- Wise Words -
Why it's good to give,
especially at work
by fergus mellon
It may seem smart to focus on yourself at work to get a raise or a promotion or just plain recognition, but one of your best chances at getting ahead could be by helping the people around you to succeed instead.
There is a great book that describes how taking a more selfless approach can end up benefiting the “giver” many times over. In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam Grant describes three personality types:
Guess who are the good guys? The Givers. Guess who are the success stories? Yup, the Givers! And the Takers are not just the bad guys, but as the book explains, in this hyper-connected world they end up losing as they will be revealed for what they are, “users.”
Here are some ideas on how to give to others in your company...
Recognize Others’ Success. While it might seem that by helping others look good, you will take attention away from yourself, this is not the case. By being a cheerleader for your direct reports and your co-workers you also help yourself.
Why? Think about it. When you received genuine recognition from your manager or a colleague, you probably thought: “Wow a [colleague] [manager] of mine thinks I am great.” Your next thought might be: “What an amazing person that [colleague] [manager] is. They really helped me. I should look out for them, too.”
So, when you are the one who gives credit or praise you benefit by increasing your own fan base. By being a decent person, you could find the reputation stays with you and so benefits you throughout the rest of your 45+-year career.
There is also the fact that you will look like a leader in your organization by championing the work of others. That’s something well-managed companies prize. Who knows, by being the cheerleader for others’ great work, you could be making steps towards your next promotion!
Give Job Referrals. There may be times when you get an email from a recruiter or a former colleague asking you if you would like to apply for a job and you just aren’t interested. The easy thing to do is to ignore the email or just say, “Thanks, but I am not looking right now.” That’s a mistake. Instead, think of others in your network who may want the job and give them a shout-out.
Why? Because it builds a good relationship with the recruiter (win), and it lets the people I referred know that I am looking out for them so they will also likely look out for me in the future (win).
Oh, and sometimes the recruiters pay a referral fee to boot!
Be a Great Reference. If you agree to be a reference, be a great one! If you feel uncomfortable putting your professional reputation on the line for an individual, my advice would be to politely decline the request. You can decline on the basis that you no longer know enough about the individual, or say you have too much going on to do a really good job. I really would not recommend being a “reluctant reference.”
To be a good reference. I not only think of all the good qualities of the individual, but I also try to prep with the candidate. I ask what their core messages were during the interview so that I can think of examples to help drive home the point.
In order to be a credible reference, I also am ready to give areas where the person needs to improve. For example, “When we worked together, this was a development area, and Jim took the feedback well and did X, Y and Z to overcome this.” Make sure that whatever you say, you would be happy saying it to their face.
Oh and when I have been that “great reference,” I have more often than not received a nice bottle of wine in the mail. Even if not, the people for whom I acted as a reference know that I have their “professional back,” which has strengthened the relationships that I have with people at all stages of their careers.
Hope these simple strategies for giving prove as useful to you as they have for me!
Related columns - "Getting Started on LinkedIn", "Networking as a Relationship", "Be Yourself. Be Genuine"
First published in USA Today, "To succeed be a Giver in the workplace and not a Taker"