Courage for career women blog

with Vanessa May

How your relationship to support impacts your progress

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Over ten years ago I was in California on a leadership retreat. It was an experiential leadership training with the Coaches Training Institute and whilst I had done their coach training, I hadn’t fully understood the impact of learning in this way.

I was used to academic learning. The pursuit of two different master’s degrees encouraged rationality and having a clear base of evidence. The professors were far more interested in defining the problem or research question than they were in exploring potential solutions. It was a great insight into the importance of defining and clarifying topics. Through this process, I became comfortable with analysis.  

So, you can imagine my resistance to experiential learning. It felt lightweight like I was missing some intellectual understanding. But the truth was it was heavyweight because the learning was in my body and to this day I still remember the sensations and feelings.

My relationship to support was a key learning that I often must remember. One of the exercises required us to be blindfolded and to physically navigate our way out of a situation.  Of course, there was no way out of it until you raised your hand and asked for help. Being one of the slower ones on the uptake of this, I experienced being frustrated, convinced I could figure it out. That thinking slowed me down and had me run around in circles (literally!).

My relationship to support has changed over the last year. When I asked myself the question “who have I leaned into for support in difficult times?” I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I have allowed myself to accept help. I’ve dropped some of the old ways of carrying on with grit and independence and said “yes” when help was offered.

I said yes to many acts of kindness. The help with cooking and hoovering when I was laid up from surgery, borrowing on a friend’s belief in me when I felt at a low ebb, the connection with friends when I wanted to hide out and lose myself in my work and writing.  

It’s these people who have stayed the distance with me through a challenging time and have helped me make it a year of productivity at the same time. There’s no denying I’ve grafted this year. I’ve said yes to lots of new work, I’ve reluctantly surrendered for the four weeks I wasn’t able to work post-surgery and I’ve pushed through the resistance and fear in my writing project. Through all of this, I feel like I’ve been held by an invisible team that doesn’t even know each other.  

This year my word for the year is integrity. As I look back, I can see that joy and fun have been missing elements in my year. 2022 has been a year of navigating turbulence and I’m so grateful that I had Jason Stein to push me to prioritise my own well-being and recovery.  

There’s this phrase that gets bandied around in different contexts, “it takes a village.” I don’t know about a village but what I do know is that it all starts with that willingness to ask and accept help. It’s an act of leadership and it involves the vulnerability to acknowledge you choose not to do it all on your own. 

To be in integrity in 2023, I want more joy and fun in my life. I want to enjoy this journey of navigating the unknown and to get clear on who’s in my support team. I’m asking these folks to call me out when I bury myself in work. I’m asking them to remind me to enjoy the journey and take pleasure in the small steps.

Would it help you to ask for help more?

If so, try this, answer these 2 questions …

  1. Who’s on your support team?
  2. What will you ask them to help you with this year?

And you also get to ask them what they would like from you too!

If you need help building your relationship with support, try starting with a complimentary strategy call.