For all we talk about teamwork, it seems we’re still reluctant to seek out others’ help in our careers and creative projects. There’s a false notion out there that if you don’t do the work 100% yourself, then it’s not really yours or you somehow took “the easy road.” We see asking for help as a sign of weakness or laziness, when really, enlisting a fresh set of eyes to look at your challenge can only serve to enhance your strategy. Let’s chip this apart.
Do It Yourself =/= Do It Alone
Most of your daily tasks are fairly simple. You don’t really need help with them and all it takes to get things done is a little initiative. Many of your responsibilities can and should be done alone rather than dumped on someone else. A well-meaning society propagates the message that if you do something yourself, you did it the mature way, whereas if you got help, then you were slacking off. However, that message does not always apply. Some tasks really do require two or more people, and there are many more that could be done by one person but are done much better if that person asks for help. In these cases, attempting to take care of everything yourself means setting yourself up for failure or falling short of your potential. Use your judgement.
Group Projects Don’t Have To Be Horrible
In Kindergarten, we learned that sharing is caring. In elementary school, we learned that group projects mean we have to do the work of four students all by ourselves while three of our classmates sit around and talk, and then they still get an A+ because you busted your butt. Yeah, it was horrible, but please don’t let that colour your attitude about group projects. In school, you’re assigned your teammates. In adult life, you have a bit more leeway. If it’s a work situation, there should be a clear outline of who is responsible for what (and if there isn’t, draw up an outline and run it by your boss). For creative hobbyist projects, you can still have a team if you just choose them carefully. Choose people who you trust, who know their stuff, and show as much enthusiasm about the project as you do. Oh, and don’t work with someone you’re too emotionally close with, just in case.
Teamwork Isn’t Cheating
Life is not a test. The goal is not to show how much you can do on your own. Life is about exploring, having fun, taking on new challenges, and having adventures – and that’s no fun alone. Teamwork means working with a group, not only to divide the workload but also to bring in a diverse set of skills and viewpoints. Group brainstorming sessions can generate more ideas and stay more focused than one person musing alone. If you can do a better job as a team, why would you limit yourself by staying isolated? It’s also not like you’re cheating the other people because everyone is benefitting. Be more than the sum of your parts.
There Are No Unimportant Jobs
One of the fears about teamwork is that you’re going to get stuck with the sucky job. True, there are some groups that have no problem with some people doing the unpleasant parts and other people getting all the glory. Choose your teammates carefully and this can be prevented. Also, remember that every part of the project is important. Maybe you’re not in the proverbial spotlight, but you might be the one operating it. Trust me, your teammates need you (and the good ones will show appreciation and share the credit fairly).
Broaden Your Horizons
One of the side effects of working with other people is you get to know them better. You get to know what they’re like when they’re working on something. Sometimes, you’re also introduced to more people that your new teammates have met. This is known as “networking,” and it’s not as terrifying as it’s made out to be. I’ve already discussed involving people to reach new goals, but what about using goals to meet new people? Hanging out with other geeks expands your knowledge base, gives you someone to talk to who understands your geeky passions, and offers you moral support. Hey, it gets lonely exploring the universe all by yourself. It never hurts to make a new friend.
Offer to Help
Everyone needs help sometimes. Therefore, if you offer to help, it will possibly be accepted and definitely be appreciated. Offering to help others with their geeky projects brings you all the advantages I previously discussed, plus you don’t have the added responsibility of being the originator/organizer. Also, it lets people know what fields you’re capable in. It shows you care about others and you want to help. On top of all that, it can bring you into a whole new working situation (called “experience,” in less interesting terms). Doing only your work means you stay where you are. Expanding into others’ projects means you learn new skills and see things from a new perspective. Finally, if you’re helping someone, they may return the favour one day.
People Are Unavoidable
Civilization is like soylent green: it’s made of people. Also, it’s kinda gross, but I digress. Anyway, people are a fact of life, so don’t think of them as an obstacle to avoid. You’ll only frustrate yourself. Instead, accept that there are people who will ask you for help. Answer the call when you can, and consider it a part of your daily duty rather than an extraneous distraction. Why simply tolerate when we can benefit from one another’s skills (for all the reasons I previously described) and together become so much more?
Your Efforts Are Still Your Own
Finally, what you do in a collaboration is still yours. You KNOW you weren’t slacking off. Working with others doesn’t mean you buried your efforts. It means you focused your efforts into a situation where they can really do some good.