One day a problem came to my attention, and I wanted to lend a hand. I spoke with the management employee about how I could help, and we moved forward together to solve the resource problem. He was a long-term company employee and thanked me for my assistance. I told him, “Asking for help is heroic.” He stared at me for a moment, collecting his thoughts, and replied, “That’s not the culture I’m used to here.”
There are many lessons a leader may take from this experience. I left with at least three:
- I still had work to do to help create the kind of culture that assures safety when people wish to display vulnerability.
- By walking around, offering a helping hand or an ear, we learn a great deal about our people, our work, and ourselves.
- It’s easy to get stuck, feel as if we need permission to ask for help, and silently spin our wheels.
The ability to share our story with another person, whether a partner, spouse, manager, peer, coach, or advisor is liberating. When we spend too much time in our heads alone with our thoughts, we often generate headset spacer errors. The grey matter between our ears convinces us that we are helpless and unresourceful rather than powerful and resourceful.
At several points during my leadership journey, I’ve engaged an outside coach or advisor to get me out of my head and focused on the right things. I decided after recognizing that the stress of trying to solve things on my own, especially prevalent in owners and C-level leaders, transforms the coaching from a cost into a necessary and valuable investment in peace of mind and business results.
I won’t suggest that this level of assistance and relief is priceless. It isn’t. The price of not asking for assistance is any number of the following: stressful days, restless nights, reduced immunity, weight gain or loss, acting out with our families and teams, reduced work effectiveness, depression, and anxiety.
I’ve discovered that just a 15-minute discussion with someone outside of my immediate circle can help me shift my mindset, improve my focus, and get me back on track. Often, that person need only listen with empathy to make a difference. This simple act reduces the stress load which may be enough to free up our minds to get back to what’s important. Another tactic is putting together a mastermind alliance with trusted friends or peers which allows venting, brainstorming, and diverse thoughts to influence our mindsets. Whatever we can do to engage in dialogue with others will serve us better than talking to ourselves.
One caution: The people you meet with should have your best interests in mind, and while pub talk about the boss may be a form of entertainment for you, it is not the kind of help that propels you forward.
Takeaway: Asking for help requires us to be vulnerable in the moment and put our egos on pause to make room for assistance. Our increased effectiveness and well-being is worth that risk every time. None of us must do this by ourselves, we need only tap into the resources around us. Offering to help others is even more powerful, transforming the coach as much or more than the person being helped.