As project managers we are engineered to lead our teams through challenging times, to be the face of strength when times get tough. But what happens when the leaders struggle? When do we as leaders know when it’s time to get assistance? Far too often managers and leaders take on more than they can comfortably handle in a normal workday. Some are built to take on that type of workload but most should not have to.
Recognizing the Need for Help
The biggest hurdle in getting help for many of us is actually recognizing the need for help. Often times we get busy and sometimes the increase is so gradual that we just don’t notice it. Not often do we get hit with an avalanche of work all at once where it’s a clear problem. Maybe on a project you need to spend a little more time because of a higher touch client which increases your meeting time. Maybe you need to spend more time augmenting status reports due to new reporting requirements. Maybe you have some new team members that need more time from you to get up to speed on the project. However it happens, often times we don’t notice the increased workload until it does become a problem.
This can be a humbling experience. A lot of us pride ourselves on our work ethic, and we should – that’s something you should be proud of. But taking on more than you can handle is not being heroic or a day-saver. It’s the opposite – it’s almost irresponsible because by taking on more than you can successfully handle, you’re doing one of two things – either turning in less-than-quality work or you are impacting your health and well being which almost always leads to the former. When the time comes to ask for help, reach out to a colleague or your supervisor. Their job as teammates and leaders are to help you when you need it, just like your job (or part of it anyways) is to help them. Asking for help is such a simple act but the courage and humility needed to do it so often prevents us from seeking it.
Being Part of the Solution
I often tell my team members not to come to me with a problem unless they also have a solution. When you go to someone for help you should also be coming with a plan. While you may not have the authority to execute on your plan you need to be contributing to the solution, not just dropping your problem at the door of someone else to solve. If it’s a workload problem, determine what should come off your plate, why and how it can be done with minimal impact.
Asking for help is such a simple act yet so many of us struggle to do it. Whether we perceive it to be a sign of weakness or one of failure, we owe it to ourselves, our families, our colleagues and our organizations to ensure that we are working in a healthy manner and not taxing ourselves beyond capacity.