A Culture of Helping

I’m intrigued by the idea of creating a culture of helping. A culture where “colleagues support one another’s efforts to do the best work possible.” The authors of the article about IDEO suggest that a culture of helping is particularly important for organizations dealing with “knowledge work, when positive business outcomes depend on creativity in often very complex projects.”

I love considering how ideas like this might also benefit education, families, and society, as well as business organizations. Because really, doesn’t that description fit all of us? Especially now?

We are all dealing with knowledge work and often — if not always — very complex problems. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could support one another as colleagues to get the most creative, sustainable, outcomes to the many complex issues facing us today? Perhaps it is time — past time, even — to be willing to explore and learn from the best practices of others.

I always think about this as an educator. What can I learn from other leaders? What can non-education based organizations teach me? What kernels of insight can I grab from researchers dealing with business organizations? And, how can I let these new ideas and insights inform my practice in the classroom?

One thing I do with great resolve is to treat my students — though they are only 5-6 years old — as colleagues who can and should, ask for and offer help to one another and to me. I do my best to create relationships, and lead by example. I model respect, kindness, curiosity, and seeking and giving help.

My young colleagues often think of things in completely different ways than I do. That is part of the power of a culture of helping. Their ideas and ways of helping are insightful and fascinating. They may not always be the best way to do something, or the ultimate answer. But, they always lead to something more — growth, deeper relationships, insight, joy, learning, and new possibilities.

So, I’m thinking again — after re-reading the HBR article — about how I might continue to encourage a culture of helping in this unique educational landscape we find ourselves in today. What sort of infrastructure might I establish — remotely or in person — that would afford each of my students the agency to be an active member in our culture of helping.

I’ve been learning from my experiences with the medical community these past few weeks.

In order for a medical center to run well, there has to be some sort of culture of helping. I see it on many levels — from the people who greet me at the door, constantly clean the seats, check me in, do my tests, to the doctors and nurses. In all instances relationships, trust, listening, opportunity, commitment, and a beautiful balance of courage, vulnerability, humbleness, and power are the key.

My doctors and I have worked, listened, and leaned into our relationship with one another, and have established a pretty sweet mini-culture of helping. They are always willing to listen, brainstorm, and even learn from the things I have experienced, read, and heard. It’s great to be able to work with people who are curious, humble, and always striving to learn. I am incredibly grateful.

But, I only spend a short time with my doctors. The rest of the time I spend with the nurses. Talk about a culture of helping!

I’ve been going to my infusions alone — just to reduce the risk of any family member being compromised. Because of that, I have more time to simply be. When I’m not knocked out by the various medications, I do my best to relax. I draw, breathe, and just take things in. I hear the nurses laugh, chat, look for things, and encourage one another. They ask for, and give help — without, it seems, consideration of rank, or age, or years of service. They learn things about their patients, and remember them. And not just important medical things — but things about us as human beings.

I like experiencing all that. It makes me feel safe. Clearly they have a culture of helping which is deeply ingrained within their very beings.

And then there is my personal nurse — I mean they all help me, praise God — but there’s been one assigned to me these first two times i’ve gone. She has been remarkable. From the very beginning Carmen established a culture of helping with me. She let me know — from the moment we met — that we were colleagues and partners in this great journey of health and healing. And for that I’m very grateful.

She didn’t call me her colleague and partner. She showed me — in a way that to me, seemed incredibly purposeful and intentional. When we met, Carmen sat down to talk with me, looked me in the eyes, listened, attended, and responded to the things I said. After listening to me that first time, she moved me to a new station so we had easier access to one another. She explained things, and asked for feedback. She made it clear I could trust her — and her nursing partners — from the very beginning. It was fantabulous.

I’m not sure what creative possibilities and discoveries come from this culture of helping that they have established with one another, and now with me. What I am sure about is its great benefit to me as a human being, and to the complex problems we face together.

And, I am grateful — not only for the ways Carmen has helped me in my healing journey — but also for the things she has cemented in my heart and brain. The infrastructure of my classroom has to do with me. It has to do with me being purposefully, and intentionally, available, trustworthy, curious, and present.

This is my infusion doodle from this week. I made it to occupy my mind and hands, and to bring peace, joy, and creativity into the moment. As I look at it now I’m struck by its representation of a culture of helping. The various elements have similarities, and differences, but the same purpose. They occupy their own space with power, and beauty. They overlap one another without diminishing the another. Depending on my focus, different elements recede and push forward. And finally, the various elements combine to create, a dynamic, beautiful, complex whole.

So, in the infusion room, the classroom, wherever — purposefully, and intentionally available, trustworthy, curious, and present. Always open to creating and being part of a culture of helping.


4 thoughts on “A Culture of Helping

  1. Kindergarten colleagues- I like the sound of that! Carmen is an angel to be sure. When I was in graduate school, I was a unit clerk in a hospital. I helped the pediatric ICU nurses. I realized then how truly amazing nurses are. Glad you have Carmen as your colleague my friend!


  2. I love the idea of a culture of helping and the way you explain this. It’s a concept we’ve been working on in the schools in our district, but I like your label so much, especially as a way to help kids understand it. Your infusion doodle was incredibly powerful.


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