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STEPHEN CARTER | Partner - Sharp & Carter

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In my last blog I spoke about the first pillar of our culture – Care. And today I want to write about the second – Generosity.

Some of you may have seen the research by Adam Grant and his book “Give and Take” on the different approaches to generosity and the success each can bring to an individual. Adam’s research showed that there are 3 types of approaches to giving by individuals:

  1. Takers

  2. Matchers

  3. Givers

Takers

Takers are self-focused and put their own interests ahead of the needs of others. They try to gain as much as possible from their interactions while contributing as little as they can in return.

Matchers

Matchers like to preserve an equal balance of giving and taking. Their mindset is “If you take from me, I’ll take from you. If you give to me, I’ll give to you.”

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Givers

Givers are others-focused and tend to provide support to others with no strings attached. They ask themselves, “How can I add value for this person? What can I contribute?”

In terms of how successful each of these approaches are, the research showed that the least successful people are “Selfless Givers”. These people give and give and give, often to their own detriment – they’re the ones who will help others so much that they don’t get their own work done.

The next least successful group of people are Takers, followed by the Matchers. Essentially, any one kind of the above approaches is not going to be wholly successful.

The most successful people in life are Givers who are proactively generous, but who also look for win/win outcomes from the Takers and Matchers. These are called “Otherish Givers”.

 At Sharp & Carter, we are very much Otherish Givers.


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What assists our ability to adopt this style is that we are ‘considered’ in our approach. We consider both the costs and the benefits very deeply with each decision we make – always coming from a generous standpoint, but still taking into account all of the factors that our generosity could impact.

We consider the cost of damage to our culture, we weigh up the short-term costs of employee struggle versus the long-term benefit of retaining staff. Ultimately, we believe that our reputation, our relationships, our ability to have positive advocates or raving fans in the market and how people who have worked with us feel about their experience with us is incredibly valuable.

As a business owner, ‘cost’ is easy to measure, whereas ‘value’ is a little more difficult. And therefore, I believe a lot of businesses fall into the trap of focusing on cost and don’t place enough emphasis on value. We sometimes see this in the salary negotiations of the candidates we place; often companies will offer a candidate less than the expectations that had been discussed throughout the process. The company asks the employee to ‘prove’ themselves, following which a salary review will be given after a period of time (classic “Matcher” behaviour). This may save this business some cost financially but what about the cost to the relationship with the new staff member? To the new employee’s attitude and opinion of their new employer? Does it leave them disappointed and disillusioned, perhaps struggling financially outside of work, rather than enthused, energised and focused purely on their new job with their new employer who really appreciates their value? When you balance this cost with value it’s not hard to see the cost savings of the lower salary for the first 12 months do not outweigh the value lost in the other factors.  

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Good leadership takes courage, empathy and relationships. In other words, it takes a generosity of spirit. When one of our staff members is struggling we take a very long-term view as to how we approach their struggles. As an example, we once had an employee commence with us who got extremely sick about 3 months into their new role - he had a lung infection that then became a brain infection and he came very close to passing away. Needless to say, he was off sick for a number of months and there was no real timetable for his return. Very early on we decided that we would pay him for every day he was off sick, so that he didn’t need to worry about paying his rent and he could focus on getting better. Obviously, there was a ‘cost’ associated with this, but the ‘value’ was immense.

Since returning to work he tells all his colleagues what we did for him and he also often tells his clients about his experience in working with us. Really, we ‘bought’ deep engagement with a colleague who is now one of our most important, senior, high performing (and profitable) team members. True to Adam Grant’s research, being a giver in this instance and more generally has been critical to our success.

A question we ask of each other all the time is “How would we feel if we were being treated this way?”

Reciprocity - or treating others as you would like to be treated - is a key part of why we are generous. Essentially in the current market, if people don’t feel like they have a ‘fair’ deal they will leave. A lot of our staff began their recruitment career with other recruitment firms, and whilst I think our business can act as a bit of a ‘carrot’ given we are an attractive place to work, the vast majority of people who move to our organisation do so because they do not feel like they are being looked after where they are. Thus, no matter how good we are as an employer, without people wanting to leave their current organisation due to (amongst other things) a lack of generosity and care, we would never be able to hire those people.

And remember you can be generous with plenty of things aside from just money. You can be generous with your time, generous with your interest and generous with the things you possess by sharing them with others.

 So, when you are making decisions in your business or your team, I would recommend you try the following:

  1. Think about the long-term value rather than the short-term cost

  2. Think how you would feel if you were in the employee or the customers shoes

  3. Have faith that the more generous you are the more successful you will be – after all, it is what the research says!

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Stephen Carter
Partner, Sharp & Carter
0411 543 833