Early in my recovery from my near-death cycling accident, many people came forward to ask me how they could help. I appreciated their warm, loving gestures, but it was a tough question for me to answer.
There were times when I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t know what to ask for. And other times, I simply didn’t want to be a burden.
But the truth is, my family and I needed a lot of help. In the blink of an eye, my wife became my chief medical officer and a single parent to two daughters under four.
Help? Hell, yeah! We needed it. Fortunately, my wife was more willing to accept an outstretched helping hand; I was more challenged.
One example of help came from Greg Duncan —then an executive at Pfizer — who called to ask how he and Pfizer could help. I told him, “We are all good.” After all, I didn’t want to feel needy. Crazy, right? It didn't make a lot of sense back then, either.
But he pressed me and I finally admitted we needed some help with our lawn. In hindsight, it was a lame response. But given my lens on life at the time, it was understandable.
You see, back then I believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness. If I need help, then I don’t have all the answers. If I don’t have all the answers, then who I am? What’s my value?
Given my early career experiences, it made sense that I felt this way. I believed thought-leaders were supposed to know all the answers all the time. Some bad bosses powerfully reinforced this belief whenever I fell short of having all the answers.
The weight of this expectation for leaders to be perfect is draining, and it can leave the best and brightest ones feeling stuck and stressed.
Luckily, I discovered Brene Brown and devoured her wisdom on the power and strength of vulnerability. I also had the good fortune to work with coach Tanya Ezekiel. I love how she frames asking for help:
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s saying: ‘Not only do I want to get close to you, but it’s ok for you to get close to me, too.’” – Tanya Ezekiel
Asking for help is an act of affiliation; it builds our tribe and bolsters trust.
In today’s hustle and grind world, the best post-heroic leaders know that asking for help is essential. Today’s marketplace runs at a faster pace, with more complexity than ever before.
And if you are still reading, I’m going to assume that you have had success navigating this ever-changing world. And you have probably been right more times than not. So it’s natural to believe that you have all the right answers today.
But the reality is, you don’t. None of us do. But that’s ok; we still think you’re awesome.
“What got you here, won’t get you there.” – Marshall Goldsmith
Even though we know Goldsmith’s quote (it's also a book) is spot on, it’s difficult for most people to ask for help – especially us guys. Heaven forbid we expose ourselves to any unnecessary judgment, or that we ever appear imperfect or needy, right?
But the best, from Olympians like Michael Phelps to coaching gurus like Marshall, know that there’s potential glory when we ask for and receive help.
If you still can’t accept that asking for help benefits you, try looking at it through a different lens like Tanya suggests:
Remember how you felt the last time you helped someone? Perhaps it was the time your sponsorship helped a colleague get promoted, or when you volunteered in your community and spread some good karma. I bet your efforts made you feel pretty good. By asking for help, you help someone else feel this way, too.
I’ve learned so many valuable lessons since my last bad day, but one lesson stands out as pivotal: If you want to find success, you must find the strength to ask for help. And, this is big, Get Stuff Done (GSD) when you receive it! Asking without action is lazy.
Hey, even with the wisdom I gained from my recovery, I still had to hurdle a few limiting beliefs and ask for help in building my coaching practice.
Recently, Peloton Coaching and Consulting celebrated our 2nd anniversary. I’m proud that I asked for and grateful to received the help that made my peloton stronger and soon-to-be-released book: Shift: Moving From Good Enough to Your Best, possible.