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Lessons from the sun lounger

Lessons from the sun lounger

by Moyra Mackie on September 6, 2013

How do you feel asking other people for help?

What happens if you’re struggling to find your way and GPS or a plain old-fashioned map fails you? Do you hesitate to ask for guidance?

Or perhaps you’re not physically lost, but you feel out of your depth or overwhelmed? Do you reach out and ask for help or continue to struggle?

To the eternal embarrassment of my teenage sons I have no problem asking strangers for directions, no matter where I am in the world.

I’m afraid of asking for help in other ways


If you’re a regular reader, you will recall that I decided that it was OK to take a break from writing for the month of August.

The next step was to ask other people if they would mind writing a guest post.  And this is where I hesitated.  Here were my thoughts:

  • They might not want to give up a considerable amount of time when they are busy
  • They might not want to write a blog post at all, time or no time
  • They might not want to write for this fairly new blog site when they have bigger followings of their own

In other words they might say “no”.

I hesitated to ask for help because I was afraid of rejection

I knew why I was doing this.  Dr. Taibi Kahler identified the five common drivers that motivate us to:

  • Be Perfect
  • Be Strong
  • Hurry Up
  • Please Others
  • Try Hard

In reasonable quantities, these drivers – which we receive in messages from parents and teachers when we are children – are effective in creating functioning and successful adults. But we run a constant risk of taking these messages too far, which causes stress and ineffective attempts at coping.

In my case I was overdoing my “Be Strong” driver and was coping by avoiding appearing weak.

The authors of the book Change, in the photo above, would see my solution as a problem:

“We find that in deliberate intervention into human problems, the most pragmatic approach is not the question WHY but WHAT? That is, what is being done in the here and now to effect change?”

What is needed is re-framing

Sheri Spencer, who wrote for me on Energy Leadership, and who is a fantastically insightful and talented coach once asked me:

“How could you re-frame your goal so that whatever reaction you get, you will still succeed?”

So I changed my goal from “getting someone to write a guest post for me” to “having the courage to ask someone a favor and risk rejection”.

Each time that I asked for help, risked rejection and didn’t get it, I gained confidence

Especially when Sheri said, “it would be an honor”.

An honor to give up her time? To wrestle with a style of writing she was not familiar with?  Who knew?

This feedback gave me the confidence to approach the person who I was most afraid would say no

With a busy job in an investment bank, a young family and a successful blog site all of his own, why would John Stepper write for me?

So I asked if he could “lend” me a post.  One he had previously published.  Recycled help, if you like.

But he insisted he’d write something original. He offered more than I had asked for.

In their different ways, all four guest writers offered more than I asked for

In addition to their time they gave me their trust

None of them asked to check the uploaded posts ahead of publication and all gave me permission to edit freely.

Not to mention the fact that Paul Jenkins gave up his evening to wrestle with WordPress in order to get two pictures of Tiger Woods to align properly.

What I learnt most of all is best summed up by David Maister in The Trusted Advisor:

“The most common failure in building trust [at work] is the lack of intimacy…We fear being ridiculed or failing, or losing respect or any of a thousand forms of emotional loss. Intimacy is the act of risking that personal loss.  It doesn’t have to be private, it just has to be personal.  To risk something personal is to say that we are willing to increase the level of intimacy. It may or may not be reciprocated, but it’s worth the attempt.”

It’s worth the attempt because you cannot fail – you either demonstrate courage and get rebuffed or you demonstrate courage AND build greater trust.

So what could you ask for help with and what would you stand to gain?

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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