The final installment in our series on self-management is probably the hardest one of all for many of us. I know asking for help is not something I do well at all.
Most leaders are quite independent and tend to be self-sufficient. However, one can’t be a leader if they are always alone. And, everyone needs help.
A few years ago I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. Over the next few hours I tried to ease the pain with ibuprofen and stretching. I did everything I could to get some sleep. Nothing really worked. My wife was out of town on business at the time. As the morning progressed, I got my daughters up and off to school and went to my office, all the while in pain. After an hour or so in my office of not being able to focus due to the pain, I decided to go home. I didn’t tell the staff what was going on, I just left. As I was driving hunched over the steering wheel in pain, it dawned on me that I probably shouldn’t be driving in that condition. While sitting at a stop light I finally decided I couldn’t get through this on my own and turned left instead of going straight. The left turn took me straight to the ER. After a couple of hours in the ER I was scheduled for surgery to have my gall bladder removed. That was when I decided to let my wife and staff know what was happening and make arrangements for my daughters after school that day.
Now, I share that story to highlight the absurdity of not asking for help when we need it. Thankfully, what was happening to me was not more serious than it turned out. My wife happens to be a nurse and she has let me know on numerous occasions how foolish my decision making that day was. Those decisions cost me. For one, I ended up paying a lot more for the surgery than I had to due to the fact that I let a doctor outside my medical plan’s network perform the surgery. That would not have happened if I had asked for help instead of trying to go it alone in pain. My pride and stubbornness got in the way.
That is the real issue this series is about after all. Our pride, our stubbornness, our character flaws are all the things that we have to overcome to be effective. In leading others, we must manage ourselves. Sometimes, in fact, more times than we want to admit, that means asking for help.
Have you ever said something along the lines of “if only I had known then what I know now”? You probably have. I know I have.
Well, here’s the thing, there are people who know now what later you will wish you had known. So ask. Seek out those who have been where you are going. Get outside perspective and ideas. Find those that can help you in the areas you are weak or just don’t know.
In my pain, I couldn’t see or think clearly and it affected my decision making ability, yet I pushed through. Wrong choice.
Often, in the moment we can’t see clearly. The pain of the situation, the pressure of the decision, the lack of all the facts all keep us from being able to always know what is best. An outside perspective could make all the difference.
Not to mention, it is much more enjoyable going through life with others. As leaders, we should always bring someone along with us in what we are doing. By doing so, we are raising up others and growing ourselves in the process. The relationships are always more important than the tasks anyway.
I have a friend who is also a pastor and we have a standing agreement to always call the other when either of us is struggling with something or feels unsure or overwhelmed. Not once has he or I regretted making the call. In fact, every time we don’t pick up the phone in those moments, we later acknowledge that we should have.
You need help. I need help. None of us can walk the journey before us alone.