Build a Stronger Team with Vitamin G
By Mary Linda McBride, guest contributor
The pace of our work lives is unrelenting. Cognitive, emotional, and social demands are feverishly delivered by devices – ringing, pinging, and chiming at us all day long.
Markets shift overnight. Expectations and preferences change with the advent of a new technology. A tweet can instantly precipitate a public relations nightmare.
Mindful leaders work to safeguard themselves and their colleagues from being hijacked by the crisis of the moment. Mindfulness skills such as self-awareness, attention regulation, and emotional resilience are all essential tools.
However, nothing works faster to lift a mood or strengthen the trust and empathy among team members than a dose of what I like to call, Vitamin G. Most people just call it generosity.
Generosity is such a powerful practice that it simultaneously affects the person extending the generosity, the recipient of the generous act, and anyone who witnesses it. Generosity is an evidence-based way to boost well-being.
"There are now a plethora of data showing that when individuals engage in generous or altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being,” reports Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin and member of the American Academy of Medicine. Davidson contends that well-being is a skill and that generosity is one of the key constituents involved in building that skill.
When we engage in a generous act, the brain releases oxytocin, one of our feel-good chemicals. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that helps foster a sense of connection to others. We might recognize it as that warm, fuzzy feeling in the middle of the chest.
Working for years as a nonprofit fundraiser, I saw firsthand the power of generosity to change lives. That type of generosity came primarily in the form of financial gifts. However, generosity takes many other forms and can become a bedrock practice for a healthy workplace culture.
Consider these ways to give yourself and your team a boost of Vitamin G….
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” – Simon Weil
Give someone your undivided attention. Put the phone away, look them in the eyes, ask a question, and then really listen to what they have to say. Do your best to listen without interrupting or trying to lead the conversation. As an act of generosity, give this person the gift of your presence.
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain
Give a Compliment. Is there someone in your workplace who makes your life easier just by doing their job well? Tell them that. Jot down a few words of thanks and leave it on their desk. Do it old school and write it on a piece of paper. That bit of generosity from you might wind up tucked into a wallet or tacked up on a memo board providing a needed boost on a difficult day.
Throw a life preserver. On any given day, someone on your team is frantically working to meet a deadline or cope with an unexpected turn of events. On a day when that is not you, make it a practice to notice when a colleague is flailing and about to go under for the third time. Drop a dose of Vitamin G by offering to help with some easily delegated task. Is it too complicated to step in to help? Offer to pick up lunch and bring it to their desk.
Make it anonymous. Experience the fun of doing something generous for your team and leave them wondering who among their colleagues is such a mensch. Since no one knows the source of generosity, everyone might be treated with just a bit more appreciation that day. The ultimate win/win. (Try not to smile too much, it will give you away.)
Forgive Someone. We’ve all had that colleague who takes credit for someone else’s idea, dominates the conversation in a meeting, or (gasp) pours the last cup and leaves the coffee pot empty. Forgive them. Harboring a grudge, even over a little matter, limits the potential for great synergy and productivity. Like a residue, it colors perception making it difficult to see clearly and act skillfully in stressful situations. Letting someone off the hook is advanced level generosity.
Give it a try. When I teach mindfulness in the workplace, the experiential exercise in extending generosity to colleagues is typically the one I overhear people talking about most during break periods or over lunch. It’s sticky.
Want a stronger, more resilient team? Deliver a daily dose of Vitamin G!
Mary Linda McBride is the founder of Mindful Resolution, a firm dedicated to bringing mindfulness skills into the workplace. She trained with the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) and obtained a 500-hr. level mindfulness teacher certificate from the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. Mary Linda is also a yoga teacher and a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher qualified by the Center for Mindfulness, UMASS Medical School. She lives in Raleigh, NC where she competes weekly, along with her sons, on a killer trivia team.