Let others help you

I recently sat through a meeting and got a little riled up.  I may come across as pretty low key, but I take some things seriously, and every once in a while my idealistic self threatens to take over.

I was in the middle of writing up a charged email on the subject — in fact, I had edited it four times to make it seem as calm as possible while still getting my point across — when a colleague came by for a chat.  I mentioned in passing that I was thinking of sending this email, and he just shook his head.  “Not a good time,” he said.  I was frustrated, but nodded, and saved the draft and picked up something else to work on.

After the weekend, I revisited what I had been considering sending, and he was absolutely right.  It was the wrong time to advance my ideas, and even if it hadn’t been, my emotions had colored the content dangerously.  With a few days to cool off, I could see why what I was about to send would have been taken the wrong way, and why it would come across much better in a personal conversation.

Two things had to happen for him to step in here successfully.

  1. I had to be open to sharing with him what I was about to do.
  2. I had to be open to trusting that his advice was correct.

Neither of those things happen without some serious miles under our belts. You can’t have that experience with someone you’ve just started working with; it takes months (at best) to make that work, preferably years.

It’s not enough to “network” and get to know your colleagues.  You need to identify the voices you know you can open up to, and you have to trust them enough to listen when they respond.  You need to make opportunities for their help to appear, and then when it does, you have to let them help you.