Kristen Nicole


Tweetie Girl Tip #30: Helping others is a waste of time

Helping people.  It sounds easy enough, humanistic enough.  Helping people is something we all think we do, but the reality is, helping someone other than yourself can sometimes become time consuming, redundant and counterproductive.  Finding a balance between helping people and helping yourself can actually be empowering for all parties involved.When it comes to managing a team of remote workers, providing the right resources means that your team members are better able to help themselves.  Being an editor, I often get requests from new writers to critique their work.  Instead of developing their own voice, they strive to “make their boss happy” by asking for input.  In most cases, this is a necessary process when a new writer is acclimating to a new publication and working environment.  But if no progress is made, regularly asking for help is like constantly holding a magnifying glass to your shortcomings.  It’s a shift of responsibility to the helper, instead of the one being helped.

It’s an important lesson for the self-employed as well.  CD Baby founder Derek Sivers learned this the hard way.  As CD Baby began to grow, Sivers realized that he’d need to delegate more tasks to his team.  Turning his team into a proactive powerhouse, however, meant helping his workers to help themselves.  Teach them the process, show them the reasons behind your decisions, and empower them to act autonomously and on your behalf.  As Sivers says,

I had to make myself un-necessary to the running of my company.

The next day, as soon as I walked in the door, someone asked, “Derek, someone whose CDs we received yesterday has now changed his mind and wants his CDs shipped back. We’ve already done the work, but he’s asking if we can refund his set-up fee since he was never live on the site.”

This time, instead of just answering the question, I called everyone together for a minute.

I repeated the situation and the question for everyone.

I answered the question, but more importantly, I explained the thought process and philosophy behind my answer.”

Providing the right resources to others is a great place to start—they’ll be able to refer back to these resources instead of coming back to you.  Here are some tools I use:

Google Docs

Jot notes, create documents and packets that you can give out at any time, and as often as necessary.  Google Docs are also collaborative, so others can add to your growing notes and resources.  And since documents created here are saved in the cloud, any updates you make are visible to those you’ve shared with.  It’s a living document that grows along with your ever-changing needs.

If a visual aid will help you get your point across, check YouTube for video demonstration, lectures, how-tos, etc.  And if YouTube doesn’t already have  what you need, its platform is easy enough to use that you can upload your own video, becoming a resource beyond those you’re directly looking to help.
Shared bookmarking

Services like Springpad and Evernote let you build collections of resources, and this can be done passively as you come across websites and articles you find helpful.  With a bookmarking site, these saved items are auto-organized, so your packet-building process is a lot easier for you, and is even searchable.  

This resource site packs a great deal of information for a most basic form of human communication—our language.  I recommend my writers sign up for “word of the day” emails, which provides the definition of a new word daily, along with examples of how that word can be used, and its history.   This example is a bit more specific to my line of work, but many resource sites offer similar newsletters or blogs that make it simple for anyone to regularly improve and continue their education on a given topic.


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