Pay It Forward

tips to paying it forwardOne of the most rewarding experiences of your professional life can be helping the next generation of leaders advance their own careers. Leverage your own experiences, including successes and failures, to support people who have raw potential climb the ladder of success. Look for the right opportunities to coach others who can benefit from your wisdom and don’t limit your outreach to your direct reports. Giving to others with no expectation of reciprocation is a selfless act that will reap rewards beyond your “job.” Through this noble commitment, you will create a leadership legacy that lasts — if not transcends — your lifetime.

Here are a few tips relative to paying it forward:

Recognize what you can offer, where you feel called. Look within yourself and determine what you’ve learned, what you’re good at, and what inspires you. These are your assets — what you’ve been given or earned that you can share with others to make a positive difference as they walk their own professional path. Be prepared to give what it takes (time, energy, self-discipline, etc.) to make paying it forward a genuine success.

Notice the need within others. It could be that you assist a co-worker or direct report, or perhaps it’s someone you meet outside the office, but keep your eyes peeled for someone who’s going to be receptive (aka open to “change”) to your guidance. You might notice the opportunity in a casual conversation or a more formal setting and then realize you’ve got something to give. Also, look for people who need help. They might lack experience and have innate talent or simply demonstrate great work ethics, which can be further polished so these attributes are positioned to shine and make an impact. You don’t have to help these folks for life, but even giving someone a half hour of your time, listening to their concerns, and sharing what you know or have experienced can make a huge impact. Maybe it’s explaining why pursuing a certain college degree can make a difference in achieving a career benchmark or showing someone how to hone an empowering skill. It might mean telling someone a story about a time you stumbled and got back up, or it could be just sitting down with an individual for an hour to rework a resume.

Take the coach approach. Enable people to see that they (not you or others) have the ability and power to create solutions to their problems or challenges. If someone hates their boss and thinks he micromanages them too much, ask questions (e.g., why do you feel you need to work for someone like that?). Your goal should be to expose the options in the situation and reveal what is, instead of what isn’t, possible in the situation. Discipline yourself to make whatever you say ultimately about them (not you) and how they can change and grow.

Do it from the heart. Pay it forward to people because you care about them, care about the world, and care about what you can share. Make it a goal in life to not just serve a company’s bottom line but the people sustaining it. While the effort might not always reap any tangible benefits (although it probably will), the reward will be a rich, more fulfilled life — a legacy as a selfless, highly respected leader.

When has someone paid it forward to you — how did it impact your career?

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