It’s going to sound a bit like a complaint (which it is) but the lift system in a building where we have an office is really antiquated. In a bank of four lifts, at busy periods only two of them work: one going up, the other going down. You might think that odd: what are the other two doing? Well, they are waiting for someone to call them from a floor that doesn’t already have people who’ve pressed the button.  So the empty lifts sit there, until the other two reach their destinations and then, hey presto, one will burst into life.  Not very efficient, you might think. Old-fashioned too – the technology has been around for over 30 years to fix that.  (But that costs money, and the landlord watches every cent.)  The whole scenario wastes so much of the tenants’ valuable time; the landlord saves a dollar, so I suppose he’s happy.

But it got me thinking. We have an expression in English: when you’ve reached the top, send the lift down for the others. It’s allegorical, meaning being prepared to help those below you on the career ladder so that they might also enjoy success. But why couldn’t that happen literally? If, at peak periods, the last one out took the trouble (what trouble?) to press the button to send the lift up or down, as required, the problem would simply evaporate. All four lifts would do the job they are designed to do and passenger waiting times would be kept to a minimum.

There’s a wider angle here, of course, as there usually is in my columns. It’s about helping people – in whatever way. So many (most?) of us are thoughtless. It doesn’t mean that we are bad people, far from it. It simply means that we don’t think about how we might help others, or at least make their situation less bad.  Example: Thoughtless car drivers who go through puddles at speed, soaking those on the pavement. They could think about it, slow down, and be a little kinder to people who have to walk in the rain. Another: the only person who insists on having a loud conversation on his mobile phone in an otherwise quiet train carriage.  The rest of us are minding our own business, absorbed in our own worlds, and we have to listen to the intimate details of their work/life/marriage/who knows what. It’s at times like that I’m pleased that I’m not fluent in whatever language is being spoken – it goes over my head. If it were in English I would hear (different from listen) to every word.

In our busy world there are a thousand ways, every day, of showing a little bit of kindness, consideration or helping others.  Think how marvelous the world could be if we all took just one or two opportunities each day to help each other.  Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate?

As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.

Gary Woollacott is an executive search consultant who works for Horton International in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.  He can be reached at +84 8 3910 7682 or via