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The Gift of Giving (and Receiving) Help

The Gift of Giving (and Receiving) Help

From my earliest memories as a child – I have been terrible at asking for help.  Even now, as an adult, it is difficult for me to admit that I am not always right, or that I can’t do it all myself.  I do, however, take great joy, pride and energy from helping others.  It is a real “yin and yang” for me and I think it is for many people, especially as we move through our leadership journey.  Off and on over the years this concept my unending desire to help others and my inability to ask for help has had many consequences and many wonderful moments where I have forged unbelievable relationships as well as learning many hard lessons.

This brings to mind a story from a few years ago….cue the psychedelic back in time music please….

March 2012 - This past week I got to spend 2 – 2 hour sessions with one of the managers from our Public Sector sales team on the plane to and from Austin.   It was yet another reminder that leadership is personal and who we are at all times matters.  I have to admit as I boarded the Southwest flight back to Phoenix – I almost chose not to sit next to anyone I was travelling with - just to down tool, listen to some music and relax.  Instead – as this manager offered to have me sit next to him I sensed that he wanted to chat so I took him up on it.

His opening question as we taxied to the runway was “how do you create a high performance team?” (Clearly he started with a softball question – NOT!)  I asked him what he thought it took – and he said – I think it is about hiring the right people – I just need the right interview questions and that will really help me.  Oh boy…if only it were that easy to create a high performance team!  I won’t go through the whole 2 hour journey but I just proceeded to ask him a lot of questions about who he was as a leader, what he felt his brand was as a leader and what that meant for the brand of his team.  We concluded with what his plans were to be the exceptional leader he wanted to be as well as what help he needed to do that.  He said that he had not really ever thought about asking for help from those around him or above him.  The biggest aha for him was that he was so busy concentrating on helping others that he had spent no time trying to help himself.  It was an incredible journey and discussion and one that I won’t soon forget.  For as much as I hoped that it benefited him – it helped me even more.  I learned a lot during our two hours and maybe more than he will ever know.

I felt that the conversation we had left him very energized and excited but I had no idea how much.  He was waiting outside my office when I came in the next morning and he was chomping at the bit to tell me that our time together had changed the way he thought about things.  He proceeded to say that as a result of our little “session” that he had gone home and had “the best conversation with his wife he had ever had” and that he had gotten up early and worked out and reflected on the treadmill and had the “best workout he had ever had”.  He had a pad of paper with a model drawn out with 5-6 pillars of what a leader needed to focus on or consider to create a high performance team. He said –“I thought that creating a high performance team was about just hiring and interviewing and you helped me understand that it was so much more!”   He was so excited to share it with me and I was excited that he was inspired –if only for that day – about his leadership journey.  I think I helped him and he helped me too – to realize that.... 

"asking for help is very powerful and that making yourself vulnerable enough to give and receive it is a gift if you let the moment happen"

I received a gift from him that I can never repay and it is a wonderful reminder that I need to welcome receiving help as much as I crave to give it.

On a personal note – my 15 year old woke up in the middle of the night with the stomach flu.  As she has blossomed into a teenager – she has shown a lot of indifference to me from time to time.  A typical teen – her mom is a pain, doesn’t understand and for certain – she doesn’t need my help.  Last night, she came into our room in the middle of the night and said Mom – I need help- I don’t feel well.  I was exhausted from a tough week and I was awoken from a deep sleep but the thought of being able to help her had me jumping up and checking on her multiple times during the night.  At one point it was just about sitting on the side of her bed, rubbing her back and just being there while she tried to drift back to sleep.  This morning she was unusually affectionate and grateful and said that she loved me for being there for her all night.  A wonderful moment for me – and reinforcement that while it is hard to ask for help and hard sometimes to make the time to help others – it is a gift.

Leadership questions of the week for YOU:  Why is it so hard for us as leaders to ask for help?  Can you think of a time in YOUR career when a leader you respected asked for YOUR help?  How did it make you feel and what did you take away from the experience?  How can we work with our teams and empower them to come up with plans/ideas to make our business more successful and seek out our guidance and help with implementing them from us?  How can we be open enough to admit and share when these moments of giving and receiving help really makes a difference not only to who we are as people – but how that moves our teams and our business forward?

Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!

Please continue the conversation by liking…commenting or sharing this article. You can also follow me on twitter @marciedwhite

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