Several years ago my wife and I were in Grand Rapids, MI, attending a conference with numerous great speakers: Olympic Medalist Dan Jansen, sales gurus Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins, President Gerald Ford, Former First Lady Barbara Bush and others. President Ford was 84 years old, and just like my wife, an alumnus of the University of Michigan. Somehow we were able to be part of a small group to have lunch with President Ford who spoke as we dined. Right after we took our seats, Zig Ziglar sat down next to my wife. Having lived most of our professional lives in some aspect of sales, we were 2 giggly kids sitting next to this sales legend. Then, President Ford, standing just a few feet away, started addressing the group, covering a variety of topics and answering questions. I remember that he was 84 years old because someone asked him what he would like to accomplish that year. His answer was, “I’m 84 years old and I’d love to shoot my age in golf!” The autographed picture of Zig, my wife and I still hangs on the wall in my office.
Bill & Elise Auxier with Zig Ziglar.
My wife and I with Zig Ziglar.
One of Zig’s messages that day was that if you want to get what you want out of life you have to help others get what they want out of life. This is one of his consistent messages in all his material. Helping others get what they want out of life doesn’t have anything to do with writing checks or losing sight of your own needs and aspirations to help others. It does mean helping others achieve their goals but not in a subservient fashion or at the cost of everything else.
At another time in my life, I became involved with the networking group Business Network International (BNI). BNI’s purpose is to help fellow members grow their business through word-of-mouth marketing. The theme or idea is that by providing leads and referrals to others, they would be more inclined to provide leads and referrals to you. The BNI motto is “Givers Gain.”
The concept that giving will ultimately be beneficial does have its critics. The expression “good guys finish last” didn’t come about by accident. But research indicates that in fact, givers do gain. Good guys do finish first.
Adam Grant, author of Give & Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success is a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In his research, Grant defined givers as people who give. What he found was that givers make up the least successful people AND the most successful people. The least successful givers end up getting taken advantage of by others because they are so focused on giving they let their own goals and needs fall by the wayside. Top performers, the people Grant identified as the most successful, were also givers. Effective givers help people and organizations achieve their objectives by promoting a unified effort in the proper direction. Givers excel in productivity. The habits of the givers who are at the top include selectivity, good time management, specialization and strength.
Selectivity simply means you have to be selective as to who you help. You simply cannot help everyone. Good time management requires blocking time to achieve one’s own objectives. Givers who fail have a tendency to drop everything when someone asks for aide. Specialization means exactly that, giving help to others in specific areas, being a specialist versus a generalist. Strength means having the discipline of giving that is in alignment with you and your goals and aspirations. Givers who lose sight of their own goals fall into the least successful category.
Effective leaders are effective givers. Many experts have articulated this message and research supports it. To get what you want as a leader you need to help others get what they want. Leaders who give will gain. The goal is to be in the successful group of givers, which means practicing the habits of selectivity, good time management, specialization and strength.
How about practicing the art of giving by giving a comment below?