‘No Man is an Island’
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne
If there is one thing that every great manager knows, it is when to ask for help.
If there is one thing that every great manager does, it is to ask for help.
Every great manager knows that the sum of their achievements is made up not just of their efforts alone, for no man is an Island
A couple of days ago I was talking to my coach (over a coffee of course). She was delivering a rich blend of coaching and mentoring. I had presented some very important business notes to her relating to a proposal I was preparing. In a manner of moments, she had made an assessment of my presentation and we were reworking it into a far superior draft.
Ever watched an artist/woodsmen turn a tree stump into a sculpture with a chainsaw in fast motion, that’s what it felt like. Notes scribbled in Columns, lines going this way and that, joining words, charts and thoughts. The pages spinning on the polished table top, viewed from every angle, coffee and cake flying everywhere. We had new ideas and vastly improved clarity. All the while she was coaching me on my apprehensions and questioning me to really draw out my knowledge and to force me to test my own assumptions. Sounds amazing doesn’t it. But ‘no so’ – and how so, you may ask?
Anything you can do, I can do better
Let’s face it, most managers like to think they can do everything and very well. In fact, secretly they like to think they can not only do things very well, but they can do them better than the next person. In order to ask for help, we need to accept that perhaps someone can do something better than us. But again, it’s not quite that simple either.
When we ask for help, of course the first thing that happens is our ego gets in the way. “What will this person think of me?” Are they quietly assessing me and wondering why I am even preparing this proposal if I can’t do it by myself.
Like everybody else, I want to be a good manager, and in fact, I like to think of myself as a good manager. But just like you, I have my ego to protect. The ego is the most tender and sensitive part of the human body, it’s an ethereal nerve ending. We carefully construct our own, often impenetrable armour to protect it which very often limits both our personal and professional development. When we ask a question, our ego directs us to ask it of somebody we really trust and who is in our support network, someone who we are confident won’t judge us. This risk averse approach can be to our detriment, often severely limiting our opportunities. When it comes to personal and proffessional development, it’s very healthy to feel vulnerable.When you feel vulnerable, it’s because you’ve taken a risk and it’s only when you take a risk, that there is an opportunity for real personal growth. For further reading, check out my post Shame you don’t have the courage to be more vulnerable. Vulnerability .
Support Networks and Launch Networks
In previous articles I’ve written about support networks, if you’re interested in reading more, then read – Not drowning, just waving. Who’s in your Support Network? It’s one thing developing a support network to support you when you are struggling, and to support you as part of your resilience planning and contingency. However, it is also incredibly important to develop a launch network that helps you determine who best to talk to when you need and want to get the very best outcome. So in very simple terms, a support network stops you from falling, helps you maintain and develop yourself personally and professionally and a launch network propels you forward. In most cases, you may well feel you can adequately handle the job yourself, and you probably can. And you know what else, you probably really want to take all the credit for the work you do – come on, let’s be honest, we all want to do that. But a really great manager doesn’t look for a good outcome, they look for a great outcome – they look for the best outcome.
Listen – Do you want to know a secret?
If you want to know how to get something done quickly and efficiently, assign the task to a lazy person. A lazy person is not hung up on their ego, on how they can do things better than everybody else, on how they can perform testosterone fuelled displays of their work ethic. They are focused on maximising their leisure time. Now I’m not suggesting you hang your hat on being a lazy manager, but I am suggesting that a great manager will determine how best to do every task the most efficient way , who is best to do every task, and finally will be very comfortable in sharing in the spoils of recognition. It’s about now I would ask you to think about how often you hold onto a task so tightly that you suffocate it and then consider exactly why you do it? Be honest with yourself. What value does that add and what does it cost?
Back to the coach and me
When I began my conversation with my coach, I already felt a little inadequate. I wasn’t overly impressed with what I’d managed to develop and was presenting to her. And then, as she sprang into action and I did a very awkward mental half walk/half run gait, like a child does at the supermarket with their mum, trying to keep up and retain all the information that is being imparted, I felt no better. But the truth is, the issue was all mine. There was one thing that I was missing and that was fuelling the ego fire that was blocking my path. It wasn’t until later upon reflection, I realised just what a great job I had done and how much value I had added by knowing exactly who to talk to to get the best results in the most efficient fashion. I could just have easily as laboured away from many hours without any significant improvement, but I didn’t. I was using my launch network.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that knows what you need to know, and then it’s knowing that they know it.
Let’s wrap this up
The truth is I did know my stuff and I did know where I wanted to go with it. The fact that I hadn’t turned it into a masterpiece in the first draft was frankly immaterial. What was important was I had produced a skeleton and I knew where to go to find the flesh. And I did.
Next time your labouring away at a task, berating yourself for your inability to make a breakthrough, battling with feelings of inadequacy, battling with feelings of uncertainty – STOP. Draw on your strengths. One of those will be – Not what you know but who you know. Know when it is time to ask for help and then- Ask for help. That is the best manager you can be.
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork.