Help Me Help You! Stop Holding Yourself Back

I caught part of “Jerry Maguire” on TV the other day. I happened to start watching around a pivotal scene between sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) and wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr). 

Rod isn’t happy with his contract. But his sense of entitlement and general negative attitude are making it hard for Jerry to negotiate on his behalf. At the height of his exasperation with his client, Jerry makes a passionate plea to Rod and repeatedly tells him, “Help me help you!”

As soon as I heard that line again, I realized that many leaders hold themselves back because they have an attitude like Rod’s. Often this attitude makes it difficult for their managers to actually help them succeed.

Take Liam, a partner in a large accounting firm, for example. He’d like to run the entire operation one day. But to get there, he’ll need to work on the way he deals with people. He comes across as brash, egotistical, and demeaning; particularly when he’s talking to people at lower levels in the organization. He even acts this way with clients. Unfortunately, this behavior undermines his ability to build trust and loyalty and erodes his credibility.

Liam is lucky because his performance manager, Marlene, likes him. She believes he’s got what it takes to succeed, even though she’s frustrated with his behavior. She’s given him the kind of tough feedback he needs - repeatedly. But Liam is still sabotaging himself. Marlene is struggling. She doesn’t know how else to help him. It’s time for Liam to help her help him.

If he doesn’t, Marlene may get so exasperated that she’ll just give up. She’ll stop supporting him and eventually write him off.

I’m sure many of you can relate to Marlene. We’ve all had promising direct reports who just kept holding themselves back. 

I think the more interesting question is, how many of you can relate to Liam? If you can, stop getting in your own way. Help your manager help you, and you’ll be able to propel yourself forward instead of holding yourself back.