Generosity of Spirit, Right Now!

He just went about his ordinary routine, one that happened to be expressed through uncommon kindness, grace, and generosity of spirit.  ~description of Max DePree, former CEO of Herman Miller

Every morning for me begins with a brisk walk. My walking schedule coincides with the man who delivers the newspapers to my neighborhood. It has become our custom to greet one another with an enthusiastic wave and cheerful “good morning.” It’s a small gesture. But lately, I’ve thought more about the undeniable significance of small gestures.

Exhaustion and Tension

When I join yet another Zoom call with a client, I see the exhaustion on their faces. They are tired. Not only are they sitting in front of their screen for hours, but for many the intensity of their work has actually increased. That doesn’t take into account that they may have children at home who are also faced with the arduous task of sitting in front of a screen and “engaging” in remote learning. Layer onto that the stress of simply going to buy groceries and witnessing an altercation between individuals arguing over mask wearing. Some have had a spouse or partner lose their job, or have had their pay reduced.

The holidays are approaching. What are we going to do? The traditional homes filled with friends, family, food, and frivolity may not be possible this year. The options are limited. A year when gathering together would certainly be an elixir for our souls, not to mention our mental health, may be yet another item to add to the list of what represents the “new normal.”

Of course, the list of challenges doesn’t end there. We are now one week from a presidential election like no other. Tensions run high. Doesn’t matter who you support or who you are against, it’s tense, plain and simple.

Generosity of Spirit

Max DePree (author of the classic Leadership is an Art) said, “Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately in its practice.”

Max was known for his generosity of spirit that was his practice. We live in a season when all organizations — or even just society in general — could use leaders with generosity of spirit, with uncommon kindness and grace.

It’s time for leaders to rally and practice generosity of spirit. To roll up their sleeves and grab a pen and paper. Compose handwritten notes of encouragement to staff. Schedule on their calendar time to check-in with people face-to-face. Even if that “face-to-face” check-in requires a quick Zoom call.

Getting Practical

And now I’m going to get super practical. Show generosity of spirit by making extra effort to express some humanity at the beginning of Zoom meetings. For example, start with a question that allows you to see the “person” not just the “position.” Not good at coming up with these questions? I’ve got you covered. One option is Vertellis (thoughtful conversation starters and questions). Another option is TableTopics. While it may feel like a waste of time, you’re actually going to be more productive if you first connect before you get to content. And that may take some grace and generosity of spirit.

Now more than ever, lead with bold grace by practicing generosity of spirit. We can get through this season with leaders who offer uncommon kindness and grace. Even with small gestures, like an enthusiastic wave and cheerful “good morning.”

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