A friend of mine narrated this incident to me. A colleague of his was assigned a large proposal that she needed to prepare in a couple of days so that it could be presented to the client towards the end of the week. On the last day after an intensive review session, she had quite a long list of additions and changes. While this was not unusual, unfortunately no additional supporting resources were provided to her as it was quite a busy time. She pinged him after the review and said “need help!”
This was a big pitch to a prestigious client and by the list of additions one could see that she was clearly out of bandwidth and there was no way she could complete all of that alone. They decided to split the work among them. She took on the changes and he took on the additions. At 11.50 in the night, the proposal was finally sent out to the team that would be presenting.
Why is this interesting? Because he had his own set of tasks for that day; also this colleague was his main competitor for promotion; in some aspects she was better than he was. He could’ve easily let her take the fall that day with no repercussions. But…he didn’t!
So why didn’t he? When I asked him he said he did what instinctively came to him, but looking back on the incident the reasons became a whole lot clearer. The proposal, if it came their way, would have done the organisation real good; he was competing with a friend and not an enemy, and in his vain attempt to win a promotion some years down the line he would’ve definitely lost a friend. Even if he did win that one promotion because of a sly trick, he felt he would’ve only set himself up for future failure, rather having a good competition only provided him a good challenge to hone his skills and prove his mettle.
Most organisations have collaboration espoused as a key element of their values and culture. This is so because in an organisation, it is highly improbable that one individual would have all the resources, whether it is people, money or equipment at their disposal at any time. And for the organisation to win, it is essential that people put the shared objective higher than their own priorities.
What this also means is that when somebody else requires you to collaborate with them, there will most probably be other demands on you. You may have your own work to do, or plans for your budgets, and other priorities that would need re-prioritisation for you to be able to be help someone, without there being a direct and evident benefit to you. Collaboration requires you to stretch, go that extra mile to help someone out, for the bigger picture to be painted well!
Collaborative people as individuals tend to gather more allies and supporters within the organisation; they earn the respect and trust of not only their seniors, but more importantly of their peers and juniors. And hence they also tend to form natural choices for leadership roles, as they tend to unite the organisation and have more people cheering for them.
However, collaboration should not be confused with being a push over. There are times when support is asked where there is no possibility of it being given. There are times when I’ve had to turn someone’s help request down simply because my own deliverable timelines were non-negotiable.
Have you found yourself saying no more often than yes to help requests? I hope this article would help you look back and ponder and also provide you with a better direction the next time you are provided with an opportunity…to collaborate your way to success.