May 20, 2022
Work is a Place to Help People
The angle at which you approach all things is important. That's certainly one of my big recurring threads. It's a broad enough idea that it shows up all over the place, "look on the bright side," "the glass is half-full," "take a walk in their shoes;" all of these notions are concerned about the way we interpret, and then react to, the world in front of us.
I like to carry this idea with me as often as I can. One of those places I carry it to is my work. I can't really say when or where or from who the idea came from, but at some point in my career – I think around the time I started leading people – I made a fundamental shift in how I perceive work.
Work used to be a place to contribute meaningfully to a business, and in return be provided a snug-fitting piece of the life-puzzle. It certainly isn't not that, just as the glass may also actually be half-empty. But I shifted to an idea that has really made how I approach work a lot more fulfilling.
Work, to me now, is a place to help people. I'm not just talking about what your company does for society, though certainly, many businesses are in the business of helping people at all sorts of levels, and that's not to be overlooked. Really though, I'm mostly talking about your co-workers. You're plopped into the lives of these people; a bunch of would-be strangers, connected for five days a week, many hours a day:
Because, why not? Be helpful. Adopt a helping attitude. You don't have to be all sunshine and roses all the time, certainly therapists aren't and they help people, sometimes in the biggest ways. You have a job to do, sure, do that, but fight for the right to have working-day capacity to help the people around you, it's important.
"What do you need from me?"
"What are your biggest work worries?"
"What's the hardest thing about working here?"
"Is there anything I can do to help you?"
This attitude, perception, mindset, these questions, are some of the most important to me as a leader and as a contributor at work. Sometimes work is stressful and busy and hard for me too, and maybe I'm less helpful then; hopefully someone offers me help, we all could use some sometimes.
Even the business strategy side of me likes this idea of helping people. It's pretty dang rock-solid. You will shape the working culture, your leaders will notice, people will like that you're helpful, folks will follow your lead, you will leave a more-than-usual impression on their lives, you will feel more fulfilled helping people than you will doing your day-to-day job. And I believe you can count on this idea, doesn't matter if you're a part-time fry cook, or the CTO of a big tech company, or anything in-between. People want to work in a place where people are helpful. So do that, that's the work.
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