The Power of Helping Others

Why does helping others matter?

The world is becoming increasingly complex. The result? Only very few of us are able to achieve something great on our own. Most of our achievements are done in teams: groups of people who help each other and therefore are able to create something even bigger that is the sum of their capabilities.
Although I am usually not very fond of sports analogies, we can relate what we do to how a sports team performs. If you are into any collective sport (watching on TV counts as well), you have already noticed that the key to success is not having a few star players, but as many team players as possible. A recent study in the NBA showed that excellent team players add up to 60 percent more value to the team than excellent individualistic players. And that is some difference!
Helping others starts very simply — stop focusing on what you can achieve on your own and turn your attention to what you can achieve together with others. In some organizations, this might be difficult because of crazy and outright stupid incentive schemes that value individual contributions more than teamwork. Even if that is the case: try it. You will see that it will bring you satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and, generally, a good feeling.

Seven ways to give more as a teammate

There are numerous ways to help others. Try asking your colleagues if they want any help from you. You don’t have to be an expert in their domain — sometimes that is even counterproductive. 
But then what could you do for them?
See a colleague stuck? Use any of the following. Ask the person you are helping what kind of help they’d prefer:
  • Pair with them. Even if you don’t have the expertise you can ask questions that will lead to different ways of thinking.
  • Facilitate. Especially useful if the problem is in communication.
  • Observe and give feedback. Works also very well for problems in communication and understanding between more people.
  • Offer to coach them. If you have the skills and the permission. Be aware that offering coaching in a very straightforward way without explanation may lead the other person into denial, something you don’t want.
If you have the knowledge, you may also try the following.
  • Teach them how to do whatever they are struggling with (this requires knowledge on your side).
  • Show them how that thing is done.
  • Offer to mentor them. Very useful if you have the expertise and they want to learn over a longer period of time.
Apart from helping others directly, help people connect to each other. Build something Dave Logan in his book Tribal Leadership named triadic relationships — relationships where you connect two people who have a great capacity to help each other but don’t know about each other… yet.

Your Helping Challenge!

Are you ready? Great. Over the next five days, I challenge you to try and help others. Each day, you will try to help others in a different way and hopefully you will find out helping others helps you as well. So, without further delay, the challenge is:
  1. Day 1, Feb 13: Help someone else. Try a colleague of yours who is stuck with a problem (partner with that person.) Or a new colleague who needs to learn some of the processes (offer to teach or mentor.) Or somebody whose work you don’t understand, but you know he is unhappy and frustrated (be the rubber ducky.)
  2. Day 2, Feb 14: Help build a triadic relationship, connecting two people who may be able to help each other but are currently separated (by a process, hierarchy or anything else.)
  3. Day 3, Feb 15: Make more time to help others. In Days 1 and 2, you may have noticed that helping others takes time. Something you might not have much of. So now try to actively make time for helping others. 
  4. Day 4, Feb 16: Get feedback from others. Ask people you’ve helped what it meant to them. And what you can do differently next time. Use that to improve.
  5. Day 5, Feb 17: If helping others is something you want to do more of, go for it. Today. Every other day. You will be amazed how helping others will help yourself as well.

This is week three of a month-long countdown of more ways toward happiness. Join Happy Melly and join our continued Weekly Happiness Challenges.

I am a software professional with more than ten years of experience in various roles — from software development to senior management and, for the last five years, agile coaching and organizational change. I maintain two blogs: Skeptical Agile and Modern Sabotage. I’m also active on Twitter — just follow @lightinmeadows.
Image: Ali Moradi

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