The late Zig Ziglar, a well-known author, sales trainer and motivational speaker, is credited with saying, “You can get anything in this world you want – as long as you are willing to help others get what they want”. Too often however our focus is either on what we want, or what we think others want from us. Furthermore, many of us attempt to keep score with a mentality akin to, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Successful people don’t keep score, they simply develop the habit of serving others – unconditionally. They support their employees, they help the boss, they do for their spouse and children, and they give their neighbors a hand when they can. They understand when you act to please others; you’ll find others will be pleased to act.
I see this principle play out each time I use a training exercise where I put individuals into a scenario with opposing needs – to persuade the person standing across from them to come onto their side of a line. I tell them they can say or do whatever they wish to get the other person to cross the line. From the onset people typically argue their agenda and enter into negotiations to get what they want. On some occasions they even resort to physical force and pull the other person to their side of the line. The result is both parties resist, physically and emotionally. However, given time, or a little bit of facilitating, someone will usually figure out the principle of reciprocity and simply cross the line and join their partner on the other side. Once on the other side of the line they simply ask the other person, “Would you help me and go to the other side of the line?” Without hesitation, the majority, having just been given a gift – they had their goal satisfied before being asked for anything – are happy to comply with the request and cross to the other side of the line.
Teamwork, and your subsequent success, can be so much more effective when you consider the principle of reciprocity. Start by lending a helping hand. Is there a coworker having a difficult time with a task or project? Share your knowledge or ideas. Reach out to others voluntarily.
Here’s an idea, keep a stash of giveaway items from the dollar store in your desk draw. In a previous job I gave a plastic Fire Chief Helmet to a coworker because they helped me put out some fires. From that point forward the other person was always ready and willing to help when I needed him. The helmet cost? Just ninety-nine cents!
This doesn’t just apply to work success. At home give time to your spouse, your children and other family members. Pay attention, listen, throw in a little eye contact for good measure, and look for the reciprocity to roll in.
Be Extraordinary! When you’re not being extraordinary, be awesome instead.
President & CEO
Leader Development Institute