Coach’s Corner Blog

Tis the Giving Season – 3 Steps to Giving as a Leader

December 10, 2014 by Leave a Comment


You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give. – Winston Churchill

Just two weeks ago it was Thanksgiving. I always thought of Thanksgiving as the official beginning of the holiday season and it begins with us giving thanks for the bounty that we have in our lives.

Much of the rest of the holiday season is very much focused on the giving that occurs over the next month. We give parties, we give bonuses (hopefully) and we plan for our gift-giving to our loved ones. Okay, I must admit we all think a little bit about the getting as well!

Givers, Takers and Matchers

Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a book recently named Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. It’s a wonderful book and in it Professor Grant sees people as givers, takers and matchers. Takers are often Machiavellians who are interested in only what’s in it for them. Givers provide their gifts, personal and professional, to others freely without being overly concerned about what’s in it for them. Matchers are in the middle and often weigh the cost-benefit of giving to others before giving.

In his book, Prof. Grant refers to a study where individuals were given $20 and told they must spend it by no later than 5 PM that day. They could spend it on themselves or others. The question was who would be happier?

The results were very interesting as the individuals that spent the money on themselves found no discernible increase in their own happiness. But those that gave it to others found that they were significantly happier.

The Positive Effects Of Giving

The positive effects of giving to others are reflected in a variety of literature. Prof. Grant refers to this as “otherish” giving where you choose where, who and how you would like to help others and it generally has a benefit of improving your mood.

Economists refer to the “warm glow of giving” and psychologists refer to the “helpers high”. Neuroscience provides evidence that giving affects the reward in meaning centers in our brains sending us “pleasure and purpose signals”. There is also a profound impact of giving your time and help to others.

In a study, 2800 Americans over age 24 showed that volunteering predicted increases in happiness, life satisfaction and self-esteem – and decreases in depression – a year later” (pg.183, Give and Take)

What Can You Give as a Leader?

I am currently dealing with a major conundrum of trying to figure out what to give my three twenty-something children this Christmas season and I’m really struggling with that as I would love to find that perfect gift. But in this time of giving it made me think of what we as leaders can do to give to the folks that work for us.

Christmas events or cards are usually planned. Now if we could hand out large pay increases, bonuses or more impressive titles, I’m sure that would be well received by our staff. The problem is that in flatter organizations and in times of fiscal uncertainty that we have been in for such a long time, that is often not so easy to do.

I think I have learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone else. – Booker T. Washington

So as a leader, what can you give to members of your team, especially your budding superstars, without breaking the bank?

Here are three steps to giving you can consider:

1. Be a good manager and leader.

Be a good role model as an effective listener, delegator, planner, communicator and meeting leader. Demonstrate support for ongoing development and appreciation of accomplishments. Working for a great boss has been shown to be very critical in the careers of most of us. It is also noted that working for a bad boss is also very enlightening – about what NOT to do. You choose!

2. Provide training, career advice, exposure and visibility.

An individual can learn a great deal from attending certain meetings or when they have been delegated stretch assignments. Can you be a mentor to some of your team and expose them to others in or out of the organization that can lead to new ideas and perspectives that they can apply in their current roles?

3. Be an “Accountability Coach” to those who you provide this support to.

Be willing to:

  • Debrief with them after the networking you helped organize or a meeting you ask them attend with or without you. Your time is a great gift and use it to have them think through what they experienced.
  • Ask them what they learned and how they feel they might use it to grow in their current role. Have them identify one thing they will try to do differently from what they were exposed to.
  • Set up a schedule to review progress on this. These do not have to be extensive discussions, but show your continued interest. Have them set up the meetings and lead them. Just listen!

As Christmas draws closer and the year comes to a close, please consider:

  • Do I know what each of my team really needs from me?
  • What can I do that will cost me and my company virtually nothing but my time? What’s that worth to me and my team?
  • Can I learn to be a good accountability coach?

Please share your experiences or ideas with us all in the comments section below.


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