Help, I need somebody

The healthy, the strong individual, is the one who asks for
help when he needs it. Whether he has an abscess
on his knee or in his soul.
Rona Barrett


Culturally, Americans have been taught never to ask for help. Sports superstars and celebrities, and even fictional characters like James Bond promulgate the idea of the independent loner who doesn't need anyone. The media portrays asking for help as weakness and failure, and considers it newsworthy when a public figure asks for help. Yet, the reality is most people respect those who recognize their needs and admit they need help. Letting people know that you don't know something or need help makes you authentic—a real person. Those who never admit a need are actually considered fake and insecure.

Leaders are especially prone to denying their weaknesses. Many carry the perception that they have to show "a stiff upper lip" or bury any personal feelings for the sake of the business. They practice being emotionless, neither celebratory in positive events nor sad in tough times. When asked if there is anything that can be done for them, they respond with the obligatory, "No, everything is under control. I don't need a thing."

My mother died when I was leading Epcot. There was no question in my mind that I would share that with people. Many would tell me about their own losses of loved ones, and how they dealt with death. We immediately created an additional bond and deeper relationship. It would be sad to miss that by keeping my loss a secret.

After 9/11, Cast Members would frequently ask me if they could do anything for me. Everyone saw the attendance decline, and the fear of job loss was palpable. I could have said, "No, there is nothing you can do. We have everything under control," but that would have minimized them and not been truthful. Instead, I told them to "go out there and completely 'love on' every Guest that we do have, so they go home and tell all their friends that they have to go to Epcot." I also said "if you see any ways that we can reduce costs while maintaining great service, let me know, because we need every idea we can get." The Guests that came during that time had a fabulous experience, and they did go home and tell their friends. I also had many frontline Cast Members come forward with ideas about how to reduce costs that we were able to implement. Asking for help gets powerful results and builds morale, breaking down walls between people.

If you are asked, "How are you doing?" do you answer the question honestly? I've found a good way to ask that question is to follow it with a 1-10 scale: "How are you doing—1-10, with 1 awful and 10 great?" This is particularly good with teenagers or others who are "self-reliant" and typically give you a "Fine, no problems" response. Most people need a little push and then often give a more honest answer.

Wise people willingly admit their needs in any and all situations. They have enough self-esteem to admit that they don't know everything and can't do it all on their own. They have no problem freely accepting help. Other people can much more easily relate to them and share their own stories of situations when they also asked for help. With surpassing living, asking for help is a sign of strength and builder of healthy relationships.

Action Points
• Recognize that asking for help is a sign of authenticity, not weakness.
• Celebrate good times and grieve tough situations.
• Be honest with people about the situation, and ask them to rise to the challenge.
• Use the 1-10 scale to find out how people are really doing.
• Freely accept help.

Open, honest relationships, much stronger teams, help in times of need

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