Think about someone you genuinely respect. Think about someone you truly admire. Think about someone you love to be around. She may not be rich. She may not be highly accomplished. She may not be a household name.
Yet you love to be around her—and you would love to be more like her. What sets her apart from everyone else?
She’s generous, without expectation of return. She’s generous because a big chunk of her happiness—and success—comes from helping other people be happy and successful.
Here’s what sets generous people apart:
1. They’re Generous With Praise
Everyone, even relatively poor performers, does something well. That’s why everyone deserves praise and appreciation. It’s easy for most of us to recognize great employees; after all, they do great things. (Of course it’s very possible that consistent praise is one of the reasons they’ve become great.)
Relatively few of us work hard to find reasons to praise the person who simply meets standards. The people who do this know that a few words of recognition—especially when that recognition is publicly given—could just be the nudge that inspires an average performer to become a great performer.
Generous people can often see the good in another person before that person sees it in herself, providing a spark that just might help her reach her true potential.
2. They’re Generous With Patience
For some people, we’re willing to give our all. Why? They care about us, they believe in us, and we don’t want to let them down. Showing patience is an extraordinary way to let people know we truly care about them. Showing patience and expressing genuine confidence is an extraordinary way to let people know we truly believe in them.
Showing patience is an extremely generous thing to do, because it shows how much you care.
3. They’re Generous With Privacy
Everyone shares. Everyone likes and tweets. Lives have increasingly become open books. Gradually, we’ve started to feel we have a right to know more about others than we ever did.
Sometimes, we don’t need to know. Often, we don’t have a right to know. Often, the best gift we can give is the gift of privacy, of not asking, not prying—yet always being available if and when another person does want or need to share.
Generous people are willing to not only respect someone’s privacy but also to help the person guard it—because they know it’s not necessary to know in order to care.
4. They’re Generous With Opportunities
Every job has the potential to lead to greater things. Every person has the potential, both professionally and personally, to accomplish greater things.
Generous bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company. Generous people take the time to help another person find and seize opportunities.
Many people have the ability to feel someone else’s pain and help the person work through it. A few, a special few, have the ability to feel someone else’s dreams and help the person work toward them—and to help open doors that might otherwise have remained closed.
5. They’re Generous With the Truth
Lip service is easy to pay. Professionalism is easy to display. Much rarer are people who can be highly professional yet also openly human. They’re willing to show sincere excitement when things go well. They’re willing to show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They’re wiling to show sincere disappointment—not in others, though, but in themselves.
They openly celebrate. They openly empathize. They openly worry.
In short, they’re openly human. They blend professionalism with a healthy dose of humanity—and, more important, allow other people to do the same.
6. They’re Generous With Tough Love
I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. We all want to be better than we are. Yet we all fall into habits, fall into patterns, and develop blind spots, so we all need constructive feedback.
And that’s why sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants. It’s relatively easy to provide feedback during evaluations. It’s relatively easy to make one-off comments. It’s a lot tougher to sit someone down and say, “I know you’re capable of a lot more.”
Think about a time when someone told you what you least wanted to hear yet most needed to hear. You’ve never forgotten what the person said. It changed your life.
Now go change someone else’s life.
7. They’re Generous With Independence
There is almost always a best practice, so most leaders implement and enforce processes and procedures.
For employees, though, engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. You care the most when it’s “yours.” You care the most when you feel you have the responsibility and authority to do what is right.
That’s why generous people create standards and guidelines but then give employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best within those guidelines. They allow employees to turn “have to” into “want to,” which transforms what was just work into something much more meaningful: an outward expression of each person’s unique skills, talents, and experiences.
8. They’re Generous With Respect
Some employees aren’t outstanding. Some are far from it. They aren’t as smart. They don’t work as hard. They make bigger mistakes. (Some employees ultimately deserve to be let go.)
Still, regardless of their level of performance, all employees deserve to be treated with respect. Sarcasm, eye rolling, and biting comments all chip away at a person’s self-respect.
It takes true generosity to allow others to maintain a sense of dignity even in the worst of circumstances.
After all, I may have to fire you, but I never, ever have to demean or humiliate you.
9. They’re Generous With Their Sense of Purpose
Fulfillment is often found in becoming a part of something bigger. We all love to feel that special sense of teamwork and togetherness that turns a task into a quest, a group of individuals into a real team.
Anyone can write mission statements. Much tougher is creating a mission that makes a real impact. Even tougher is showing other people how what they do affects their customers, their business, their community, and themselves.
Give the gift of caring—and the gift of knowing why to care.