Have You Given a Gift at Work Today?
We are experiencing a shift in our global economy because the way we’ve worked for the last 50 years will not be the same for the next 50. In North America we have created an industrialized economy that has monetized almost every single exchange between people and businesses. However, the road to a sustainable competitive advantage is not paved with cost cutting measures, straightforward tasks, and replaceable workers who are merely cogs in a wheel. There is an entirely new perspective that challenges us to reconsider and provides us with a choice.
This new perspective has been offered by Seth Godin in his book Linchpin. It’s definitely worth a read – it may challenge the way you think, the way you work and play, and the way you give. Godin’s underlying theme is that everyone has the potential to be remarkable: it’s up to you if you want to embrace it. Here’s how you embrace it: strive to contribute your true self through the giving of gifts. This blog post is dedicated to sharing Seth’s gift by discussing what a gift might look like at work, what the gift economy is, and how you can become a genuine gift giver. If our work communities empowered employees to share their unique gifts, this would create an environment of mutual generosity and increased effectiveness to compete in the global marketplace.
We all have a choice at work and in life: follow the rules, accept the status quo, submit to the worn road that lies ahead of you and you will be taken care of. But deep down, do you really believe that? Probably not, but it’s easier and doesn’t rock the boat.
However, what if you chose to blaze your own path, to do something you’re a little unready to do, to tap into what inspires you and then share it with your community? What would that path look like?
So my question is, “What’s holding YOU back from contributing your true self and reaching your potential at work?”
What Does a Gift Look Like and What is a Gift Economy?
A gift is personal to you and it’s something that you create that changes people. It’s your art — your effort, your talents, your ideas, your creativity. Have you ever given a gift without expecting anything in return? This is the way to becoming indispensable at work, creating meaningful bonds with your colleagues and clients, and increasing the strength of that community.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if you’re giving true gifts at work:
- Have you ever gone out of your way to help a client?
- Have you ever shared an important idea with a rival salesperson?
- Have you ever volunteered to lead a project that you were passionate about?
- Did you put in extra time to solve a complex problem?
- Did you reach out to collaborate and generate ideas even when it was difficult?
- Did you make the impossible a reality?
Elevate those around you and share your gifts!
Genuine gifts are given out of gratitude and not obligation. If you’re forced to do something because it’s in your job description, it’s not a gift. Find a way to add your own personal flare at work and do it because you want to not because you have to. A giver spends time and effort creating a gift. They spend emotional labour on it so that they can share it with you and they put themselves out there to be vulnerable.
The gift economy is a society where valuable goods and services are continuously given without expectations for immediate returns or rewards. When a gift is received, an emotional connection is made between giver and receiver. Perhaps the receiver will be moved to contribute something of value to their community. This community is where the gift economy will flourish because each person is adding value in their own unique way; furthermore, in the gift economy we need you to be both a giver and a receiver because this will make you indispensable at work (and in life!).
I’m not suggesting that you continually give of yourself even when it is not appreciated. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” There are several ways your company could respond to your gifts: by giving you more independence to direct your own work, by providing the tools for you to master different skills at work, or by creating an environment that serves a higher purpose than just creating profits for shareholders. If your gifts are not valued at work, then perhaps it isn’t a place where you want to share your gifts.
How Do You Become an Authentic Giver at Work?
- Make your choice: fulfil job requirements or produce art that will last
- Find out what motivates you (I suggest reading Dan Pink’s Drive)
- Share what you can offer and no one else can (spend time discovering your unique strengths and talents)
- Be genuinely helpful (go out of your way and make yourself vulnerable)
- Try not to focus on reciprocity (give without thinking about what you’ll receive in return; there should be no charge for your gift)
- Be bold and give without doubt (be honest, be confident, be yourself)
Authentic gift giving is contagious because it empowers, engages, and shares knowledge within your community which strengthens it and creates lasting change. We all want to make an impact so here is your chance. We each have a choice: complete the tasks we were hired to do or bring your whole self to work and create your own art. By bringing your gutsy creativity to work, the gifts you give will make you indispensable at work!
What are some other examples of gifts you can share at work?