I remember an incident from my childhood. My family was all in the car headed to a particular destination. My dad was sure that his internal compass would get us there. Somewhere along the way, we all became aware that his compass must have gone haywire because we were no longer headed in the right direction. He was determined to figure it out on his own. Finally, after passing many more exits on the highway, he agreed to stop and ask for directions. Through that brief chat, he was able to ascertain the quickest path to get us back on course.

That story has stuck with me as I have encountered many successful leaders who expend far too much energy and attention trying to do something on their own rather than enlisting help. When I ask them why they do this, I typically get some sort of response that comes down to a version of “that would be cheating.” Somehow, we’ve warped the idea of independence into meaning that we must be able to do ‘it’ alone. Whatever ‘it’ is.

I wholeheartedly disagree! I would ask you to consider two questions. First, what is your goal? And, second, what is the most effective way to achieve that goal? If your goal is to get promoted, you will likely need support from your direct manager. This may include things like having them share with others that you are ready for a promotion; or, having them clarify for you what you would need to do to become prepared for a promotion. And, if it is the latter, it is likely that you will need other types of support to attend to these items.

I’ll give you another example. Let’s say that you’ve just joined a new company. There are all the explicit ways of doing things — the written policies and procedures, and then there are all the implicit ways of doing things. These are things like knowing that ‘if you want to get things done around here, go talk to Bob’ or ‘Sheila is the organization’s historian, if you’re trying to understand the backstory to something we do, she’s the one to ask.’ While understanding the policies and procedures is essential, I would argue that it is just as important to know the Bob’s and Sheila’s within the organization.

The term I use for this is local guides. Local guides are the people and resources you need at this time to help see you to the next milestone in your journey. In my father’s case, this person helped us to get back on track to our destination. In the example of being promoted, the manager who helps you navigate the organization’s terrain; and the people, trainings, and special assignments you tap into to help you prepare, are all local guides. And, in the final example, leveraging the Bob’s and Sheila’s will help to expedite your understanding of how your new organization functions.

The fact is, you still need to be the one to do the work. My father was still the one who drove us to our destination. You are still the one who puts yourself in the best position for the promotion. You’re the one who has to acclimate to your new environment. But, in each case, you had the wherewithal to understand and engage the resources you needed in order to facilitate achieving your goal.