I recently was invited by a friend to attend a networking meeting as a guest. Aside from appreciating the generosity of my friend to include me, I got a lot from the entire experience. Most networking I’ve done in the past has been reasonably informal, like industry events where many people get together to share stories and exchange ideas. Occasionally a connection gets made and a lead gets passed. Less frequently is the lead fully qualified and a legitimate business opportunity.
This networking event was very different. It was a group of people who get together weekly and it was highly structured. There was a focus on ensuring each member of the group got a chance to discuss what business they are in and what they are really looking for. In addition, a couple of members got the opportunity to present their story in more detail. Then the meeting moved on to a round table where each member had the opportunity to stand up and describe a referral they had for another member. Not all members had something, but the thing that struck me was that the entire group followed the motto of the organization:
This is the motto of an organization called BNI or Business Network International. There are multiple chapters in pretty much any significant city around the world. It is really interesting to see an organization founded on the principle of giving, to the extent that the only thing that is measured in the group is how much each member has given. Actually that’s not quite true – they also measure whether members followed up on what they were given. The members start to notice who contributes the most and naturally work hard to find business for those givers.
Givers gain. What a great motto to consider for ourselves! How does it land with you? Are you a believer or a doubter as you initially consider the concept? When I first heard it, it landed as a truth. I immediately embraced it as true and started to think about where I see this concept operating in life and at work.
I focused in on the work environment, and first started to think about what we have to give to others at work. That proved to be a reasonably easy exercise, and the top 10 items I came up with are listed below. But that wasn’t enough as it was only the first half of the equation. I also needed to understand when one gives those things (or other things), how does one gain? I think that is an important place to start, as it may activate our natural tendency to give.
So how do givers gain?
Here’s a few ways that came to me:
- People like to give back – those who give are the most likely to receive in return. It’s not the reason to give, but it is a reason why givers gain. This is the premise of BNI.
- Friendship – when you give someone something from your heart, the receiver’s reaction is often one of connection and wanting to have you around more … to be a friend. Friends look out for each other, both in identifying opportunities and in …
- Protection – from threats. Those who know we have their back will invariably have ours.
- Loyalty – as relationships develop based on giving both ways, a strong sense of loyalty to each other builds, meaning there is a resiliency to the relationship that can withstand stress and low periods.
- Joy, warmth and caring – this has nothing to do with the person to whom we give. It is all inside us and probably the most important thing we gain. We feel good about it! That translates into more emotional energy to sustain ourselves throughout even the most stressful day.
So how might we give so as to gain access to these prizes? Here’s the top 10 I came up with. What other areas are on your list?
- Effort – probably the simplest way of giving is to simply do something for someone.
- Information – we thrive on knowledge. Share freely. If you know something that others might value, pass it on. They will appreciate that you thought about them.
- Joy, laughter and smiles – life at work can be really serious at times. The simple act of being joyful in the moment, smiling at others and adding laughter to the quiet is really powerful.
- Time – now we are talking about a valuable commodity! When we take the time to pay attention to someone else’s agenda we really make them feel important. That is truly a gift.
- Praise and recognition – others love when we notice the great things they do. Whether it is a private “attta boy/girl” or a public announcement of achievement, it is a great gift.
- Support and backing– people who believe in something stick their neck out. That is often a big risk, or at least a perceived big risk. They appreciate it when we stand beside them or have their backs. Particularly if we are seen as credible in the topic at hand.
- Opportunity – it surrounds us, but it isn’t always isn’t for us. When we notice an opportunity that fits someone else and make sure they get a crack at it, we’ve done a great thing.
- Active Listening – really listening to someone is a lost art. If you are good at it, then you have a gift worth giving. Sit for a moment with someone, and listen to what their words mean to them, not to you. An amazing experience for both parties.
- Coaching/mentoring – often others come to us for advice. At the core though, they don’t want us to tell them what to do. They already know the fundamental answer, and just need us to add some good questions and a bit of wisdom.
- Empathy for others – most of the above ways of giving address good times. But big gifts show up when the chips are down. When we can extend our hearts out to others when they most need the support, our heart gets fed in return.