Help others to help you
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the role of kindness in leadership, and about the fact that even though we all want to be treated with kindness, in the corporate world it often doesn’t happen. But I believe most of us want to be helpful and supportive. (And that it’s circumstances or our own weaknesses that keep us from doing so.)
The other week, I was having coffee with a very experienced colleague who I had previously met at a networking event. I was looking forward to having an interesting conversation that I knew would be very beneficial.
We sat down with our coffees and the first question he asked me was “How can I help you?”. An obvious question in a situation like this, one would think.
However, I remember countless times when someone wanted to pick my brain and I asked the same question only to find that the other person had given no thought to what they actually wanted from me. Such a meeting then usually continued with a bit of polite small talk but certainly left me feeling I had wasted my time. And I’m sure the other person didn’t get much out of it either.
For my coffee chat the other week I had done my homework. I had read up on my contact’s background and his areas of expertise and knew exactly what kind of help (or in this case advice and wisdom) I wanted to ask him for. And that’s exactly what I got.
So the next time someone offers to help you, make it easy for them and come prepared. Help others to help you. It will focus the conversation and make sure that you’re both making good use of your time together. Which, after all, is the first step to building lasting working relationships.