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The Generosity Economy is Alive and Well

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I have always said if you want to change the world, you have to #startwithU.

However like me, many people express that they feel helpless or uncertain of how they could begin to take steps to change the world. They ask what could I possibly do? What could I give? How could I be of service?

It got me thinking after speaking to a friend who had returned from Nepal: in a world that is materialistically rich, yet spiritually poor, is it possible for a generosity economy to emerge and to flourish?

It’s not a new concept, in fact, historically as a race we survived on the exchange of gifts, goods and services; there was no artificial paper notes or numbers on a page assigned to give something value.

Is it possible then for us to reverse our materialistic focus and revert to operating from a place where we are rewarded for our productivity, our generosity and our service?

Rather than the old paradigm of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’, the new generosity economy creates more of a circle of goodwill where people give and share freely and where everyone benefits.

I am delighted to say that I put this question to the test and saw evidence of this new economy in spades on a recent overseas trip.

It began in San Francisco, I arrived after a long flight to be greeted in the hotel foyer by my roomie and friend chief Sista Code blogger, Melissa Histon. Mel had generously waited around for me for more than an hour so she’d be there to take me to the room and help me settle in.

After unpacking we took to the streets in search of a restaurant to eat, deciding to catch a cable car. As we waited in line, a beggar came up along the line asking everyone waiting if they had any money to spare.

Everyone looked away, ignored them or grumbled under their breath. But not Melissa, she said bright and cheerfully to him, ‘I have something for you’ and reached into her wallet and took out a five dollar note to give him.

He mumbled thanks and moved on.

Someone in the line ahead of us cursed her saying something about ‘great there’s always a sucker now we’ll all be bothered by him’. Mel didn’t respond to them but once we boarded the cable car she whispered to me, “you just never know what someone’s going through and how your kind gesture might help.” I had to agree with her.

Later that week, while in New York, we walked past a church and saw a robed man handing out food to homeless people sitting waiting on the steps of the church. His movements were slow and deliberate with an air of kindness and compassion.

I took a mental note of how this simple act of generosity appeared to not only raise the recipients’ spirits, but also mine too. I realised that just by witnessing this act of generosity my energy levels had been raised as well. I pointed out the interaction to Mel and together we smiled in joy at the simple act of loving kindness.

It seemed that everywhere I looked on the trip from then on I began witnessing and partaking in the generosity economy. Whether it be the policeman or soldier in the street I randomly asked to pose with me for a photo wearing my cape who agreed generously and played along with the fun. To meeting a group of people protesting about the lack of abortion clinics for women in the USA who we gave a donation to and who shared their stories, stickers, ideals and hopes with us openly and enthusiastically.

The next leg of our journey was sure to be yet another extension of the generosity economy as it came about through the kind generosity of an amazing business woman Emma Isaacs, CEO of Business Chicks Australia and USA.

Emma had herself experienced a trip such as this a few years prior and rather than hoarding it or wanting it to remain exclusively hers she came home asking,“how can I share this experience with other women in our business chicks community?”

And this was just the tip of the iceberg, for the following week we travelled to the British Virgin Isles in the Caribbean to attend a Leadership Gathering on Necker Island I experienced even more pure, non-judging, generous behaviour.

Everything about Sir Richard Branson’s private island was done with a sense of service and generosity. Whether it be the generous free flowing drinks, the warm smiles and welcoming hugs of his fabulous staff to the new friends we made who joined us on the trip.

Richard himself was generous with his time, his energy, his laughter, his praise and his stories. I witnessed the conservation work being done on the island from flamingos to tortoises to lemurs, his generosity went beyond man and was extended to the environment and fellow animals, not for kudos or image but from a genuine, loving place. 

Read the rest of this article about my experience and see all the photos here http://thesistacode.com/want-to-be-uplifted-join-the-generosity-economy/#comment-858 

How Poor Leaders Are Killing Us

Alexandria Joy - Friday, November 28, 2014
"Our jobs are killing us and the people who are responsible are our leaders."


I recently heard Simon Sinek say this in a YouTube video and it really struck a chord. How did you feel when you read that? Harsh reality? Don't believe me? Or perhaps you have had an experience yourself or heard someone say "my boss is busting my balls" or "my manager is killing me!"

These might be throw away comments around the water cooler but sadly they are a reflection of reality. 
In my view and experience leadership is not a rank or position – it is a choice. It is a choice to be of service and support others. Since first reading Robert Greenleaf's powerful book The Servant Leader when writing my thesis paper for my master's degree in my late 20's, to working for the General Manager of a large teaching hospital with 3,000 staff who clearly cared about his staff and how they cared for their patients, I began the journey of studying servant leaders.

Some of the most powerful lessons I learnt came from working in toxic environments where there was a clear container manager culture of restrictive, measured and fear based decisions that created a dog eat dog, dobber mentality amongst staff. Here I saw how even one container manager at the top could have a negative impact on people's self-esteem, health, wellbeing and relationships both at work and at home.

Almost as bad as the container manager was the disinterested manager where I witnessed people shrivel and lose their spark as they became undervalued and invisible.

And the research proves working for these poor leaders is a problem for individual employees as well as for the organisation. Studies from Europe and the US are showing that when people say “my boss is killing me”, quite literally this could be the case - around 25% of people who have worked for a poor manager for a short period of time and 38% of the people who have worked for a poor manager for a longer period of time are more likely to have a stroke or heart disease later in life as a product of working with them.

Biologically working with a manager who makes us feel paranoid and anxious and unsafe creates too much cortisol in our body which compromises our immune system, will make us self-interested and stressed, and makes us less empathic and considerate of others.

In addition, being ignored by a manager results in a 4 in 10 chance you’ll be actively disengaged in your job on a daily basis. If your manager tells you what you’re doing wrong – there’s a 2 in 10 chance you’ll be actively disengaged at work.

On the other hand if you are fortunate to work for an expander leader who focuses primarily on your strengths – there’s only a slim 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be disengaged at work.

So what is it that expander leaders do differently to poor leaders or container manager? Expander or servant leaders:
  • create more leaders – they are of service
  • see possibility in every individual employee and seek to find the Uniqueness (I call it the UQ) in every single person
  • are more likely to sacrifice self for the good of the many and the organisation
  • take care to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.
  • focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.
  • give control, not take control.
Of the company's I've studied over the past two decades, those with an expander leader driven culture experience:
  • less staff turnover
  • less OHS issues, disputes and claims
  • increased productivity
  • increased profit
  • increased stakeholder and employee engagement.
Creating a positive, productive and mentally healthy workplace culture is one of the important issues businesses face today. A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report identified that ignoring it costs Australian businesses around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity. And with stress, anxiety and poor mental health likely to affect one in five employees, by taking action the benefits can be profound.

The benefits are clear. Business leaders need to make a long-term commitment to a creating positive, mentally healthy workplace, not killing their people. By taking the initiative, you'll not only make your company a better place to work where people feel respected as unique individuals, you can help make it more productive and profitable. And that's just good business.

Want to change the world? Become an Expander Leader and #StartwithU
If you're sick and tired of working for a container manager and are at your wit's end you might like to watch my video "How to tell your boss they suck".

How Giving Chocolate Can Boost Company Culture and Profits

Alexandria Joy - Friday, November 21, 2014

Decades of research, in multiple countries around the world, has shown time and again that investing in a positive, high-trust workplace culture yields distinct, tangible business benefits. Studies show that great workplaces enjoy significantly lower turnover and better financial performance than industry peers. 

In a nutshell – positive teams means a positive workplace and positive profits. Sounds simple. The trick is making it happen. 

So what do most positive company cultures have in common? Let's call it the UQ factor (UQ = Uniqueness Quotient – recognising the unique strengths in every individual).

Our work and research has shown that positive employees work harder and are more productive than their less than chipper peers. The fact is these people choose to give their best work every day because they feel appreciated, valued and able to contribute their talents. The companies that grow these cultures recognise and deliver on the promise to value their people as their most important asset. 

It starts with the company recognizing and embracing the unique value of every individual employee and giving them an opportunity to do their best work. This means all managers must get to know their employees – their strengths and talents and take a sincere interest in understanding how they learn, grow and work best. 

Here’s three things you can give to create a more productive, positive and powerful workforce:
  1. Give feedback – people crave feedback, yet much of corporate communication is lacking in this area. When employees don't feel heard as an individual, they don't feel respected or positive about the workplace. When this happens, they begin to look for of greener pastures. Upskill your managers in how to have coaching conversations so they can start listening to, developing and leveraging the talent in their teams. Set up a quarterly or monthly meeting where the whole team can talk through their ideas and suggestions, and be sure to wave the flag when you implement an employee-suggested concept. 

  2. Give back - Most people want to work for a company they can be proud of, and this means doing well by doing good in the world. (This is especially important for Millennial workers). Your company needs to grow its capabilities in the EQ Quadrant of the UQ Powerhouse to become more socially responsible and more in touch with your local community. Get out in the local community and find ways to help, offer volunteer days off or align your company with a charity who is doing great work. 

  3. Give chocolate – Need I say more? Is there anything chocolate can't do? Rewarding and recognising staff for a job well done or for living according to your values and culture needn’t be reserved for the annual company dinner. Nothing works better than immediate, positive reinforcement so why not keep some sweet chocolate treats in the workplace for just such rewards? Workers like to snack during the day, and a quick word of thanks (or hand written note) with a special pick-me-up attached is sure to hit the spot. It’s a quick and easy way to improve mood and productivity
A great company culture can keep people productive and help you retain your best employees. If your bottom line needs a boost and you need to turn some frowns upside down then consider making giving a priority for your company culture. Using some of these outside-of-the-box methods, you can give your team a smile and give your company a productivity boost. 

Need help? Our UQ Power Pulse Check will help you find out how healthy your workplace culture is. 

What do you think? How do you improve employee happiness and productivity? Share in the comments below!

Six Easy Steps to Turn Happiness Into Success

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From an early age, most of us are raised to believe that success equals happiness. We work hard to get good grades, finish school, and land that fantastic job. Then many of us find that we still are not happy, so we work hard again to climb the corporate ladder and get that promotion, in the hopes that as we become more successful we will also become happier.

However, does success really equal happiness? Author Shawn Achor believes that things should actually be reversed, instead of believing happiness comes from success, we should believe that success comes from happiness.

Nevertheless, of course, achieving happiness takes work. Most of us actually have to train our brains to think positively instead of negatively. Fortunately, there are activities and exercises we can do every day to help achieve more happiness in our lives, and achieve more success.

  1. Start every day with a positive thought. Instead of beginning your day lying in bed silently swearing at the alarm clock, think to yourself that something good is going to happen today. Then spend the day looking for it. You will be surprised at how many good things you will notice throughout your day.
  2. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day. Purchase a journal, or use a notebook, word document, or even an online journal, and write down three new things that you are grateful for each day. Research has proven that this helps to improve optimism and helps to raise success rates.
  3. Journal for two minutes a day describing something positive that has happened to you in the past day. You do not have to write much; simply take two minutes out of your busy day. This helps you to transform from a task-based thinker to a meaning based thinker, or someone who looks for a meaning to something rather than it simply being something you have to do. This approach can dramatically increase happiness at work.
  4. Exercise for a few minutes every day. Even if it is only for ten minutes, a short work out will help to train your brain that your behavior matters. Exercise also gives you energy and a general sense of well-being, which will increase your happiness and success throughout the day.
  5. Mediate for a few minutes daily. Spend a couple of minutes every day focusing on your breathing. This will help to undo the negative effects of multitasking, and help decrease stress and anxiety. Additionally, research has shown that most people get things done more quickly if they focus on one task at a time rather than multitask.
  6. Perform a small, random act of kindness every day. Simply spend a few moments, preferably in the morning writing a quick email praising or thanking a co-worker. This increases your feeling of social support, which is one of the largest predictors of happiness.

When you follow these steps, you are training your brain that you do not have to be successful to be happy. In fact, you are reversing the formula and are proving that you can turn happiness into success. If everything seems a bit overwhelming, begin with one of these habits and build them up slowly until they all become second nature to you.

Now it’s your turn in the comments below share what your number 1 tip for happiness is.

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