Spotlight on Performance

I am priviledged to work with visionary executives, business leaders, entrepreneurs and world-class athletes. People who aim high and who are committed to achieving excellence in all aspects of their lives.

This is my place to share my views on sustainable high performance with you on a quarterly basis.

Q1 · 2024
Leading with generosity

As business executives or leaders, many of you have recently gone (or are about to go) through a year-end evaluation process with your teams and direct reports. In this context, you will have reflected on what you can do – or do more of – to help your people grow further and perform even better. This process is particularly important when you are working with the best in any field. What does it take to make the best even better? How do you lead others – who are already among the best at what they do – to an even higher level?

In this issue of “Spotlight on Performance”, I would like to focus on one critical personal leadership quality that can make all the difference when leading your best people: generosity.

In a business context, to be generous means things like making your own network available unconditionally and passing on your know-how to make others better. The same goes for valuable experiences that you proactively share with others. This day-to-day culture of willingness and unconditional sharing allows you to invest in the extraordinary performers – and all this without expecting a direct ‘return on investment’. You are ‘paying it forward’, meaning your generosity is not expected to see an immediate effect or concrete results. Your own expertise and your acquired contacts are offered as ‘free goods’ from which others can benefit.

Why would you do this? Because, I believe, a key goal of your leadership, and one of your most important and satisfying achievements as a leader, is to make your people great and leave a legacy in them.

Your generosity is expressed through your support for your people, enabling them as quickly as possible to be equipped to deal with challenges successfully and on their own authority. Your primary goal is not simply to eliminate their acute challenges. It is equally important to help them acquire the competence and confidence needed to solve tough problems on their own, now and in the future.

Put simply, you are not only helping them do their job. You are giving them tools, building the skills and the experience to do difficult and challenging tasks on the job themselves.

You will also want to actively seek and create opportunities in which outstanding employees get the opportunity to grow. Fortunately, you will be ‘pushing at an open door’, because don’t forget, your best people constantly have a strong desire to develop themselves and deliver great performance. They always want feedback, input and opportunities, so that they can contribute as much as possible to the overall success of the business.

Your generosity towards your people can take many forms. As mentioned, it is likely to include passing on your own experiences, your knowledge and maybe even your contacts. It could also mean organizing financial resources for top professional support, such as coaching, if you identify external experts who can accelerate their development. After all, none of us has all the answers ourselves!

If your team and direct reports experience you as a generous leader – someone who doesn’t demand or expect any immediate or tangible return – then, through their development and success, you will start to leave a legacy as a leader who made a true positive difference.

How leaders can display generosity

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Proactively provide your time, expertise, experience, network, ideas and opinions as ‘free goods’
  • Celebrate the success of your people and show sincere interest in their ongoing development
  • Back them up if they suffer unjustified negative influence from others
  • Have the self-confidence and self-awareness to realize that you could make your best people so good that they will someday be better than you. Don’t fear this, but instead feel deep satisfaction when you have contributed so positively and actively to their development
  • Show patience, resilience and perseverance in developing your people – with no expectation of a tangible ‘return on investment’ for your generosity.

So, on the back of your latest performance reviews with your teams, I urge you to keep up your desire to make your people better, stronger and more successful. Through them, you will make your business – and the wider world – a better place. And for yourself? You will leave a truly invaluable legacy in them. That is one of the most satisfying, rewarding experiences you can get as a leader.

Wishing you great success,