What is it about asking for help, or about accepting it when it’s offered, that is so hard? Especially for business leaders, where did we get the idea that admitting our weaknesses and accepting that we have blind spots is perceived as a fatal flaw – something we have to hide or deny in order to have business success?
There are so many examples that go against this natural tendency to try and “go it alone”. Anyone who understands basketball knows that Michael Jordan needed Phil Jackson, a great coach, to win all those championships (and of course a great supporting cast that “owned” their roles).
While the sports metaphor is easy, it’s just as true in politics, in the arts, and of course in business. All great leaders have a trusted advisor (or several) who let them hear it when they take their eye off the goal they say they are aiming for. We don’t always hear about these people, but they’re there – quietly being who they are, almost always out of the limelight.
A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.Tom Landry
And it’s not as if pretending to not need help actually works. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, take much to look around your business and honestly see how far away it is from really serving your life, rather than consuming it the way it does today.
Your employees who watch you all day would be the first ones to tell you there are some things you don’t see (though of course they can’t tell you). And sometimes, your blind spots are things they don’t see either – because they’re busy with their own challenges and don’t have the view that you have. But by and large business leaders just keep driving ahead, because that’s what got them this far, not realizing that once you hit a certain point in the evolution of a business, the game fundamentally changes. It’s a reasonable assumption – wrong, but reasonable – that if you just do more of what you’ve been doing – you can push through.
The key is to let go of all the “shoulds” that drive so much of the anxiety and overwhelm. That you “should” know how to lead (as if that came with filing your articles of incorporation), that because you own or run a business that means you know how to design and create the right systems to scale and grow (as if that has anything to do with the craft that is your real gift and passion), or that you should already have a vision, based in your values, and have a strategic plan for getting that into the DNA of your business (as if they teach that anywhere, especially in MBA programs, besides EMyth of course!). And of course, that you should do all this and achieve some mystical thing called ‘work/life balance‘ (as if you are superhuman, instead of a passionate entrepreneur who is overwhelmed with the complexity of running a business in the modern world).
At some point, the madness has to stop. Either you stop it or it stops you – with a crisis of some kind – health, family or financial. And of course it’s a short trip from any one of those to the other two. Your job is to not let it get that far.
It comes down to a choice. You can take the truth that nobody is coming to save you as reason to hunker down and push on. Or, you can see how that truth actually liberates you to save yourself – to serve yourself and your business – by getting the help you need. We all know this from our life experience – when someone gives it their all and then opens up and admits they need help – we say “Wow, that took a lot of strength”. That kind of courage is inspiring. It doesn’t lower our estimation of that person, it raises it.
So, as we end the first quarter I invite you to revisit that choice in you. Are you strong enough to stop going it alone? The business world is filled with people desperate to convince the world that “things are okay”, that “business is great!”.
What breaks the mold – the leaders of the next great global economy – are people who are more interested in what’s real than what people will think. And there’s no shame in that.