The Rising Tide: Six Ways Helping Your Teammates Increases Personal Productivity

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” – John F. Kennedy. 35th President of the United States.

Does a rising tide really lift all boats, as JFK once famously claimed? Politicians like to say so, at least in reference to their favored brand of economics. But cynics have pointed out many exceptions to the “rising tide” meme—you could be stuck in the mud; your boat could be full of holes or overloaded with idiots; you don’t have a boat; or someone torpedoes your boat. Whatever your economics, there are always some people who can’t keep their heads above water in a particular “rising tide” economy.

That said, in the workaday world where people interact in good faith, a “rising tide” of social cooperation does lift all boats. In combination with talent, training, and hard work, helping your co-workers may be your best path to maximizing your performance. Befriending and bonding with team members, being a team player, and cheerfully contributing your help when others need it can enhance your own productivity. How?

  1. Boosting Motivation. A simple feeling of belonging can improve your morale, making you willing to work harder and accomplish more in a given amount of time—the very definition of increased productivity. Knowing you’re appreciated and supported in your assigned role, based on your own actions and reliability, can also increase your motivation.

  2. Triggering the Benjamin Franklin Effect. Founding Father Ben Franklin once said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.” He demonstrated by asking a friend to break a thick bundle of sticks in half. The man couldn’t do it. Franklin then showed him how even a child could accomplish it: he untied the bundle and broke each stick one by one. Working to build a solid teamwork relationship where everyone helps each other allows you to support each other and build trust and confidence.

  3. Lightening the overall load so you can focus on performance, instead of how much you check off some list. A willingness to help others when needed ensures you also get help when you’re overwhelmed. Many hands really do make light work, allowing you to whittle down mountainous projects quickly and efficiently, leaving you more time to produce more. At an emotional level, having plenty of help also decreases mental stress.

  4. Filling your emotional needs as you build relationships. Everyone needs friends at work. We all feel better when we have the companionship of people we like and who like us; and we’re more willing to do nice things for them. That includes working hard for them and helping them. If you can extend this to the whole team, you’re more likely to end up pushing your own productivity higher.

  5. Fostering creativity and risk-taking. You can succeed without being creative in your work or taking healthy calculated risks, but growth is much slower, and it’s harder to hit peak performance. Thinking around corners and taking a few chances can put you ahead by leaps rather than by baby steps. When your co-workers have your back with new ideas and support, it’s more likely to succeed when put in front of senior leadership. It’s easier to take chances and generate increased team creativity when you offset your weaknesses with others’ strengths, and vice versa.

  6. Encouraging engagement. The happier you are at work, the more likely you are to fully engage with your job. When you fully engage, your sense of ownership for your job increases. If you “own” your job, you’ll work harder, spiking your productivity. It’s a simple equation, easily proven; but for some reason, it’s hard for most businesses to wrap their heads around and implement effectively.


At first glance, it may sound odd to make benefitting your co-workers a priority, but it benefits you just as much if you take it seriously. Social lubrication is crucial in any workplace. Will some people take advantage of you? Of course; however, it’s up to you to choose how you act, just as you’d drive defensively to protect yourself on the road. Actively working to benefit your co-workers is key to increasing your own job performance, productivity, and even status, as enlightened individuals have discovered throughout history. There’s a reason most of us learn the Golden Rule in Kindergarten.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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