The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Harry and David gift boxes. Starbucks gift cards. Fruitcake. Membership in the Jelly of the Month club (it is the gift that keeps on giving, after all!). This is the season of giving, and we often give gifts as a token of our appreciation. While these are all nice, I want to offer some suggestions from Tim Sanders, author of one of my favorite business book, Love is the Killer App.

Sanders challenges the status quo that we need to keep our cards close to our chest to ensure that we are viewed as holding on to something valuable that no one else has. Getting ahead is no longer about winning and beating others, he argues. Instead, it’s about developing others, being generous, and genuinely caring about the people who enter your life. In his words, it’s about love.

Hang with me for a minute; this isn’t going to get all touch-feely. In the business context, he defines love as “the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners…when you are able to help others grow to become the best people they can be, you are being loving—and you, too, grow.” Sounds a lot like a Level 5 leader to me!

The gifts Sanders encourages don’t have to cost anything, and you can give abundantly and equally to all people without depleting your supply. So what are the intangibles he encourages us to give?

1. YOUR KNOWLEDGE. To make sure you stay relevant in the rapidly changing world, keep learning, keep reading, and be ready and willing to share what you’re learning with others. If you know how to solve a problem that someone else is facing, share your insights.

2. YOUR NETWORK. Don’t collect people in a Rolodex until they can help you with something. Instead, connect people by always thinking of how you can help them. Who do you know that would be interested in meeting someone else you know–even if there’s nothing in it for you?

3. YOUR COMPASSION. How many times have you heard, “It’s not personal, it’s business”? Business involves people, and therefore is inherently personal. Don’t be scared to demonstrate your humanity at the office. Who can you encourage? Who can you help? Remember, it’s our warmth that separates us from the machines.

In all of these things, Sanders challenges us to always create more value in all of our situations than we extract. How can we use what we know, who we know, or our own emotional resources to make every interaction better? Love really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Take a moment to take inventory of your life. Are you creating more value that you are taking? If you’re receiving more than you’re giving, maybe it’s time to remember what your Mom told you: “It’s better to give than to receive.”