Carl Mays: Helping each other makes all the difference

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:50 PM

In preparing to speak to a corporate group and basing my preparation on concerns of the company’s CEO, I thought of a story that highly successful business entrepreneur W. Clement Stone (1902-2002) frequently told.

It is about a group of young boys hiking in the woods. They came across an abandoned section of railroad track and each boy tried walking a rail but eventually lost his balance and failed.

Then one boy whispered something to another boy and told the group, “I bet both of us can walk the entire length of the track without falling off.” The other boys took on the bet. The two boys stepped onto opposite rails, grasped hands to balance each other, and walked the entire section of the track.

Mr. Stone emphasized the story presented in a nutshell a vital principle of business and community success. We do things better, we produce more, and we live better by cooperating with and helping each other. The person who cooperates and lends a helping hand benefits herself or himself as she or he benefits others, along with benefitting the entire business or community.

Apparently, the reverse of this cooperative, helpful principle was occurring in the corporation to which I was going to speak. Apparently, in their tasks and their communication efforts, some employees were pointing out how other employees were doing something wrong rather than teaming up to help them do it right.

Apparently, some employees were trying to read negative stuff between the lines in both oral and written communications. With offices in several different locations, the CEO told me the lack of teamwork existed to a degree inside each individual office, and even to a larger degree among and between the various offices.

When people cooperate and help each other, freely and voluntarily, there’s a spirit of teamwork that helps a company do well. It also makes the employees a pleasure to be around, and it shows up in the way clients, customers or members respond to the company’s work and efforts.

When there’s no cooperative, helpful team spirit, then what could have been a pleasant job becomes a grudging chore.

In May of this year, print and electronic media carried stories about how May 29 was the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and his mountaineer guide Tenzing Norgay being the first climbers confirmed as having reached the summit of Mount Everest. One story spotlighted the fact that as they were descending the mountain Hillary lost his footing. Tenzing held taut the line that connected the two by digging his ax into the ice.

Later, Tenzing refused to accept any special credit for saving Hillary’s life. He considered it a routine part of his job as he said, “Mountain climbers always help each other.”

In business, sports, family and all of life, we are mountain climbers. We have various mountains to climb at various times in our lives. Whatever peak you are trying to reach, there is a great chance you, like the individual young boys on the railroad track and Sir Edmund Hillary on Mount Everest, will lose your balance, slip up, take a tumble.

In 1970, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” recorded by Simon and Garfunkel was the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks. “Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down,” is a chorus line that most of us from that era still remember.

When someone in your company, your community, your family or on your team is dealing with “troubled water,” will you serve as a bridge – or will you turn the other way – or will you attack like a piranha?

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit