Paul Hargreaves: Generosity
Generosity from leaders makes business better in all aspects, yet few businesses have discovered the benefits that accompany being generous of spirit.
Not surprising as many people in the Western world have never felt the joy of giving freely, and as a result, they find themselves stuck in unhappiness. Once I was given a significant amount of money by an extremely generous person and asked to buy Christmas turkeys for some of the less fortunate families where I lived in London. It was such a privilege to see the joy that this brought people that it brought tears to my eyes.
Generosity is something I try to bring into my business as much as I can. At Cotswold Fayre, we try to ensure that as well as business goals, all our activity has a ‘people’ and ‘planet’ element, and each employee’s KPIs must include at least 40% social and environmental targets.
Something we introduced recently is a ‘compulsory’ volunteering scheme – each employee has a KPI of 12 hours of volunteering, paid for by the company, and they can either do this as a few hours every month, or all at once. Some of our staff will do more or less than these hours, depending on their roles, but the initiative works toward ensuring that volunteering and generosity are integral parts of our company. As well as doing good, another element of this is to help the team of giving their time generously to others in need.
For a leader, generosity is about giving generously in holidays, bonuses, and pay. When you do give generously, you will always receive back, and this is especially true in the workplace. Most human beings will give back generously if they are shown it by their leaders - it’s contagious, like kindness. If a few people take advantage of your generosity, it doesn’t mean the principle is wrong, just that the circle of generosity is temporarily broken.
Unlike in some Eastern cultures, in today’s Western culture we don’t generally believe that when you give generously, you receive it back with abundance. We often find it difficult to give freely, without any strings attached. Much of the time, generosity is seen as transactional, but generosity shouldn’t be about internally calculating how you might get your money or time back, or whether the other person deserves it.
Hindu tradition talks about abundance – a state of living that gives no thought to how giving might leave ourselves short. In Hindu tradition, it is said that people who spend their time worrying about self-preservation and never being generous will never experience the rewards of giving freely. Some of us may know very wealthy people who worry too much about losing what they have. If people are stuck in this worry, they might need some extra help to allow them to experience the true happiness that comes from being generous.
Many people would rather leave their legacy in other people’s lives through their generosity, rather than cash left behind after they die. A funeral I recently attended was for someone very generous – one of our company’s suppliers. The event was incredible, and you could see the impact he had had on others. Everyone was given the opportunity to speak about his generosity, and if more leaders lived their lives like him, the world would be a very different place.