Adding or detracting value?

Is it wise to always add value? When I coach leaders one thing I challenge them to do is consider how they can add value to each person they are directly responsible for. With one person it might be by sharing their technical expertise, another it might just be helping navigate the unseen organisational relationships at senior levels. It varies from person to person. So, I like the concept of adding value – otherwise why should someone check in with you if you add no value to what they do?

I attended a virtual coaching conference recently where every speaker’s mantra was ‘add value’ – and in fact many of their strategies were actually ‘appear to add value’ – but that’s another thing!

A project I was recently involved with made me think again about this added value. A third party I was working with changed a number of things I’d produced in order to ‘add some value’. The differences to the end product were marginal at best, but the loss of ownership I experienced was far greater! The product was okay, but no longer mine. Something I had felt passionate about, I now supported but it didn’t feel the same.

I once worked with a CEO who told me he’d realised that before ‘adding value’ and intervening with other people’s work he would consider does this add 25% or more to the final product? If not, he would hold back – because the potential gain was outweighed by the lack of ownership it created. He talked about realising the impact on those who may perceive you to be changing their work or worse criticising it.

I was helpfully reminded of the truth of this. How often is our ‘added value’ detrimental to the overall, because the slight difference we have brought has switched off somebody who was enthusiastic with a more than good enough solution already. Sometimes adding value means leaving well alone and just encouraging.  My advice to those in authority positions (including parents!) – before dabbling consider how much of a difference will your contribution make to the final product? Maybe your most useful contribution is to say, ‘really good job, let me know if I can help’.

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