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Small Business Digest


Help is Not a Four-Letter-Word! Small Business Managers Need To Ask For Help

Today’s small business owners/managers are finding they have to do more and more tasks in less time in order to succeed and have the business to thrive. 

However, this ability to multi-task and continue to take on work without ever saying “no” or delegating to others is leading to millions of Americans that are over-stressed and over-worked.

In her new book, Help is NOT A Four-Letter Word: Why Doing It All Is Doing You In, Peggy Collins is calling attention to the behavior disorder she has termed Self-Sufficiency Syndrome. 

When self-sufficiency is taken to the extreme, it can isolate and press individuals to a stress level beyond their breaking point.  Collins explains how the syndrome takes the strength found in self-sufficiency and turns it into a weakness.

Collins says, “in general, “self-sufficients” are bright, overly responsible, overachieving, self-motivated, self-starting, somewhat “perfectionistic,” often workaholic, wonderful people.” 

While they may be the ideal manager or company employee that never asks for assistance and is always ready to take on the next project on top of their already busy schedule, the reality is that they are struggling on the inside.  Unable to delegate and overly responsible, Collins says a self-sufficient is headed for burnout or worse.

A typical self-sufficient will be saying to himself, “I am responsible for everything and everybody in my world and failing at fulfillment of these responsibilities is not an option.”  Characteristics of self-sufficiency include:

· Feeling a sense of isolation
· Being driven
· Controlling
· Prefer competing against others
· Demanding perfection
· Being rigid
· Being reluctant to ask for help
· Being afraid to fail
· Assuming total responsibility
· Feeling they don’t deserve help
· Being the giver at all times and never the receiver
· Secretly feeling insecure
· Feeling alone and separate

Collins provides several exercises and quizzes designed to help a person determine if they are a self-sufficient and if so, what level they are at and what type they are.  She defines three categories of self-sufficients that vary exist:

· Inheritors – this type learned to be self-sufficient from the messages of family members or role models growing up, such as “needing to stand on your own feet,” “if you want it done right, do it yourself” and “when the going gets rough, who else are you going to depend on?”

· Islanders – this type feels alone in a crowd and learned the pattern in order to cope with the world around them.

· Icons – this type is the person that put on a pedestal as the one who helps everyone around them, but never needs help from others. 

However, the reality is that the person is doing it all themselves because fundamentally they do not trust in relationships and feel it’s too risky to open themselves up to other people.

Collins goes on to discuss ways to begin breaking the habit of self-sufficiency and instead, become a sufficient-self (her term for the healthy lifestyle), which includes the ability to be cooperative, willing to ask for help, sharing responsibilities and delegating to others, and feeling connected and supported.

A small business owner or manager that is wanting to change should start by sharing their desire and the realization that they are a self-sufficient with someone close to them and stating that they want to change. 

Collins believes communication is the key to change and being open to sharing and receiving feedback is crucial.

Changing the unhealthy behavior is extremely difficult for a self-sufficient and causes a great deal of stress.  Collins gives several tips for managing that stress including:

· Learning how to balance with refocusing
· Designing an exercise program
· Learning a relaxation technique
· Being good to yourself
· Getting more quality sleep
· Adopting good eating habits
· Getting in touch with nature
· Putting a support team together
· Taking an inventory of strengths

After gaining an acceptance of the problem and an awareness of how self-sufficiency developed and the personal cost, Collins then provides tools and tips for identifying their needs for interdependence with others.

While a self-sufficient owner or manager may seem to have it all and be able to manage everything that comes along, the internal reality is very different and the personal cost of maintaining self-sufficiency is extremely high.  Therefore, in order to have even greater personal and business success, starting on the road to long-term behavior change will be necessary.

For more information about Peggy Collins and the book, visit

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