I had known and watched her for many years. Monique was talented and very independent. She was promoted, then promoted again, and again because she did good work. As she climbed, she made few friends and developed no relationships because she was too busy and didn’t need them. She didn’t know how to give grace to others and instead never hesitated to point out the faults and flaws of those she worked with outside of her area. Doing so helped make her look good to her superiors. With her last promotion, she directly reported to a leader who enjoyed hearing Monique share about the failings of others, which she then used whenever it gave her an advantage in the C-suite battles. Her new leader continued to reward her with more responsibilities. Then, as it happens with many leaders climbing the ladder, others began pointing out the failings of her team. Suddenly her leader was defending the performance of Monique’s team and she didn’t like it. She was told to fix the deficiencies in her team. The heat kept getting turned up and she was miserable. Her peers all saw what was happening, but no one lifted a hand to help her because she had burned them. One day she gave her notice and left, but only a few steps ahead of the decision being made for her.

I’ve seen similar stories play out throughout my career. Gifted people rising up in the organization but stepping on others as they climb. When they fall, and it always happens, no one is willing to lend a hand to break their fall. They are all alone because they believed they were independent, that their success came from their efforts.

Never forget success in your career comes from understanding the concept of interdependence, which means your success and the success of others are always intertwined. You cannot be successful if others on your team, or those on the team you lead, are not also successful. It doesn’t work that way.

That’s why organizations put people in teams because they know they will be more successful working together than they would as a group of individuals.

If you work on a team, you should be asking some of the following questions of those you work with:

  • How does my work impact you?
  • What can I do to help you be more successful?
  • How can we work together to make the team more successful?

If you are a leader, you should be asking some of these questions of your team:

  • How can I help you be more successful?
  • What resources do you need?
  • What information do you need to help you do your job better?

Most of us love being independent. I’ve done that myself. Who doesn’t like to say, “I did it on my own!” It’s a source of great pride. Help is something you give to others, but you’re okay, you don’t need it. It’s why being independent is a lousy way to develop relationships. No one wants a relationship with someone who is independent because it’s one sided.

Relationships are the key to getting things accomplished in your career. They are critical. You develop relationships through interdependence, not independence. The words might not be easy for you, but you need to be willing to say, “I need you.” Then also be ready to say, “How can I help you?”

And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. Philippians 2:4 (GNT)

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