Help Does Not Have to Be Reciprocal Right Away

I had a delightful lunch with a colleague last week. He’s looking for a job. I had asked him to connect with me on LinkedIn, because his email had bounced, and I’m trying to clear the bounces on my Pragmatic Manager email newsletter. (If you didn’t received your issue last week in your email, you either don’t subscribe or your email bounced. Please do subscribe, or let me know you think you do, and I’ll fix the bounce. I have not yet posted last week’s issue.)

At the end of lunch, I had three todos, one of which is to send him a copy of my still-being-written ebook on how to find a job the agile way. He will use it and review it. That was his one todo. I did say, that if he liked it, I would ask him for a testimonial. That made two todos for him, and three for me.

He was upset and uncomfortable. That was three todos on my “side of the slate,” and only two for him. It felt somehow “unfair,” that I was helping him more than he was helping me.

I tried to explain that he was helping me. I wasn’t tracking the time I was spending making sure everything was even, and that having someone else use the ebook and provide me feedback was quite valuable. I could not dissuade him. Now that I have a blog post, he’s helped me even more!

Help is often not reciprocal at the time you offer it. When I teach, I don’t expect reciprocity during the workshop. I often hear back from students years later.

A couple of months ago, at the gym, I met a previous student who told me he uses timeboxes and inch-pebbles “all the time” in his projects. What are his projects? Aircraft engines. Did I have a great workout and a great day? Oh yes.

When Janet Gregory coined the term, “down a quart,” she gave me words and a sense of humor to rapidly explain what happens to me when I don’t drink enough water.

When Esther Derby, Don Gray, George Dinwiddie, and I review each other’s writing, we don’t track who has asked each other how many times for review. We just ask.

When Jerry Weinberg first told me about the Rule of Three, maybe he realized how much it would help me during my entire life. I bet not. Well, he’s pretty smart. Maybe he did. For me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

When I offered my colleague help, I was not expecting an even slate at the end of lunch. I was expecting a give-and-take among colleagues. And, that’s part of the reciprocity, the feeling of collegiality.

When you offer help, you have a chance to help someone improve. And, when you learn how to take help, you can learn how to change your constraints. You might learn how to see success differently.

Help and support go hand-in-hand, and it’s not the lean-on kind of support. It’s the coaching kind of support, the support that allows you to see options.

That’s why help may not be reciprocal right away. You might have to pay it forward, to your colleagues, to the people on your projects, to your managers, to the people you manage, maybe even to your children. That’s fine. That’s why the evenness of the slate doesn’t matter.

So, my friend and colleague, forget the slate. Remember, help is a gift. When you track the todos, you are cheapening the gift. That’s not fair to either of us. We are both more valuable than that. See what new insights you gave me? Priceless.

2 thoughts on “Help Does Not Have to Be Reciprocal Right Away

  1. YvesHanoulle

    If help would need to be reciprocal, (A difficult word for a non-native English speaking person like me) thet it would not be help. A certainly not a gift.
    This is the opposite as saying “It was nothing” if someone thanks you for your help. Yes it was something. And yes it was important. (For the receiver).
    Our society has so many difficulties with “Asking for help”, rescuing people, thanking for help, accepting help, helping strangers etc.. No wonder that the most important thing people learn in a McCarthy Bootcamp is “asking for help”.
    y

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