Generosity and Leadership

Working at the mallA young woman of my acquaintance (let’s call her Jillian) recently reminded me of an important life lesson.

Jillian is quite simply an amazing human being and, at 17, has entered the workforce as a retail worker at the mall. The job has given her a chance to experience many different aspects of human behavior—both good and bad.

Last week Jillian told me about a conversation she had with a friend of hers, a fellow mall worker who was having a very bad day. Rude customers, an angry manager, and low sales had contributed to her fellow mallie’s feelings of anxiety and upset.

Jillian couldn’t help her friend increase her sales, or calm her angry manager, but she could listen. She could look at the situation and determine how she might be of service. And she could make an intentional decision to do something positive to brighten her friend’s day—which in this case was treating her to a smoothie while they talked.

Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, authors of The Paradox of Generosity, know that the act of generosity actually improves one’s own well being. Jillian’s small act of generosity had very positive results on her fellow mall worker, who went home feeling better. When I asked her what effect the experience had on her, she paused and said, “You know, I didn’t really think about it until you asked, but it made me feel good, too!

As a leader you have the opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives every day. One way great leaders can show they value their people is through regular one on one meetings. When you give direct reports the gift of your time to listen deeply and offer praise, support, and direction, you are showing the person you care. This kind of interaction results in not only increased performance and stronger relationships, but also greater morale. As a bonus, you—like Jillian—may come away from the meeting feeling pretty good, as well.

Want to make a positive difference?  Be generous with your time.  It’s good for your people—and it’s good for you, too.

About the Author

Patricia OverlandPatricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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