I’m not drowning – no, no, I’m just waving – nothing to see here, move along thanks.
There you are on your first day as a life guard, heading out to a swimmer who’s waving and indicating they’re in trouble, when you find yourself struggling with the swim, cramping up, getting dragged out by a rip, wondering nervously about what’s swimming around in the murky depths below you. What do you do, do you call for help, or do you go it alone? Do you risk not only yourself but the person you were charged with rescuing? Are you staring down a disaster? The best case scenario, you get through this and no-one is any the wiser, but what happens if you face this scenario again tomorrow? Can you go through this again?
Maybe this is an extreme example, but it is a situation we can find ourselves in both in our personal and professional lives and very often when we begin a new role. How often have you been given a responsibility that feels like more than you could handle?
What’s the plan? Let’s get our support network in place right now.
I am suggesting:
- we see our support network as an integral and essential aspect of our professional development and so we plan for it right now.
- we identify and establish this support network proactively in anticipation of challenges and opportunities we will almost certainly face in the future.
- we are conscious of “not knowing what we don’t know” and preparing now for what we don’t know we need.
I wish I had had this insight when my career began. I am currently completing my accreditation in Executive Coaching and I have had a coach myself for more than 12 months. I wish I had had one for the last 20 years. It has been a huge help. A support network is crucial in building resilience. Who should and can you turn to when the action hots up and things aren’t going according to plan. Check out my posts on resilience ( What, you have no Resilience? & Pick yourself up and dust yourself off).
Asking for support can be a very difficult thing to do for many of us. It is incredibly important to be able to recognise your capabilities, your competencies and most importantly, your potential. Asking for support is a way to extend the limits of your boundaries on all of these, as your support person adds their strengths in your aid.
No, no, I am ok. No problems, thanks anyway.
Why are we reluctant to ask for help and support?
There are many reasons why we prefer to suffer in silence, or let great opportunities just slide on by whilst we smile bravely and wave longingly like parents seeing our child off to university from our front gate.
Regarding Gender. Men are from Mars and Mars is where asking for help is a sign of weakness. Men need to be brave and strong. Women are from Venus, and Venus is where there isn’t anything you can’t get done in a day and by yourself and no one needs to know about it.
Sowing the seeds of doubt. Accepting support can mean opening up the door for others to doubt you. Are you really up to the job, do you really have the time, are you really interested passionate, committed, etc.?
Life wasn’t meant to be easy so just suck it up and soldier on. Yep, this is my lot in life, I am just a battler, we’ve always been battlers and I just have to accept it.
That’s not how we do things around here. Cultural and social norms are often limiting when it comes to seeking help. How acceptable is it to say you have made an error, or you don’t understand.
Perfectionism. No one else could possibly get it exactly right; I can’t even get it exactly right myself. I’ll just do a bit more myself, or I’ll do it all again. Perfectionists are very inclined to go it alone and suffer the associated stresses. For more thoughts on that check out my post (No, this isn’t finished and never will be).
The Alumni of the school of hard knocks. Are you part of the Alumni? Did you learn everything the hard way and that’s what made you the self-made person you are today? Well you’re going to expect the same from those around you and you sure as heck are not going to break a successful cycle, put your hand up and wave for help.
Frankly, none of these are particularly good reasons for not seeking help and support. Think about when you have been reluctant to ask for help/support and really examine the reasons why.
Help/Support and Professional Development
There are many compelling reasons for seeking support, but not the least is the overall strategy relating to your professional development. How do I get from here to there, in the most effective and comfortable manner possible, using all the available resources to me? Here are a couple of other important reasons why it’s good to seek support.
Learning Compassion. Compassion is a very important trait in a leader and in a team player. In fact it’s an important trait in anyone who is part of a community. To learn the skill and behaviour of compassion, you must walk a mile in another person’s shoes. If you can’t ask for help and have many biases relating to seeking help, how can you really give freely, genuinely and compassionately of your time and energy to someone else?
Building trust. People trust people who are open and honest and can comfortably admit their limitations and share in their journeys whether they are trials or successes. Sometimes not asking for help can be a selfish behaviour, as you carefully guard your opportunity for fear of sharing.
How do I get Help? How do I plan help as part of my Professional Development Strategy?
Great question, I am glad you asked for help – it so happens I have some thoughts. We are very lucky in the modern workplace to have many resources available to us and without prejudice. Really, you are largely limited by your own willingness to plan and ask.
Coaching – is a great resource for helping fossick for your potential. If you think you could do more, do it better, and you’re keen to get going, then get a coach. They’ll stretch you while supporting you.
Mentoring – If you need more information, if you have some challenges or opportunities and you want ideas and advice on how to get to your end goals efficiently, then connect up with a mentor. Even if your company doesn’t have a program, do a little research, find out what it’s all about, work up a profile of a mentor you need then go find one. There are plenty of experienced people in every company with a strong desire to help. More info here (To be or not to be, Mentor or Mentee?).
Networking – Keep building your network of friends and colleagues. Take up opportunities to meet new people formally and informally. Be prepared to give and you’ll receive. Make a mental note, or if you prefer, a written plan of whom you can talk to on various challenges and opportunities. He is great with people, she is great technically, she’s a great negotiator and people are inspired by him.
Training – Continually review your competencies, how they match to your role and to your development plan and keep relevant training on the radar. Training is also a great place for network building.
Collaborating – Look upon your professional development as an act of collaboration: giving and receiving help for greater benefit. You are working together with your network to achieve your goals and the goals of those with whom you network. Collaboration is a great way to expand and strengthen your support network.
Delegating – Give someone else a go for goodness’ sake. Delegation is not all about finding your worst and most undesirable task and giving that to the person you least like – awarding them with it with a smile. Again, it’s about collaboration. Create opportunities for yourself by creating opportunities for others.
OK, its time to get planning. Even if it’s just a note in your journal with a few headings and some names attached to each. Identify some areas in your professional life where there may be opportunities to do things better, reach some resolutions on stale challenges, tidy up some mistakes, eliminate some procrastination – then give yourself the go ahead to seek help and support. And lastly, be conscious of signals from others and give freely of your time to help and support others.
What support do you have in place or will you get in place having read this article? Where is your support in your home life or personal life, and where is it at work?