Hiking pay to motivate skilled employees is just so last century. In 2018 more nuance is needed to incentivise high performance in a sophisticated team. Leaders need to develop a more advanced approach to generosity:
- Time - be generous with your time. Many leaders are time-poor so how they choose to use the potential ‘people’ time they do have available will be important. And it will be noticed by the people they lead. In those precious free moments, do you take the opportunity to really talk to someone on your team about how things are going? Or do you put your head down, take out your phone and catch up on those emails…?
- Experience - be generous with your experience: share what you know; what you’ve learnt; and, crucially, the mistakes you’ve made. Great leaders need to communicate their knowledge and experience - including the stuff that shows they are less than perfect. Particularly in highly competitive workplaces, where there’s pressure to succeed, it helps others to know you are human and fallible. If you’ve never shared one of your mistakes with your team, you might be surprised how significant it can be in building trust and making you more approachable.
- Opportunity - be generous with the best work. You might be more experienced, and you might believe (know?) you’d do it better, but if you keep the key clients and files, work, etc. for yourself…how will anyone else ever be able to get there? Take a look at the current work distribution in your team. Could you be generous and give someone else the next thing you really wanted to do yourself (or even the thing you believe only you can can do)? And then support them to truly excel at it. Do you trust them?
- Interpretation - be generous with the benefit of the doubt (to a point). When someone does something or says something that’s "not okay", begin with the best interpretation the situation reasonably allows. Try to start from the assumption that no harm was intended. Assume mistake rather than negligence. Assume error rather than evil. Take it from there. Most of the time, most people don’t intend to get things wrong or cause upset. If you at least start with assuming benign intent - you’ll be better able to see the situation from their point of view - and have a better conversation about the impact it had. That’s not to say problematic behaviour should go unaddressed. It's just that a generous starting-point leads to a better conversation - less defensiveness, more honesty and willingness to hear a difficult message.
If all else fails - there's still the cash option as an outlet for your generosity. The odd generously stacked plate of chocolate chip cookies can't hurt either.