Don’t Be A Hero! Why It’s All Right To Ask For Help

“When the going gets tough, the tough get support.”

~ Sean Casey LeClaire

Don’t Be A Hero! Why It’s All Right To Ask For Help

By Andrea Novakowski

I’ve been the case manager and caregiver for my 91-year-old mother for a while now. If you’ve ever had the role of caring for an elderly parent, you know how exhausting it can be. This past summer, I hit my limit. I found myself getting to a place I didn’t want to be. I wasn’t looking forward to my visits and calls with Mom, and it all felt like a burden.

I was the one who had volunteered for this role, I reminded myself. I had no right to ask for help. Not when I’d given my family my word I’d take care of everything.

Finally, I broke down and did ask for help. Right away, my family stepped in, evaluated the situation, and brought in additional support and resources. I don’t know why I waited so long. I love my family!

In the business world, just as in our personal lives, we often hesitate to reach out for assistance from others. What holds us back? Here are four misconceptions that may be preventing you from getting the help you need.

1. I should be able to figure this out for myself.

Tom, a VP in a financial services firm, struggled to develop good working relationships with the people in his company. He knew he needed help, but he’d been taught from a very early age to depend only on himself. When the going gets tough, just work harder! I explained to Tom that at this level of his career, it takes more than just putting your head down and soldiering on. Sometimes you help others. Sometimes you let others help you. This way, you use your strengths and other people get to use theirs. Win-win.

2. I’m too stuck! 

Janice started her marketing business four years ago. She loved working on her own and had tons of energy. Then she had a health scare and had to slow herself and her business way down. As she was recovering, she realized she couldn’t do business the way she had before she got sick. But that was the only way she knew how to work. She looked at the situation over and over, but she couldn’t come up with an answer. Finally, a friend suggested Janice work with a coach to help expand her perspective. Often, a fresh pair of eyes can see solutions that are invisible to you.

3. I don’t want to appear weak or needy.

Tara, a partner in a hi-tech consulting firm, always said yes to her partners’ requests for help. But lately, she wasn’t completing her own projects because of the time she spent pitching in with others’. When I asked Tara if she’d ever turned the tables and asked for help from her partners, she shook her head. “They’re already jammed with work.” But after more prodding, Tara admitted it was more than that. Deep down, she felt asking for help was a sign of weakness, and she wanted to be seen as successful and capable. I asked Tara if she looked down upon people who asked her for help. “Oh, no. I love helping other people,” she said. “I feel honored.” I suggested she give the same gift to her co-workers. Over time, she saw that she could accept others’ assistance and still be viewed as competent.

4. People might say no.

Francis, the president of his company, had a plan that would increase revenue and provide more value to his clients – but it involved asking his staff to travel more. This would go against the culture of his company, particularly its commitment to family. It meant people might be away from home as much as a month or two. Francis was all set to nix his business idea. But when he started to have conversations with his staff, he discovered that many people actually viewed it as a chance for a great learning experience. They even looked forward to having an opportunity to live for a short time in another location. Francis never would have found this out if he hadn’t asked!

If we could do everything by ourselves in our business, there would be no need for accountants and lawyers. Of course, we all recognize that we need those professionals to protect us and give us guidance. Why can’t the same principle apply to other areas of your company? You don’t have to wear all the hats. Think how much better it would feel to focus on your strengths and get support and help in the areas that aren’t your forte.

Coaching Call To Action

Take some time this week to consider what could make life easier for you.  Where could your load be lightened?  Who could you ask for help?  What do you commit to do by this time next week?