I held a half day Say Yes! Improvisation training this week for some leaders at a nationally recognized ad agency. I had spent significant time planning the activities, putting together the powerpoint, gathering the materials, making sure the curriculum included lots of debrief time, as well as an abundance of focused fun-for-a-purpose. But the Agenda was tripping me up.
Human beings are notoriously awful at gauging how much time activities will take – even when we’re just going about our own daily To-Do’s. The challenge is amplified when having to estimate times for group activities & debriefs. I find myself struggling with this element in a way that can truly impact my effectiveness.
So finally, with this training, I asked for help. I decided to run an 11th hour condensed talk-through version with my husband (since, at 9 PM, he was the only one I could ask!). Rob was very helpful in giving me a more realistic sense of time. I could rearrange the schedule, make some of the planned activities optional, and come up with an agenda that felt more manageable.
Getting assistance and input from another set of eyes was valuable in this instance as it encouraged me to:
- Prioritize the value of each activity: Even if it was highly effective last time, does it really speak to the desired outcomes for this specific group?
- Factor in a realistic amount of time for discussion: I tend to shortchange this element, but if an interesting discussion takes place (and if the group is engaged, it will), I’m not going to want to cut off the exchange simply to get to the next planned activity.
- Own my resistance, and get past my internal mythology about having to do it all myself.
- Know that often times, it is a gift to other people to be asked for help and remember that I have enjoyed the feeling of usefulness when people have asked for mine.
I’ve become aware, that oftentimes, when I reach out for help, it’s because anxiety is giving me a brain cramp and preventing me from solving the problem myself. I’ve found that when I’ve sent that HELP email or placed that call, something in me relaxes and it becomes clearer what I have to do. And I’ve often been able to solve the situation myself. Then I have to send the obligatory “Sorry Never Mind” email. I know I’m not alone in this, as I’ve been on the receiving end of Sorry Never Mind emails myself. They make me smile as I know exactly the sheepishness the other person feels.
When considering whether to ask for help, a recent Harvard Business Review tip sheet advises these considerations:
- Before asking for help from busy colleagues, make sure you set up the situation efficiently. This means making sure you have done whatever homework you can to solve the issue yourself.
- Also having a way to provide context for whomever you are reaching out to.
- Additionally, make sure you have an efficient way to capture the most important elements of your help session so that you don’t have to go back and ask for the details you may have missed in your initial meeting.