Unless You’re Dumb as a Rock, Ask for Help!
Barney was dumb as a rock, with a blank stare that said, “ain’t nothin’ behind these eyes!”
Fortunately, Barney wasn’t a sibling, friend or neighbor — he was one of the many cats we have cohabitated with. (I live in Boulder, Colo., and we don’t “own” pets.) He was very sweet, however.
When it came time for Barney to head upstairs to kitty heaven, he went outside, curled up into a ball under a shrub and died — literally took the big dirt nap. I suspect he was in pain, and perhaps we could’ve done something for him if he’d whined or screeched or meowed a bit.
I thought of Barney this morning as I spoke with a CEO whom I respect. He wondered aloud why more CEOs don’t ask for help when they’re in pain. He has an executive coach (not me) and noted that in the middle of this shit storm otherwise known as COVID-19, that coach had numerous clients who’d gone radio silent.
I told him I thought it was “Barney syndrome.” For some reason, animals — including humans who run companies — want to suffer on their own. Perhaps afraid to admit they don’t have the answers to this (or the next) crisis, they shut their office door and worry themselves sick (and broke) before asking for help.
I heard a story on NPR years ago that mentioned that people frequently start choking at meals and run from the table — only to die on their own. That very night my wife and I went to dinner with friends. One of them got food stuck in his throat, jumped up and ran for the restroom. I jumped up after him, primed by the new story, but fortunately he resolved his issue.
It’s OK to admit you’re scared shitless! It’s OK to admit that, even though you have a big title, you don’t have all the answers! Effective leadership and infallible aren’t synonyms; they’re antonyms. It’s OK to say, “I need help!”
If you feel like crawling under a bush right now, perhaps grab the phone instead. Call your brother, a friend, a coach, your mother. Someone might be able to help you or at least shoulder some of the pain.
coaches CEOs to higher levels of success. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000 people. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing).