One of my biggest challenges is reaching out to others for help. In my career I always felt I had to carry responsibility alone. After all, the buck stopped with me, didn’t it? But over time I began to realise I could achieve much more by tapping in to the people around me. Some people were strong in talents where I was not and so it was always better for us to play each to our strengths. I always encourage clients to identify people who can help them on their journey, and remind myself to do the same. People love to be asked to help, and rarely refuse.
A question posed by Keith Ferrazzi from his book of the same name. When I worked in my corporate role, I could have named perhaps three, maybe four people who I felt “had my back”.
Why does it matter?
Well, when you trust that someone will support you in times of crises, error or distress – you have more courage to take risks, make mistakes and try new things. I haven’t had a lot of those things throughout my career, but the ones I did have, tended to be huge (fail big, right?)! Or perhaps, I was able to manage smaller crises and mistakes without reaching out for help. Whatever the reason, there were, and still are times when I am grateful for those I know will help and support me when I get stuck. And that ensures that I don’t just stick to what I know will work and what I know won’t challenge me.
Today in my business, it is not so clear who those people might be. A recent crisis brought out two strong and wonderful women, one I didn’t know so well, who backed me up and supported me. Would I have put them on a list before that…..no! And that made me think wider as to the people I know and the relationships I have and reconsider the question.
Perhaps it should be – “Who do you allow to have your back”?
Often we don’t think that people care about us, or that we cannot ask for help. However, when we do reach out, we are often surprised by who answers the call. Those obvious relationships are not always the ones who respond, but sometimes it’s those you would not have thought of.
Who are you not inviting in?
Then I considered “who’s back did I have”? In my corporate days, I had the back of a great many people, within and outside of my direct team. People who worked really hard, did good jobs and really cared about what we were trying to achieve. I tried as best I could to support and often defend them because, I believe, that’s what good leaders do.
And now? Again it is not so clear. I have the backs of my clients, friends and family – easy! But beyond that? If someone asks me for help, I will not refuse – but here’s the thing. Do THEY know that?
Do they feel like I might have their back. How do I communicate that? A recent call from a family member made me realise that I don’t communicate it very well.
When you meet people, ask them “is there anything I can help you with right now?” Maybe the answer is “no” but they will know that if you can help them, they have permission to ask.
Whose back do YOU have?
Sadly 60% of people say they feel that NO-ONE has their back (and 50% are married). Note, they FEEL that way. Could it be a case that there are people there for them, they just don’t know it. Or could it be that they don’t allow people to be supportive. They don’t communicate a need or ask for help. As my mum used to say “the worst they can say is no”.
So, here’s an interesting exercise :
Write down the names of the people who you know “have your back”. Ask them if you can help them in any way right now.
Now, think of those who might have your back if you asked them for help. Connect with those people, ask if you can help them in any way right now.
Consider “who’s back do you have”? Do they know you are there for them? Ask if you can help them with anything right now.
Business and life are built on relationships. The more good relationships you have, the better business and life is. It takes a bit of work to nurture authentic relationships, but the rewards are tremendous both personally and commercially.
Knowing and trusting that someone “has your back” will give you the freedom and courage to stretch yourself and become the best version of yourself that you can. Letting people know that you have theirs, will allow them to flourish too.