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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

You'll Never Have All the Answers (and That's a Good Thing!)

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My team’s really good about asking each other questions. We’re not a shy or arrogant bunch, and so we regularly turn to each other for help with little things like how to easily move a row in a spreadsheet without ruining the formatting; and big things, such as seeking direction on a half-baked article idea.

I don’t always know the best way to approach social media marketing, but I trust that one of my co-workers will come to the rescue. And I’m always happy to chime in when a colleague asks a grammar question.

I didn’t always work in groups that were so willing to offer a hand, or flat-out this-is-how-you-do-this instructions. Frankly, I was rarely comfortable relying on others’ expertise. That would mean admitting I didn’t have all of the answers, that I didn’t know how to do everything, that I wasn’t (gulp) good at everything.

But obviously I didn’t and wasn’t. I’m proud of the skills I have, yet I fully recognize that everyone I work with has strengths that I simply do not have. In a recent article, bestselling author, Seth Godin offers this little nugget of truth:

Everyone is better than you are...(at something). Which makes it imperative that you connect and ask for help.

And he offers it as a positive because it’s in recognizing your limitations that gives you a reason to connect with others. And sometimes we need a reason to forge a connection and, moreover, increase our self-awareness.

The beauty of collaborating is that it gives us an opportunity to share what we know and learn from what others know.

If you could do it all—better than everyone around you—you wouldn’t need collaboration; you wouldn’t need anyone. There’d be no exhilarating brainstorming sessions or productive learning periods that emerge from recognizing that you alone aren’t enough.

If you can accept that you’re not the be-all end-all in every aspect of your job, you’ll be better because of it. If you can quit comparing yourself to others, you’ll probably be happier and less stressed. You’ll grow not in spite of this awareness, but because of it.

So own the things you excel in, relish your expertise even. But know that it’s OK, and even expected that someone else will fill in the gaps. When companies talk about wanting team players, I’m pretty comfortable saying that this is what they’re referring to.

You’d do well then to adopt the attitude and understanding that current (or future) co-workers are going to be better at something than you are. Period.