I am reading Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take” in advance of it being featured in our Integrative Leader’s Book Club in August. Reading it has really caused me to think about giving as a strategy. I guess, before I go much further, I should operationally define what I mean by giving. I am talking about an open source inclination where you freely offer content, information, and knowledge. Giving includes helping others directly or connecting them with those in your network who can, and doing this with no expectation of reciprocity. I like giving, it is how I am wired, it makes me feel good, and it seems natural and genuine. I find myself attracted to those leaders and companies who are oriented in a similar fashion. So why would I not make giving the foundation of my go-to-market strategy?
I am talking about an open source inclination where you freely offer content, information, and knowledge.
Well, because I can’t. That is the dilemma. As soon as you choose to give as a strategy, it stops being giving because true giving requires that you have no expectation of anything in return. If you determine that giving is your strategy for growth, by the very nature of that determination, you are expecting a return, and, therefore, are no longer giving. I have been sitting with this for a couple of weeks. It is like a Zen Koan, a question that appears to have no answer.
As soon as you choose to give as a strategy, it stops being giving because true giving requires that you have no expectation of anything in return.
After ruminating on it for days, here is what I have worked out in my mind. Giving cannot be a strategy. It can, however, be your cornerstone value. By having it as such, any strategic plan that is developed must be in alignment with and support giving. For example, if your strategy calls for your organization to be positioned as the experts in your field, then having giving as your cornerstone value would compel you to offer that expertise freely. Seems crazy, or as our friends from Texas would say, sounds like “woo-woo stuff”, but it is not.
Giving cannot be a strategy. It can, however, be your cornerstone value.
It’s based on the reciprocity of trust. Something that was brought to my awareness by Oral Roberts Professor David Burkus. In our conversation, he said, “Trust is reciprocal. In order to earn it, you first have to give it”. So applying this hypothesis to the above scenario would suggest that if you were to freely offer your expertise, you would simultaneously be giving your trust. You’re trusting that if a potential customer experiences and sees the value in your expertise, in return, they will trust you can help them, and will buy your product or service. In the absence of giving your expertise, that trust association would never have been established.
Trust is reciprocal. In order to earn it, you first have to give it
This is not for everybody. The first question requires the honest reflection as to whether giving is a cornerstone value. If it is, and your relationships with your ideal customers are predicated on trust, then I would argue that this would be the right approach. That of course, sounds an awful lot like a strategy, which brings me right back to my original conundrum. Oh well, I may never be able to answer the question, but I won’t let it dissuade me from giving. What are your thoughts?
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Join the Integrative Leader’s Book Club. Each month we pick a thought provoking book to read and discuss. In July, we will be reading Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of A Team”.
Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. His articles appear in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief and Linked2Leadership. He serves as a thinking partner, providing clients with the clarity, focus, and tools needed to make good people and product decisions. He helps clients build lasting relationships with their customers, develop leaders who make others feel heard, cared for, valued and respected, and most importantly grow.
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