During the holiday season we often feel an increased desire to give back. Studies show that doing so has significant health benefits and feeds our souls. So do we give back because we are selfish or do we do it to be selfless?
I remember an experience about a decade ago that taught me the difference between giving back selfishly versus selflessly. I was working on a team project focused on reducing intergenerational recidivism for families that qualified for temporary assistance in Jacksonville, Florida. Our hope was to help these families gain the satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with self-sufficiency. Our first efforts failed. We provided these families with what we thought was helpful, but found we lacked understanding and insight into their reality. Once we took a step back, reconfirmed the goal, and determined the options they wanted and deemed helpful, we began to see how we could best serve these families. Ultimately, hundreds of families received the satisfaction and accomplishment from becoming self-sufficient—something their families hadn’t experienced in several generations.
When our team originally decided to serve, we were clueless about the meaning and impact of giving back with selfless service. However, because of our intentions, we gained a greater understanding of giving.
If we give back to fulfill our needs based on what we know, we run the risk of giving back in a selfish way. However, if we give back after understanding the reality of the people we’re trying to serve—coming up with options based on their needs—we will increase our chances of giving back selflessly. This selfless giving feeds our souls and the souls of the people we are serving in a more meaningful way.
Having experienced this as a team changed us forever—individually and collectively. It changed the way we saw each other, how we worked together, and served other stakeholders in our organizations. Our newfound vision for selfless service and giving back significantly increased the effectiveness of our team. This didn’t only feel good, it was noticed by the overall organization.
When people asked us what happened and why we were so different, we would ask them: “When was the last time your team gave back?” It has since become a practice many teams have benefited from and embraced. If you are looking for better performance in your organization, seriously consider giving back. It just might be one of the best decisions you will make this year.