As we enter the season that is typically thought of with a focus on generosity it got me pondering my long term connection to the value of generosity.
I had the great fortune over 20 years ago, of coming under the mentorship and generosity of an amazing group of business consultants who were focused on working exclusively with ‘values driven’ organizations.
Our goal was to help the executive teams understand how to take their Vision and Values statements off the wall and implement them consistently throughout every aspect of their business.
Back then it seemed like a unique and new concept…after all, companies have been posting their mission, vision and values for a very long time.
The challenge for employees joining or customers interacting with most companies, is that what is posted on the wall often does not match the experience of actually working in or dealing with the company.
As I ran my own companies over the years, it was always a challenge to help our team understand how to operate from a ‘values-based’ perspective, including being generous in all we did with our clients. I’m sure I drove them a bit crazy when we were pondering decisions…my favorite question was, “How does this decision or action align with and demonstrate our value of generosity?”
One of the reasons I was eager to join Epiphany Coaches over 12 years ago, was their strong commitment to operating from their values, especially the key value of generosity. There have been many decisions debated over the years and the question is always asked, “How does this decision or action demonstrate our value of Generosity?”
Is Generosity ‘soft’ or can it have positive physical and emotional benefit?
Much attention has been focused lately on building our immunity, both physically and mentally.
It was with great interest that I came across this article "Small Acts of Generosity and the Neuroscience of Gratitude" that maps the neural mechanisms of gratitude activated by generosity. It posits that they are separate sides of the same coin.
Small acts of generosity create a feedback loop of well-being and can improve our emotional and physical state. Antonio Damasio, a world-renowned neuroscientific researcher on how emotions play a central role in our social cognition and decision-making, concluded:
"Gratitude rewards generosity and maintains the cycle of healthy social behavior. …generosity and gratitude work in tandem in ways that benefit both the giver and receiver.” He adds, “The personal and interpersonal benefits of gratitude occur at both a psychological and neurobiological level.”
One study conducted by the University of Michigan showed that generosity increases your life span. It revealed that generosity has a positive effect of improving one’s mental and physical health and promotes longevity. Another study from the University traced 2700 people over 10 years and found that men who did regular volunteer work had death rates two and a half times lower than men who didn’t.
Could Gen Z personify the ‘generous generation’?
It has been documented, and we have experienced it in our work with this next generation, that the Gen Z population appears to be a much more ‘value-conscious’ generation.
They will soon comprise 20% of the workforce and according to PRZM co-founder, Liz Toney, “They’re driving spending, are behind some of the largest behavioral and cultural shifts that we see today, and are also making decisions that will affect us for years to come.”
How will this generation impact business and perhaps create an uptake on global generosity?
TwentyFirstCenturyBrand broadcasted that they are ‘hoping to spark a movement of mass generosity amongst brands.” Two things they are passionate about is ‘purpose-led’ and ‘community-driven’ and what has been inspiring them lately is watching local communities coming together during crises and supporting each other through small acts of generosity.
TwentyFirstCenturyBrand highlights six principles on how business should behave through crises and in reviewing the list it seems like a list that could transcend crises and just become the way business should behave all the time. Here’s their list:
- Empathy - be mindful that lives have been turned upside down emotionally, financially, physically, socially. Be mindful of this in our actions and tone. There is no ‘one size fits all’ way to work with people through crises. Everyone is having their own experience and requires different levels of support and leadership. How’s your empathy meter?
- Generosity - mobilize assets and communities to help those who most need it. Acts of generosity don’t have to be big grand gestures, small acts can ripple out in a big way. What’s your personal perspective on the value of generosity?
- Utility & Agility - only say and do things that add genuine value. In a fast-moving environment, leaders need to constantly be assessing what constitutes value. What was meaningful a week ago may not be meaningful this week. What worked last week, might not work this week. It speaks to the ability to ‘lead in the moment’. How are you leading differently today than you did last week?
- Acts not Ads – this speaks to ‘walk your talk’. If you truly value generosity, demonstrate it don’t talk about it. Sharing stories of ‘acts’ with your team and customers is more powerful than any advertising campaign. What action are you personally taking? What action is your company taking?
- Hands-on Leadership – people can see whether or not what you say you value is ‘true’. Generosity is not an act it is a spirit, and it comes through (or not) in your action and words. What are you doing and saying that demonstrates your personal commitment to generosity?
- Do it your Way – although we can get ideas from other people and businesses, what’s even more energizing is just being authentic and doing it your own way. And as you do it your way be overt in creating the connection for others as to how your actions connect with your values.
At Epiphany Coaches, one of the ways we leaned in on our generosity value this year was offering pro bono 1:1 and team coaching to support leaders during COVID.
I can personally attest to the incredible feelings of gratitude and well-being it generated in me to be able to offer this to leaders who needed an objective, nonjudgmental sounding board to support them through this challenging time.
The heartfelt thanks of the leaders and teams we have supported over the past months has created a wave of positivity that impacts the rest of our business and encourages us to keep generating ‘generosity ideas’.
Generosity can be shown in many ways. Being generous with your time, emotions, energy, understanding, money, wisdom, and support are all beautiful acts of generosity.
Henry Ward Beecher said,
“In this world, it is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.”
We’d love to year how you are enriching your own mental and physical well-being and the well-being of those around you through your generosity!
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