Adding Value: how our desire to help is not always helpful

In the investment banking world that I recently left, part of the culture required that each person comment on, question, or improve on other people’s draft reports, memos and ideas.  Not commenting on or questioning a colleague’s draft work meant on some level that you weren’t engaged or paying attention.  The point was to show your value: everywhere, all the time, colleagues would subsequently correct a typo, rewrite or move a sentence around, or ask whether you had considered alternative perspectives.  No one ever said your work was “fine just the way it is.”

Most of the time, that scrutiny helped improve the work.  And most of us learned over time not to be defensive and to accept the input gladly.

And I have observed that outside of work settings, many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to refrain from commenting and giving advice when they are in conversation with another.  It seems that impulse to add value, value being defined as whatever you think, is more universal than not.  Even more interesting is when the advice  given involves common sense platitudes seem extremely applicable to whatever the other person is saying to you.

Listen to this audio clip above where I describe how a fellow classmate from a course I took applied the idea that people should be “whole and complete” before they begin dating.  I wonder how many times I myself have wanted to add value by introducing what I consider “common sense” advice into the conversation

About Elizabeth Sudler

As a senior manager in two national behavioral health insurance companies, I had P&L responsibility for large clinical and call centers. Predominantly my work has involved turnarounds and operational expansion to meet growth targets. I have consulted in vendor roles with multiple Fortune 500 companies on behavioral change management, and led hundreds of seminars on resilience and self-management topics using psychological principles from my training as a licensed psychotherapist.

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