Why Leaders Don’t Ask for Help

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I was in Baltimore a few months ago, attending a conference for diverse suppliers. Apparently, as a woman-owned business, my company qualifies as a diverse supplier. My mandate was to find and network with procurement officers of mammoth companies so that I could introduce them to our speaking and coaching programs in the hopes that they would be moved enough to uncover a relevant need in their organization.

Trying to find the right person amidst a sea of 500 individuals and hit it off in just the right way was a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Over the course of the four days, I did my best to pound the pavement and put my best foot forward. While I met a LOT of people and had many conversations, for some reason I did not feel like I was making significant progress.

On the last day, at the last hour, things took a turn.

As I was leaving my hotel room to head to the convention center for the final tribute dinner, I noticed another woman leaving her room a few doors down as well. I also noticed her badge: Pitney Bowes. I asked, “Are you heading to the convention center?” After she nodded that she was, I introduced myself and we started walking together to the elevator. And we started to talk. She was the VP of Supplier Diversity. Fantastic!

She asked about my business and I eagerly told her that I own an executive coaching company called Frame of Mind Coaching™. I explained that the way that people typically learn about us was through speaking engagements.

She seemed very interested and asked a number of questions. I told her about our journaling process and our focus on how leaders think. I got the impression that, beyond her company, she was curious about coaching on a personal level. I gave her a copy of my book. We were definitely hitting it off. I felt like I had found that needle in the haystack. By then we had arrived at the convention center, and I asked for her card. She pointed to her lanyard and asked me to take a picture because it was her only remaining card.

I happily took a picture and we continued chatting.

The next moment, she was approached by a young woman who pointed to the ground and said, “Excuse me, I think you dropped something. Is that your business card?” It was.

And it was at that point that the VP of Supplier Diversity for Pitney Bowes took a huge breath and ever so slowly squatted down to pick up her card. She was clearly in a great deal of pain. It was written all over her face.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m OK, I just have a horrible back ache. I am not sure what happened, I think I pulled a muscle,” she explained.

“Oh no! I could have gotten the card for you!”

And that’s when I looked around and noticed that we were surrounded by HUNDREDS of people — hundreds of people who were ready and able to bend down and pick up the card.

But she did not ask for help — even when help was so readily available. She chose to suffer silently instead.

She is not the only leader who is not comfortable asking for help.

This is a common theme that arises for the hundreds of leaders who we work with every day. It’s not only that leaders are uncomfortable asking for help, they often don’t even think of it as an option.

Why is that? Why do leaders struggle to ask for help?

Let’s explore some of the possible reasons…

It Demonstrates Weakness

There’s no one to Ask

“It’s my Responsibility”

“I’m Supposed to Have all the Answers”

It Requires Vulnerability

“I’m Supposed to do it on my Own”

There are probably another 60 reasons that I could list that might explain why leaders are not comfortable asking for help. What they all have in common is that all those reasons are borne from a set of beliefs that state that asking for help reflects poorly on them. These kinds of beliefs drive behavior that keeps them trapped in going it alone, suffering in silence and carrying the load on their shoulders unaided.

Interestingly though — these beliefs are all fabrications that get in the way of massive productivity, efficiency and performance.

The Costs of NOT Asking for Help

Risk of Failure

Reduced Intimacy

Lack of Information

Slower Growth

Exhaustion and Burnout

Are You Comfortable Asking for Help?

Written by

Kim is the President & Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ & JournalEngine™ Software, an executive coach & a supermom of 5. https://www.frameofmindcoaching.com/

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