The non-profit / for-purpose sector is all about helping.

Each NFP organisation serves a cause and seeks to provide benefits to its clients and the broader community. Each seeks to be pro-social and ethical in its own way.

Some may focus on the welfare of individuals or groups, while others serve a defined group like a profession or industry – supporting them in providing benefits to the wider community.

Helping is not restricted to the ‘caring’ sectors of course. Everyone is helpful to others in various ways at different times.

We recognise that humanity has evolved in its caring capacity. Initially focused narrowly on the insular family unit, willingness to serve the interests of the clan, and then the tribe followed. Later, a commitment to the interests and welfare of regional or national communities emerged. Now, as technology brings the world into our homes, we increasingly recognise our membership of the global human ‘family’.

Just as people can do the right thing to avoid punishment or to serve their own needs, helping others can be for selfish reasons. It can also involve a mixture of selfish and altruistic reasons (enlightened self-interest). Just as people can do the right thing in order to meet professional obligations, out of a sense of duty, so too can they help others because that’s their job. However, above those moral (ethical) developmental levels (thankyou Lawrence Kohlberg), doing the right thing and helping others is motivated by a genuine commitment to the welfare of others.

As we recommit to our higher purposes for the coming year, both individually and collectively, it may be ‘helpful‘ to reflect on the principles we use to guide our helping efforts. IMHO one of the better resources to assist us in that exercise is Prof Edgar Schein’s Helping: How to offer, give, and receive help – Understanding effective dynamics in one-to-one, group, and organisational relationships (Berrett-Koelher, 2009)

We all understand that threatening to help someone whether they like it or not, and otherwise behaving in a paternalistic way, is likely to do more harm than good. Prof Schein pinpoints this and other pitfalls in the dynamics of helping and offers a collection of principles and tips which are well worth internalising. The chart below summarises his guidance and offers the opportunity for us all to receive the gift of his immense wisdom on both giving and receiving help.

Thank you to all those who helped in 2021, and best wishes to those who will help in the year to come.

See also:

Leave a Reply