Team Leadership Skills: Establish a Norm of Giving by Giving First

Observing diplomats, international delegations, ambassadors, and other dignitaries can teach us an important lesson regarding our innate Leadership Gift.

When one dignitary visits another, they arrive bearing gifts. And what do the gifts symbolize? Our late 20th century cynicism can tempt us to see them as “bribes,” but this isn’t fair.

Open with a Gift

The gift celebrates a new and promising relationship. And they symbolize a willingness on the part of the giver to invest first and look for the payoff later.

More often, in fact, the gifts anticipate a real — rather than symbolic — contribution that one party brings to the new relationship. The real contribution could be a treaty, an investment, foreign aid, technology transfer, or the like.

The way dignitaries go about gift giving may not be appropriate in most work settings. Nevertheless, the lessons we can learn from it can and should be applied to our work relationships. How? It’s simple, really.

By skipping the symbolic gift and immediately making a valuable contribution, you can advance the work of any relationship.

Your contribution can be anything of value to the collaboration: evidence of your talents, special information to which you have access, an immediate use of your network of contacts to get something done, making an introduction, etc.

When you contribute right away, you show that contributing (or “adding value” as my agile industry friends like to say) is your “normal” way of operating.

If you also make it known that you don’t expect an immediate payoff but do expect such contributions to produce extraordinary payoffs later, you effectively prime the relationship and encourage others to open with contributions as well. There’s no better way to establish a norm of contributing on a new team.

Think about it

When individuals expect to see and measure the payoff for themselves before they offer their contribution, we see their efforts — no matter how laudatory — as a simple “transaction.”

People applying the Leadership Gift know that in collaborations, the most worthwhile payoffs often lag well behind the contributions.

So, to establish a norm of giving within a team, people knowledgeable about The Leadership Gift know that I speak about how smart it is — not just polite — to open every relationship with a contribution.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Reflect on the last time you entered a new collaboration. Did your “normal” behavior contribute to establishing a relationship norm?

What was that norm? Was it to contribute or to wait and see (i.e., to withhold)? Or was it to structure or specify the payoff before anything else?

How can you conceive your next relationship as an avenue for mutual contribution instead of simple “transaction”?

Feel free to share your experience with this practice, seek advice about your situation, or join in previous discussions in the comments.

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 04/09/2012 08:39 pm
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