Really successful people are successful because they get a lot of help, not because they are so good on their own that they don’t need help!
It’s important to think about how you work and learn. If you are not reaching out for extra knowledge and support, you will not achieve as much as those who do.
Successful people build their “extra team.”
What I mean by this is that they have people who are always at the ready to help them (people who don’t work for them) whenever they need it.
Help is always there
In my career, my extra team was made up mentors, advisors, peers, people in other parts of the organization, lots of people with creative and technical skills, and friends and family.
No matter what I needed to do, I could always count on someone if I needed help. Just knowing that in itself was always a comfort and a confidence boost.
If you want to learn a really simple way to ask someone to be your mentor, watch this two-minute video.
Of course to have an extra team, you need to put effort into building it, and you need to maintain it. You build your extra team by networking with a broad array of people — before you need anything.
By putting value into your network, meeting people, showing them respect, being interested in them, offering assistance, you are putting capital in the bank with your extra team.
If you have been kind and generous to people along the way, they will be more than happy to help you when you ask.
Just think about the people who YOU are happy to help, vs. the ones that make you want to hide under your desk. Why are you happy to help some people? They probably are people you actually like, who have been thoughtful and generous with you.
Networking is never shallow, political, or pointless when you set your goal as being generous, kind, and useful to others.
BE the person who people want to help!
Resist the urge to work alone
As an introvert, my tendency is usually to work alone. If I get a task, I start working on it. I realized that this was a tendency I needed to fight against if I wanted to succeed in a bigger way.
You are always better off if you include other people.
The best approach is, when you get a task to do is:
- Resist the urge to start working on it by yourself, right away.
- Think before you work. Take the time to clarify and get context. That way you will do the best, right work the first time, and you’ll greatly limit wasting time on unnecessary work.
- Think about who can help you. Find experts. Find technicians.
- Identify people who can give you inputs and feedback.
You will find that when you let a few key people know what you are trying to accomplish, they will be inclined to help.
Increase your fund of knowledge
Your fund of knowledge is what you know on your own, and what you can learn by yourself.
Why not augment your fund of knowledge with the knowledge of others. Get smarter.
I often find that I do a better job at things I don’t know how to do because, since I can’t go it alone, I am forced to get help from experts!
It’s also really important not to overlook the chance to get inputs and feedback on your work from a broader audience. Don’t just rely on your manager for feedback. Get in front of the task and learn from a wider array of stakeholders by asking them for feedback on the relevance and quality of your work.
By doing this you are also developing your capabilities. You are doing a great service to your manager, the business, and your career.
Here’s an example of using your extra team: The task is to prepare an executive presentation.
I have seen individuals with this task work alone, and I have seen others who are masters at building their extra team do it in a totally different (better) way.
The person with the extra team will have sales people providing customer testimonials. They will have someone on the web team mock-up an interactive app that brings their proposal to life. They will have the graphic design department helping with their slides. They’ll get the finance team to run some numbers.
You just can’t compete with that, working on your own.
It’s a little counter-intuitive, but asking for help actually helps you build your credibility and visibility because you are making connections with people who see and understand what you are working on.
For people who are concerned that paying attention to their visibility is about self promotion (which is doesn’t need to be), this is an excellent example of building your visibility simply by including others in your thinking and having useful conversations with them.
When you reach out to get inputs, clarifications, opinions and feedback, people feel good that you value their inputs and advice. You have created visibility for yourself, your team and your work, without being self-promoting in the slightest.
If you had just done all the hard work on your own and handed it to your manager, you would not have done as good and complete a job, and you would have sacrificed recognition and appreciation for your team.
You also need mentors
No extra team in complete without mentors.
Mentors can help you when you are in over your head, they can help you network, they can teach you things about your job, they can point out your blind spots, they can become sponsors who open doors for you. Mentors are critical to your success.
I could not have, and would not have had the career success that I achieved without mentors.
Make sure you have these five (5) types of mentors on your extra team.
If you want to learn a really simple way to ask someone to be your mentor, watch the short video above.
This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life.