Generosity is a highly admirable and sought out quality, but at what point does generosity become foolish? Does it ever? In a highly competitive world, generosity is considered by some to be a weakness, a fatal flaw, the downfall of ones success. If you are open with your ideas, what’s to stop somebody from stealing them?
While this is a possibility, the risk is usually far outweighed by what you gain in return. People who are generous are always well liked, and once you start thinking about it you realise that generosity tends to come in cycles. People who you help more often than not will want to help you in return.
Generosity does not just mean being generous with your money or possessions – it also encompasses being generous with your time and your knowledge. This kind of generosity is often more keenly felt too. If you were sick in hospital for weeks on end, what would you appreciate more – the expensive bunch of flowers which arrives via a delivery service, or the hour that somebody spent visiting you to brighten your day?
The pros and cons of being generous with knowledge can be hotly debated. Customers love to know how you have done something; how you fixed the flat tire on their car, how you repaired the rip in their skirt. However, telling them may cause you to loose a small piece of business. By showing them how to do it themselves, they may not pay you to do it next time, but they will leave with a good feeling about you. They appreciate the fact that you shared your knowledge with them and while they may now be able to do this small thing, you can bet that when their engine starts belching smoke or they need alterations to a ball gown, they will come to you. Because they appreciated the kindness you showed them at your own expense, and they trust you.
Nothing will be more appreciated by the new junior at work than you taking time out of your busy schedule to sit with them and teach them something new, or give them advice on a project. Think back to when you first started out. There would (we certainly hope) have been at least one person who would help you when you got stuck, who would proof read a big report before it got sent to the boss, who would answer your questions, who would guide you in the office politics. I bet that in return, you looked for ways to help make their life easier. It may have been as big as taking on some of the easier parts of their workload, or as small as getting them a coffee. Either way, the generosity they showed you is reciprocated. That’s how great working relationships are established.
The cynical among us would argue that by sharing your expertise, you are giving the newby the ability to take your job. In reality, you are helping an individual grow into a contributing member of society, you are strengthening your team by giving it another valuable member and you are encouraging excellence in your industry. How can great work ever be a bad thing? Not to mention the fact that people are rarely keen to step on somebody who has helped them. The people who ignored them and dropped them in the deep end however? That’s another story.
Now, let’s look at the flip side – the givers, these kind, generous souls who donate their time and knowledge. The thing that hasn’t been mentioned until now, the big secret behind why people give is this – it feels good. It’s as simple as that. They get a kick out if it. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when somebody you have mentored succeeds. You helped them get to this great achievement. And they will remember it too. You never forget the first person who gave you a chance, the first person who told you that you were good at your job, the first person who promoted you. Lend your time, share your knowledge and give yourself a reason to be warm and fuzzy.