Asking for help is difficult for anyone, but it’s even harder for leaders. When you’re a founder or CEO, it’s completely normal for investors, stakeholders, employees, and many other people to look to you for solutions. Pride causes many leaders to fake it until they make it, even though they aren’t always sure they have the right answers.
Ultimately, going it alone can have negative consequences on your mental health and the success of your business. If you’ve historically struggled to ask for help — for any number of reasons — it’s time to start reaching out.
One of the rare silver linings of the pandemic is that it has normalized the need to lean on our networks. As the world continues to juggle new employment circumstances, childcare responsibilities, and the requirement to stay socially distanced through it all, neighbors are helping neighbors however they can. There’s no such thing as a “big” or a “small” ask for help — in a sense, all needs are created equal.
Like many people, I haven’t resumed my regular schedule of eating out or having my housecleaner stop by since the pandemic began. I’m so thankful that my mother-in-law lives nearby and is always happy to pitch in, whether it’s watching one of my kids for a few hours or by jumping in on cleaning or cooking while I work or play with my kiddos. Having someone take those seemingly small tasks from your plate to free up your focus and energy for things that only you can do (in my case, giving virtual presentations or helping one of my consulting clients) is actually a huge help.
The sentiment that we can lean on each other extends to the workplace and beyond, where these four support systems are waiting to step in when the going gets tough:
1. Your Team
Leaders are doers, so they naturally take on a substantial share of responsibilities. In many cases, however, companies suffer when leaders attempt to shoulder too much of the burden. Meanwhile, one study has shown that companies with a strong culture of helping have better employee retention, customer satisfaction, and profits.
Thomas Smale, the founder of FE International, explains it well: “You hired people to help you do more and achieve more. Let them. … Trust your teams and the unique expertise they bring.”
One way to make it easier to ask your team for help is by normalizing the process. Host a weekly roundtable where team members can discuss ongoing projects and obstacles that they’ve encountered. That way, people don’t have to feel like a burden when they need assistance.
A good mentor can have an incredible impact on your career, helping you climb the corporate ladder while improving your personal and professional satisfaction. They aren’t only there to help you get ahead, though; mentors can help you reduce anxiety, visualize a path forward, and even cope with psychological challenges like imposter syndrome.
Being vulnerable by approaching a mentor with your fears can be uncomfortable. But trying to seem like you have it all together won’t help you overcome problems — being your authentic self (problems and all) is more compelling and allows your mentor to help you develop real solutions.
And don’t let the ongoing pandemic stop you from forming new connections. While you can’t get together in person, there’s strong evidence that mentorship meetings using videoconferencing tools can accomplish the same thing. In short, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mentor for advice.
3. Entrepreneurship Communities
Being a leader and entrepreneur can be lonely, which is why it’s important to find a network of people who are on the same journey. These individuals know exactly what you’re going through, and they can offer valuable guidance and wisdom based on their experiences. According to a Harvard Business School study, asking peers for help can make you appear more competent and goes a long way toward earning your colleagues’ respect.
According to Corey Blake, founder and CEO of Round Table Companies, admitting we don’t have all the answers can be challenging. “It was for me,” Blake said. “But that refusal slowed my learning. As a result, it delayed our company’s growth. Asking for help from other leaders with aligned values not only helps us solve current issues but also paves the way for opportunities we could not have strategized.”
I define superfans as customers or collaborators who advocate on behalf of your company merely because they have a strong belief in your product or service. They aren’t interested in any form of payment or compensation. Instead, superfans share real and organic opinions in the hopes that the people around them can derive the same benefit from your company that they enjoy.
Superfans are an excellent support system to tap into because they have already identified what makes your company great. Rely on them for unique insights, and embrace their favorite things about your brand if you’re struggling to communicate your business’s value.
Someone around you has likely experienced just about any struggle you might be facing, and their insight can help you navigate the situation far more easily than you might manage on your own. Lean on the people around you when times are tough, and you might be surprised at the wisdom that emerges.