Think about people you truly respect. Think about people you truly admire. Think about people you love to be around.
You love to be around them — and you would love to be more like them.
So what sets them apart from everyone else?
They give: generously, selflessly, and without expectation of return. They give because their happiness comes from seeing other people be happy. They give because their success comes from seeing other people succeed.
1. They give the gift of 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 — and ways — to praise the person who simply meets standards. They know that a few words of recognition, especially when that recognition is given in public, could just be the nudge that inspires a good performer to become a great performer.
Exceptionally giving people 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 give the gift (and it is a gift) of asking for help.
When you ask for help, several things happen. You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice. You show you respect that person’s experience, skill, and insight. And you show you trust that person, since by asking for help you’ve automatically made yourself vulnerable.
While it’s relatively easy to ask for help, it’s harder to ask for help when the assistance is personal.
I once went to a meeting to talk about layoffs; by the time I got back to the plant word had already spread that cuts were coming. One of my employees said, “So, layoffs, huh?” I didn’t have to confirm it; he knew. I said, “I have no idea what to tell our employees. What would you say?”
He thought and said, “Just tell everyone you tried. Then talk about where we go from here.” Simple? Sure, but powerful too. He later told me how much it meant to him that I had asked for his opinion and taken his advice.
Unfortunately I didn’t do it often enough. Genuinely giving people frequently ask for help, in part because they realize the person who provides that help receives a lot in return in terms of self-respect, self-esteem, and self-worth.
They receive one of the greatest gifts of all: knowing they made a difference in someone else’s life.
3. They give the gift of 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 a wonderful gift — because, ultimately, it shows how much you care.
4. They give the gift of 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 a right 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.
Truly giving people not only respect another person’s privacy, they help them guard their privacy — because they know it’s not necessary to know in order to care.
5. They give the gift of opportunity.
Every job has the potential to lead to greater things. Every person has the potential, both professionally and personally, to accomplish greater things.
The best bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company. The best friends take the time to help other people find and seize opportunities.
Many people have the ability to feel another person’s pain and help them work through that pain. A few, a special few, have the ability to feel another person’s dreams and help them work towards achieving those dreams — and to help open doors that might otherwise have remained closed.
6. They give the gift of sincerity.
Lip service is easy to pay. Professionalism is easy to display. Much more rare are the 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. (Even if they’re bosses.)
The people we love to work with blend professionalism with a healthy dose of humanity — and more importantly, allow us to do the same.
7. They give the gift of 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 and patterns and develop blind spots. That’s why we all need advice, guidance, and sometimes 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… and I can help you.”
Think about a time when someone told you what you least wanted to hear… and yet most needed to hear. You’ve never forgotten that moment. It changed your life.
Go change someone else’s life.
8. They give the gift of 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.
Truly giving people allow others to maintain a sense of dignity even in the worst of circumstances.
After all, I may have the right to fire you… but I never have the right to demean or humiliate you.
9. They give the gift of freedom.
There often is 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.
Great bosses 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.
10. They give the gift 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, that turns 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.
Giving people give the gift of caring — along with the gift of knowing why to care.
This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Jeff Haden is a Contributing Editor for Inc. Magazine.
Image: A share trader reacts as she sits behind her trading terminal at the Frankfurt stock exchange. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach