Many leaders struggle with the challenge of getting their own work done and the desire to collaborate with and mentor others. In several coaching conversations over the past week the topic of ‘generosity’ came up. One leader threw up her hands and claimed, “I’d really like to, but I don’t have time to be generous with my time!”, like it was one more thing she had to schedule into her already overloaded calendar.
To further dive into this leader’s ‘generosity dilemma’ we explored the following questions:
“How often do you stop and listen to someone who is having a challenge and offer up some support or advice?” Her answer, “Oh of course I do this, many times a day.”
“How often do you take the time to give someone some really candid feedback that is focused on supporting their success?” Her answer, “Oh of course I do this, probably several times a week.”
“How often do you stop and congratulate someone on a small win they had?” Her answer, “Well of course I do this, every opportunity I get.”
What she got connected with is, generosity is not about scheduling acts of kindness, it is more of an attitude and mindset around how she chooses to interact with others. Her ‘generosity’ was being demonstrated through a variety of endless opportunities that come up every day.
The interesting thing is...if you spend a bit of time with her team you would notice this generous mindset is having a ripple effect. Her team appears to have frequent episodes of demonstrating generosity, not only with their peers but also with other departments and with customers.
In Marsh and Suttie’s article “5 Ways Giving is Good for You” https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you they highlight a study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
How can you create ripples of generosity?
- Be present – when someone stops by your office or calls you, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention.
- Listen – listen to understand, not to respond. Then, ask them what you can do to help.
- Give candid feedback – if someone is doing something great or not so great, be specific about what you are observing and the impact it is having.
- Mentor in the moment – mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement, look for opportunities to give others a small piece of advice that will help them be more successful.
- Celebrate other’s success – whether it is big or small, praising other’s efforts let’s them know you see and appreciate them.
Adopting generosity as a mindset can have a positive ripple effect that permeates not only your own team but the entire organization and beyond.