This column is part of Globe Careers’ new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
We are approaching time of the year when Canadians traditionally give more to charity than any other time. Celebrating another year spent with friends and family prompts us to think of those in need and to donate our time or money to causes we care about.
Every year, Canadians donate billions of dollars to about 86,000 Canadian charities – at CanadaHelps, we process half of all our donations between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31. But what is the root meaning of charity, and how might it apply to our relationships at work, where we spend most of our waking lives?
Charity requires that we recognize the connectedness of all humanity, To understand That we all matter to each other, regardless of how our lives are different.
Charity is wanting to give, even more than wanting to get, and removing personal agendas from the equation. Most of all, charity is about removing the judgment that we often tacitly attach to the needs of others. Judgment creates space and separation between us, and where there is separation, nothing new or better can be created. To be charitable is to share generously of ourselves, maybe more than is comfortable, but with a true consciousness of unity and service. This is easy to say, but incredibly hard to do if we are really honest with ourselves; however, it is essential to make an effort.
In today’s work environment, and more than ever before, teams have to learn how to work together, how to adapt quickly, and how to compete successfully in the fast-moving market. The notion of effective teams as one of the primary factors in a company’s ability to grow in an environment of rapid change, one often characterized by chaos and instabilities, is well documented in current management research. Interpersonal dynamics within teams and organizations are more important than ever.
Trust is the most important currency among people in organizations today. Where there is too much judgment, too many personal agendas, a focus on self versus others, trust cannot exist; sooner or later teams will not thrive. True collaboration can only happen in an environment of trust and goodwill, because people will feel free to be authentic and to participate fully and with no fear of being judged.
Helping to create a bond of trust in a workplace is a prerequisite for success. But it starts within each and every one of us. We can’t go into a brain-storming meeting and “announce” that we need to trust each other, if trust is not built before and after that meeting.
How can a true charitable orientation help create an environment of trust and learning between colleagues? How can it help us remove spaces between us that are already there? Here are seven ways to practice charity consciousness at work:
1. Do whatever you can to help another person succeed, advance, or be promoted; be as interested in this as you are in your own advancement.
2. Try not to judge colleagues, bosses, peers or subordinates. Instead, assume a position of empathy, understanding and acceptance.
3. Get out of your comfort zone and give generously for the sake of sharing and without expecting anything in return, or patting yourself on the back because you did it.
4. Broaden your circle – make a connection to people with whom you don’t ordinarily interact. Connect with people that you feel it’s not easy to connect with, maybe because they are not “like” you. Learn about them and their work.
5. When you listen during meetings or team conversations, suspend judgment and listen actively and with open mind. Do not build arguments internally while you are listening. Try very hard to see the other person’s point of view.
6. Don’t be reactive. This is one of the hardest things to do. Instead, try sharing your assumptions in a neutral way. When you argue, try not to come from a perspective of wanting to prove another wrong.
7. Don’t let space creep between you and colleagues. Forgive a colleague who has wronged you (intentionally or unintentionally). Make it your mission to remove distance between yourself and others. This does not mean there are no conflicts or differences, but that there is goodwill and acceptance.
This holiday season and beyond, push yourself to perform a special, and maybe even difficult, act of giving and connection. Whether you are a leader, or someone who is just beginning your career, build the foundation of your success on principles of giving and service to others. This is hard, and will not always come naturally, but by making a genuine effort, you’ll see results that will also be a gift to you.