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Do You Give Too Much or Indiscriminately?

Posted by Ilise Benun on

This weekend, I loved listening to Krista Tippett’s interview with Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, on the importance of generosity in the workplace. (Listen to it here.)Give and Take cover

Grant distinguished between a “successful” giver and a “failed” giver, the latter being one who drops everything for others (sometimes for the wrong people) and neglects to prioritize his or her own needs over those of others.

Sound familiar?

To me, it sounded a lot like the situation described in Deidre’s recent post on the Creative Freelancer Blog, Red Flags and Rose-Colored Glasses: A $625 LessonIn it, she wrote about the painful lesson learned when she took on a client she really wanted to help, but ignored all the signs that this person couldn’t be helped.

I see this a lot in my clients: you dismiss the red flags because you want to help — the problem is, you don’t help yourself first. (I’ll be adding this idea to my presentation on “Problem Clients” in Charleston SC later this week at Revolve Conference — it’s not too late to register)

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Grant’s interview:

I think that it fundamentally comes down to the choices we make every day about who we help, when we help, and how we help. So the “who” is, I think, pretty simple. Failed givers are the people who help anyone. Successful givers are much more likely to be thoughtful about what is this person’s history and reputation like? Before I go and overextend myself and give you 17 hours, I might want to find out if you’re likely to take advantage of me. And exercise just a little bit of caution or self-protection there. 

The “when” is basically about protecting time to make sure that you achieve your own goals. One of the mistakes that failed givers make is they drop everything for any request that comes in.

And what you see with successful givers is they’re much more likely to prioritize and say, “OK, I’ve got these windows blocked out to make sure I can progress on my own tasks. And then I have other periods of time set aside to try to be helpful and responsive to others.”

He also has this amazing bit about the benefit of being a “specialist giver,” an expert at whatever it is you give uniquely well, instead of being a “generalist giver,” who can be asked to do anything anytime.

So you could ask, are you a generalist or a specialist in the way that you help others? And most people prefer the generalist approach. Whereas if you specialize in one or two forms of giving that you enjoy and excel at, then people respect that you have unique expertise to share. They actually come to you for what you like to give, which makes it more energizing than exhausting. And I think we can probably all do a better job stepping back and asking, “What are those one or two forms of giving that I get excited to do, that I do uniquely well, and how do I focus on those and let other people carry some of the others?”

Pick a Niche Kit anyone?

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