The Courage of Generosity

The Courage of Generosity

One of my favorite survey questions when I’m doing culture benchmarking work is:
“Team members are slow to seek credit for their own contributions and point out those of others”

The response options are: Never > Rarely > Sometimes > Usually > Always 

It’s part of a longer, more complex benchmarking system that aims to measure the cultural health and effectiveness of a team. This question is a particularly revealing one that can help to indicate the degree to which a team is results-oriented, but can also point to how engaged, committed, connected and trusting a team is. It’s also a question that has generosity at its heart. 

It’s far easier to be a critic than a creator or a celebrator. One tool the stand-up comics use to silence a heckler is to invite them on stage to tell jokes and aim for laughs. They get very few takers for obvious reasons. The critics forget or just don’t care that the creator and celebrator are putting themselves out there. 110 years ago in Paris, Teddy Roosevelt gave what is his now-famous passage known as “The Man in the Arena.” It speaks volumes. 

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

When we dare to speak out with courage, kindness, enthusiasm or offerings of generosity we enter the arena. The road to team engagement, trust, connection and, ultimately results is paved with courage and generosity. By being generous with your thoughts, presence, ideas, respect, and listening we invite others to have a voice at the table and we encourage similar behavior. 

It would serve all of us well to remember that there’s another human being on the other end of all of your conversations and exchanges. When they speak out they are in the arena, too. To be understood and seen, and offer this to others are among the greatest gifts in life. Each interaction is filled with this possibility, and it cost you nothing but the risk of being in the arena. 

Courage and generosity are contagious which pay dividends through a virtuous cycle. But it has to start someone. Why not with you? Today.

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