Leaders Can Accept Help. Right?

Leaders Can Accept Help. Right?

Let me give you some context for this post. About 16 months ago, I was struck with mysterious, and often excruciating, pain in my hip area. This made it very challenging for me to walk, to stand, to sit, and ultimately to do most of the everyday things people take for granted.

(I had surgery five weeks ago to fix this …that’s another story)

I wanted to give you that little bit of context so I could share with you one of the biggest challenges I have faced over the past year. It was simply this… there were a lot of things that used to come really easily to me, which I was no longer able to do.

In fact, one of the most impactful ones was that I was no longer able to put on my own shoes and socks. Actually, that’s fairly confronting. It’s such a simple thing, and yet I couldn’t do it anymore because of the pain, and being unable to reach my feet.

I would get all these offers of help from my family, from my children in particular, and I would say, “No, no. I can do it.” Because well, I’ve been putting on my own shoes and socks for decades. It was really hard to accept their help. I felt embarrassed and, if I’m honest, a little humiliated that I couldn’t do such a simple thing like put on my own shoes and socks. I wasn’t able to do something that people with less experience, and less skill could do. I mean, I was the one who taught them how to tie their shoelaces!

Accepting their offer of help initially felt like I was giving my power away, and my independence away. That I was no longer being the parent, being the leader, in our relationship.

Eventually, it became impossible for me to put on my own shoes and socks. So, I accepted the help and my kids would take turns putting my shoes and socks on for me whenever I needed to go outside or get ready for work.

What I observed about myself in facing this situation were a few notable concepts about accepting help as the leader.

Firstly, once I’d made that decision to accept their offer of help, I recognised it was a choice that I made. I wasn’t giving my power up at all. I was making a choice that was good for me, and it was good for my team, the people around me. Because rather than them being anxious, wanting to help, and me saying, “No, I don’t want your help,” my children were able to help and support me.

And you know what happened? The process went much more quickly. The kids were much quicker at putting my shoes and socks on me than I was at that point in time. What that meant was that we could get that little task done, and then get on to the important stuff. I think as a leader, sometimes we can get really caught up in ourselves, and we can forget the big picture, the important stuff. So when someone offers us help, it can be a really good idea to get over our own egos and accept it so we can get back to doing the important stuff. It doesn’t make us less of a leader, it simply means that we’re making choices that work for us and for our team.

Another thought about accepting help from the people around you is recognising they offer it because they want to help. They have a care factor, they sense that it’s important, or that it’s an obstacle that’s getting in the way of something important. When you say, “No, I don’t want your help,” you’re limiting the way that they can contribute, and you’re also dismissing that care factor … which is not great for building engaged, motivated teams that want to offer their ideas and effort. So, accept their help.

As the leader, you don’t have to do everything yourself. As the leader, you don’t have to be the best at everything. So, at a point in time, if you need some help and someone is offering it to you, I really encourage you to accept it. That’s what being part of a team is about. We do the things that we’re capable of doing in the best possible way at that point in time. And, we work together, not in isolation.

You know, being a leader can be lonely sometimes – whether you’re the leader at home, work or elsewhere – but we don’t need to deliberately isolate ourselves. Accepting help is another way of being part of the team,  and also acknowledging the way that the team supports us in our leadership.

What I also realised when this was happening that it’s actually really nice for someone to look after you, to take care of whatever your needs happen to be at that point in time. It may seem like a small thing, putting on my shoes and socks. But you know what? It was kind of essential. It was essential help that I needed, and I needed to make the positive, proactive choice to accept that help.

The same applies at work. I remember years ago I resisted getting help from some of my more experienced colleagues. Who knows why….probably my big ego got in the way. Then it dawned on me that their help was essential. I couldn’t deliver without them and their teams supporting mine. They cared about the outcome, and they cared enough about me to offer me help so I wouldn’t crash and burn on this project.

Sometimes we do need to lead ourselves to water, and we need to make ourselves drink because that’s what’s good for us. That’s another part of being a leader. We need to recognise when something’s good for us and take advantage of it. So if someone’s offering us help, and it will be good for us, then take it. Accept it. Be the leader. Step up. Use it. Because it’s valuable. And be gracious about receiving the help.

So, there we have it. It’s okay to accept help as the leader. In fact, it’s better than okay. I would really encourage you to consider right now who is offering you help. Who is offering a contribution you’re not making the most of, that would really help you?


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