What do you do when someone on your team has taken time to understand your organization, contributed meaningfully to multiple projects during her tenure, and now has confided in you that she needs your help beginning some new venture in your work group? It might not seem obvious, but if this teammate’s interests, goals, and priorities are aligned with the organization then it makes the decision crystal clear. Help her out and be grateful for the opportunity.
There are a few reasons why you may be reluctant to lend a hand. What about her current work? Does her manager approve of such things? How will she form a new team? To keep it short and to the point: who cares? The justification is that her interests, goals, and priorities are aligned with the organization. There really is not much more explanation needed. When articulated properly (which is key to getting buy-in) it’s hard to argue against something reasonable. That’s not to say the details don’t matter, because they always do. This is less of a “it depends” type of scenario as it relates to your willingness to help your teammate out. You can still support your colleague in her venture, even if it flames out tremendously next month.
In this situation, you become the first stakeholder, and potentially a great evangelist for whatever idea you signed up for. Your job is not necessarily to drive towards the outcome but to enable your teammate to be successful in this journey she is on.
Companies that claim/try to be “innovative” can measure success in this category by simply tracking how many projects they stop over some (relatively short) period. For example, if Company A starts 10 projects at the beginning of year one, and by the end of year one the same 10 projects are ongoing and none have been stopped, I posit that Company A is not innovative.
The company may be adding revenue and have introduced new products to the market, but they're clearly not taking big enough risks and learning good lessons from trying something new or different. There is the possibility that Company A just doesn’t know when to call it quits, which is a terrible problem to have and is probably the subject for a future post. I’m certainly not speaking about any type of work that requires multiple years to execute on and complete, like building a skyscraper in Chicago. There’s little room to take risk with such projects, but you can certainly be creative and new in terms of architectural design, fixtures, and décor.
What I’m proposing is starting new projects where the outcome is uncertain, and success is determined by many things being executed properly. In these environments, we do not know all the variables in play, but were seeking to understand them. Because of this notion, you should help anyone you’re able to tolerate start up their new idea if asked. Of course, you should feel some level of passion about the idea as well!
I’m making assumptions about one’s ability to think rationally and not “bet the farm” on some half-baked idea. This is why typical employees have financial controls and added layers of approval in most cases. I also think it is imperative to have such conversations with your manager, especially if you relate to this hypothetical friend I've been referring to. If you have an idea for something new that aligns well with your organization, and your boss doesn’t approve or want to help you even in the smallest of ways, it is time to find a new boss.