“We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.” — John Wooden
Asking for help wasn’t something that my parents ingrained in me. Well, that’s how I interpreted their guidance anyway. When they told me repeatedly to be confident, strong, and independent, I assumed that the opposite traits would be a bad thing.
For so many of us, the idea of asking for help meant we were dependent, weak, uncertain or unsure of what do to. It meant we were not smart enough, good enough or worthy enough.
So instead of asking for support, we try to do everything ourselves. We do whatever it takes to get the job done on our own, and in the end, we feel a sense of accomplishment for achieving the feat that was deemed impossible.
The truth is, we never do anything on our own. And as leaders, we shouldn’t want to.
I understand the benefit and desire for solitude. There are people who love to do things alone like hiking, traveling and reading. However, our natural human need is to share experiences with other people. Even after traveling or reading a great book, we are excited to share.
The act of asking for support and openly receiving is probably one of the hardest life skills to practice, yet it’s the skill that can make you a better human being and a stronger leader.
Let’s evaluate why people often find it difficult to ask for and receive support.
Assumption 1: It’s a sign of weakness. If I can’t do it on my own, I must not know how to do it or I don’t have the skills or resources to do it.
Assumption 2: Allowing someone else to help me means I lose control of the situation.
Assumption 3: If I receive support then I have to reciprocate. What if I can’t return the favour? What if I don’t want to return the favour?
Assumption 4: If I ask for the support of others, I am burdening them. They are just as busy as me so how could they find the time to help out?
Assumption 5: I am the only one that can do it my way. It’s easier and quicker for me to do it than to train or teach someone else to help me.
These are all very strong stories we tell ourselves about what it could mean to ask for and to receive support. It’s no wonder we don’t do it often and why we are all feeling overwhelmed, and distracted, and we overcompensate for tasks that continuously exhaust our abilities and energy. I’m feeling tired right now just writing about it!
There’s a popular African proverb that brings light to this topic, “It takes a village to raise a child”. What this proverb actually means is that the work of raising a child cannot be done alone; rather, an entire community must participate to some extent for the best possible outcome.
Now replace the word “child” with “project,” “team,” “company,” or even something bigger like a “movement”, you will see how this analogy can easily be applied. We are more powerful, stronger and effective when we work together. When we co-create, we can produce better outcomes and more innovative solutions in shorter periods of time than if we were to try to do everything on our own.
It’s not just a theory, it’s our reality!
When I consider some of the greatest leaders of our time, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Oprah and the Dalai Lama, to name a few, they all have something in common. They inspired people through sharing their failures and admitting they didn’t have all the answers. These leaders were also openly grateful for the love and support of their circle and thus, attracted more of the same. They knew and understood they had a “village” supporting them on their journey.
Leaders who are aware, conscious, continuously growing personally and professionally, and who courageously ask for and openly receive support are stronger.
- When you ask for support, you maintain focus and energy as the task is shared with others. You create more FLOW making the journey fun and easy.
- When you ask for support, you create opportunities for others to share their gifts and talents. You empower others to shine, and you learn more about others’ strengths and passions.
- When you ask for support, you allow others to experience the happiness that comes from giving. When we give or receive a gift, we release oxytocin, a powerful hormone stimulating bonding.
- When you ask for support, you are trusting in others, which strengthens the trust between you and your supporters.
- When you ask for support, you are stating that you are imperfect just like everyone else and others will relate to you. No one is perfect and everyone has room to grow.
In summary, there is strength in being vulnerable, in being human. We were designed to co-create life changing experiences together.
Who can you ask for support today and give the gift of giving?
For additional inspiration, click here to watch a TEDTalk by Amanda Palmer on “The Art of Asking”.