To get ahead, help others to get ahead first

There are managers who tend to overlook your weakness, focus on your strengths and try their best to bring out hidden qualities that they could see in you, but you can’t see in yourself. Managers who display such qualities are not merely managers but also leaders.

On the other hand, there are those who are intend on find fault with you, downplay your performance so that you don’t get that bonus or promotion. During appraisal time, they bring up your ‘mistakes’ but only briefly highly your achievements (that is if they highlight at all).

Over the years, I have worked under various bosses- those who have given me breaks and took it upon themselves to guide me have left a deep impression in me. Till today, I still think of them with gratitude. The strange thing is that, leaders like these tend to get ahead. They grow with the resilience and is often unfazed at the face of adversity. And like the help that they extend to others, they are also given breaks. Today, they have gotten into high and recognized positions.

Whereas those who are not really doing their jobs properly and downplay others tend to encounter various obstacles and difficulties. If it is not their working life, it happens in their personal lives- at where it hurts the most.

Years ago,  I used to work under this particular supervisor who I felt is a very kind person. We were in the service line and our calls were often monitored- the score would go into our scorecards. Sometimes we are tired- after taking calls for many hours, it gets exhausting when we get a call relating to a long winded complain. Few times when the supervisor got a particularly bad call, he dropped it and pick on another one. He said, “well, I can always drop this bad call and take another one.” 

But he will not just let us off the hook like that: he would tell us that he heard about that bad call and request that we do not repeat it. He also gave advice on how to handle the situation in future and told us that if we repeat the same mistake, he would not drop that bad call.

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During that period, there was a particularly nasty supervisor who seemed to enjoy picking flaws of some of us. I was unfortunately one of them who was being picked at.

She wanted to put in a recommendation to mark me down because I was not ‘visible’, ie I was not active in other activities out of work like organizing the teambuilding, department activities, etc. It was implied that if I continued to be that way, it will affect my scorecard that year.

That period of my life I was working but was very active at an external Buddhist community. We were bringing in overseas speakers and I spent a lot of my after work hours helping out the committee. I have no interest to get involved in department activities.

When I brought up this issue to my supervisor then, he told me:

“Yin Teing, most important thing is that you need to do your job well. You main duty is to make sure you help and service the customers. I can see that you are very diligent and spend a lot of your after work time following up on the customers’ cases. These other activities are up to you- if you don’t feel like doing it, then you need not get involved. I understand after 8 hours of taking calls non stop and then having to do follow up later, many people just cannot wait to get out of this building. There is no point that you do a great job in decorating the department but your service is bad to the customers.”

With his assurance, I continued to give the best I could. Eventually, when I assumed more senior position, I followed the footsteps of these good superiors. I learnt to give others a break and at the same time, be firm.

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Whereas as for this supervisor, he eventually left the company and helped a overseas organization set up their call center. He then moved to another huge call center and was working in a senior position there.

When I need to call the callcenter to check on something in my account, I would ask if this guy is still with the callcenter. And the staff would usually answer, “yes, he is still with us.”. Then I would say, “please send my regards to him- I used to work under him and he was a very kind boss.” And the staff would agree with me, that indeed, he is really a kind person.

It is so easy to just look for flaws in others and to mark the staff down based on this mistakes. Or to make a halfhearted attempt to change someone and expect overnight miracles.

Changing a person’s character takes time, and lots of skill and patience. If we were to invest time and effort to groom someone, who knows, that person may just end up becoming a somebody, because of us. And he/she would think of us always with gratitude.

And in life, even when we meet with obstacles and difficulties, we would find people coming to our aid. Or we will find the solutions. And by the very nature of having the intention to bring out the best in people, we are by default more at peace, sleep better and have more friends. That itself, is a reward.

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