The three most utilized words in a leader’s vocabulary are, “I need help.” As a leader, it is easy to subscribe to the false narrative that we should always have it all together. We can be expected to be all things, to solve all things, and be available to all things. The pressure to perform can be a heavy burden to bear.
I Need Help
Leaders are a magnet for everything. Problems, decisions, tasks, conflict, bad news, blame, you name it. A lot of little things can add up fast. Exhaustion can set in before we know it. By the time most of us realize it, we are in pretty deep.
People need us, they depend on us. But, there are moments in a leader’s journey where we simply need the help of others. We deeply desire for a peer or someone we lead to step in, to lighten our load. The problem is, others won’t ever know that need, because we fail to verbalize it. We have mastered the art of putting on the facade that all is good in our world.
We are a generation of leaders that have experienced a world-wide pandemic, extreme inflation, unprecedented supply chain shortages, and one of the craziest labor markets ever. All of this within just a three year period of time. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever recover!
When we have reached the point of staring at our computer screen, not sure of which direction to go, we need help. When our aspirations exceed our ability to cross things off the list, we need help. When exhaustion keeps us from being our best, we need help.
Now, if pride keep us from speaking these three magic words, here are two alternatives that will work just the same:
I Am Not That Important
Having trouble saying, “I need help”? Then make this declarative statement to the person in the mirror…”I am not that important.” This simple phrase can set us free.
Our egos supported by fancy titles can make this phrase hard to say. Saying “I am not that important” requires us to humble ourselves. In his book, the Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni says that the Ideal Team Player is three things: humble, hungry and smart. Of these three things he considers humility to be the greatest attribute of a leader.
If we are leading well, we are building a team that devalues our importance. The organization should always continue to function past our busy day, through our week long vacation, and beyond our existence. We just have to come to grips with the fact that we are not that important.
Here is a second alternative. If you are still struggling with asking for help, try this. When someone comes to you with a problem, simply respond with, “You decide.” I heard Andy Stanley say this once and it has always Stuck with me. This is not always easy, but liberating when executed.
A study by Cornell University says that the average human makes 35,000 decisions a day. That sounds exhaustive in itself! As leaders, we are petitioned with other people’s problems. Most of their problems can be solved with a decision…one they end up looking to you to make.
While there are only decisions that we can make as the leader, there are plenty more that we don’t need to make. If we genuinely listen to what is being asked to us, our teams are generally just looking for affirmation. The person just needs to talk it through. They know what they need to do, they just need that affirming support. “You decide” sends them in the direction their instincts tell them to go and relieves us of the burden of ANOTHER decision.
I have written several times on the topic of leaders helping others. This should remain at the forefront of a leader’s priorities. I have commonly said that one of the greatest questions you can ask of your people is, “how can I help you?” This simple question opens the door, so someone doesn’t have to say, “I need help.”
Just as much as leaders fail to declare they need help, we rarely get asked how we can be helped. All leaders are lead by someone. If you are reading this and you follow anyone, take the opportunity to ask that same question upward. For me, some of the best people I have ever led are interested in helping when I need it most. It is appreciated, it is valued, and refreshing.
You can only push yourself so far without help. Eventually, the weight of leadership will do the humbling for us. Relieve yourself of these self-imposed burdens. It’s okay not to be okay. Repeat after me…”I need help.”