely to be successful.

This means that you should tell folks why you need what you’re asking for instead of asking for something unclear. What’s the reason for your request? The why will not always be about you, so keep that in mind. Perhaps it has to do with your organization’s goals and objectives? Next, make it clear what steps a person must take to assist you in achieving your goals. Your request should also be reasonable. That is, it must be possible, even if it seems impossible. Last but not least, give it a deadline by establishing a defined schedule.

Knowing how to ask is only the first step. In addition to “who knows what,” “who knows whom” is equally important. We may be able to get help from people we know if they can connect us with others who can.

This is the point at which you can make your request. How exactly should you go about it? That’s entirely up to you. An email message is 34 times less successful than a face-to-face request, according to a recent study. Adapting to your audience is the most crucial thing you can do. First, figure out this question: do they prefer verbal or written communication? It’s a question of preference. You should wait until they can adequately examine your request if they are under a lot of pressure.

You may be rejected. But don’t give up. When J.K. Rowling was writing the first Harry Potter book, twelve publishers declined to publish it. It’s not personal when you’re rejected. It’s a point of view. And it’s possible that this opinion may be proved to be wrong.

During the next chapter, we’ll discuss how a corporation can create a culture where asking for help is acceptable.

Chapter 6 – Create team norms and programs that allow employees to ask for support.

What mistakes have you made at work? During the process, were you able to discuss it openly with your colleagues or seek help? If not, why not? Were you influenced by the culture of your team or company?

As a result, companies must create an environment where team members feel comfortable asking for help and talking about mistakes.

Leaders need to set an example by asking for help when they need it so that others will follow suit. When Dr. Salvador Salort-Pons took over the Detroit Institute of Arts, he accomplished just this. He was first astonished by his leadership team, but it quickly became standard practice for everyone in the team.

What can be done, then, to encourage employees to seek assistance?

The best candidates will have the correct combination of talents and abilities, as well as a willingness to ask for help and give generously of themselves. Then, create a psychologically secure work environment, where team members feel comfortable asking for help and admitting their errors. It is important to allow a new team enough time to get acquainted before plunging into a project.

Make your workplace more psychologically safe by using a range of methods.

You could, for example, undertake a stand-up routine. It works like this: once a day, team members gather in a circle for 15 minutes and take turns presenting a quick update. Each team member at the software company Atlassian answers three questions: What did I work on yesterday? So, what am I doing today? What issues are preventing me from achieving my goals? Menlo Innovations goes a step farther and asks, “What assistance do I require?” This query is effective because it normalizes the act of requesting something.

The Reciprocity Ring is another useful tool. This guided activity makes it simple for people to receive what they need by utilizing the power of a network. It is carried out in a group of 20 to 24 people, with each person taking a turn making a request. The others pause for a while to contemplate how they may assist. Some of the outcomes have been amazing. Someone who had been adopted at birth, for example, wished to learn his biological parents’ last names. A fellow participant was able to show him how to accomplish it and even assisted him in the process.

What about working together across organizational lines? That will be covered in the future chapter.

Chapter 7 – Increase the number of individuals and resources you have access to when making requests.

If you’ve ever worked for a big corporation, you’ve probably seen that some teams or departments operate independently. Some also work on the same tasks without realizing it. What a waste of both time and money!

Companies are sometimes constructed in a way that exacerbates these disparities. Consider Kent Power, where communication between superintendents in charge of field operations and business management had entirely broken down. What was their strategy for bridging the gap?

Over the course of three months, the 17 executives and superintendents engaged in a game that involved regular one-on-one phone calls. What’s the catch? They were unable to discuss their jobs. This game was a success. The two groups had resumed effective contact and enhanced their working relationship by the conclusion of the three months.

Ongoing training programs are another option to bridge structural barriers. These are tailored programs that are exclusively available to employees of a specific organization and are only available to corporate clients. Participants may represent several departments or offices, as well as other nations. Employees can get to know one another, cooperate on team initiatives, and socialize through such activities.

Robert’s expertise as a national sales manager for a large firm provides some insight into the impact of these initiatives. He’d completed an executive education program, putting him in a position to assist when a difficult situation arose. An inaccuracy in a letter sent to customers from the company’s headquarters enraged a store manager. The letter had come from the department of someone Robert had met in his program, Robert recognized. As a result, he was able to engage with this individual to promptly and successfully remedy the problem.

Another essential tool is flexible budgeting. That means that one department or project contributes a portion of its money to another. Do you think that’s plausible? Any manager willingly giving up some of her department’s finances is nearly unheard of. At Hopelab, a social innovation lab in California, this happens on a daily basis. The only stumbling block was the $100,000 price tag when an amazing strategic communications opportunity arose. Hopelab, on the other hand, was able to raise the necessary finances because of its flexible budgeting. One project manager even reduced his efforts on one of his team’s projects in order to make a five-figure contribution!

However, despite a company’s best efforts, some people may find it difficult to seek help. What other options do businesses have? In the final chapter, we’ll find out.

Chapter 8 – Acknowledge, respect, and reward both those who ask for aid and those who provide it.

Isn’t it satisfying to be complimented? Unfortunately, over 20% of full-time employees in the United States say they are never recognized for their efforts. According to the Globoforce Workplace Research Institute, this is the case.

It is vital to recognize and reward employees in order to create a more engaged, motivated, and productive workforce. Companies that are serious about fostering a culture of asking should make it a point to recognize and reward employees who ask for assistance. But keep in mind that appreciation must be frequent, recurrent, real, and individualized to be effective.

Although you believe your company’s culture includes “asking,” you may need to go above and beyond to reach particular individuals.

When it comes to asking for help, the Levine Greenberg Rostan literary agency stresses it in its written instructions for employees. You can imagine their amazement when they found out that Cristela, the assistant to team manager Jim Levine, had not spoken out when she needed assistance. Because of her timidity, she had been hesitant to ask for help, despite the agency’s clear instructions to do so.

As a result, Levine realized his mistake. Since he had assumed that it was part of the agency’s culture to seek help, he hadn’t been acknowledging anyone who had asked. During team meetings, he began calling out those by name who had asked for aid.

If your firm already has a recognition program, why not make it more rewarding for those who seek assistance? The High-5 program was created by Algentis, a California-based HR outsourcing organization. Any employee can offer a colleague a high five for going above and beyond to assist them. A $25 Amazon gift card is the value of High-5. This initiative boosted team communication and increased the visibility of those who support their teammates. How simple would it be to allow employees to give High-5s to individuals that seek help?

Employees can overcome any lingering internal resistance to requesting assistance when they recognize that asking is not only acceptable but even praiseworthy.

All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success by Wayne E. Baker Book Review

There are numerous advantages to expressing our needs. We improve our efficiency at work. It paves the way for new work prospects. It can assist us in adapting to new situations more effectively and rapidly. It improves teamwork and creativity. Thus, the next time you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask.

Make a gratitude wall for both the givers and the askers.

Make a blank “thank you” card wall in your office. Employees who want to express their gratitude can use these cards to write letters to their coworkers. These can be hand-delivered or re-attached to the wall. Gratitude can be shown to individuals who ask for assistance as well as those who provide it.

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