Ahhhh, remember the days when you did it "all by yourself”? Took your first steps, tied your shoes, hit those multiplication tables and didn’t let the 9s trip you up? Maybe it was when you finally kicked Mom or Dad out of the passenger seat and took the car for your first solo spin.
You did all those things. And you did it all by yourself.
As we get older, however, we still want to do it "all by ourselves," and we remain dead-set on going it alone.
But if you’re trying to do this crazy thing called business all by yourself, you just might be killing your business. All by yourself.
Why We Hate To Ask For Help
Maybe you feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness. After all, we’re each supposed to be an expert in something. Heck, that’s why we run businesses! How would it look if we were asking for help?
Here’s the simple truth: We hate to ask for help because we think it makes us look weak. Because we’re proud. Because along the way, our parents and teachers rewarded us for accomplishing amazing things all by ourselves. Because we somehow got mixed up in a work culture that implies that asking for help is cheating.
All of which is grade A, wholesale malarkey.
Ask For Help (And Look Like A Rock Star)
Asking for help is a grown-up’s game, one that’s been mastered by the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. You know who doesn’t ask for help? Petulant children and arrogant people.
You? You’re smart. And it’s perfectly human if you find asking for help to be a little tough. Learning how to kick that “all by myself” attitude to the curb can make you look like the smartest person in the room. Here's where to start:
1. Lighten your load. As startup business owners, it’s not uncommon to take on more than our fair share of responsibilities. Finances demand it, so be it. But smart business models allow for a distribution of labor as the business grows. Imagine how it would feel to have someone handle <insert thing you are perfectly capable of doing here>. You and I both know you're perfectly capable of doing that task; but by asking for help and not doing it yourself, you’re becoming a better leader, which is what's most important for your business to grow.
2. Become a champion of other people’s strengths. When you ask for help from someone who is better at (and loves doing) the thing you struggle with, you’re allowing that person to live his or her dream. Odds are, you didn’t open your own restaurant to be a prep cook or bottle washer. Asking for help allows other people’s strengths to shine, while allowing something truly crazy to happen ...
3. Enjoy free time! When you ask for help from people who love doing what they do, you can trust it’s being done correctly. This frees up a lot of time—more time than you had when you were burdened with the myth that you had to do everything yourself. Your friends and family will thank you.
4. Lower your stress levels. Asking for help makes you an easier person to be around. Admit it—you get high strung. Bogged down. You become the bottleneck people are waiting on because you can’t get out of your own way. Asking for help reduces stress and makes people want to be around you. Why don’t you step aside? People are waiting to like you again.
5. Learn how to get out of your own way. When you find the wherewithal to get out of your own way, it’s astonishing how quickly your business can change. From losing money to record profits. From low online engagement to social media streams filled with adoring fans. From no time to blog to a blog with its own editorial calendar. Asking for help gets you out of the way and lets others in. Now you can focus on running your business and leading your company, which results in success.
An Exercise In Asking For Help
If you’re still standing proud and thinking that this whole asking-for-help thing is a bit sketchy, don’t worry. You don’t have to jump into the deep end of the help pool and hope you float. Here’s a powerful way to slowly shed the “all by myself” myth and start your business on a path of strategic growth and celebrating the strengths of others.
Assemble a few fellow business owners in your community, and get together for coffee. Here, you can each share one challenge you’re having. Give each person one minute to share his or her challenge. Then allow everyone four minutes to write down ideas that will help them with their dilemma. At the end of that four minutes, pass the idea sheets over to the person who asked the question. Bam! In five minutes, you’ve asked for help from trusted colleagues and received a pile of ideas for slaying your challenge like a mythical dragon—a pile of ideas you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t asked for help.
And the best part? Everyone in the group gets the same amount of time and attention. It’s a completely altruistic way to ask and receive help. No one’s opinion is more important than anyone else’s. No one’s voice is louder. That’s why it’s a writing exercise.
I perform this exercise as a workshop at conferences all over the country. The two pieces of feedback I always get? “Four minutes was too short! I had so many more ideas to share!” and “It was hard to sit there and let other people help me.”
But you did. You let other people help you, and your business is better for it.
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