I see myself being able to help others on many key initiatives at work, however I am constantly at odds on if me jumping into help would undermine the person's capability. On the flip side however, am I losing out on the opportunity to learn, build relationships that I really need to do, and shine?
Offering unsolicited help is often counter-productive. It could not only undermine the receiver's ability (as you rightly suspect), but also potentially make you a social outcast in the group. Even if your intention is to genuinely help others, you could be seen a cocky, arrogant, know-it-all who always bosses people around.
The key here, as it is in many other situations, is to find the right balance. I find the following two-step approach quite useful to help people without going overboard.
- Be genuinely interested in knowing the problem and what the person is trying.
- Convey your help as suggestions or questions.
Rather than doing, "I see that your problem is X, and you should do Y to fix it", try:
- Would you mind explaining the problem to me, if it doesn't take too much effort?
- I see, so it looks like the problem is X. Have I got this right?
- I wonder if Y is a good option to solve this problem. What do you think?
This puts the final call in the person's hand, and you are seen as a person trying to help rather than someone who orders others. In addition, if you misunderstood the problem and/or your proposed solution is wrong, you can also save face.
How to provide help without undermining others?
Before "jumping in to help", ask if they want your help or not. Then respect their wishes.
Offering to help is seldom problematic if you are sincere and if you aren't being a repetitive pain about it.
Just jumping in and helping can easily be seen as undermining.