Generosity – It’s a Two-Way Street

To build authentic relationships, 

you need to lead with generosity, and serve others first!” 

In mid April of this year, former candidate for PA Lieutenant Governor, Jeff Bartos, like so many others, was trying to figure out how to keep his business afloat.  The continual  challenges associated with the Coronavirus, and its impact on his real estate development firm, had left him exhausted.  He could have never imagined that it would be a phone call and question from a childhood friend, that that would lead him to an experience that, in his words, “was powerful, humbling, heartbreaking and hopeful.”  The question?  “Ten years from now, how do you want to look back?”

On May 6, Jeff and two business associates created the PA 30 Day Funda non-profit firm designed to provide small business owners with forgivable loans that enables them to meet payroll, preserve healthcare, and save jobs until they can receive federal aid.  Perhaps the most unique trait of this program is the “Pay-forward” feature.  The Funds received do not need to be repaid. If businesses receiving the Fund’s assistance do, at a later date, wish to “pay it forward” to another Pennsylvania small business in need of assistance, they may do so by directing those dollars back to the Fund, which will disburse the funding to another Pennsylvania business in need.  Think about it, an organization created to let businesses help businesses, and it is sustained through “Pay it Forward” generosity.  

When we think about generosity, the word “giving” commonly comes to mind.  For many, generosity is considered the provision of services or finances by one party for the benefit of another, but it is more than that.  Generosity is a two way street, because it serves to build and strengthen relationships; something which is invaluable to both parties.  This concept was the subject of Andrew Sobel’s recent post, The Power of Authentic Generosity to Strengthen Relationships.

The post begins with a simple idea, “If trust is the universal lubricant of relationships, generosity is the fuel!”   Sobel proposes that generosity can serve to strengthen professional relationships in several ways:

  • Generosity is a signal of character.  It provides a potential client or anyone else with whom you are trying to build a relationship, with insight into your values and how you will act in the future.

  • Generosity begets generosity from others.  It fosters reciprocity.  When someone gives, we want to reciprocate and give back.

  • Research reveals that generosity is a key to successful, mutually-productive, long-term personal relationships as well as to professional relationships and personal career success.

An added bonus is that there is also now strong evidence (see Adam Grant’s book,  Give and Takethat people who are giving in their professional relationships are more successful than those whose approach is mainly to take from others.  

So what is holding us back, why aren’t we all jumping on the generosity bandwagon?  Sobel suggests several reasons:

  • Taking care of #1.  Most of us are, well, pretty focused on ourselves—on our goals, our deadlines, our success, and so on.  

  • A lack of local role models.  It may be that you didn’t grow up feeling others, your family or friends, were generous and giving towards you, whether in terms of time, money, or praise.  

  • Fear of being taken advantage of.  No one wants to be perceived as a pushover—or even a doormat—someone who is always helping others but never looking after themselves and their own responsibilities.

Many consider generosity as a periodic action, something often done in a time of crisis.  However, being generous can become a way we approach life.  By embracing five simple mindsets, we can become more generous in our relationships and subsequently grow and strengthen them.

  • Embrace a Mindset of Abundance:  This is the belief that there are plenty of opportunities to go around, and that helping one person helps everyone.

  • Embrace a Mindset of Gratitude:   Gratitude begets generosity.  If you’re grateful for what you have been given—by your family, friends, and colleagues; by God or the “universe” or just through random chance, depending on your worldview–you will be more able to show generosity to others. 

  • Embrace a Mindset of Unconditional Giving: Give to give, not to get.  You should be generous not because you expect something in return but because it’s the right thing to do. 

  • Embrace a Mindset of “Being There”: Relationships flourish when we fill the role of  “trusted advisor” who is willing to share time, wisdom and resources.  

  • Embrace a Mindset of Recognition:  Acknowledge and celebrate the successes and accomplishments of others.  This is an indirect but very powerful form of generosity.  Hearing words of congratulations from those we trust and with whom we have a relationship deepens it!

I can’t think of a better time in which to be generous.  What important relationship are you trying to develop or deepen. What actions could you take to be more generous in the relationship, in terms of giving your time, wisdom, and/or resources?  What are you waiting for?  Why not start training that generosity muscle tomorrow? 

Embrace the Challenge!