By Michael Gunther
I don’t know about you, but in the past I’ve had a hard time asking for help with my business. It’s kind of funny since I’m a management consultant and people hire me to help them with their businesses. But the reality is I had the same fear as many people often do. How would sharing my own fears impact people’s perceptions of me and my abilities? Would it be a detriment to my business as opposed to a benefit?
Maybe that fear came from living in a society that tells us asking for help is perceived as weakness. Or maybe it was because I have helped hundreds of businesses grow, and as an expert, I believed I should know what to do. I would always think of the old saying, “a cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” the concept being that even though he had the skills and knowledge to build shoes, he was so busy building shoes for others that he didn’t have the time to build shoes for his own family.
I have to believe this self-reliance in part stemmed from growing up in such a large family. There were so many of us—17 children—we each had to rely on ourselves early in life in order to thrive. It didn’t help that my personality (according numerous personality assessment tools) is a ‘pleaser.’ I never wanted to inconvenience anyone by asking for help, and it’s now very clear how limiting those perceptions can be.
A few years back something occurred to me. Many of the most successful leaders I knew or admired had trusted advisors. They had confidants at their sides to comfortably share their fears, insecurities or uncertainties, as well as communicate ideas and opportunities—no matter how crazy or seemingly far-fetched. They were the ultimate self-learners.
I always considered myself a ‘learner,’ constantly seeking out knowledge to improve myself and my company. But I began to understand that I was missing a key component of a true ‘self-learner:’ the ability to admit that sometimes I needed help, and that I didn’t always have all the answers.
After much thought and reflection, I finally said to myself, “Self, it’s time to change your perception.” I began my quest to locate a coach or mentor. I asked many respected leaders for suggestions and met with several candidates, but nobody I believed was the right fit for my needs and personality. I knew from my own practice that finding the right fit between consultant and client was crucial to the success of the project.
Finally, I met a gentleman named Ed Cox. Ed owned a family consulting practice, and had a background in psychology. He had exceptional interpersonal skills to identify issues and behaviors that prevented people from achieving their goals, and he never judged anything I shared. Most importantly, we clicked.
I saw myself beginning to grow as a leader again. In fact, asking for help and applying what I learned had a positive impact on my business as well. I think I had fallen into the trap of being the ‘cobbler.’ Working with Ed made me realize it wasn’t just about having a willingness to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, but a desire to change my behaviors to achieve my ultimate goals. This is such a simple concept, but self-reflection can be challenging. It can also, more importantly, lead to tremendous growth.
The Bottom Line
The most successful people surround themselves with individuals they admire and can easily access to share different skills, knowledge, and ideas to assist them in achieving their goals. Who do you have on your team? True strength is not just realizing what you do not know, but understanding where to find the answers.