How often do you ask for help?
I know you offer help. As a leader, helping and serving are part of the job.
But I find most leaders aren’t as open to receiving help.
Why is that?
Let me give you an example that still feels too close to home…
It seems everybody in the world made fun of my Atlanta friends and me during the 2014 Snowpocalypse. I can’t blame them. It looked like a snowy scene from The Walking Dead. I can’t imagine how bad an actual zombie invasion will make traffic! Even though I was stuck in the mess for 7 hours myself, I found it slightly funny, too (but only after I made it home the following day).
After driving for 7 hours, I realized I was not going to make it home. As I began to evaluate my options, sleeping in the car became the most logical choice. In a moment of divine intervention, my wife remembered she had just made a friend who lived close to where I was currently stranded. She called and asked one of the weirdest questions of her life: “Can my husband spend the night at your house?” Luckily, I’m a pastor and this family attends our church, so the “don’t you want to help your pastor” is hard to resist.
When my wife called back with the good news. I was thrilled to avoid my pending car camping experience, Yet I also felt a twinge of frustration. It took me a moment to discover why.
Initially, I pinned my frustration on my 7-hour white-knuckle snow and ice driving experience. Seemed logical. That was frustrating, but what I felt was deeper. And then I realized my issue:
I HATE asking for help.
I do not mind helping. I enjoy it, actually. It’s satisfying, rewarding, and what people should do. But accepting help is a much different experience. In my snow-stuck position, I had no choice. As I slid down the mile-long hill that led to their home, I psyched myself up to accept their help.
This sweet family provided me with dinner and a bed (and a bathroom!). Laying in their kid’s twin bed, attempting to fall asleep, I realized accepting their help was beneficial on both sides of the helping coin.
Helping Helps You and Them
1. FOR ME
Accepting help required humility, and nobody has ever possessed too much humility. Pride is the reason we don’t ask for or accept help. At least it’s the reason I don’t. When you find yourself in a position of dependence, it forces you to face the ugly pride in your heart. When I felt the tension of accepting help during the storm, I quickly realized all the tension stemmed from pride. I didn’t want to accept help because I didn’t want to need help. That’s pride.
But, accepting help really revealed how much my drive for independence pulled me away from one of the basic tenants of humility. I’m grateful for this lesson.
I’m a year and a half into my new coaching and consulting venture. It’s been a blast, but it also has required humility and dependence. Several people have stepped in to help me get started. Some friends hired me to consult with them. Others like Jeff Henderson and Tony Morgan gave me great advice (and still do!).
I needed their help. We all need help at times. When we accept this reality, we humble ourselves to receive. Asking for help exercises our humility muscles.
2. FOR THEM
But there is another side to the helping coin. Accepting help helped my helpers. People like to help, and refusing help takes away their opportunity to help. As much as I hate receiving help, I enjoy providing help. When I refuse to ask for help, I deny others the opportunity to help.
My snow and ice storm experience reminded me of this truth. Walking out the door of my savior’s house the next day, I thanked them repeatedly, but I couldn’t out-thank them – and I tried a few times. I’ll never forget their final comment as I got back to my car: “Gavin, thank you for allowing us to help.” Not, “Gavin, thank you for staying.” But, “Gavin, thank you for allowing us to help.” I think they meant it. Helping others helps us.
As a leader…
Everybody needs help from time to time. This includes every leader. There are moments our job demands skills we don’t possess. There are times when we are simply ill-equipped for the needs of the day. When you find yourself in need of help, don’t allow your pride to get the best of you. Humility acknowledges our humanity. Humility allows us to ask for help and, in doing so, allows our helpers to help themselves, too.
Where do you need help? Every leader is capable of some things, but not everything. If strategy, change, or systems is a gap in your natural leadership, perhaps we should talk. For most clients, I serve as their organizational strategic advisor. Send me an email if you’d like to connect.