Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Leaders can boost performance by relying on others

Think of your missions and goals as many rocks, all with different weights and sizes. We learn very valuable lessons from our failures and travails of trying to roll those rocks uphill alone.

Certainly, there are things we need to do (and can only do) by ourselves. For example, others can’t run a race or swing a golf club for us. They can’t stand in for us during a job interview or hold the brush while we paint. But there are plenty of goals and challenges that can and should be aided by others. There is no badge of honor in doing things the hardest way. The best way is what counts the most.

“If you don’t bring the proper resources to bear, you’ll end up losing,” says Richard Rue, president of The Volare Group, an executive recruiter for Fortune 1000 companies in Silicon Valley. “I was a B2B software salesperson at the time, and I went into my presentation to customers without enough technical resources, people who could have done a great presentation with me.

“I needed a team, and didn’t have a team. It was a mediocre effort and we did not get the business. I think I was naive about my chances of going it alone.”

Rue learned tough and long-lasting lessons about rolling rocks uphill by himself, but he’s not alone. Who hasn’t felt the time-suck and whirlpool of impending disaster, even in the little tasks, when their rock’s weight overwhelms even their strongest solo efforts?

Share the Load!

Smart individuals and organizational/team leaders recognize that it takes helping hands to roll the bigger rocks up to the top of Success Hill in a timely and effective manner. They know better than to go it alone.

Phil Anderson, general manager of DusitD2 Hotel Constance Pasadena, shared a tale from his days as general manager of the Whiteface Lodge, a luxury resort in Lake Placid, New York.

“When I got there, its food and beverage operation was not turning a profit,” he said. “My big rock was being tasked with turning it around and making it profitable, in addition to my other duties. With my hotel background, I have overall knowledge of food and beverage, but I do not cook omelets, trim steaks or bake pastries.

“I hired those professionals, shared the goals, defined what our success should look like and then managed the effort. We turned it around in that first year, but it took many hands all working together to do it. Each person played an important role in getting that rock up the hill. It was definitely a team accomplishment.”

Be Careful: Not All Help is Created Equal

There is a catch, however. With additional help on your rock-rolling team, you can lose some quality focus, or even overall control of the mission itself. Some people who assist you may not really help much. So, choose wisely. And invest the time and resources to train and coach them so that they really do help. Committees especially come to mind here.

I have a 2-6-2 rule-of-thumb when it comes to committees working toward goals. My personal experience is that within a typical committee of 10 people, two do most all of the real work, two never manage to show up for whatever reasons and the other six come in and out of the process as they can.

So, it is very important not to dilute, delay or destroy the goal or mission simply because you’re adding more hands behind the rock. Manage the process, or you will be doomed to have the process manage you.

5 Important Steps

To get your rock to the top of Success Hill, I recommend these steps:

1. Don’t wait too long to decide that you need help. There is nothing wrong with forming what I call “alliance partnerships” to help get the job done.

2. Bring people on board who have the expertise, time and inclination to help move the process forward with you. Train and coach them if needed.

3. Explain up front the rules of engagement, your desired quality outcome, the communication protocols and the deadline.

4. Divide the work up in ways that make sense, utilizing the expertise and talents of your team.

5. Periodically check on things—do not trust autopilot! Hold people accountable for their share of the load, and make sure there is one person who is unquestionably the team leader of the project.

Ultimately, the most important thing to consider is that you own your goal. It’s your mission and your responsibility. Decide wisely whether success can be achieved better as a lone wolf, or if the rock’s load is shared by others. Don’t be sucked down into the quagmire with your rock just because your ego is at risk. After all, the ultimate test is the end product, the end result, the accomplishment.


Gary Hernbroth is chief motivating officer and founder of Training for Winners, a firm he founded in 1995 after almost 20 years in the hotel business. He is a professional speaker, trainer and online/print author, and served on committees for Professional Convention Management Association, APEX, American Society for Association Executives and Convention Industry Council. He also was president of the Northern California PCMA chapter for two terms. For additional information, access trainingforwinners.com.

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