Helping someone to navigate

At some point in our career we’re going to be required to talk with other people to do more that just our day job. We’re going to need to actually and actively engage with them to help us be more effective. It’s an interesting thing, that most companies I know of (save possibly for large consultancy and law types) do not help their staff learn how to be valuable internal consultants.

Most of us have to fumble our way through what it means to do something like this well, which is a shame as it’s the one range of activities we’re constantly doing, but not knowing if we’re doing it ‘right’. If you think about the employee lifecycle, there’s a typical journey they tend to go through. As a new starter, they have an induction, and if they’re lucky some sort of onboarding programme. Pass the probation period, and they have a steep learning curve they have to go through. There reaches a point where the new starter has to start interacting with other departments in a way that helps them to do their job. And we just let them get on with it.

Letting others get on with it is fine, but we seem to actively then run the risk that we’re it helping them to actually be successful because we haven’t had those conversations like: Bob is the man to talk to in Office Support for travel, When you talk with Brian about that idea, make sure you’ve done your homework on the topic as he’s an inquisitive guy, Beatrice in Marketing will help you, just be sure to smile and let her do the talking.

It seems to me we could be more purposeful about this, and provide better support and guidance on how to do this well internally. You could call in internal consultancy, you could call in organisational navigation, you could call it helping someone, either way what it helps to do is share that tacit knowledge we all hold about how to work well in the business.

I’m one for helping where I can. The other day in the office was a good example. Someone came to our desk and wanted to know where Bonnie sat. Three differernt people tried explaining where he needed to find her. After a few minutes, I just got up and showed him where he needed to be. It’s not a hard thing to do, but we forget there are more helpful ways of being, well, helpful. Often we make do with comments like – oh you have a meeting with Bob? Good luck with that! *snigger*. Which doesn’t tell us anything other than we’re about to face a very uninspiring situation.

And we can all be considerate in how we do this. A junior in the team will need hold handing, a senior may need careful coaching, a new person will need guiding. And this doesn’t have to be lead or driven by the head of the department or team, but they are certainly a good place for this information to be held.

I’m careful to suggest this needs to be anything other than informal. There’s a lot to be said for fumbling you’re way into conversations, and finding your feet as you do this. But there’s certainly no harm in helping someone to navigate their way round and being better at what they do.