By: Paul Santello, Atheneum Collective Expert
Back when I was a young account executive in my first advertising job in Chicago, I had an account director who said to me, “There are going to be times in this business where you are going to question the value of your contributions, and whether or not you’re really being useful or helpful to anyone. It happens to me. There are lots of smart people in this business. I try not to be the smartest, but I make it my mission to try to be the most helpful person, and you should too.”
This advice has stuck with me throughout the years (more than 20) and advice I continue to give other people to this day.
Why be helpful? More importantly, why be helpful instead of perceived as the smartest person?
For starters, who doesn’t want help? Most people want and need help from time to time. And to be helpful is a great way to be perceived in an organization. You will get the opportunity to be included in many important initiatives you otherwise would not have. People will come to you and offer to get you involved in sometimes very transformative initiatives.
Experience will tell you that there is no shortage of smart people and good ideas in business. However, what makes companies successful is their ability to EXECUTE flawlessly on their ideas, not just think of them. Flawless execution takes a village, people to help execute on the idea. This is where being helpful comes in. But you must be willing and ready to do something for someone.
How do you put this into practice?
- If you see a co-worker struggling with a project, offer to help.
- If your company is in a new business pitch and looking for volunteers, volunteer.
- If your company has committees that plan important cultural events, volunteer.
- If you have a passion for something that needs to be done in your organization, talk to management and get approval to make it happen. Then, make it happen!
- If someone who reports to you seems frustrated and needs help, listen to them and offer to help. Don’t immediately prescribe the answer to them.
This last one is interesting. As a senior executive, I’ve had many people come into my office with problems. I would sit and listen to them articulate the situation. While I was always internally compelled to give them the solution, I would just say five key words: “How Can I Help You?” It’s funny, but many times after I said this, the person would say something like, “You know, I think I’m good. It was just helpful to talk about it and vent a bit. Thanks.” So, you get credit for being helpful, but you really didn’t have to do anything except listen for 5-10 minutes.
Keep a few things in mind. If you offer to help, you must be prepared to follow through. You may not always get asked to help, but be prepared to and make sure you have the bandwidth to do so. And don’t overcommit. If you’re going to offer help, be sure you can do so within the restraints of your own professional priorities and deliverables. You may not always be able to help, and in those cases don’t offer.
The important thing that I’m communicating here is really a mindset. It’s choosing to have a mindset of “helpfulness” vs. trying to be “the smartest or brightest person in the room,” or “the one with the best ideas.” It’s just a different way of thinking of your value proposition.
Try it. And let me know how I can help you.
Want to learn more from Paul? Take his Atheneum Collective Winning More Business for Media Sellers online course!