Give a Little. Get a Lot. | Generosity Matters.

Doing isn’t giving, although doing is required.

At work we have jobs to do. The better we do them, the more likely we’ll be valued and rewarded. That’s true even if we:

  • Dislike the tasks we’re assigned
  • Know  the job is a wrong fit
  • Question the company’s direction
  • Work with uncommitted people
  • Don’t see growth opportunities

It’s as possible to succeed in a sorry job as it is in a fabulous one, provided you do your job as required.

But that’s a bummer. Few of us want to be a star at a job we dislike, unless we can turn it into something significantly better. Generosity of spirit may be just the ticket.

Giving v. getting

When we get hired, the first thing we say is ” I got the job” as though it’s something we now own. Actually, it’s the opposite.

Instead, we’ve been given the opportunity to serve an organization so it can succeed. Our individual success is a by-product of the quality of our performance…what we give.

Jobs look different when you see them as  opportunities to give. It starts with  the attitude you bring to your tasks, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they are. Consider these comparisons:

Downer coworkers (the self-servers):

  • Complain about everything and everyone
  • Find fault with every decision, policy, and assignment
  • Ridicule the boss and some peers covertly
  • Brag about how they shortcut their work
  • Bad-mouth the company

Upbeat coworkers (the givers):

  • Focus on the good in others and reinforce it
  • Look at the upside of decisions and support them
  • Commit to performing at their best out of personal pride
  • Treat the boss and their peers with respect, even during disagreements
  • Offer to help struggling coworkers out of kindness
  • Show regard for the company and gratitude for their employment

There are important, often unexpected, benefits to working with a giver’s attitude. Even the smallest gift of kindness and generosity turns into a benefit that touches many.

Cause and effect

There are endless opportunities to turn the drudgery of any job into an uplifting experience. Here are a two examples of ways to give a little and get a lot:

1.  Your job involves seemingly endless spreadsheets, so you’re a wiz at Excel but your coworker isn’t. When she’s struggling to meet a spreadsheet deadline, you share your knowledge and help her make it. (Your self-esteem goes up, you strengthen a relationship, and you support the team.)

2. You’re a veteran member of a work group that just added a new, talented but inexperienced member. He’s trying to get acclimated but it’s not going well. You offer to be a peer-mentor for him until he’s settled. (You rediscover your leadership skills, build inclusiveness, and set a positive example.)

Each gift from the heart makes things better for others. In turn you reinforce your sense of self-worth.

Generosity, whether time, effort, or money, is personal and individual. We give what we can and usually get back what we don’t expect.

Journalist John Blackstone interviewed, Ari Nessel (on CBS Sunday Morning 3/23/14) who became wealthy selling real estate in the Dallas area. Nessel believes the best kind of philanthropy comes from small monetary gifts. So he created a foundation, Pollination Project, providing seed money for start-up charities. Daily, he chooses someone just getting started to receive a $1,000 donation, his lifetime commitment of giving.

Nessel’s attitude about any kind of giving is that, ” …transformation happens on the fringes…and doesn’t happen on the large scale… And so it becomes a movement.”

At the end of the interview, Blackstone says to Nessel: “So money can buy happiness?”

He replied, “Generosity can buy happiness.”

Generosity matters.

Nessel’s  viewpoint also applies at your job. You can affect the culture of your workplace  through each gift of kindness you give. When that happens, it also makes your job feel better and you seed a movement.

Giving generously of your time and talent positions you to discover the value embedded in your every work experience. A generous spirit is infections and attracts contagious good.

 

 

Prickly or Pleasant? What Style Gets You. | Simple Gifts

How you look at work is one thing. How you appear is quite another.

Almost on a daily basis you can find a TV program touting the latest fashions for men and women, some programs even  providing “make overs” for audience members.

The problem is: new clothes, hair styles, or accessories can’t remake the way you  come across to others. Looking nice isn’t the same as being nice.

Your interpersonal style, the way you interact with coworkers, contributes to how they approach working with you.

Style points

We generally prefer to work with people who lighten our load, physically and psychically. Just for fun, run through the names of the people you work with and describe their interpersonal styles in one word like:

  • Prickly or warm
  • Standoffish or engaging
  • Negative or positive
  • Supportive or critical

How would your coworkers describe you? If you don’t know, ask them. How would you describe yourself? Is there are difference?

 I’m not going to tell you that all the nice guys and gals are zooming to the top of the corporate ladder, because there are plenty of unpleasant people who get ahead. However, there is more to gain by being pleasant in the workplace than by being a prickly cactus.

Your boss, coworkers or direct reports are powerful word-of-mouth agents for your at-work brand. They’re the ones extolling your style and your effectiveness at building and sustaining relationships essential to getting  work done. You can be pleasant and still:

  • Be a demanding boss
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Present concerns about a project
  • Register a complaint

To be pleasant is to be agreeable but not necessarily agreeing. It means adopting a style that creates an environment where others feel respected, never shut down or out.

I can remember being at company meetings when there were hot issues being discussed. While there were caustic voices in the mix, it was those steady and pleasant-sounding ones that were generally heard and heeded by the majority.

Why? Pleasantness is an indicator of approachability, openness, inclusiveness, and warmth. It generally creates an environment where it’s easier for people to share what’s on their minds, even when it’s awkward or uncomfortable.

Pleasantness begets pleasantness. As our work places become more competitive and as technology changes the way we interact, it’s easy to forget the importance of treating each other with kindness and patience. When your prevailing style is to be pleasant, it:

  • Makes working with you easier and less stressful
  • Frees up the flow of new ideas
  • Creates a sense of team, mutual support, and respect
  • Makes it easier to accept disappointments

Pleasantness is a simple gift.

The art of pleasantries

We often forget the value of warmth and kindness when we’re being sucked into the vortex of deadlines, meetings, projects, and endless emails. Work can disconnect us from the people who are the hands performing the work.

Recently Tyler Perry, famed American actor, director, an screenwriter, perhaps best known for his in-drag movie role, Madea, was asked on Live with Kelly & Michael (12/09/2013) about the kinds of Christmas presents he gives to his dear friend, the famed Oprah Winfrey.

He answered: “We don’t exchange gifts. We exchange pleasantries.” Specifically, he gives personal letters, written in his own hand, and he likes to get them in return. It’s the human touch and the fact that letters can be saved and savored for years to come that means most to him.

We can exchange pleasantries at work every day, powerful gifts of our own making for our coworkers, in the form of:

  • A warm greeting at the beginning of each day
  • Expressed interest in their work, family, and/or hobbies
  • An acknowledgement (a nod or smile) at a meeting when they make a point
  • A written thank you note or email to express gratitude for their help

Our behavior is the mark of our interpersonal style. The more effectively we interact face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and heart-to-heart, the richer our relationships at work and the more value we bring to the job and to our careers.

 

Help Giver or Help Seeker? Let Gratitude Fuel the Ride

I’ve always been at odds with the adage: “Good guys (and gals) always finish last.” It implies that being a team player, going the extra mile, or helping coworkers is a negative career strategy.

Often we’re warned that if we’re too generous with our time and talents at work, we’ll get taken advantage of. Well, maybe, but it’s worth the risk.

Most of us lend a hand because we:

  • Can’t help ourselves; it’s how we’re wired, raised, or compelled
  • Can put our knowledge and skills to good use
  • Care about the person or group in need
  • Enjoy collaborating, teamwork, and a new challenge

Our initial desire to help doesn’t usually consider the downside. We step up because it feels good.

The double-edged sword

Helping goes two ways: we give it one day and need it the next. We may go for long periods without needing help, but we’re pretty sure our time will come.

I’m as guilty as the next for resisting offers of help for reasons like:

  • I don’t want to be a bother
  • My need isn’t that important
  • I think I can take care of it myself (when I really can’t)
  • I’ll wait for something “really big” down the road

So I refrain from asking when I should, even when others are offering help.

At the same time, I’m eager to help someone else. I love nothing more than frantic phone calls from friends and clients who have some new craziness at work to figure out. This gives me a chance to provide help as a gift, my act of gratitude for their confidence and friendship.

Counted on or counted out

To help and be helped bind us. At work we need each other to:

  • Get the work done
  • Avoid being blindsided
  • Build our knowledge and skills
  • Create and innovate

We need coworkers we can count on and they need us too.

The other day I was thinking about the “helpers-in-waiting” in my life. These are the professionals I can call anytime with a question or a problem–special people who know who I am and care sincerely about helping me like my attorney, my accountant, my computer specialist, my personal physician, and my large and small animal veterinarians.

These aren’t people I talk to every day or month or year, but when I need them, I really do and  pronto. They don’t have to drop everything when I call, but most of the time they do. That raises my gratitude level and they know it.

A help-seeker’s gratitude expands when the help giver:

  • Acknowledges the need and responds quickly
  • Does a thorough job done and gives sound advice
  • Is fair and trustworthy
  • Communicates information and answers questions clearly
  • Takes a warm, pleasant approach and even shows a sense of humor

The help-giver’s gratitude comes from the help seeker’s:

In a business environment, no one is obligated to provide selfless help just because someone is paying for services. I know plenty of highly paid individuals who don’t provide help that generates gratitude. In too many cases, their help creates resentment.

Be kind, be helpful

In my view, the good guys and gals finish first. They attract a community of like-minded people who help because they want to, promoting a spirit of gratitude that is contagious.

Each day we need to reach out to others while expressing thanks to those helping us, in even the smallest ways. Recognize helpfulness in an email, a voice mail, a word in passing, a greeting card, an invitation to lunch, a “how are you doing” inquiry, or an offer of support. Gratitude costs nothing and makes a big difference.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and other post posts here. Believe me, I am enormously grateful for your interest, your comments, and your support.

Photo from smiles 7 via Flickr

The Impersonal Workplace Is About You | Making It Different

It’s no secret: The business world can be cold. The greater the competition, the higher the stress, and the tighter the budgets, the more we feel it. Job demands expand, the pace increases, and the time for building relationships shrinks. At least, that’s how it seems.

How much do you care?  

High workloads get us to hunker down, tune out distractions, and grind out our work. The job gets to be all about us when the pressure’s on. We tend to block out our coworkers, customers, and sometimes even the boss when the heat’s on.

Work can either separate us or bring us together. It’s our choice.

A lot of negative things can happen when we let the work consume us. We often:

  • Find fault with coworkers and criticize their contributions
  • Dismiss questions and keep people at arm’s length
  • Become impatient with indecision by the boss, coworkers, and customers
  • Treat complaints as interruptions rather than insights
  • Act rudely or miss opportunities to provide great service
  • Neglect the needs of others who rely on us 

There are plenty of companies with policies and practices that don’t make their employees feel valued. But that isn’t the majority.

We’re the ones who humanize our workplace. The way we treat the people in our paths every day creates the work environment.

I know that you’ve met people at work who always:

  • Have a smile
  • Find something upbeat to say
  • Perform an unexpected act of kindness
  • Pitch in when you’re struggling
  • Laugh at their own mistakes 

They act this way with everyone. You and I can and should do this too. Think of the difference that we’d make. Then imagine how it would be if everyone around us did that too!

So, what about our coworkers? 

Most everyone we work with lives a life with burdens. Few of us are immune. Some bear heavier challenges than we do; some less. Some carry their burdens more easily than others. But all of us, at some time, need a lift!

That means we are never without an opportunity to lighten someone’s load. I don’t mean engaging in protracted conversations or becoming a confidant. That’s not appropriate at work.

Instead, it’s about taking a moment to acknowledge a need or to express support. Most of the time, all we need is to be noticed, valued, and validated. It’s simply about kindness!

A lot of good feeling came my way when I:

  • Engaged in grateful conversation with a new customer who, I learned, had just returned from Ground Zero a month after 9/11 where he’d volunteered his time as a forensic dentist identifying victims 
  • Took a little time to talk to a disheveled customer whom others shunned because of his appearance and awkward manner 
  • Praised the work of my support staff, encouraging their interest in learning new skills and helping them feel positive about themselves 
  • Showed patience with employees when things went awry, said funny things to break tension, always looked for the upside, and helped keep things in perspective 

These actions don’t compromise productivity, even when it’s crunch time. They are simply small gestures of humanity and kindness that ultimately energize people, creating a climate conducive to getting more work done right.

The concept of “paying it forward” applies to the way we treat others. We need to remember how it felt when someone was kind to us and give that gift to someone else. 

We make the difference! 

Leading by example includes the way we interact with the people around us.  Anyone of us can brighten a dark climate at work. We just have to want to. No one can stop us from being kind, warm, optimistic, and caring. Our business fitness reflects our ability to bring a genuine regard for others to the workplace. Spreading a spirit of kindness creates a powerful legacy! Please let that be yours.

Do you have a story where an act of kindness at work made a difference? What more can we do to humanize the workplace? Thanks.