Generosity: The Gift of Success
In 2010, the show Undercover Boss debuted on reality TV. For eleven seasons, we have seen corporate executives secretly take lower-level jobs within their companies to witness firsthand how their operations work and what their employees truly think of them.
Each episode follows the same structure: an executive disguises themselves, assumes an alias, and works an entry-level position while getting to know the team at their assigned location.
How can such a repetitive formula captivate audiences for so long? The executives recognize hard-working employees with generosity, a trait rarely discussed but often desired in leaders. The undercover boss personally thanks select employees at the end of each episode with incentives including vacations, promotions, or bonuses.
It’s important to recognize that generosity at work goes beyond finances. Would the show be as effective if the undercover boss simply dropped a check in the mail, never speaking to anyone? The real emotional punch comes with the undercover boss displaying multiple facets of generosity, all of which can be mastered by leaders:
- Time: The undercover boss takes time away from their routine to give to the team, in an effort to understand and improve circumstances.
- Effort: The undercover boss doesn’t merely observe, they work alongside their team to share the workload and experience.
- Emotions: The undercover boss listens to the team’s feedback with intention and empathy, establishing personal trust.
- Information: The undercover boss observes where learning gaps occur in order to remedy them, and in some cases, provide staff with additional mentorship and training.
- Recognition: The undercover boss personally recognizes the efforts and successes of their team, rewarding them appropriately with opportunities and incentives.
In one sentence, a generous leader gives what they have to help others succeed.
When recruiting, every search I perform is the most important. Finding the difference-making leader whose generosity and talent will provide long-lasting benefits to an organization is a unique process that relies upon generosity in order to succeed.