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Give before you get

Apr 18, 2016 - 4 minute read

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Krzysztof Litwin
Previously I was a Software Developer, currently a Project Manager. Interested in agile project management, business development and startups. Big fan of common sense.
See all Krzysztof's posts

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I would like to tell you about something that I believe in and live according to.

Give before you get.

Might sound simple, obvious to you, but consider if you live this way or at least realise what it can give you. Mark Suster, on his blog, raised a good point that we live in an era of “ask”. We are constantly in a hurry, under pressure, we want to get things immediately. There is no patience.

But give before you get.

I recently realised how important and helpful it is, although I have been living this way for some time already. It comes from my experience in private and professional life. Behind this enigmatic sentence, it’s all about relationships, whether it is in personal or professional life. With respect to professional life, we would say networking, because it gives an extra business layer to relationships.

Brad Feld wrote on his blog:

In order to give before you get, adopt a philosophy of helping others without an expectation of what you are going to get back. It’s not altruistic – you do expect to get things in return – but you don’t set up the relationship to be a transactional one.

He also gave a good example using the Advisor and Mentor roles. Advisor would say: I will help your company if you pay me 100 of something per hour. Mentor would simply say: How can I help?

Mark Suster was referring to Paul C. Brunson’s post “It’s Called Networking, Not Using.” One thought was really interesting for me. If your networking strategy is focused on getting what you want, it is not networking, it is using. I’m wondering what you focus on.

Paul had quite a similar point. Consider if you would give something to someone many times before you ask you would increase chances of getting your ask answered when it eventually arrives. So on the one hand, you will leverage your chances for getting what you want, and on the other hand, if all people would have give before get attitude how much more you would get from others.

Last thing from Paul:

…networking is about getting what you want but it’s also about making sure the people who are important to you get what they want, too.

We very often understand it in personal life so why don’t use it in your professional life, as the mechanism underneath is the same.

If you work for a software delivery company, consider how you cooperate with your clients. It doesn’t matter if you are a developer, a tester or a project manager. The more you invest in relationships, the more you get when you need. A helpful developer will always get important input from client’s teams when they are a dependency. Project manager will get client’s trust and understanding when the project is not going smoothly at the moment. It just builds trust and willingness to help.

Within a company you work for, the more hard work you give, the more comfortable you feel asking for a raise. And it’s more probable you get it. From now on, in a few months I could say: Hey my boss, I need a raise. He would respond, why should I give you a raise. Hmmm, because I have worked for the company already a year? You can figure out if I get it.

There was, maybe even still is, a system of rewarding called "Just do it awards” in the Amazon company. I don’t want to touch incentives topic here but what a specific mindset it creates. When someone was performing very well, and just doing things that would bring extra value to the company, was getting an old, used nike shoe. It was done during company-wide event. This old nike shoe symbol meant really a lot for those people getting it because they were recognised and appreciated. If you had many of those shoes, you were an ultimate giver and everyone knew it.

If I would have a bunch of those shoes in my hmmm, somewhere hermetically closed, the conversation with my beloved boss would look differently. Dear boss, I would like to ask you to give me a raise. The response would be: sure. Why he wouldn’t even ask for justification? Because he knows that I’m owning a bunch of stinky nike shoes.

A colleague of mine told me once that I should only do things bringing me money, that it should be my compass. Of course he was referring to business, not private life. I must disagree with his opinion. It is very nice to get money after everything you do but is it really prospective? I can't see a better investment than building relationships, as it opens a wide range of possibilities, puts your development to a different level and what should not be underestimated, helps a lot during hard times.

The same as Brad Feld, I also believe all of it is playing a long term game and my actions today will impact me in 20+ years. And I mean here both professional and private life.

Maybe it’s time when you may consider putting "give before you get" to your list?

So go and give and get surprised what you get.

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Krzysztof Litwin
Previously I was a Software Developer, currently a Project Manager. Interested in agile project management, business development and startups. Big fan of common sense.
See all Krzysztof's posts


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