Learning how to be helpful is one of the most essential things in our career. Every organisation or business needs helpful people. They are their bones and muscles.
This is not an easy problem, however, solution lies in an altered view and thinking on how to actually be helpful and what it really means. Desire to be of assistance probably lead you to this article, so you already care about it enough. You probably want to be helpful to someone you care about, or need something from them. Being helpful is the best way to show it.
Having that kind of personality will always put you in a better position comparing to others.
In general, there are two kinds of people:
Reactive people wait for tasks to be given to them. Although they might be good workers, decent people and overall helpful (upon request), they are the ones that need to be managed all the time… they will be ones to ask “How can I help?” when they are left out of tasks.
On the contrary – proactive people find things to do on their own all the time. They don’t need to wait for their superior or their client. When done with the work they had they will seek out new problems on their own. Kind of problem doesn’t really matter, nor does their expertise, what matters is the will. This is the kind of person 37signals would call “Manager of one”, and that is the kind of person that any organisation needs.
Asking following questions: “What can I help you with?” and “How can I help you?” are the least helpful questions ever. If someone is busy (eg. the person you want/need to assist) asking this kind of question would just represent an interruption of their thoughts and will usually be discarded. Busy person needs to be approached with proposal and idea. So, helping that person should be focused on finding the issue and asking for approval (if asking is needed).
It is actually quite easy to be helpful to anyone, all it takes is following these steps:
1. Decide Who You Want to Help and Why
Reason matters as much as the person you’re trying to assist. If you expect anything in return for your assistance, you should ask for before the assistance is performed. If nothing is requested, nothing should be expected in return. Doing this will help you with building your reputation.
2. Search and Find The Problem They Have
Searching for an issue begins with the conversation. Learning what person needs or what kind of problems they are facing is the first step towards finding the actual problem. Conversation does not have to happen in real life, it can happen on discussion forums, online groups and basically any other form of written communication.
Stalking someone is also a good way of finding their problem. 🙂 With all the tools available online, this has recently become an easy task. All you have to do is invest some time and learn about the person you want to help.
3. Research The Issue
Once you have located one or multiple issues, you should decide which one would you tackle best. Only best work counts and you should be good at what you’re doing. However, sometimes it is not possible if problem is new or you lack the expertise.
It is okay to lack the expertise. Just be honest about it. If everybody is lacking the expertise, you might be the one to earn it first and even receive admirer from others.
4. Offer Your Solution
After you found problem and have done the research on how to tackle it, you should approach the person in need and offer it. When offering the solution, be precise. Tell them what you have noticed, tell about the experience you have with solving that kind of problem, tell them what kind of solution you can provide for them, and ask for approval.
If the approval is not needed (be sure it is not needed), you can approach solving the issue without this step. However, noticing the person you solved the issue for should be on your list.
In order to be constantly helpful you should repeat these steps whenever you have spare time. This will help you build your reputation and position yourself as useful person.