Can I Help You Sir?

By | December 18, 2009

How much of your time is spent helping colleagues across your company? Are you so entrenched in your day to day work that you don’t have the time to help when you could? Are pressures on to ignore those in need, those that could benefit from your skills?

I’ve been thinking about this lately and the lost opportunities as a result of not helping others. I wonder if a lack of a helpful spirit impacts our ability to innovate and the notion of building T-shaped people. If you’ve not been exposed to the concept of T-shaped people then I can recommend a few sources of information:

In a nutshell, we’re looking for people that are extremely competent and effective at doing there jobs but have the added attribute of being able to build connections across a company.

I think a component of creating T-shaped behavior is using your unique skills and abilities to help others. You represent a mix of capabilities unlike any other person. There may be others with deeper knowledge for a particular topic but no one else has the same mixture of skills as you.

Using those skills to help others creates connections that are real and beneficial. Connections that are built upon respect and gratitude. Connections that become a catalyst for bringing people together.

How do we promote the creation of T-shaped behavior with so much already on our our plate? I thought about the famous Google notion that every employee is encouraged to spend 20% of their time on some project that interests them. A phenomenal technique and has been noted by Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience that 50% of the new product launches originated from the 20% time (listen to this audio for more about this). What if we encourage employees to spend 10% of their time helping others? What if we actively reach out to look for opportunities to help others? Would that spark innovation? Would that help create T-shaped behavior?

I believe spending 10% time helping others will have a positive impact upon a company’s ability to deliver new and compelling products, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. Some of the benefits of 10% helping include::

  • Opening more channels of communication
  • Reductions in effort for those being helped
  • Creating a sense of pride that you helped a colleague
  • Bringing differing ideas together to spark innovation
  • Increasing the number of view points leveraged to solve problems
  • Continual improvement and sharing of practices
  • Breaking down organizational barriers to collaboration

As usual, I don’t have the answers and have more questions than answers. Do you feel this technique can provide benefits? How would you measure benefits? How would you prove that time is being spent helping others? How would you ensure help is delivering business value?

It is something I’ll be thinking about and I would be very interested in your opinions.

Come visit my blog and post a comment.