As an executive recruiter in the early 90’s, I worked mainly on contingency. That is to say, I only got paid when I had successfully placed candidates in a job. Very quickly, I learned to develop a keen sense of who was a prospect and who wasn’t. The tendency for most recruiters is to focus only on those few “superstars” who can earn them a nice fat commission at the end of the month.

The problem, for me at least, was that I cared deeply for individuals in the midst of sometimes difficult transitions. I found it hard to cut anyone short. So, I’d pull up a chair, invite them to sit down and then I’d listen to their stories, sometimes for hours. I’d try to think of ways to add value, maybe by making an introduction for them, recommending articles or sharing knowledge. More than once, I was taken to task by superiors for wasting my time on these “no-hopers.”

But after a few years in the role, I noticed a slow and steady uptick in my leads through referral. Even if there was no immediate kickback for me, I still invested as much time in people as I could, given the constraints of the job. People appreciated that I made time for them, even when they could do little for me in return. And the goodwill this generated eventually landed me volumes of business.

Give or Take

Most people who are successful share common traits: things like passion, hard work, innovation and persistence. But there’s another ingredient that people often overlook, and that is generosity. How much of ourselves are we willing to give? Every time we interact with another person, we are faced with a choice: do we try to take as much as we can get, or do we try to add value without worrying what we will receive in return? It’s easy enough in our private lives to be givers. Most of us give freely to our friends and family all the time, without ever counting the cost. It becomes more complicated at work where we fear being the sucker.

But according to Adam Grant in his new book “Give and Take,” if we look at some of the most successful people in business – the happiest, the most likely to be promoted, etc – they are generally givers rather than takers. Being a giver at work means you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills and connections with people who can benefit from them. His theory is that nice guys – people who share credit rather than take it, and often do favors for others without expecting anything in return – actually do get ahead in the end.

Unfortunately, most people are deeply scripted in what I call the “Scarcity Mindset.” They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big slice of the pie, it means less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a scarcity mindset have a difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. Not surprisingly, they also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of security. It is the paradigm that says “there is plenty of pie and enough to go around for everybody.” It results in the sharing of prestige, recognition and decision making. I often say to people: Whatever you want to attract more of in your life, give it away. Want more respect from your peers, then you have to give more respect to those around you. Want to feel inspired? Inspire those around you. Whatever it is that you feel you’re lacking, give it away.

As we look to the New Year, it’s always a good time to re-evaluate how we do business, or how we operate in general. When you put fear and poverty thoughts aside, you become a conduit for goodwill and prosperity. And by giving freely, we prime the pump of our higher consciousness. This year, see if you can make it your default to be a giver without always looking for quid pro quo. You don’t need to be a Bill Gates or Mother Teresa to make a big difference in the world. It can be as simple as making an introduction, passing on a lead, mentoring a colleague. A belief in an abundant universe is powerful statement of hope.

On a personal note, I wish to thank all of my clients and colleagues for your business and support during 2013.

Wishing you a very happy, and superabundant New Year!