When You Should Never Go It Alone

By: Kathryn Heath

A very wise person once told me, “The biggest mistake you can make is one that you make alone.”

But when you’re smart and ambitious, aiming to be promoted to the C-suite one day, you want to shine and be recognized for your own decisions and brilliant ideas. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to handle things myself so people think I’m strong and self-assured.”

Woman-leading-meeting-web-sizeA senior manager has a challenge with one of her firm’s biggest clients. A decision to go in a certain direction, if it’s successful, could help move her career to the next level. She feels that if she can handle this decision alone with the client, she will be seen as strong, and as a rising star. If she fails, it could be difficult not only for her client, but for her firm, and her career as well. Afraid it’s too risky, she shares her challenge.

In my years of coaching high-potential talent, I advise my leaders to vet their ideas and consult with others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance, especially if the decision you need to make involves risk. If you make the wrong decision, the consequences may be obvious!

But there’s a delicate balance to be struck. In asking others for advice regarding your challenging situation, be careful not to overdo it, or you could come across as insecure or indecisive. Try the subtle approach: Socialize your point of view and your strategies; test them out in casual settings, such as passing in the hallway or in the elevator, over coffee, or walking to the train.

This valuable advice applies to both men and women. However, it’s somewhat of a double-bind for women. As women, we are told, “You need to lead and be assertive,” but now here we’re told, “Consult, collaborate, don’t risk going it alone.” Consulting with peers to vet ideas in the face of high risk is not a show of weakness. It’s actually the opposite – you’ll exhibit confidence and a measured approach to risky challenges, and just plain good business savvy.