To expand on my previous post on "high-touch," I include below the recently received original article, Generosity of Spirit - Lubricant in Successful Business Relationships, written by the same author, Susan Smyth. In this article, Susan examines the beliefs that push us to win or withhold in the workplace, and cites real time business examples that interject high-touch with those that don't.
"We live in a high-tech, high-touch world. Tom Friedman of the New York Times says the world has been flattened by a cross-current of economic, social and political forces. It means our call centers are staffed by people in India and we buy our consumer goods on the Internet and expect them to arrive in a day or two. We bank online instead of at the corner bank. Lots of services have been transformed into commodities. We experience the high-tech, but where is the high-touch in all of this?
In a high-tech flattened world, impersonality has become the norm. As a result, many seek the human touch wherever we can find it. Relationship selling tells us people buy from or deal with people, not organizations. We can make a difference in how we behave in our relationships. I've come to call the special ingredient I seek in my professional relationships "generosity of spirit."
It’s called by many names and comes in many flavors. You might think of those who practice the art as:
- Uncommonly generous
- Surprisingly generous
- Surprisingly thoughtful
- Uncommonly caring
- Fine tuned to the needs of others
Whatever you call it, most of us smile when we receive it and roll our eyes at the very least when we experience someone who has gone to the dark side on the subject.
For me, generosity of spirit means the person brings an approach that is authentic, open, and characterized more by collaboration than competitiveness. Usually, the person has a positive slant on human nature. This lets them share information, give samples, occasionally
relinquish control, suffer fools graciously at least occasionally, easily say thanks, and give credit to all the players.
For me, I can access it best when I am focused, feeling positive about myself and my life, and when I remember how important the other person is to the success of what I am doing.
What Does Generosity Of Spirit Look Like?
Compare these interactions. A training provider asks me to sign a confidentiality agreement before he will show me the new products his company is offering. Another training company representative arrives with samples of the new program materials, asks to leave behind the
expensive wall charts so we can show them to other people who will be involved in the buying process, and gives us access to a restricted, information-rich area of their web site before we even discuss terms of a contract.
Now consider these experiences. A training consultant had a sizable training contract cancelled the week before Christmas. The company also wiggled out of their cancellation clause. She later learned that the cancellation enabled the department to meet a budget goal and the department head got his sizable bonus. Another consultant’s client arranged for him to receive the same Christmas baskets that the employees received. It was of token value but signaled generosity. He showed the consultant that he thought his contribution was valuable.
A clerk shuts down the line of people waiting for their driving permits because it is 5:00 p.m. and that is when the office closes. A cashier, in an otherwise fairly good lunch time restaurant, that takes orders and calls names when the order is ready, posts a small
typed sign on her cash register. It reads, “Don’t spell your name unless I ask.” Really! How hard can it be for the cashier to listen politely while the person spells their name?
A health care client is undergoing a major and expensive IT software installation. Those close to the project disclose that the IT provider is living up to the letter of the contract and is pushing hard to meet all the delivery and go live dates. However, the organization is struggling to help employees integrate the use of the new software and prevent problems that would result in the disruption of vital services. The contract implies that the IT provider will help if this situation should arise but then asks for additional large consulting fees to help fix the problems – the same problems created by the expensive IT “fix.”
Generosity of spirit is the lubricant that can solve problems, build relationships, create customer loyalty, and make the workplace more satisfying. While it is common sense, it isn’t always common practice.
How We Got the Way We Are
I don’t know the answer to the nature/nurture question regarding how we became such competitive creatures. Our culture certainly supports competition. Mother Nature is a tyrant. Her only Cause, Survival of the Species, demands that we do what it takes to make sure we are the last man standing in any conflict situation. So, we know how to fight, compete, and get the biggest piece of the pie and all the other tricks it takes to WIN. Our crowded city life and globalization make many of the old contests irrelevant. But we keep up our old ways, programmed to get the better of the other guy. Therefore, it can look normal to guard information, hold on to the power, the samples, the money, and the wealth of all sorts.
I don’t want to be accusatory of those who compete. I’m not opposed to those who coach others to win at sports and school and work and life. I would, however, hope to introduce and support an alternate way of thinking and behavior when it comes to competition. For our
current world, there is a strong argument that collaboration not only outpaces competition but that it has become the more likely path to survival and success.
Becoming a Generous Spirit
Most of us are products of parents, teachers, and coaches who fostered the competitive spirit. By now, we believe it comes naturally. If you are looking to smile more often than roll your eyes and groan, try becoming an ambassador of Generosity of Spirit. I suggest that you:
- Look for examples of generosity in your own world
- Examine beliefs that push you to win or withhold
- Set small, incremental goals and seek small victories
- Reward those who practice generosity
Look For Examples of Generosity in Your Own World
Become a story collector. Watch for examples of clerks, tellers, business owners, co-workers, bosses, and friends who go the extra mile. It is actually a nice change of pace from the horror story contests we all engage in, outdoing each other with tales of rudeness or incompetence. It is more fun to focus on situations where someone helped out or stepped in or gave more than that which would be expected. Sometimes the incident reflects the natural instincts of the individual who is generous in his or her own right. Sometimes it
reflects the company culture that supports a high level of customer
service and respect for the workers and the customers. Sometimes it is a random act of kindness.
You might want to keep the stories in a file and see what lesson you can learn from each.
Examine Beliefs That Push You to Win or Withhold
We all hold beliefs that guide our behavior. Sometimes our beliefs are more apparent to others than to ourselves. Others are often aware of our killer instinct or the need to win at any cost. I use activities in training sessions that allow people to get involved in a project and forget to monitor how they behave. One participant complained bitterly that another team’s theme song had been chosen over his team’s contribution. Yet he was surprised when a colleague later described him as competitive. He admitted he was competitive
but said he went to great lengths to cover that facet of his personality. Everyone in the room understood his competitiveness better than he understood it himself.
What are your beliefs about the different aspects of generosity of spirit? One way to get a grasp of this is to think about what you are saying/doing with regard to your family life or even in your workplace. I’m not telling you what to believe or to change any of
your long-held beliefs. I am encouraging a little prying open of your own understanding of yourself and what motivates you. Increased awareness can help you decide if you want to make changes down the road.
Below is a sampling of quotes and sayings. See if any resonate with your life experience. Then make your own list.
- Losing is for sissies.
- Save for a rainy day.
- Information is power.
- Never trust a…(fill in the blank)
- It is better to give than to receive.
- Competition is the whetstone of talent.
- Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
- Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.
- Think big, think positive.
- Never show any sign of weakness.
- Always go for the throat.
- Buy low, sell high.
- Fear...that’s the other guy’s problem.
- The first rule of competition: In order to win you have to want it more!
- Trust is something that has to be earned.
- A sucker is born every minute.
- Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
Increase your awareness of your/others’ beliefs. See if you can make the connection between beliefs and behaviors. If you are weary of the outcomes of your behavior, see if you would consider changing your beliefs. Check your willingness to change.
I coach a leader whose family was stoic and non-demonstrative. She is a strong, self-starting achiever who believed people preferred to find their own way to do things and gave themselves the credit they needed. When she learned other people really can benefit from
positive feedback and thanks, she worked on making herself open her mouth and acknowledge other people’s contributions.
Generosity of spirit requires trust in human nature and a belief in reciprocity. It requires a belief that good deeds will be rewarded in some general way. I have to abandon my expectation that the other person will give back as much as he got from me.
Set Small, Incremental Goals and Seek Small Victories
If generosity of spirit isn’t already your thing, start small. Look for a way to delight someone you love. When you get good at that, look for a way to be generous to someone about whom you feel neutral – someone you just met, perhaps. When you get good at that, go for
the biggie. Think about an enemy. Find a way to offer generosity of spirit toward the person that you dislike. This is the essence of the Zen practice involving the prayer of loving kindness. It is a spiritual practice that allows you to have the same acceptance of
your enemies that you have of your loved ones. It isn’t a very western practice. Many of us gag at the concept. Yet it is a powerful source of inner peace and strength. We don’t have to be perfect at this in order to be generous of spirit. But it does entail sometimes relinquishing a scorecard mentality.
Reward Those Who Practice It
After you become good at discovering generosity of spirit, take the step to recognize and reward it. Practice the phrase, “Good job.” Thank the person. Give the generous person promotions where appropriate, better projects, better visibility, or whatever else you and that person value. Recommend the person for employee recognition or server of the week or “Mother of the Year.” Write a note. If public recognition isn’t right in the situation, quietly let the person know you noticed what they did and are pleased about it.
Almost everything, especially in the work setting, requires time, a financial outlay, commitment from the top, and buy-in from the masses. Being generous with praise, giving information freely, declining to compete, letting go of control, resisting the urge to retaliate, and a long list of other behaviors are free and require no one’s energy but your own.
If you’d like to sleep better and smile more often, give generosity of spirit a try.