Pay It Forward and Build The Culture

I got an email the other day from a coaching student that showed me I was making an impact. She forwarded an email that she had sent that week to a consultant she was working with.

I think it’s a model for all of us.

supporting other women

My coaching student told me she was feeling very pleased with herself, because she wouldn’t have even thought to do this without the coaching. One of the major lessons of Build Yourself+ is to pay it forward, and to build a better professional culture while you seek ways to succeed in the current one. We spend the last week of the workshop working on ways we can ‘pay it forward’ in our communities.

But when I advocate promoting others as a method of promoting yourself, as the same question invariably comes up. I’ve touched on it on a previous post on “virtuous circles” but I wanted to dig into it in a little more depth again.

If I spend my time promoting others, will they actually promote me back?

This is a valid question, but it comes with a tinge of fear. It comes laden with our societal fear of not being a “sucker,” not being the one who goes all in, who asks the other out, who is stuck doing the group work when the rest of the group bailed and is blowing off the project.

It’s also a particularly important question for women, because we are often asked to be the nurturers and caregivers of our workplaces. We do a lot of emotional labor that goes unnoticed. Do you find yourself always assigned to write up the meeting notes, no matter your role on the project? Are you the one who always buys the birthday cake for office parties? Emotional labor is a real issue for women and I specifically work through Build Yourself+ to help women identify emotional labor they are doing that they don’t want to be doing, and that doesn’t align with their professional visions and goals.

But there’s another side of the story. As I began to build out my consultancy and network with other people who might connect me to jobs or other opportunities, I would always ask, towards the end of the meeting ‘what can I do to push your efforts and your agenda forward?’ This would sometimes take people by surprise because it’s not often people ask how they can help in a genuine way. It also invariably was followed by that person asking me the very same question.

There will always be that person who takes and doesn’t give. Like that guy I met with recently who breezed in fifteen minutes late without apologizing, told me what would help him, and never asked me what might push forward my agenda.

But here’s the beautiful thing: It’s a long game.

It’s not a one-shot deal. I’ve said this before, but in a negotiation in which the parties have to continually work together, the trustworthy parties often garner more cooperation and do better overall. The consultant who you take the extra five minutes to help out in her professional trajectory, might just think of you when an opportunity comes up that you’re looking for.

And here’s the other beautiful thing:
I believe that the values you live by determine the values of the emotional ‘microclimate’ in which you live.

The values you live by attract the people who want to be around those values. I know people who live with a ‘pay it forward’ mentality. They are not saints. They give and they give, but they also ask (which is an important part of the picture–we must know what we want and we must proactively ask for it.) They live in worlds of personal and professional social cohesion and mutual aid. They are building their world and they are benefiting from their world.

So go out there and take the first leap. Write a note like my coaching student. Invited to a special summit? Send a list of other women who would be great to be honored as well. Take the first step and be the one who dares to pay it forward first. It’ll come back to you.