Helena Clayton | Work as Love in Action 3: am I choosing to be generous?



Work as Love in Action 3: am I choosing to be generous?

15 Dec 2015, Posted by Helena Clayton in Work as Love in Action

In leadership development, I often work with binaries, with different ends of a spectrum in order to explore something, maybe creating a false polarity to make a point. Are you a strategic or an operational leader? Is your style one of advocacy, or inquiry? And others more relevant to the inner work of leadership development. Who are you in work and who are you outside of work? To what extent do you lead with your head, or from your heart? Does what you love drive you (your passion) , or what you know you have to do (your will)? And one that has come up again and again recently is whether, as a leader, we choose to withhold praise and appreciation, or be generous with it. To what extent am I being generous, or withholding? From a recent leadership group came comments like: ‘but I have to tell people when they do something wrong, else they’ll never learn’. Or ‘but if I praise them, they’ll get big headed and stop trying so hard’ and ‘they’ll get complacent’.

Do you recognise yourself in that at all? Further exploration revealed that people felt embarrassed to offer an appreciative comment, to acknowledge a positive quality in someone because ‘they’ll think I’m weird and wonder what’s going on’. This last often accompanied by nervous laughter as they spoke of a deep discomfort at the thought of such a conversation, a conversation that felt as if it required a little more intimacy. It felt as people saw it as a zero-sum game, that if they ‘gave away’ a positive remark there’d be less left for them. There was also a sense of ‘no-one does that for us, why should I do it for others?’ And that they didn’t quite have the words for it, didn’t trust what might come out of their mouths. At our core, we have a fundamental human need to feel loved. It was a primary driver for us as a child, and that need is still as strong in us adults. And I believe we have a human responsibility to help people to feel loved, to let people know that they are loved and loveable. And that extends into our leadership responsibilities too – it’s not only in our roles as a partner or a parent.
In playing with this binary I wonder can we find a way to be more generous, rather than withholding, in our leadership – and in our life? So …can I notice something that’s working well and comment on that rather than on an error? Can I see a strength instead of a flaw? Can I offer a loving comment that I know will be nourishing for someone rather than hold back in case someone thinks I’m odd? Can I rise above the fact that that person is irritating me and respond with compassion instead. Can I say ‘I love that idea, that sounds great’ instead of pointing out what might go wrong. Might I be able to say, for no reason whatsoever, ‘you know, I have always loved x quality in you’ or simply ‘you know I’ve never said this but I really enjoy working with you’.
So I now notice myself playing more with the binary of noticing when am I being generous and when am I withholding. And it’s brining up some interesting stuff for me. What do you notice in yourself?


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