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Monthly Archives: April 2014

A New Look at Giving : Avert the All-too-Common Resentment and Burnout

Un-game principle: Certainty is often a trap. AND, it’s a sign to become alert, to look, see, and tell the truth.

The truth shall set us free, isn’t that the promise?4-29-14 generosity 3

Americans are generous people. We have a lot compared to the rest of the world, and we rise to the occasion and give a lot. It’s one of our endearing qualities. However, even giving can be compromised, twisted, and turned from gold into lead. You know what I mean. We need to reshape our understanding of giving so that it lands as we intend it. This is not easy, but it’s worth seeing with new eyes so that resentment and burnout can become strangers.

Consider the following: 3 myths about giving, here debunked, in an article based on Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive.

1. Giving is not about being nice. Most people confuse being generous with being nice, but research shows that they’re separate qualities. Being a nice person is about courtesy: you’re friendly, polite, agreeable, and accommodating. When people think they always have to be nice in order to give, they fail to set boundaries, rarely say no, and become doormats, letting others walk all over them. An invitation to resentment and burnout if ever there was one.

Productive givers focus on acting in the long-term best interests of others, even if it’s not pleasant. They have the courage to give the critical feedback we prefer not to hear, but truly need to hear. They offer tough love, knowing that we might like them less, but we’ll come to trust and respect them more.

Isn’t that what leaders do? And aren’t you a leader? Remember, leadership is not a position. It’s a state of mind…a mindset. We are all leaders…or should be. The world is hungry for real leaders. The world is hungry for YOU!

2. Giving is not about altruism. In the eyes of many people, giving doesn’t count unless it’s completely selfless. In reality, though, giving isn’t sustainable when it’s completely selfless. For example, studies reveal that people who give altruistically—with no concern for their own interests—are prone to burnout and depression. Ironically, they’re also less likely to stick with helping and volunteering over time, because they’re too exhausted to keep giving.

Successful givers secure their oxygen masks before coming to the assistance of others. Although their motives may be less purely altruistic, their actions prove more altruistic, because they give more. As the psychologist Mark Snyder writes, “Ironically… it may be those volunteers who themselves are motivated by the most selfish of motivations who, in the long run, end up offering the greatest benefits to other people.” This doesn’t mean that they expect anything back from the people they help. It simply means that when they give, they keep their own interests in the rearview mirror. The productively generous choose to help in ways that are energizing rather than exhausting.

It’s energizing to YOU!

So let’s assume you’re one of the productively generous. When you’re clear about what’s in it for you, you will give appropriately…with joy…because it not only serves the other but YOU and your life intentions, for example, to be a contributor to your community, to be a loving family member, to be a visionary leader, to be an effective manager/parent/teacher, an effective communicator.

It is powerful to keep your valued intentions in mind.

3. Giving is  not about refusing help from others. The clearest distinction between failed and successful givers is the willingness to seek and accept help. When people focus on giving, they often become fearful of asking. They don’t want to burden or inconvenience others—they want to be givers, not takers. Sadly, this leaves them suffering, resentful, and en route to burnout, because they lack the support of others.

The productively generous recognize the difference between taking and receiving. Taking is using others solely for personal gain. Receiving is accepting help when you need it, and maintaining a willingness to pay it back or forward.

Isn’t that distinction the best? Makes it easy to ask for support, doesn’t it? You’re doing whatever you do, not for YOU, but for another. Much easier to ask for support, no?

“Giving and receiving arise from the same free and generous source,” reflects Arianna Huffington’s sister, Agapi Stassinopoulos, in her moving book, Unbinding the Heart. “We do have the right to ask, but we must give the person we are asking the option to respond the way he or she wants to respond—we must keep that door open.” When ‘no’ is acceptable, people experience greater freedom to say ‘yes.’ Check it out. Do remember, if we never receive, we limit our abilities to give.

So what can designated leaders do to empower employees who are trapped in a non-productive model of giving?

In her book Ariana Huffington asserts:

Instead of endorsing myths about giving, leaders can teach employees what the productively generous know:

1. Nice guys may finish last, but good guys finish first.

2. Whereas the selfless give until it hurts them, and the selfish give only when it helps them, the sustainably generous give when it helps others but doesn’t hurt them.

3. Receiving is necessary for giving—and if you never ask, you deprive the people in your life of the joy of giving.

Helping effectively can boost our well-being by strengthening relationships and injecting meaning into our lives, revitalizing us rather than draining us. It can make us wiser, allowing us to advance the common good without becoming martyrs. And it can free up time to be amazed by the wonders around us. “If our life’s journey is to evolve as human beings,” Arianna writes, “there’s no faster way to do it than through giving.” And wouldn’t kissing resentment and burnout good-bye be an unexpected, lovely gift?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at:

Silence of the Lions: When Leaders’ Silence Harms and Helps

Un-Game Principle: What’s not being said is often more relevant than what is being said.

14-04-15 Silence of the LionsWhen there’s an “elephant in the room” it’s uncommon for someone to ask “What are we not talking about here that’s nevertheless relevant to our concerns?”  Among the many reasons we leave sleeping elephants alone is a simple fact: Leadership silence can be a deafening roar.

Let me back up for just a moment. I define leadership not as a position but as an attitude and a skill-set anyone can learn and all of us should exercise. That said, I’m for the moment talking about the designated leader, that is, the one with greater positional power than the rest of the team—the one who either facilitates everyone’s development and use of their leadership attitude and skills (in a family this may be Dad, Mom, or both) or stifles it.

So how does designated leadership silence do harm? Everyone gets the harm when it’s a large scale issue such as a company merger and people’s futures are on the line. With leadership silence, that is, in the absence of facts people make up stories. By stories I mean they rush to their assumptions, and pretty quickly those assumptions become facts in their eyes.  Once facts, the beholder has to defend them (We want to be right, don’t we?).

Once the defenses are up, the silence of leadership can be broken, but it will have a much harder time to penetrate the defended mind of the beholder than if the silence hadn’t been there in the first place—opening the spigots of fear from which the horrible, terrible stories spew. Our right mind has been hijacked.

In a small group, let’s say a meeting, leadership silence harms in the same way. Let’s call it ‘deliberate non-transparency’. But let’s look at a different leadership silence in a meeting environment.

A team member contributes something and there’s no acknowledgment from the designated leader, either positive or negative. The result is the member’s and the team’s energy drops. This is true for even the strongest team member. We all need to be heard to keep contributing. It’s a small step in the mind of the contributor from “What I said is not important” to “I am not important”.

Whatever someone says, it can be acknowledged. “As I understood what you just said, Randy, it doesn’t seem to add. Can you say it in a different way so that I’m clear how this is connected?” This will keep Randy engaged and contributing. The leader has respected Randy and his potential to make a contribution.  Randy feels valued. He can get back into his right mind. And who knows? Someone may build on his idea. Or get a new one out of Randy’s offering. They, too, are encouraged to put their offering out to the team. Creativity does not travel in a straight line. Leadership silence in the wrong place, however, can silence creativity and any and all its sources. It’s that powerful.

So when does the silence of the lion powerfully help a team?  We’ve all heard a version of: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear your words.”  We are aware that words actually comprise a small part of any communication. Imagine, only 7% of most communication is words. The rest is intonation, body language, and with a bigger view finder we look to action for clues that support or negate the words.

And then there’s silence.

OK. So here’s leadership silence that helps a team in a meeting.

After a greeting

No, I’m not kidding. After a “Good Morning”, look at each team member and smile. Uncomfortable? Probably. It’s standard and customary to plunge into the work.  Besides the discomfort may be because leader and team members alike feel just a bit vulnerable. Worthwhile? Try it and see. You connect with your team with that tiny gesture. The communication is “I see you.” And yes, besides wanting  to be heard like Randy, we all want to be seen. Do those two things, and the rest becomes almost easy.

After a particularly spirited interchange among multiple team members

If you as a leader have created such a safe and challenging environment where spirited interchange happens, you will do some good to turn to someone who hasn’t weighed in and invite her in with a smile and a simple “Hi, Jayne.” And then silence. The rest of the team will laugh. They recognize that they’ve been passionately engaged and have not paid attention to quieter team members. They appreciate the gentle invitation to shift gears. And Jayne knows she’s seen and will be heard even if she simply says “I have nothing to contribute at this time.” More often than not Jayne will have something to contribute.

When courage (and valuable input)among team members needs surfacing

If you’re a courageous leader, chances are your team members are courageous too. They look for models, and like it or not, you’re IT. What you see in them, they’ve seen in you. They are your mirror. When you ask the questions that sometimes have to be asked, for example…

  1. What really matters here?
  2. Is this in line with our values? How?
  3. What is useful about this idea?
  4. How could this idea work?

…there is often a silence among team members. For most people, including leaders, it’s difficult to maintain silence. Silence leads us away from comfort, away from distractions. Silence can lead us to what matters. But what matters is often very uncomfortable. Our minds are wired to protect us from the discomfort of change that becomes possible when we confront the questions that might produce it. Waiting in silence for people to summon their courage to answer tough questions is hard but necessary. Wait long enough and someone will start to answer. You, their leader, have given them the permission they think they need.

In this unprecedented time of cataclysmic change, it is most natural to lean away from discomfort as we protect ourselves from harsh realities. Stability is an illusion. Life is unpredictable and impermanent. We can’t keep on doing (faster and longer) what we’ve always done. We need to hospice “business as usual” and summon the courage to do the counter-intuitive and therefore the most paradoxical and difficult thing; we need to confront our hankering to protect ourselves from imaginary modern day lions and tigers. Sometimes, we as leaders can begin to do this with the silence that shouts “Let’s talk about what we’ve not been talking about.”

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Saving Yourself from Manipulation: Yours!

Un-Game Principle: Practicing two qualities will shorten the long road from “What will people think?” to “I’m enough.”

14-04-01 Saving_Yourself_from_ManipulationLucky are…no, let me start over. Self-aware are those people who recognize they want to manipulate or are about to manipulate another human being before they go on their merry way and actually do it. Admirable are the people who stop because they are clear that manipulative is not who they want to be…regardless of outcome.

I have experience. Been there, done that, and probably will have more practice in the future. Does this interest you too? Would you like to have a better alternative to manipulating others to get what you want?

I recently had a team coaching proposal out to an existing client. I very much wanted to do the work. I was worried he might find the investment outside of his comfort zone. I knew it was an excellent value if we could produce the promised results together. I was confident that we could and would. But my worry got in the way of hitting SEND. I had the thought “If I just say it perfectly, he won’t have any problem with this.” Then I ruminated what that perfect way was. And I ruminated and then ruminated some more.

Here was the first clue. I worried. That meant I wanted a certain outcome. I was attached to that outcome like the bee to honey. Attachment to outcome is a very low space. Notice how you experience your energy when you have to have it your way. Is it spacious or constrictive? Is your caring inclusive of the other, or does it primarily focus on you and how you can control that cherished outcome? Do you have a sense of abundance or an experience of scarcity?

Constrictive, self-centered, scarcity. As I said, a very low space.

My second clue was my never-ending rumination of how I could get my preferred outcome. How do you experience yourself when you go ‘round and ‘round like in an anxiety dream where you climb an ever-narrowing path to the mountain top that eventually lets you neither move forward nor backward? Well, no surprise. I never came up with that perfect introductory email accompanying the proposal I wanted my client to accept.

So where is the relief from this massive discomfort many of us experience as we see ourselves manipulating another? (Aren’t we all tired of being manipulated and being treated as if we’re nothing but a commodity to be exploited? Surely we don’t want to do that to others, do we?).

Relief is in what is an unspeakable place for many of us. It’s the territory of vulnerability and courage. Brene Brown says that vulnerability is “our most accurate measurement of courage.” And being able to access both vulnerability and courage are key ingredients for living a whole-hearted life—the antidote to one characterized by fear and its help-mate ‘manipulation’.

Brene Brown says we’re allergic to vulnerability. For men, she says, her research shows it’s hard to pierce the armor that protects them from feeling weak. Women’s hard time centers around protecting the image “I can do it all, do it perfectly, and make it look effortless.”

So what was my alternative to my almost-manipulation of my client through the ‘perfect’ communication that would leave room only for a ‘yes’ to my proposal?

The alternative was first of all in my recognition that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I want to show you in me! Hmm.

Secondly I remembered that showing you my vulnerability is risky, yes, but it also connects us more often than not. When we make ourselves vulnerable we are being brave AND afraid. Others are afraid too, and they need to see we can be both.

Yes, more than one thing can be true at the same time!

Vulnerability is the courage to show up in our lives…to be seen. To let go of what’s an illusion anyway, namely the illusion of control when reaching your goal involves the cooperation of another human being. In other words, courage is born of vulnerability. And all of us want to be courageous. But many of us have little practice in paying the price—being willing to be vulnerable.  When we see someone doing it, it encourages us, that is, it gives us the courage to maybe practice too. We all need each other to be a light in the darkness.

So here’s what happened specifically which allowed me to hit SEND without hesitation. I decided to surrender and make myself vulnerable. I acknowledged to myself that I was powerless over this other person’s response. I was not powerless over mine. I surrendered my need to say it ‘just right’ and simply told the truth. The truth was that I wanted to do this work and that I would still be happy to do it for less money than I was asking my client to consider investing. So here is what I said.

“It’s no secret that I want to do this work with you. It’s not only a fine opportunity for you but also for me because (and I stated the reason why it was so for him and also for me). I think it’s an excellent value, AND, if this is still too much of a stretch for you, make me an offer I can’t refuse (smile).”

I happily hit SEND, and the proposal was on its way.  I held out the space for a new conversation, but I had won already. My process had gotten me clear on the ideals and values that I want guiding my life.

 Brene Brown says “feeling vulnerable and afraid is human. It’s when we lose our capacity to hold the space for these struggles that we become dangerous.”

I almost became dangerous…someone to defend against. Someone who was manipulative.

Yes, we need to build our capacity to hold that space of being vulnerable AND afraid. Practicing vulnerability will shorten the long road from “What will people think?” to “I’m enough.” Vulnerability gives birth to courage.

Vulnerability is not a victory march. I may not get this contract. And if my identity depends on getting it or the next contract, then dark days lie ahead. We need to be able to say (and mean it) to ourselves and others “Yeah, this is hard. This is tough. And you’re not alone. And not getting the contract (or whatever it might be for you which you cherish and which involves the ‘yes’ of another person) doesn’t change the fact that you’re worthy of love and belonging.”

Saving yourself from manipulating others may be a question of deciding from where you want to derive your power. Is it from controlling and fixing everything, or could you envision your power flowing from who you are willing to be? Vulnerable and courageous.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and