For years I spent my life doing everything I could to never ask for help. I am a strong, independent woman and in my mind, I saw myself less than the leader I thought people expected me to be if I voiced a need for help. Although, for some reason, I did not apply that same standard to others who asked for help, but rather viewed us as a team using each of our gifts to make us all successful. For me, there was a combination of fear of not appearing qualified, imposing on someone else's already busy schedule, and probably most importantly, a personal pride issue where I thought I must have it all together and could never appear to need anyone’s help. Yet, what I learned several years ago in my professional and personal journey is asking for help empowers me and others.
Recently, we had a team member grow into a management role. We had a plan to set him up for success through coaching and development. However, the coaching plan was not working. After a couple months of not meeting goals, we realized a change needed to be made. What surprised us was what he communicated: he hated the new role but did not want to let us down nor did he want to ask for help. In his eyes, he never saw leadership asking for help. That, in turn, influenced his decision to keep quiet. However, that was and is the farthest thing from reality. We explained all the different avenues where we reach out for help as business owners. We are part of a national 20 group; we bring in consultants to help us with different facets of our business; and we rely on mentors to help us along the way. I was reminded of the importance of transparency and communicating this truth with our team.
When you ask for support, you create opportunities for others to use their skills and expertise. You empower others to grow and allow them to experience the fulfillment that comes from giving and being an effective resource.
Several key factors in developing a love to ask for help:
- Change in perspective – There must be an awakening that asking for help demonstrates strength and courage, not weakness. This must start with leadership and be communicated through words, but more importantly through actions.
- Personal responsibility – Acknowledge your strengths and with the same confidence do not shy away from where you need help. Don’t make excuses, looking to place blame. Take personal responsibility of what gifts and talents you bring to the table and be transparent and authentic about where you need help.
- Leverage strengths – Studies show the most engaged employees are the ones who use their strengths the most. Think about your reality — are you more engaged and fulfilled when doing things you are good at and like to do or things you struggle to accomplish well?
- Innovation – When was the last time you asked your team for innovative ideas to improve processes or customer experiences? Be willing to ask for feedback and more importantly be willing to receive feedback. Are you struggling with cycle time and nothing you do seems to improve the continual delays and frustrated customers? Ask your team for feedback on where they see the roadblocks are to achieve a specific goal and their innovative ideas to incorporate to reach the desired outcome. Being a part of the change is empowering and fulfilling for everyone involved.
- Difficult conversations – Be brave and have the difficult conversations. It is in these conversations where real growth happens. For leaders, quit sitting in meetings avoiding the hard conversations until the person is no longer in the room. Vice versa to the team member, stop walking out the door without conversing with leadership about feedback only to walk out and have that conversation with someone who has no influence over the matter. That is gossip and never promotes growth. This behavior is poison to the company and those who are exposed to it. It negates any kind of transparency and authenticity.
- Authentic and transparent – Eliminate manipulation, playing games and be transparent and authentic. I need to know when I lay my weaknesses on the table it is not going to be used to my demise or thrown in my face.
- Trust – There must be trust. Trust to the point, that I know everyone on my team wants the best for me and the team. Simon Sinek references how we lead our teams and treat our team members. Do we lead our teams like we lead our children? We want the best for our children. We will move heaven and earth for them to succeed. What if we did the same thing for our team? What level of trust would exist there? I absolutely know I can go to my mom or dad and ask for help on anything. That’s because I trust them. I know that if I expose my weaknesses to them, they have my best interest at heart.
There is a saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” I know in fact that to be true. It also takes a village to run a successful business. For us, it takes our team members, peers from our 20 group, consultants and many more.