I’m not sure how things are over at your company, but I know that I perform my best when I know I am contributing to a bigger cause. Each of us desires a deeper purpose in what we do. Often, many of us just need an opportunity to be stimulated into action… wouldn’t be a great if we could provide a few of these opportunities at work? When we take action to pay it forward, we fulfill some of those deep core desires to make a difference in the world and more specifically, make a difference in the lives of those around us.
When we foster an atmosphere of encouragement and inspiration, we have a much better opportunity to retain our best people and engage people on a level that makes our work more relevant.
Keys to paying forward that should be kept in mind: a) Have no expectation of anything in return. b) Seek out the opportunities c) Everything counts, no matter how small d) Be open to helping complete strangers.
1. TOGETHER - SHOPPING FOR KIDDOS: Find an organization that helps kids and get a list of the kids that need gifts for birthdays (or Christmas). Ask the non-profit to break the list down by age categories and gender. Then purchase gift cards from a retailer like Target and hand out $25-$50 gift cards to your staff as you meet them at the store in the late afternoon. One key is to shop together to build the team atmosphere. If possible, take the team to help hand out the gifts later. From my own first hand experience, I can say that this is truly “Priceless.”
2. $10 CHALLENGE: Hand out $10 cash per person, in single bills, to each person in your department or company. Here’s the catch – they can’t keep it. The goal is to hide single dollar bills under items on the shelves of a store in their area. Stores with low cost food or clothing items, such as Dollar General or Goodwill. Encourage people to bring their kids if they have them and have them consider hiding a note of encouragement with it. Generally these can be put under items like Ramen Noodles, low cost diapers, milk, bread, etc. My kids love this and what it teaches is awesome!
3. "One Thing I Admire" EXERCISE IN MEETINGS: Kick off meetings occasionally by asking your team to share “1 thing I admire” about someone in the room. Most of us are wired to notice the things that are not right about how something was done or said. It is easy to point out the short falls in our peers, employees, family and friends. All of us need positive encouragement and this affords an opportunity to take the time to provide a well-placed compliment, wrapped in authenticity.
4. HABITAT FOR HUMANITY WORK: There are always a number of opportunities to get a team together to work on a Habitat for Humanity house. This is so tangible and people can visibly see the contribution that they made… and maybe the person who will live in the house might be there.
5. FEED THE HOMELESS: A simple act that can really make a meaningful impact in another person’s life. I love this selfless act and it really does allow each of us to see part of the world we rarely get to see close up. Bring the team together and it creates a shared experience that draws people together and makes it much harder to be unkind to the person on our team that is hard to get along with.
6. FIND A CAUSE - SURVEY YOUR PEOPLE: Take a minute and find out what causes are important to your team and see if you can incorporate them into what you are doing. I had a much wiser person share with me years ago a simple but profound quote – “Heart first, hands later.” The basic idea is this – never ask anyone to do anything with their hands, until you have touched their heart. I have found these to be words to live by.
7. DONATE BLOOD TOGETHER: OK, needles are hard and I am not a fan - but sometimes this can be an easy entry point and the organization may be able to come to you. It is not hard and yields some easy ways to get people thinking of how to impact others.
8. A CHARITY RUN: Get your team to jump in and take a run or muddy obstacle course. There are a ton of 5K’s to get involved in and a multitude of other similar activities that promote teamwork and benefit an inspirational cause. Check out www.active.com and you will discover a world of opportunities to get involved in a great cause via running in a non-profit’s 5K or similar.
9. DRIVE DAY - CLOTHING OR FOOD: Bring a food or clothing item for a drive you do at your work. This is super easy and let’s be honest… how much do we have in our closet that we will not ever wear again. I have a bunch and my pantry is similar.
10. PAY FOR YOUR PEEPS: Give your staff a $10 gift card to a fast food place and let them know that you must spend it on someone else. You might buy the person in line at the drive through a meal or hand the card to someone standing in line at a fast food place… or maybe you give it to the attendant at the Goodwill donation center. The possibilities are endless.