What does it mean to be generous?
When I say, grow your brand, you probably think of developing your voice, building your network, and cultivating your social media presence. All worthy pursuits. So, how can you be generous?
First, you should understand your brand. Your brand is Y-O-U.
Even if you work for ABC Marketing Company, you have your own brand.
You advance your brand by the way you work. It’s your #1 asset.
Whether you want to stay with ABC Marketing Company for the next twenty years or start your own organization, you’ll need confidence to survive the long haul.
When did everyone become so competitive? Human nature dictates this to a degree, but company cultures that thrive on toxicity don’t help. If you’re really looking to grow your brand, I suggest you leave any organization that would demand you to compromise it.
So what do I mean by, “the way you work?”
You might tell me some of the following:
You’re always on time. Usually early, even. Great.
You always meet deadlines. Wonderful.
You have a professional demeanor. Excellent.
You come to work ready to produce. Well done.
These are all part of your core work ethic. But what about when a new person joins the team and they make you wonder about your own position or future with the company? Be generous.
Understanding Group Dynamics
Perceived threats to the established group and company culture have baffled executives for some time. A 2015 article from Harvard Business Review discussed the challenges of hiring new employees, especially at small-to-mid-size companies.
In one CEO’s experience, the employees who needed the most relief also most resisted hiring new people to ease their burden. That’s not really puzzling if you consider the way social groups function, even 2nd grade classrooms.
Workers feel overloaded but they also feel needed. They prefer the idea that ABC would crumble if they did not carry the weight of all four pillars. This equates to job security in their mind. Honestly, this boils down to poor communications management.
Many executives, as a result, believe that they need to take more care when hiring so as not to disrupt the status quo. They wring their hands to find the right fit.
The right fit for whom?
To what end?
Sometimes the group needs a disruptor. Sometimes the group needs someone who will make them stand up and take notice.
The only reason any support employee or mid-level manager feels threatened is for the same reason my 8-year-old niece does when a new teacher’s aide comes to her class; she developed a safe relationship with the teacher and this new person might ruin that.
As a manager or an executive it is your job to reassure the group that their job is not in jeopardy every time someone new walks in the door. It is your job to create an environment where employees can exchange new ideas without being penalized.
The Toxic Cycle
Have you ever been in the following type of situation?
You left ABC to work for XYZ because the offer was better. The interview went well but your first week is a disaster. You find out that the CEO favors your manager and has turned her into a three-year-old who runs to the CEO every time something is not going her way.
You know the feeling. “Excuse me. I’m too busy walking on eggshells to do my job.”
You also find out that your co-worker with whom you collaborate on a regular basis does not think you should have been hired. You come to realize that he’s worried you might have been hired to replace him. Instead of helping you acclimate at XYZ, he focuses on petty ways to get you in trouble or make sure that you fail by giving you the wrong information.
Besides the above, there’s no real training or onboarding process to help you succeed. Sink or swim!
In this scenario, a couple of different things might happen.
- Despite people urging you to be “mentally strong,” you’ll realize that you need to leave XYZ. You’ll be responsible about it and secure other employment first. Perhaps you’ll contact ABC (your old firm) and tell them “I miss you guys,” or you might even start your own business.
- You’ll stay at XYZ because the pay is better and you just bought a new condo. You’ll hate it but you’ll survive. You’ll learn to play along to get along. Then in two years when your manager hires a suspiciously competent person, you’ll treat them the way that your co-worker treated you.
Either of these options will not help you grow your brand. Whether you’re an entity (ABC, XYZ) or an individual.
If you work for a company and you claim to care about that organization (and you should because they write your checks), then you will have confidence and help everyone on your team succeed. Unless your co-worker does not want the help or refuses to do any work.
Naturally, a percentage of new hires will not work out. And you should not invest in people who will abuse you for their own gain. But make sure that you’re not just convincing yourself that your new comrade is a “bad fit.”
Create Your Own Brand
Here a few examples of the sentiments I’ve run into while coaching clients to grow their brand.
“The new person doesn’t really fit in with our culture.”
All organizations need to be infused with new ideas and ways of problem solving. As long as the person respects your organization’s shared memory, they are potentially a fine fit and you can’t determine that in their first weeks.
“The new person dresses in expensive clothing so they don’t need this job.”
Freedom is a beautiful concept. While you may spend your money on vacations and eating out, this person may spend it on clothing. They may have struggled to find a job and invested everything they have in this clothing to make a good impression and elevate their brand.
My friend, Erin, has worked at same organization for 15 years. She’s an expert at her craft, but not a model employee. In her earlier years Erin was often late or had limited availability due to personal circumstances. Coworkers resented her because the culture demanded that everyone put in the same amount of sweat and in the same way.
It became obvious to Erin and everyone else that management had hired replacement after replacement in order to fire Erin. Instead of freaking out, Erin treated her potential replacement with respect. She taught them the ropes.
Erin realized her manager might fire her since her replacements did not have children or other responsibilities. Instead, in each instance, Erin’s great attitude and her special talents (we all make special contributions – that’s our brand, too) made management realize that she was in fact the right fit.
Eventually ABC stopped trying to replace Erin and promoted her. Once her personal life improved she became a model employee and stuck around through the worst financial downturn and even did the job of three people when necessary.
During the years Erin was afraid that she might be sacked, she confided in me that she would remain true to her brand—and grow it on her own if she had to. She knew that she had value even though she felt awful about they way her company treated her.
Think about all the time her manager wasted by not communicating with the group effectively and reducing the need for competitive behavior. The manager always touted group effort above individual achievement, anyhow. Erin could have benefited from a realistic schedule and the manager might have provided group enrichment to bring the team closer together.
Most of Erin’s coworkers were fired because they were simply collecting a paycheck in the end.
Erin created a brand. Her brand.
When you create an environment that encourages newcomers to flee every 3 to 6 months, you’re costing your organization opportunities and money. Every person you onboard is an investment.
If you develop these bad habits while working for someone else, you will not be successful at running your own business one day.
Generosity promotes prosperity.
Be a teacher and a humanitarian. Be generous. Unless you want your brand to scream: I’m desperate.
Pushing others down to “increase” your worth is a guaranteed way to sink your brand. And yet people do it for short-term gains. Perhaps we might all remember the lessons of a bull market?