Taking steps towards an awesome culture

Taking steps towards an awesome culture
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* This is a guest post from Shar Banerjee, Sales Lead at HiMama and Business Development Director at Tania DeSa International


Mentorship is the ugly step-sister to Sponsorship, aka, Cinderella.

While a mentor is an individual who advises and assists junior employees by answering questions and giving advice when needed, a sponsor is a powerfully positioned champion who has a) witnessed an employee’s greatness and b) is willing to use their influence to back the employee to unchartered heights. While the mentor-mentee relationship is one directional, the sponsor-protege relationship is bi-directional. Sponsors use their own workplace capital to influence other decision makers, while expecting their protege’s best work and constant growth. This is different from a mentor-mentee’s relationship which is more loosely structured.

If sponsorship is Cinderella, then the sponsors of organizations are the fairy godmothers that make the tale of Cinderella a reality. The effectiveness of their workplace, then, is the pumpkin carriage that is the imperative link to getting Cinderella to the ball.

So, what would you say makes an effective organization? A meaningful vision, well-defined roles and responsibilities, rewards, recognition or strong leadership? Richard Hackman and his team of Harvard psychologists found that the single strongest predictor of effectiveness is how much help employees provide for one another. In other words, how willing and able are employees to help grow and develop one another? Adam Grantprofessor of organizational psychology at Wharton, further argues that there are 3 interaction styles in the workplace; people operate as:

  • givers,

  • takers, or,

  • matchers.

In giver cultures, employees operate at high effectiveness levels – they contribute, help, share and make connections without any expectations in return. Takers, on the other hand, aim to get the most out of others while contributing the least amount possible; these employees help only when their perception of personal benefits exceed the cost without regard to the organization’s overall benefits. The norm in matcher cultures is to match the level of help received, thereby creating an equal balance of give and take.

Grant argues that “giving” behaviors drives our own success and that the success of organizations is positively correlated to enabling greater giver behaviours. In fact, an independent study led by Philip Podsakoff of Indiana University found that the frequency with which employees help one another predicts sales revenues, profits, customer service, creativity, productivity and operating efficiency.

Workplace culture is critically defined by individuals that are givers and those that embody the “giving” spirit. Imagine working in a place where peers and managers alike give abundantly to one another! So how can you emulate the “giver culture” and unlock the goodness of giving in your organization?

Here are 4 ways you can foster a “giver” culture within all ranks of your workplace:

  1. Giver cultures depend on people asking for help. However most people worry about appearing vulnerable and dependent or they simply fear the ask! To help, set up discretionary “open work” hours where collaboration is not requested, but required. Or, set up reciprocity rings within the organization where employees make requests and the members within the ring use their resources, knowledge and connections to make that request possible. Ask everyone in the ring to both ask and give to the best of their abilities!

  2. Reward givers in the organization! Set up peer-bonus and peer-recognition programs to recognize and reinforce giving. The idea is to expose the giving behaviours and make them more visible. By highlighting and celebrating these wins, you are sending a clear signal that giving behaviours matter.

  3. Avoid hiring takers: takers do more harm than givers do good. They can be recognized by their self-glorifying compliments, their use of “me” and “I” (rather than “we” and “us”) and their antagonistic behavior towards others.

  4. Sponsors, mentors and managers – give abundantly. When you notice that an employee has gone above and beyond their call of duty: recognize them for their efforts and take the time to be their champion! Or should I say, be their fairy godmother!

Remember the tale of Cinderella, who is the epitome of a giver. While her tale included a magic wand in true Disney fashion, we can learn a thing or two here. Be a sponsor in your effective organization – empower your associates, foster peer engagement, encourage helping behaviors, and do all these things sincerely and frequently to create awesome culture.


Shar Banerjee is an experienced business professional with a background in finance, strategy and sales. She is passionate about developing customer relations and empowering professionals globally.

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