Leadership Skills: Granting Favors is an “Efficient Gift”

Is it easy for you to grant a small favor to someone you’ve just met? Are you just as willing to ask a favor of someone you’ve just met?

Most people are much more willing to grant a favor than to ask for one. However, when I teach people about the Leadership Gift, I let them know that asking for a favor actually grants the other person a favor.

By doing so, we communicate to the other person that he or she is important to us, that we depend on them, and that we’re even willing to owe them a favor.

Most people find pleasure in being asked to grant small favors because it allows them to serve.

A principle of collaborative communication is at work here: the acts of asking for and offering help signal a relationship move from independence to interdependence. This means you can actually launch into teamwork with a simple request or a simple offer.

People applying the skills of the Leadership Gift understand that they have both the power and responsibility to set the tone for collaboration by asking first.

So, how do we get the most out of asking for and granting favors? Economist Kenneth Boulding says to focus on “efficient gifts.”

Efficient gifts are favors that cost the giver little or nothing to provide, yet provide great value to the receiver.

Examples of efficient gifts include:

  • early warning of an impending threat or opportunity
  • introductions and referrals
  • welcome feedback that reinforces or corrects a course of action
  • temporarily covering another person’s post
  • receiving and forwarding messages
  • holding doors
  • proofreading a document
  • thoughtfully answering a simple (or maybe even silly-sounding) question

There are infinite ways we can add great value to each other for little or no cost to ourselves. Boulding went so far as to suggest that efficient gifts add MORE value — even in the business world — than do transactional exchanges.

It’s also been said that miracles are interpersonal in nature. In that light, applying your Leadership Gift skills is both smart business and might work miracles.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Reflect on how deserving you are to receive and to ask directly for what you want. Get clear about it! Then ask a favor of someone you just met, or someone that you don’t know well but would like to.

Bigger stretch: Ask without any explanation about how you’ll do them a favor in return. That’s turning a gift into an exchange. Just ask, be willing to receive, and know that the favor will be answered by someone in time.

What do you think about Boulding’s suggestion that efficient gifts add even MORE value to business relationships than transactional exchanges? We want to know — please leave a comment.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership on 05/01/2012 03:50 pm
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