Want Career Success? Share Information at Work

Marian Wright Edelman writes that our success should be measured not how we help ourselves, but how we help others. The altruistic nature of this definition provides background for how we may view the success of our practitioners also. The problem is that in a hypercompetitive marketplace with an unforgiving investor base looking for constant share price escalation (not to mention somewhat burdensome regulatory requirements), the pressure on each and every employee to produce is higher than ever. How can we possibly put in the time to help our colleagues succeed when that endeavor could lead to our own failure?

Therein lies the paradox. If our success is really measured by company-wide achievement that outperforms the competition, then it is our business to help each other succeed in the workplace. Now, incentive plans often do not motivate employees to help one another, but that's an entrenched article in itself. How can we be "successful" by helping others to succeed in the workplace without compromising our own career goals?

The answer is simple and universal: SHARE INFORMATION

This may seem counterintuitive, but it's true. By sharing information, you strengthen others while doing the same for yourself. Take for example, "that guy". You know "that guy". "That guy" is the one who hordes information so he can look better than everyone else in a meeting. He does not attend work sessions with the team without managers present because he does not want to share information. His motivation is to make himself look great in "big meetings" at your expense. He revels in establishing superiority to you and your collections. He plays dirty. You despise "that guy."

But here's the thing: "That guy" may have short term success, but he can not succeed over time. Think about it. He has to constantly come up with new information alone, without input from anyone. He isolates himself purposely, but he can not benefit from collective thought. His ideas may sound good to him, but because he has not shared them with others, he may not know that the idea has been tried and failed, or that with some feedback, the idea could be great instead of good. The pressure he places on himself to outperform multiples of people is immense. He's destined to fail.

By sharing information, you strengthen everyone around you. You build a network of people who are willing to share knowledge and insight with you (especially at times when you're not at your best). By helping others, you inevitably help yourself. In that scenario, you will outperform "that guy" faster than he thinks. The team with what you share your information will be nurtured consistently produce great work. Now all your team has to do is assign credit to individuals for different aspects of the team's winning performance. Promote team success and assign credit to all members. Everybody wins.

So the key to continuous success in your job and over the length of your career is sharing information. Clichés became clichés for a reason: Two (or more) minds are better than one.