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Admitting That You Need Help

Admitting That You Need Help

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

~Benjamin Franklin

I recently got a call from an entrepreneur saying he had wanted to call me for more than five years but only just got around to it. When I asked him why he waited so long, he said he just did not know how to ask the right questions. In essence, because he had not been able to define the problem exactly, he had suffered through it for more than five years.

Defining the problem is obviously important, but when you are unable to do so, you cannot let that keep you from getting much-needed assistance. Sure, calling in a consultant costs money, but they are generally able to see the problem and its solution more clearly and more quickly because they are not blinded by the history and people in your organization.

In another case, a law firm having morale issues procrastinated calling me because they thought they could find a solution on their own. However, they were just too close to the problem to be objective, and they lost three great staff members because it took them too long to reach out for help.

In both these cases, the firms held back, not because of what a consultant would cost them, but rather because of the owners’ egos. They thought they could solve their problems without assistance.

Related Article: Are You In It Alone?

Ego can be an important advantage when running a business, but it can also get in the way when it comes time to ask for help. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is admitting that you just do not have all the answers and that you are willing to listen to another person’s suggestions. This takes courage.

No one—no matter how good they are at what they do—has all the answers.

Running a business is just too complex for any one person to possess all the knowledge needed to solve every problem. Anyone who thinks they do runs the risk of hurting their company like these two business owners did.

Over time I have observed that the managers or entrepreneurs who are always asking others for help with their problems are the ones who are doing well. These business owners are proof that it is not weak to reach out for assistance. In fact, it shows an understanding of one’s own limitations, which is realistic and a sign of strength.

If you are one who has always felt that needing help shows weakness, you just need to change your mindset. Knowing when to ask for help is a skill. It may take time to change your thinking—especially when it comes to the big things. So I suggest you start developing this skill a little at a time by asking for help on non-critical issues. Once you start this, you will quickly learn how neat it is to have others help you make decisions.

Now go out and make sure that when you are having difficulty—or better yet, when you think you might have a problem in the future—reach out for help.

You can do this!

Published: January 22, 2016
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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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