I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Management - Generosity

Keep the others indebted to you.

What do I mean by that? It is simple, really. As long as your collaborators will feel that they owe you something, they will bend over backward with their work to repay you.

If you are generous with your collaborators, when the need arises, you can also ask special efforts from them and expect that they will do their best to satisfy your requests. If you, on the other hand, never give away anything without first cashing in, you will find it very difficult to ask for more.

This is of course not independent of trust, as you cannot possibly give if you expect people to be selfish and uncommitted.

Obviously, the risk exists that people will exploit your trust, take advantage of your generosity, and laugh behind your back. Nevertheless, you cannot really achieve anything without risking something. There is a scene of an interesting piece of theatre that illustrates this situation. I think it is from the Italian Eduardo De Filippo. It goes like this: Every morning, a man crumbles a piece of bread on the window sill and rejoices at the sight of pigeons pecking on the crumbs. “They must be very grateful”, he reflects. The pigeons, on the other hand, while gorging themselves on the bread, think: “How silly this old man. We steal his bread every day and he keeps putting it out.”

Many managers are afraid to be seen as the man of that scene. I had a manager who, no matter what I told him, before trying to understand what I meant, seemed to be asking himself: “Why is he saying that? What is his hidden agenda? What is he REALLY trying to achieve with his words?” Not much trust there!

I will be honest with you: There WILL be people who will take advantage of your generosity, but many more who will value it and respect you more for that. Ultimately, I don't really care whether somebody thinks about me like the pigeons of the story. I am confident that, over the months, I will be able to recognise the bad apples and weed them out.

It is only when you give that you can then expect to receive. To give you a practical example, how can you refuse to stay till late to solve a problem if your boss always lets you organise your working day as you like? It would really be petty of you to refuse to come on a Saturday for an emergency if you were always able to be at home for your daughter's birthday. Don't you think?

Another example. Who has never taken home from work some stationery, or even just a pencil, should raise her hand. Let's face it, we all do it. How much does this cost to the company? Ten dollars per year per employee? One hundred? Is it really worth arguing about it? And what about free coffee and drinks? And yet, how would an employee feel if she had to ask the departmental secretary when she needs a new note pad? I tell you, it pays to be generous. Often, the small things are those which create a positive atmosphere in the workplace and contribute to staff retention.

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