October 27, 2018

“Don’t worry, leave it to me…”, where have all the helpers gone?

As I was sitting at the dentists waiting room I suddenly remembered my grandad. Strange how the mind meanders. My sister and I have been driven to dentist appointments throughout our childhood by him. Clearly, we had lots of dental problems. Still do! That has not changed. What has changed is that grandpa is not there to make the problems go away.

I never realised it back then. But on reflection that’s what he did. Not just for his grandkids but for everyone. He took their problems away. His trademark “don’t worry, leave it to me” was a way of life for him. He did not see problems as problem. He just saw them as ways to help. It was evidently the same approach at work that worked. I can remember him on the phone with his office colleagues, the conversation would end with “don’t worry, leave it to me”. The more important thing is he somehow always managed to keep his promise and get the job done.

Nothing was too big or too small for him to swing into action with this mindset. Looking for a job? No problem. Leave it to me I will make a few phone calls and get you some interviews. Feeling hungry? no problem let me make you a late-night snack. Not only was no task too big or small, no person was too big or small either, to be at the receiving end of his offer to help.

Where have all the helpers gone?

We now seem to be surrounded by super specialists. Everyone has a clear view of what they do, more importantly it seems what they can’t or won’t do. “It’s not my job” is the new mantra. Drivers drive cars, they won’t go to the supermarket to help pick up a few supplies. In fact some of them wont wash the car either. The lady who cooks won’t clean the crockery and the one who cleans crockery won’t wash clothes. And so, the cycle goes.

Ironically as the world has got more complex and specialized the need for collaboration is at an all-time high. But who has time for that. We are all specializing at being super good at just ‘our thing’ and that is a tough full-time job that is very demanding. How dare anyone demand that we help out and do something that is not ours to do? This seems to be what most companies are struggling with – The need to get really smart people to work well together behind a common purpose. The need to let go of turf and ego.

Maybe it’s time to become a bit more generous with our time. Sure, be a specialist not a generalist. But be a generous specialist. Offer to help whenever you can. Even if it’s not your job or your area of specialization. The next time someone seems to be in need, try on your “Don’t worry leave it to me” cloak. Even if you are not the expert, you can find a specialist who can help. Connect the dots. Collaborate. Get out of your comfort zone. Make some magic happen in someone else’s life. And in the process light up your own. Become a helper and help yourself.