The past few months have been particularly busy and… challenging. I have said an enthusiastic “yes!” to more than I can handle and at first, it was great. Manageable even. But slowly, as it always happens, the plates that I balanced in the air began spinning out of control and one by one, they came crashing to the floor.
There are two things you can do when overwhelm, struggle and stress kicks in. You can:
1. Hide out in bed watching The Office eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or;
2. Apologize, make amends, be honest and find a new way.
Too many people have fear around speaking their truth about struggle — especially as a business owner. If you speak your truth about struggle, you can appear weak and if you delegate work out, you need to relinquish control and adopt the belief that other people will do it like you will (a truly difficult mental block for some people.)
In Peggy Collins’ book, Help is Not a Four-Letter Word, she describes something called “The Self-Sufficiency Syndrome”, which is characterized by an inability and unwillingness to ask for help or delegate because of the belief that no one can do it as well as you can. There are short-term payoffs that self-sufficient people experience such as singular control, approval from others, career enhancement and self-confidence, all of which act as a catalyst for the behavior. Yet, when self-sufficiency is taken to the extreme, the burden of too much responsibility can cause stress, unrealistic expectations, lack of self acceptance and no acknowledgment of personal needs.
If you think you’re alone, I’d like to invite you to read this Inc.com article on The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. Here are some scary statistics pulled from that article:
In the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 34 percent of entrepreneurs–4 percentage points more than other workers–reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers.
So, what can we do instead? We can use a new tool: truth.
An E-mail to Say, “I’m Struggling”
When I found myself in that familiar place of overwhelm, stress and struggle, I wanted to fall back into my old pattern of “ignore-until-you-can-no-longer-ignore-it” but I knew that there was a better way. If I wanted to grow beyond where I was in that particular moment, I needed to find a new way. For me, that meant following my heart, being vulnerable and speaking my truth.
The day I decided to try a new way, I sent the following e-mail to one of our clients:
I want to first take the opportunity to apologize for the delays you’ve experienced recently with your project. It has not been intentional and I’ve been doing some deep introspection to figure out where the “blocks” are on our end.
I also am fully and deeply committed to figuring out how to make this work. I know that we have solutions that you and your company can use and I know that we can help push your business to new heights once we figure out the best way forward.
As I’ve mentioned, I thought a lot about where the blocks exist and why they don’t exist for some of our other clients. This introspection has brought me to a solution and, if you’re willing, I’d love to work toward that as I truly do think it will solve the current “bottleneck” issues.
As it stands right now, most of the work that our company is doing for your company falls squarely on my shoulders. I can’t delegate it away, in many cases, because I am so intertwined within all of it. During our calls we talk about all of the things we’d like to do but all of that work is still work that I need to do for some reason or another (technology used, the project needing strategic work, etc.) and with multiple clients putting me in the same boat these past two months, I’m realizing that a change is necessary in order for this to be sustainable for all of us.
I just hope that it isn’t too late for us to figure out the best way forward and I hope that you’re still excited to work with us. I promise you that I will find the best balance and solution for this problem.
I think the first thing that needs to happen is that I need to build out the team that your company needs specifically. We have a few of the pieces in place but it could be stronger. There are still things that I have on my plate, because I feel like I have to do them due to my expertise and experience, but I am sure there are lots of tasks we can get off my plate so that I can focus on the higher ROI activities with you.
I’m going to work on this solution today and tomorrow and present to you the best way to move forward. I hope that you understand how deeply committed I am to your project and that this is a temporary growing pain as a result of me becoming a very large, very in-the-way “bottleneck” for my company.
I will also still be committed to doing work with you but I know there is a better way for this to flow as clearly, right now, there are blockages in place preventing us from moving through the work so effortlessly as we do with some of our other clients. I see it, I acknowledge it and I am committed to fixing it.
I’ll be in touch before day’s end with both a plan for your work specifically as well as a plan for what I am going to do to get some team members in place who can more fully support these projects.
It was honest, direct and spoke directly to the challenges that existed and what my plan was to overcome them.
Received With Open Arms
A funny thing happens when you get real, transparent and honest with yourself and with others. People receive it and they appreciate it.
My client responded back to me that same day with the following message (check out all of those smiley faces!):
Thank you so very much for taking the time to write this. It warms my heart and means a lot. I love living in the land of finding creative solutions and will be excited for what kind of new possibilities we can cook up 🙂 Know that we appreciate you very much! I also love our calls and think you are an awesome strategy coach 🙂 AND congrats for your business growth and being busy!
And, guess what? That same day I delegated out the work to people on my team, brought on a new team member with a specific skill set that was needed to support that client and the client was happier for it.
What are some of the blocks that you have around asking for support or speaking the truth about struggle? What do you think you can do to overcome those? Let’s start a conversation and get real about struggle in the comments below.