Have you ever considered what makes some people a pleasure to work with, while others feel like a chore? There are the obvious factors like general temperament, knowledge, skills, etc. But when you look back over your professional years, I am willing to bet there is one common trait shared by those you have enjoyed working with the most—they were all very helpful.
Helpfulness, however, can be a hard thing to quantify. You cannot assess it the way you would something like years on the job. And surely everyone likes to think of themselves as being helpful to some degree. Wouldn’t it be great if there was as unambiguous and clear way to grade your own level of helpfulness and that of those around you? Well, It turns out there is.
Meet The Helpfulness Scale
My colleague, Joseph Kolchinsky, recently shared an article on Medium with me which provides just such a framework. Written by Daniel Debow, CEO of Helpful.com, it introduces what the author calls “the Helpfulness Scale”; a simple tool for evaluating someone’s propensity for this important trait. While the article is written from the perspective of a startup, the lessons are no less relevant for anyone looking to be a better team member, leader, or trade-partner
The article ranks helpfulness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least helpful and 5 being the most. For the quick version, the levels look something like this:
○ Level 1: You identify problems
○ Level 2: You identify problems and investigate possible causes
○ Level 3: You identify problems, investigate possible causes, and present possible solutions
○ Level 4: You identify problems, investigate possible causes, present possible solutions, and recommend a course of action
○ Level 5: You identify problems, investigate possible causes, research solutions, take action to solve the problem, and let others know when it is done
Level 5, of course, requires a certain level of empowerment that may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances. For example, sometimes review by other involved parties may be necessary before implementing a solution. However, Debow argues that everyone should strive for at least a Level 4 in their day-to-day work.
I love the way that this article provides a clear framework for gauging how helpful you, or others, are being when facing a given challenge. Reading the article, I could not help but recall my experiences as a project manager at various integration firms.
Every day, there were new and unpredictable obstacles that needed to be addressed. It was, of course, the job of the those in the field to report those issues to me. And it was my job as the Project Manager to evalute the issue and take action. Nothing unusual here. Yet, certain names popping up on my caller ID filled me with trepidation, while others gave me no pause at all. With Debow’s article in mind, it became clear to me that this dichotomy was the result a large gap on the helpfulness scale.
Anyone who has lead teams in the field in any capacity will relate. A given call from a level 1 might start something like this: “We can’t get the Great Room TV to work.”
Not. Very. Helpful.
Compare that to a likely call from a Level 4: “We can’t get the Great Room TV to work. We think it’s a bad HDMI Extender. I think we have some extra extenders in stock. I recommend having someone deliver one so we can get this room working for the big party tonight.”
Now that’s more like it!
It is worth noting that the technical issue in both of these examples could have been identical, requiring the exact same amount of human hours, energy, and resourcefulness to bring to resolution. But in the Level 4 example, everything that could be done from the field had been done already. The problem had been identified, a possible cause determined, a possible solution presented, and a course of action recommended. All that was left for the Project Manager to do was to approve and execute.
Strengthen Your Position
In any line of work, the connected home notwithstanding, there is never a shortage of difficulties to overcome. Whether you’re just getting started in the business, leading a well-established company, or somewhere in between, the helpfulness scale provides a simple and useful framework for thinking about how easy you are to work with. If you are looking for a surefire way to strengthen your position with teammates, industry peers, or colleagues, the helpfulness scale provides a clear roadmap with a simple directive: do not simply present problems, present solutions too.