Lean On Me

Recently I was culling through a number of historical files, and stumbled upon a torn, yellowed article about a man who was a star athlete in a small town in Texas and at 19 years of age was in a tragic car accident.

His 1955 Ford Thunderbird flipped over several times and he was left a quadriplegic – he literally could move nothing below his neck. Typically, the prognosis for injuries like this is not promising – which is what makes part of this story so compelling, and I am quite certain why I kept the article. This man lived to be 73 years old!

He lived over 50 years of his life, flat on his back, with a special pair of glasses with mirrors so that he could see people and things on either side of him. As amazing as this is, the really inspiring part to me was not so much about him; yet, about his mother. His mother personally cared for him for over 50 years – until she was 101 years of age – she was his primary support system. By the way, she died at 105. This is a remarkable and inspiring true story.

Many of us don’t want to burden anyone else with our ‘issues’, and we often don’t want to ask for help for fear of being perceived as less competent. We believe we can go it alone. I don’t agree.

When sharing this story with a friend this past weekend, the impact it had on me, and my desire to highlight this in an article; his question was: ‘Why? What are you trying to get across to your audience of business people?’ Good question. To be honest, the answer is simple: I believe we all need a little extra inspiration right now! Yet, is there a real point beyond that? Yes.

Leaning on each other does not denote weakness; it actually strengthens us and the other person.

It is our pride that often gets in the way of reaching out to others. This is NOT the time to let pride or ‘our old-fashion’ tapes get in the way. Our world is in a terribly distressing state. We are facing catastrophic weather, fires and natural disasters. We have the fear of terrorism like no other time in our history. And on a smaller scale, I have many clients – individuals and companies – who are struggling with declining sales, reducing profits, an aging workforce…..who to keep, who to let go?

Most people feel isolated. They are insecure about the future; which breeds fear, which leads to anxiety and often to paralysing depression. We believe our problems are bigger and more daunting than anyone else’s. Many of us don’t want to burden anyone else with our ‘issues’, and we often don’t want to ask for help for fear of being perceived as less competent. We believe we can go it alone.

I don’t agree.

Certainly, we must take individual accountability for our choices, actions and behaviors; yet, who says we can’t or shouldn’t ask for help? I believe a first step to each person’s individual success, especially in down times begins with an out-reached hand. We each bring unique talents and experiences to the work place (and to life). Leveraging each other’s skills and perspectives will only strengthen our approach and overall offerings. Sometimes it takes an objective view to see new opportunities or offer new insight when too much of what we see are the negatives.

I believe a first step to each person’s individual success, especially in down times begins with an out-reached hand.

A few simple suggestions on how to take the first steps to strengthen ourselves, our team, our organisation or our company, especially in times like this:

  1. Clearly define what success looks like today.Is ‘success’ today the same as it was yesterday? Have our values remained the same? Are they more or less important today? Are our metrics for success the same? Are our short term goals going to lead to achieving our long term goals? Are our sales and operational approaches ‘aligned’ with where we want to be?
  1. Ask and listen to our team, to our customers, to our partners – what is working well, what needs improvement.Given the world today, I assure you, our customers and partners are also facing similar, if not identical, challenges. By working together, and truly listening to our teams, our clients, our partners, and our stakeholders, we can jointly define what our priorities need to be going forward. This is not a ‘new approach;’ yet, I have found that when fear (and often sheer panic) sets in, we forget the basics. We go into ‘react mode’ and deploy the ‘shoot, fire, aim’ approach. Now is the time to listen – more intently than we ever have – to what is needed. Listen internally and externally – and then provide it.
  1. Ask for help and extend a hand.Now the hard part, we must lean on each other. Asking for help can actually build trust within your team, between your clients, and with your partners. When egos get the better of us, and we struggle and often fail – no one is the winner. Showing vulnerability, asking for help, fostering mentorship, and leaning on others with different skills and perspectives, will make an enormous difference. Similarly, extending a hand to someone – or a group of some ones – who can benefit from our help will equally make a difference. “All boats will rise.”

These small steps are the same for sales people and CEO’s, doctors and lawyers, consultants and executive coaches. They are also true for every single individual person, regardless the profession.

Defining and creating what we want (success), listening to those that can affect and contribute to this picture, and then asking for and equally extending help and support – are the basic building blocks for strengthening and enriching our lives. We can pull together, lean on each other – and we will all become stronger for it.

A 19 year old man and his mother set the benchmark, for me, on how to re-define success, listen to what was needed, expose raw vulnerability and extend support – for their entire lives! We have the same opportunity, albeit in a different context.

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As the inspirational leader, Zig Ziglar, has said: “You can have everything you want in life, if you help enough people get what they want in life.”


Young Woman image courtesy Laura Lucia@freeimages.com

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