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Helping Others Is Good for Your Career

When it comes to the workplace, helping others may hold the key to success. Helping others goes hand-in-hand with teamwork, a requirement in today's workplace. As entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie is often quoted as saying, "Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can hone the skills employers are looking for. The online MBA program at Boise State University, for example, offers multiple opportunities to develop the interpersonal skills required to lead high-performing teams, a skill set that companies typically require.

How Can Helping Others Boost Performance?

Being a team player is one of the most sought-after skills for B-school hires. A recent GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey shows that 93 percent of employers require that new hires have the ability work with others to achieve common goals.

Research suggests that the social perceptiveness and diversity of a team has a bearing on its collective intelligence. As in sports, successful teams in the workplace build on individual knowledge, skills and abilities for the collective good.

Sometimes that means helping a colleague. As these suggestions from LiquidPlanner show, motivating employees to help others also supports leadership development:

  • Encourage team members to act as "strengths advocates" to help others use their talents more fully.
  • Take a "cross training" approach. Match team members who have desired strengths with others who need to develop those skills. Those doing the training become "budding leaders and motivators," while their mentees build skills they need to improve performance.

How Does Helping Others Relate to Leadership?

It turns out that helping others is scientifically linked to happiness. A recent study showed a brain-based link between generosity and happiness. Participants in the study were given money and assigned to two groups: one agreed to spend the money on others -- for example, taking them to dinner. The other group agreed to spend the money on themselves.

Results show that generosity results in greater happiness. Applying this to the workplace, cultivating a culture of helpful behavior just might boost employee engagement.

A Gallup poll found that a majority of employees are "not engaged" (53 percent) or "actively disengaged" (16.5 percent). This translates to most employees either being "not connected" or actually "miserable."

On the flip side, Gallup reports that companies with engaged teams enjoy:

  • 24 to 59 percent less turnover
  • 21 percent greater profitability
  • 17 percent higher productivity
  • 41 percent less absenteeism

Gallup defines engaged employees as "involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work." The article continues, "When teams become more engaged, work feels very different for employees."

For Shawna*, an IT project manager, employee engagement has everything to do with helping others. "If the people you're leading don't have their needs met, they'll be unhappy in their jobs. Helping others shows you're focused on their well-being and success."

One of Shawna's priorities is to ensure her team is able to do the work they are being asked to do. "I don't like to hoard knowledge. Everyone is more efficient and productive when we share what we know. Individuals and teams flourish in an environment where people want others to succeed."

Shawna, who is also earning her MBA, employs a servant leadership approach over the more traditional top-down style. "You're there to serve your team. The focus is on their growth and success. In turn, I want my team to use their knowledge, skills and abilities to help others grow. If someone is struggling, a colleague can offer support. This creates a kinder workplace, and it enhances productivity."

Employees are an organization's most valuable asset. Whether looking at individual or team goals, it benefits everyone to help one another. Now more than ever, MBA graduates need to understand what it means to lead engaged teams. This includes recognizing how the workforce is changing, and how organizations may need to respond.

Millennials constitute the largest generation in today's workforce. According to the Brookings Institute, they are more interested in supporting the interests of the group than in individual success. Known as the purpose-driven generation, Millennials prefer teamwork and collaboration to competition. Coaching them to do their best work will mean fostering a workplace environment that values helping others. Sharing knowledge, skills and abilities promotes a more positive and productive workplace -- good for the company and for career growth.

Learn more about Boise State University's online MBA program.

* Name has been changed.


GMAC: Corporate Recruiters Survey 2018

Psychology Today: Are Two Heads Better Than One?

LiquidPlanner: 11 Ways to Build the Strength of Your Team Members

Nature Communications: A Neural Link Between Generosity and Happiness

Gallup: Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.

Gallup: The Damage Inflicted by Poor Managers

Robert E. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership: What Is Servant Leadership?

Brookings Institute: How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America

Interview with IT Project Manager, 10/29/18

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