Independence, autonomy, and self-reliance are states we all strive to achieve throughout our careers. Micromanagement or a dependency on others creates strong feelings of disempowerment, often resulting in disengagement and reduced motivation. But can you have too much self-reliance?
I’ve spoken recently with several clients who are struggling to balance their own independence with their need for support from their colleagues. While they are generally self-reliant by nature, they are currently in work situations that require more insight and information than they currently have access to on their own. Asking for help, however, feels uncomfortable. They don’t want to “bother” their co-workers. Or their boss is stretched too thin to handle additional requests.
Instead, they try to complete everything on their own. And in the process, they lose a lot. Here are three areas that suffer when you choose to do everything independently.
It’s not efficient to do everything yourself. You are surrounded by resources that have information that you don’t have. Why waste time researching when you can ask the colleague next to you?
You were hired to your role to add value. Reinventing the wheel is not value-added activity. Leverage your resources instead.
If you’re uncomfortable asking questions or seeking support, you can’t be sure that you have clear expectations. How do you know if you’re moving in the right direction? How can you be sure that your work is hitting the mark?
Without clear information, the quality of your work is at risk. Ask questions and socialize your ideas with others to increase your confidence and improve your results.
If you’re too self-reliant, you deprive yourself of an opportunity to build professional relationships. Relationships develop through the natural give and take that comes from supporting each other. When given the opportunity, most people want to help those around them.
If you never ask for help, others won’t have an opportunity to help you, nor will they feel comfortable approaching you for help. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll build much deeper relationships with others.
Self-reliance is great when you have mastered a skill set and can perform the job independently. It is not appropriate for other situations, however. Here are three times when you should not behave too autonomously.
1. You’re New to Your Role
Being new to your organization or role can create intense feelings of vulnerability and self-doubt. You have endless questions and limited time to get up to speed. You want to develop relationships with your new colleagues but you don’t want to overwhelm them with requests for help.
It’s only natural to feel this way but your on-boarding term is intended to be a learning period. You are not expected to know everything, nor are you expected to research everything on your own. Use your colleagues strategically. Rather than pepper someone with questions throughout the day, invite them to lunch and bring a list of questions with you.
2. You Have New Responsibilities
As you take on new responsibilities, you’ll inevitably have questions and uncertainty about how to perform. Think, for a moment, about something that you do very well. How did you get here? You weren’t born with that experience. You learned it over time through observation, practice and support.
Treat new responsibilities the same way. Don’t create more pressure on yourself by setting unrealistic expectations. Learn from those around you and you’ll be up and running much more quickly and confidently.
3. You Want to Advance Your Career
Too many talented, high potential professionals believe that in order to take their careers to the next level, they need to keep their heads down and stay focused on their work. They believe that by becoming exceptional performers, influential leaders will notice and reward them accordingly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
If you want to get ahead, you can’t go it alone. You need visibility and influence to advance your career, which necessarily require the involvement of others. Share your goals with others and seek guidance on how to achieve them.
Self-reliance is an admirable quality. But don’t let it prevent you from leaning on others to advance your career.