Bad bosses foster bad blood throughout the whole team. That’s not just theoretical, either — it’s been proven again and again. For instance, a Gallup study showed lousy managers contributed to about half of their organizations’ resignations. But to be honest, not all supervisors belong in a Dilbert cartoon.
Take you, as an example. You’re reading an article on moving your leadership level up a notch. So you’re not exactly shying away from self-improvement. But, at the same time, you might not be aware of one attribute that could ratchet up your ability to lead: Generosity.
Instilling generosity into your leadership
What makes generosity such a powerful force when used by leaders? For one, it’s unexpected in a delightful way. When most people describe their bosses, the word “generous” doesn’t spill from their lips. Maybe they say “kind” or “driven” or “smart,” but they rarely talk about a team leader’s or executive’s generosity. This shows how much of a unicorn trait it can be.
Secondly, generosity tends to promote a ton of goodwill. There isn’t an in-person or remote office on the planet that couldn’t use an extra dash of positivity. In fact, infusing a spirit of generosity into a workforce can create a domino effect. As workers experience generosity from their leaders, they tend to pass it around, too.
Finally—and on a personal level—being generous is good for your health. One psychological study on volunteerism found a correlation between generosity and a longer life span. Consequently, practicing generosity regularly could allow you to lead more people toward their dreams and goals over your lifetime.
But how do you put generosity into action? To help your company succeed, you’ll need to make more than just a few small changes. Like most behavioral changes, you need to practice some patience and diligence.
Help your company succeed by forging ahead with a few steps
1. Redefine your idea of generosity
First thing’s first: To become more generous, you have to know what generosity is.
For example, many leaders would call themselves generous because they hand out year-end bonuses. Yet, according to Jason Jaggard, founder of executive coaching firm Novus Global, wealth can be broken down into different vehicles. The vehicles include energy, knowledge, and opportunity, and they can have just as much (or more) impact than spreading cash.
It’s important to open your mind to thinking of generosity from all angles. For example, when you mentor a struggling coworker, you’re generous. When you’re introducing a neighbor to someone who is looking for a worker with the neighbor’s skills, you’re generous. These actions might not seem extraordinary, but they indicate your willingness to serve.
2. Put a premium on listening
Generous leaders listen. In fact, they listen often, and they listen well. They don’t just hear the words others are saying, but they look for context and opportunities to help. At this point, 83% of workers want their bosses to provide more input. An excellent way to help others is by listening to them carefully and then responding with kindness, honesty, and thoughtfulness.
Listening helps reveal your generosity to your employees.
What does listening show your employees? First, it tells them they’re valued. You actually care. Secondly, it proves that you’re open to learning something, too. Third, it builds your relationship with your people. And that relationship may mean the difference between them staying for years or moving on to a different employer.
3. Go beyond being commonly empathetic to becoming high-level empathetic
We’ve all heard a lot about the importance of empathy in the workplace, especially after the 2020 pandemic. Empathy doesn’t end with just understanding others’ emotional states, though. You can use your emotional intelligence as a springboard to transform someone’s personal or professional life.
Let’s say you have a salesperson who’s been underperforming for about a month. You know that something’s happening, but you don’t know what. So, therefore, you talk with the salesperson and find out he’s going through a divorce and is trying to move out.
Rather than just offer some extra PTO or the ability to work remotely, head down a more generous route. With his permission, you could put out feelers with friends who are landlords or need long-term house sitters. This is a way to be generous through your network. It shows your empathy doesn’t end with the words, “That’s too bad.”
4. Hand over the reins
One thing about leaders, particularly entrepreneurs, is that they tend to be selfish when it comes to leading. After all, they’re leaders by trade. It’s who they are, and they like being at the front of the line. Yet taking up the spotlight isn’t very generous, is it?
Quite honestly, much leadership in business causes others to shrink up and lose initiative — which will surely hurt innovation, morale, and employee engagement. In addition, when you injure anything in your employees, it doesn’t help your team succeed; it’s also not going to help your company succeed either.
When appropriate, give people the chance to lead. This doesn’t mean anointing them as CEOs for the day, though. Instead, hand out projects and delegate key responsibilities. To be sure, sometimes your employees will falter or even fail at their assignments. You have to be okay with that.
Your overarching objective isn’t for them to be perfect, but for talented workers to have the chance to wow the world. So don’t be surprised if this type of generosity allows you to unearth some potential future executives among your personnel.
5. Act protectively with your people
It’s funny how often corporate leaders will stick up for their services and products, but not do the same for their high-performance workers. Ouch. Don’t be “that boss” who throws employees under the bus.
Stick up for your team members when it’s appropriate, even if that means that you’re going to have to go out on a limb. In other words, extend your generosity like a blanket that offers security, and shows that you aren’t a fair-weather founder.
Will there be times when you don’t agree with something a staffer has said or done? Absolutely. And you may need to make difficult choices. However, you don’t have to allow angry customers to trash your employees just to make a sale.
If you believe your employees are in the right, say so. You’ll be amazed at the loyalty you can foster by moving to the same side of the table as your crew. Furthermore, fostering a company culture of true teamwork will also help your company succeed in the long run.
6. Spotlight generosity when you see it –and aim to imitate it
When you hear about another leader doing something generous, talk about it in glowing terms. The same goes for any act of generosity you spot among your workers. By communicating your appreciation for generous decisions, you’ll show just how important you place generosity.
In time, you’ll probably start to see people make more generous moves as a result, which will ultimately help your company succeed.
At the same time, be sure to model the generous behavior that moves you deeply. For example, if a colleague volunteers at a shelter, you may want to see if the shelter needs additional help. Of course, you don’t want to step on (or try to “one-up”) your coworker’s generosity, but you should be open to helping.
Generosity in the workplace is kind of like one of those beautiful weeds in your yard that you can’t help but admire. It sprouts, spreads and reseeds at a high-paced level if you let it. To start a new era of generous habits among your team right now by auditing and augmenting your own generosity as a leader.
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