I’ve always considered myself fairly independent. As the middle child growing up, I was “always fine” (my mom’s words, not mine). My older brother was born with health issues, and although he lives a normal, happy life now, there were some hairy times for my parents, especially before I came along. My younger sister was your typical “baby” of the family. She was a great kid — super smart and responsible, but born the youngest of three, she couldn’t help but receive extra attention from Mom and Dad. And then there was me. Always just fine.
Because of how I grew up and what I fondly refer to as “middle child syndrome,” I learned to take care of many things on my own. In high school, I had a part-time job, paid for my own gas, kept up good grades, volunteered, and participated in extracurriculars. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had a super support system at home. My parents raised me to do all these things and do them “right” – good grades were expected. I had to maintain a 3.5 GPA (or better) to get the “good student discount” on the car insurance, and if I didn’t, I didn’t get to drive my parents’ extra car. I volunteered because I had the ability to do so, and our family believes in giving back because we can. With the encouragement of my parents, I participated in extracurriculars to become a well-rounded person.
However, I didn’t ask for much help with things. I was often up late studying for AP-Calculus or coloring a sign for the Friday football game because I had worked a shift at the grocery store until 9 or 10pm. Mom and Dad weren’t going to do my homework for me or let me make excuses for not doing it.
The expectation was that you don’t commit to things you aren’t going to do, so if I said I was going to do something, I did it.
The vast majority of the time, I find that this benefits me as an adult, especially in my career. However, as an event planner, I have also learned that sometimes I really DO need to ask for help. When you come across as very independent, people aren’t necessarily going to offer help. My supervisor has said to me “You never need help!” Now, she doesn’t say this in a negative way, but it really made me think. Sure, I don’t appear to need help, but I certainly do! I really noticed the difference when I had help at our company’s 2018 Sales Summit.
I have had several events jobs in my career, sometimes on a marketing and communications team, but more often as a team of one. In both cases, I’ve always been the only “events person.” Because of this, I took what I learned from growing up and continued to be very independent in my work life as well. Sometimes I asked for help, but more often than not, I just did things on my own. I like to be efficient and get things done.
Since I’m accustomed to working this way, it has become VERY difficult to ask for help, even when I know I need it. Am I embarrassed to ask for help? No. Do I feel bad asking for help? Not really. Do I fear rejection — that someone won’t want to help me? Maybe. It’s hard to know what exactly keeps me from asking for help, but I save it for a “last resort” option. Even when people offer to help, sometimes it is hard to say yes. This is definitely a weakness of mine. I’m working on it.
So, back to the Sales Summit. I did ask for help with some logistical issues. At the time, I had a small two-door car and physically could not fit all of the event materials in my vehicle, so I asked a co-worker to load up her car and drive with me to the event venue the day before to drop off materials. On the day of the event, I was sort of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to do 23 things on my own, when in reality, I could not do all of these things on my own. I needed to delegate, so I asked two teammates to take the large poster that needed to be affixed to the ballroom wall and “figure it out.” And they did — no problem! Why don’t I do this more?
I ended up relying on the unexpected quite a bit at this event as well. I had asked one of our IT staff to help set up and make sure the presentations worked properly. I am not sure if he just sensed my stress over the event, but the IT staff member so kindly offered to stay on site for the entire event and oversee all of the presentations. I quickly (and gladly) handed this task off to him, and didn’t have to think about it again for the remainder of the event.
In addition to the event-related tasks I was responsible for at the Sales Summit, I was also asked to speak with other members of the Marketing team at the event. Public speaking is terrifying to me. Needless to say, I was nervous. Quite literally, sick to my stomach, shaking in my boots, kind of nervous. I voiced my thoughts to a couple of female colleagues whom I respect, and they gave me the encouragement I needed. In their client-facing roles, public speaking comes more naturally to them, so I really took the tips they provided to heart. I’m still not sure I did a good job presenting, but I didn’t chicken out like I wanted to, so I consider it a success.
The support that my marketing colleagues provided was fantastic. I am grateful I can delegate to them and know they will just Get. Things. Done. The unexpected support I received from the IT staff and the two female colleagues was a surprise and delight. It has helped me realize that it is not just okay, but SMART, to ask for and accept help. Going forward I’ve promised myself to stop thinking of asking for help as a weakness, and instead consider it a potential strength. I’ve set an intention to practice this whenever I’m overwhelmed, and I’ve asked my boss to keep me in check. As I’m aware of this growth goal, I’m noticing others might benefit from this discovery, too. What about you? How do you lean on your colleagues for assistance in your career? I’d love your tips.
The post I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends (And Coworkers) appeared first on First Business.