One of my greatest strengths (and my greatest weakness) is fierce independence. It is my greatest strength when I set myself to accomplish what must be done. It becomes my greatest weakness when I refuse to ask for help. One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are, has this to say:
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going at it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.”
I’ve spoken with many leaders of small to mid-size nonprofits in recent months and noticed an interesting and concerning trend: there are many people with passionate, giving hearts who begin the hard work of starting a nonprofit or social enterprise without doing the necessary personal and professional prep work to equip them and their organization for a sustainable future. Venturing out like this can be an incredible opportunity to learn; it can also create a mess when we don’t get the right help from the right people and places.
I want to pause and give credit to every individual who has embarked on this marathon.
It takes vision and courage to see a need and be willing to do something about it. It takes grit to do it blindly and, “figure it out.” It takes authenticity, vulnerability, and even greater courage to ask for help when we don’t know what to do next.
Developing organizational infrastructure is critical to the long-term sustainability of an organization. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great in Social Sectors says:
“…start by focusing on the First Who principle—do whatever you can to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people into the right seats.”
This process takes great strength, wisdom, and discernment. It will require asking – and listening to – help from those outside your organization.
How and when do you ask for help?
- First, be self-aware. Do what you must to assess your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Second, be willing to have difficult conversations with your team about their strengths and weaknesses.
- Third, Listen. Ask questions so you can understand what strengths are missing in your team.
- Fourth, (and most important), get help from those who have the expertise to take you forward. It may be an Executive Coach, fundraising consultants, business consultants, or others.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is the strongest thing you can do for yourself, and your organization. Take it from me, a fiercely independent woman who has learned (the hard way) to accept help from those who can when I cannot
Keeping it real,