The Strategy Addict is a series of articles written by Shane Snively.
SHARING IS A VALUE SYSTEM
In last week’s blog post “DON’T FAKE IT,” we discussed a better paradigm established on building a reputation of trust and honesty. Here we take reputation-building further by discussing the effect of sharing as much as you can of yourself.
SOMEONE TAUGHT YOU HOW TO SHARE
I assume everyone by now has heard some version of “sharing is caring” from your Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, teacher, or whoever the wise authority figure of your youth was. Hopefully, this person lived out the concept right before your eyes, by sharing with you often. When you made mistakes, they forgave you and gave you second, even third, chances. They saw past your issues and weaknesses repeatedly, seeding into you more and more. Take a quick second and think of the people in your life who fit this description. Who has always shared themselves unconditionally with you?
I hope you have some amazing memories of some very special people filling up your mind. I hope you are smiling a little now. I hope you feel a deep and genuine emotional appreciation for these people in your life and you have let them know what impact they have had on you. My family, the steward of my meat cutters’ union when I worked at Kroger in high school, my basketball coaches, my mentors and drill sergeant from my days in the USAF, all of them in some way shared their knowledge. Lesser people might have worried that if they taught me too much, I’d take their job someday. Those who helped me knew better; they did not hold back with me. They all seemed to enjoy teaching, and I enjoyed learning.
SHARING STARTS WITH A NEW MINDSET
Take a good look around you and try to think of everybody whom you have chosen to share with over the past week, month, year. My favorite sharing moment is how I react when I see someone like the famous SNL character Debbie Downer, who literally tries to suck the life out of everyone they meet. I can’t help it, I just start smiling at them until it is uncomfortable, and they have no choice but to smile back. Yes, it is corny and awkward, but come on, life is too short to live that way. I may not want to talk to them but sharing a simple smile or even saying hello can do amazing things to change people.
Sharing is easy when it is something you build all facets of your life around. If you build a workplace culture that encourages collaboration and rewards the people who take care of others, you will start to change the “me players” into “we players.”
I love being involved in a mission way bigger than myself. I feel it brings out that extra gear we hold back. In the Air Force I really felt it—the overall mission of protecting people who could not protect themselves was game-changing. Learning new things, pushing myself to be depended upon, was exciting. I knew if I did not execute, things could go very wrong in unpredictable ways, and that fear of the unknown kept me focused on sharing, working hard to make sure people around me understood things. If they needed something, I gave up what I had in order to keep the mission going. Self-sacrifice takes sharing to a new level. You don’t expect anything back. The sheer joy of doing it and being part of the team is enough.
I am a realist. I’m not saying that you should just give everything away, but if more people stopped caring so much what they were going to get from every little thing in life, their anxiety and scarcity mindset would stop. They would see life as a place of abundance where new things are created, not as a zero-sum game where I can only win if you lose.
IT STARTS ON THE PLAYGROUND
It was a warm summer afternoon, and I was running, swinging, sliding, playing with my older brother, Joe, having a blast. Joe was a nut at times, he had a temper, and trust me, you did not want to set him off. Unfortunately for me, I could not find Joe’s Swiss Army knife, which he had lent me to whittle a spear. Talk about panic—Joe was going to kill me.
I tried to play it cool, but he could tell I was freaking out. So, I did what any kid brother would do; I told him I had to use the bathroom and ran off to retrace my steps, hunting everywhere for that knife. I looked for what felt like three hours (it was probably more like an hour—for all you stats majors, kids time equates to adult time at a 3:1 ratio). It was starting to get dark, and you know what that meant. I needed to be home before the street lights came on.
Then, out of the corner of my eye I see my brother smiling, dangling his red shiny Swiss Army knife, asking “are you missing something, buddy?” For the next ten minutes on the walk home I had to hear about how when someone shares something with you it is your responsibility to take “extra, extra” care of it. Yes, you read it that correctly, two extras. This little life lesson stuck with me, mainly because he reminded me of it for literally the next ten years. He would say, “do you remember the time you freaked out at the playground, yada, yada.” So, take care of the stuff people share with you, return things when you borrow them, and if something does happen to it while it is in your possession, own up to it. When someone takes the time to share something with you, cherish it.
THE MVS AWARD
Most sports teams and leagues have traditionally given out a Most Valuable Player award. Each recipient is recognized for their talents and achievements both personally and for the team. It is a big deal to be recognized. In corporate America today, most of the awards I see are based only on sales or some other financial metric. I am not saying this is not important, but let’s go deeper. Lets get to the culture of your company.
In your company, lets imagine you have the authority to create a new award. Lets call it the “Most Valuable Sharer Award.” What attributes and characteristics do you think should be discussed in giving out this award? Is there a way for you to measure who really shares, is creating value through sharing? Are the metrics easy or hard to see in the people and organization around you? Would an award like this be even something you could implement without a fight? Better yet, do you see these characteristics in yourself? How often do you make the grade? Be honest. Is anything holding you back from being the first MVS winner, besides the clear conflict of interest in nominating yourself? What is it? Can you change it? Who would you give the first MVS to?
Why do I feel this award should be the most prestigious award of all time? Let’s change the name for a second to any of these and you will clearly see the picture:
- Most likely to be promoted to management.
- Most likely to make partner.
- Most likely to be given grace if something gets screwed up.
- Most likely to get a raise.
- Most likely to be taken seriously when you want something changed or fixed.
- Most likely to keep your job during layoffs.
- Most likely to be put on multiple accounts to grow your experience and opportunity.
TWO SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE SHARING
In one of my organizations, we have built an environment through Sharepoint from Microsoft. In Sharepoint, we have built community discussion boards on nine topics that we feel impact the overall organization and culture. We call this site our sharing center, where people can share ideas, ask questions, get advice, and give advice quickly and easily. Points are given for each share and points are earned based on the feedback of the post. Individuals can earn badges, i.e. street cred, on any particular subject. You feel good that your time is being rewarded for sharing and your input is being recognized.
Another simple way we promote sharing is through quick surveys. My favorite survey has just three simple questions:
- What suggestions do you have to improve the company?
- What should we be doing more of?
- What should we stop?
Make sure you respond to the answers; sharing is a two-way street. If you hear of a good idea but for whatever reason you can’t do it right now, tell them why. Be real, go deep, be honest.
I hope you see how strategic you can be when you share. The byproduct of all these things is an organization of team-oriented people. As your final test, share something new with someone new. And please share with me your sharing success story.