Sometimes people confuse accepting help with a sign of weakness. They think if they admit they need help that it means they are less capable and it will appear they are inadequate. This is the ultimate sign of a person’s ego holding them back.
Recently I experienced a person like this. I was talking to a friend who works at a big company in town and they were expressing a problem they were having with a web development project. There was confusion between them and the development shop as to what was supposed to be delivered as the final product. The development shop was asking for more money to accomplish what the client expected to be included in the original project.
This is not an uncommon experience in web development. One of the hardest things to do is make sure at the beginning of the project that both sides understand exactly what is going to be produced. After talking to my friend, I realized that there was a chance this could get fairly messy between the two parties but really it came down to miscommunication. I offered to my friend that I could reach out to the CEO of the development shop and offer to talk it out and see if I could help them all come to an acceptable resolution. After all, I used to be on the CEO’s side of the industry so I knew exactly what he was dealing with.
Having never met the CEO before, I called him at work. I told him that I was calling for two reasons. The first was that I had never met him and I know most of the other CEO’s of web development shops in town and so I thought we could get coffee and get to know each other. I then said that we have a mutual acquaintance – I mentioned the client – and I said that I was speaking to her and realized that there might be a miscommunication on their project and I’d be more than happy to talk to him about it and suggest how the issue might be solved.
He cut me off saying, “I have no interest in talking to you.”
I thought he was going to hang up, but after the line was silent for about five seconds (because I was somewhat shocked), I explained that I didn’t mean any offense and that after talking to the client I could completely see where they were confused. That I was really just trying to help him because I’ve been in his shoes before and rarely did I get an opportunity to talk to a third party who could help smooth it out.
“I said I don’t want to talk to you about it. I have everything under control.”
The fact is he didn’t have it under control – someone calling him and saying what I said should have been his first clue – but he was unwilling to even hear some free advice to help him with a very important client. I could sense immediately that he was defensive, which I can understand at first, but to not be able to get over that and at least listen was pretty shocking to me.
Many leaders are this way. If its not their idea then its not the idea they are going to embrace. And the inability to even listen to someone’s advice – which you obviously don’t have to act on – is disappointing.
Want to be more successful? Take advice when its offered to you. Be humble. And drop the ego.