Asking For Help: The Executive Malaise

Asking For Help: The Executive Malaise

One of the most difficult things in business is asking for help. Executives, founders and CEOs tend to pride themselves on independence, on getting results on being “a self starter”. Having a reputation for this is the key to success at a high level, and it’s easy to see why. You start your own business because you prefer to rely on your own resources than on the safety net of traditional employment. You bring executives in because they are an additional resource of expertise rather than because they consume resources.

Unfortunately this can add up to being swamped, failing when tasks get too big for one person and burning out. You need to defy the tendency towards self-sufficiency at all costs and recognise when you need to ask for help. It isn’t a career ending move to say you simply don’t have the capacity and expertise for a particular job. The best employers recognise self-knowledge and the capacity to grow from it as far more valuable than the self-destructive march towards success at the expense of sleep and mental health. If you’re the one running the business, then you’ll enjoy the best results when you identify areas you can’t specialise in and find appropriate support.

Let’s take a look at an example.


The first time CEO of a new start up finds that after landing a big contract they have the revenue to expand. As they’ve got a bigger workforce and the capacity to develop new products and chase new opportunities, they need to hire some executives for the first time. The battlefield has got big enough that they need generals.

As they’ve not hired at this level before, reaching for their existing networks and connections isn’t much help. Trying to rely on what they have means a substandard C-Suite and a set up for short term failure not long term success.

They can instead make a case for using some of this new revenue to retain a specialist firm like Savannah Recruitment. This doesn’t just get them candidates for the positions. It gets the inexperienced CEO an entire business’ worth of experience with recruiting for high level posts. The recruiter will be keen to build a lasting relationship, so the CEO benefits from their insight into the market to help build specifications for the roles they need, interview technique and salary expectations, allowing them to punch well above their weight, and do far better by accepting help than by soldiering on alone

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