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Generosity: The Key to Getting Ahead

Originally posted on LinkedIn December 9, 2013

Have you ever worked for a jerk? How about a boss you loved, respected, admired? Who did you perform better for?

We all do better work for someone we trust, admire, respect. And yet, if you took a poll of critical business skills, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a list that didn’t include vision, leadership, drive, ambition, or intellect. You’d be equally hard pressed to find one that included, much less led with, generosity. That generosity is important and valued isn’t news—but the #1 key to success? That’s not where it usually lands.

Generosity is more typically an afterthought, a by-product, a “nice-to-have” quality. If a manager or leader is generous, they’re probably well liked. But it’s more than that:Elegantly simple, yet extremely powerful, generosity can make your career.

Generous people share information readily, share credit often and give of their time and expertise easily. What comes across is a strong work ethic, great communication skills, and a willingness and ability to collaborate. Generous bosses get 10x the productivity from their employees; generous employees’ stars rise in tandem with their bosses…

Here are 5 ways you can be generous and get ahead at work (& in life):

1. Make your boss’ life easier or better. Put her agenda ahead of your own. Make her look smart in meetings, prep her before trips, anticipate her needs, take on more work, provide as much value-add on projects and work towards the greater good. It will pay dividends.

2. Lead with the punch line. When you share information, start with what is new, different or important. Don’t make me guess at your meaning; don’t take five minutes of my time if I’ve only got two minutes to spare. Do the work for me in terms of processing information so I’m not left wondering: “What do you want from me?” “What am I supposed to do with this information?” Or worse yet, “What the heck are you talking about

3. Don’t blame; take ownership. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban once made a comment about a star player’s missed game-tying free throw shot. Cuban said: “He made the first shot and we missed the second.” Cuban’s comment was distinctively subtly, but inherently generous—he gave his player credit for making the first shot without assigning blame for missing the second one. A simple “we” instead of a “he” reminded everyone that basketball is a team sport. So is the workplace.

4. Share credit. People love to be told they’re doing a great job. Go ahead and recognize your staff regularly for either a job well done or extraordinary effort. It doesn’t cost you anything. Amazingly, it’s not always just about the money. Fully 78% of employees say it’s “extremely important” to be recognized by their managers for good work. So send an email to the top brass and mention the great work of your team (by name) or give them a shout out in the next staff meeting.

5Mentor. Be gracious with your time and your expertise and contribute to the collective learning available to those around you. Don’t let all the brilliance you’ve gathered over the years go to waste. Your professional highs and lows are equally valuable to those just starting out in the workplace. Concede your mistakes, highlight your proud moments, give feedback and offer guidance. Take the time and interest to help develop your junior team and build up your bench.

What else do you do to be generous? Are you recognizing talent within your organization? Sharing information (instead of hoarding it), mentoring others.. what are your strategies?


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