Give a little, get a lot

How generous should you be as a leader?

“How generous should I be?”

Perhaps you’re considering how much time, energy, or money you should give to your coworkers, employees or customers.

I remember reflecting on this distinctly at the end of last year…

After less than two months on the job, our new Head of Business Development Jess Singer told me she needed to get neck surgery.


The surgery sounded serious. She wasn’t sure exactly how much time off she’d need for recovery.

It was December — a month with historically lower sales. Many folks go on holiday, and companies are often “winding down” their year. In fact, as Know Your Team, we close down our business those last two weeks in the year for our own “Holiday Break.”

Given this, we had a condensed sales window in December: We had only two weeks to pull in the business we typically pull in during four weeks time.

With Jess needing to take time off, we would have even less time. My guess was that she’d need at least a week to recover from the surgery…

So in reality, we’d now only had about one week to pull in the sales we needed for December.

This provoked an unavoidable question in my mind:

What should Jess get paid in December?

Should we pro-rate her salary for the amount of time she’d spend working in December, since she’d only end up working about a week or so?

Or should we just pay her full expected base salary in December?

After all, the rest of the Know Your Team team was receiving two weeks off for “Holiday Break” and getting paid their full monthly base salary, regardless.

As a business owner of a bootstrapped company, I went back-and-forth on the decision in my head.

I was hyper conscious of our margins — as a bootstrapped company, you always want more money coming in than going out. Financially, it didn’t make much sense to pay her for a full month’s worth of work if she only ended up working one week.

But beyond financials, there was something else I wanted to weigh:

What kind of work environment did I want to create for Jess? What was the tone I wanted to set? Did I want to send her a message that pinching pennies was more important than giving her the peace of mind to recuperate as long as she needed?

Or did I believe that her health and personal well-being was paramount? Did I trust her to take whatever time she needed to both recover and do what’s in the best interest of Know Your Company?

A lot of us as leaders say we care about our people…

Time to put my money where my mouth was.

I told her to take as much time off as she needed in December, and that she’d get paid her full expected base salary for the month — no questions asked.

Jess was grateful. Her surgery (thankfully!) went off without a hitch. She took about a week to rest and recuperate, and worked on her own accord when it made sense for her.

And then something kinda crazy happened:

December 2016 became our best month of sales ever, in Know Your Team history, because of her.

Somehow, amidst recovering from neck surgery and typically slow holiday business season, Jess found a way to leverage the time she did have and turn it into incredible results.

She didn’t rush back into work prematurely. But she also didn’t take advantage of the fact she was given unlimited time off in December, while getting paid.

All because of a little generosity.

I’ll always remember this.

What seemed like a black-and-white business decision, financially speaking, wasn’t black-and-white at all.

If anything, it’s now black-and-white to me:

Err on the side of generosity. The way you want your employees to feel about their work will affect the way they do their work. And in turn, you’ll get more than you ever expected.

Give a little, get a lot.

P.S.: If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share + give it 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😊(And you can always say hi at @clairejlew.)