CEO Corner: Dave’s Thoughts On Knowing When to Ask for Help

Posted on by Stacey Romero


When do you seek help?

Austin McChord, CEO of Datto (data protection company) was quoted in the Sunday, October 30, 2016 NY Times as saying,

“I know the signs and symptoms of when people are drowning… people just stop communicating and they become more and more insular. So, every month I ask myself: Am I drowning?”

It is not well known but there is an exclusive club in the Navy.  The elite membership of the club includes the best fighter pilots ever trained.  Those who join this club, I am told, usually do so when their assignment takes them to training on aircraft carriers.  

Here is what I am told happens:  You take very confident, take-charge guys (lots of testosterone here) and you put them in a position where they are not allowed to use their own judgment.  This happens when you are teaching pilots how to land on an aircraft carrier where there is a deck flag officer who determines if the pilot can land or not.  

It is incredibly hard for the pilot to give up the decision to land to another person.  Some pilots’ bladders let go.  These pilots, with some gentle ribbing, join the elite club I mentioned.  

Now, here is why I mention this club…. What a successfully trained pilot learns is that there are times when their perspective is not only poor but critically poor and that someone else can have a much better perspective than their own (the flag man).  

When a CEO says he knows the signs of a drowning executive, I say, “Great!”  When that same CEO asks him/herself whether they are drowning and trusts their own answer… I say the same thing that “Ice” (the character in Top Gun, played by Val Kilmer) said, “Bullshit!”  When we are stressed our awareness is greatly reduced.  We don’t see things as well as others who are not under the same load of stress.  

So, the answer to when do you seek others to help you is anytime, the earlier the better.   What is most important is that you need to trust the peer group or your coach.  The sooner you start a relationship the sooner you are going to develop the kind of trust where you know they have no other agenda than your success and well being.  This is what I do for CEO’s when I coach them and what our CEO/Business owners do for each other when they join an Excell Group.  

Our Members give a lot to each other because they have learned to trust those other perspectives in the room.  It doesn’t lessen the good instincts that most executives have; it provides a flag man who will see issues that the CEO is not able to see.  


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