#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

The fine art of reciprocity: for self, team & organizations

The fine art of giving and receiving has been on my mind a lot lately...I've been holding it as "graceful reciprocity."

Giving without expectation or attachment. Receiving with grace and intention.

There is a fine line between the two.

Contribution is a big deal in leadership and creating. The ability to receive gracefully is a big deal as well. People often miss the link between the two.

In order to contribute at our highest ability, we also have to be able to receive well. To give without expectation or attachment - being generous and open; and to receive with grace and presence - being vulnerable and open to another...that is the fine art of reciprocity.

On the flip side of this and taking the "fine line" a bit deeper: when we contribute with expectation, because we want something, or when we receive with resistance, fear or skepticism - it ruins the magic of what's possible.

I believe it is an art to dance between the two; an art that takes intention, clarity, vulnerability, and truth. And when it's there, when we get it even close to "right", magic happens. The energy of graceful reciprocity flows.

Giving & Receiving: Nurturing the virtuous cycle

Contribution is great. It's important. It makes the world go round. But contribution, without refilling one's tank, and being able to receive in return, becomes limited. If order to "feed" others well, we need to be able to "feed" ourselves AND get "fed." Without this flow, burnout happens, the well runs dry; opportunities for amazing impact are stunted. (This dynamic, by the way, is one of the things that I see creating the most tension, resistance, and confusion in organizations and teams today.)

There's the simple art of receiving; gracefully accepting a compliment or acknowledgement, saying "thank you". And then there's the more complex form - being able to receive attention, nurturing, care, value, love, whatever...from another. Both are equally important.

Now, I am of the mind that contribution is incredibly filling. And I don't mean this in the most cliche of ways. I truly mean it. Doing good for someone else, and knowing that it's somehow positively impacted them, can fuel me for weeks. And I've also learned that it's equally as important to be able to do that good for ourselves, and to receive it from others, in order to keep the energy humming. It's a beautifully virtuous cycle.

Here are 3 levels of reciprocity to consider:

  1. Reciprocity with self. The agreements we create with ourselves to honor our needs, fill us up, be in integrity with "me". If we fall down here, we have only ourselves to make amends with. We can learn from it, and then get better. (The art here is in doing the right thing for ourselves when no one is looking; in holding true to our own internal agreements.) The great thing is, the better we do here, the more easy it is for us to give to others; to create impact; and to keep our energy and relationships healthy and humming.
  2. Reciprocity with others. This might be with our teams, our family, or our friends and peers. This is the place of what others can count on us for, what we want to give, and in return, what we would like to receive. (The art here comes in having that clarity in intention for what one would LIKE to receive, without being attached to the outcome.) All of this can be co-designed very intentionally. It's the unconsciousness of this that often creates tension in relationships.
  3. Reciprocity with the organization. As member of any organization I am a part of that organization to contribute, and to receive. I provide X to the organization, and in return the organization provides Y to me. In simplest terms, this may be services, creativity, energy, brilliance, and time, in exchange for money, meaningful work, community, shared purpose, and growth & mentoring. (The art here comes in both parties "coming to the table" with the strong intention and desire to contribute to the other.) Again, the more intentional I can be about reciprocity - what I want to give, what I want to receive - the cleaner and more effective and rewarding that relationship will be.

In all cases above - whether it's to yourself, your teams or your organization - the more you give, the more you likely get. And in any case, the virtuous cycle has to be humming. Notice that themes here, for each type, all boil down to awareness, intentionality, clean communication, honesty, vulnerability, and of course...giving and receiving.

Imagine if you, and each person in your life and organization, came to the table with the intention of reciprocity. What would be possible for you then? What drama and problems would disappear? What impact could be created culturally and in your results?

Where is your "fine line"?

Try this on with your team. What does reciprocity mean to you? How does it impact you internally? How does that impact your influence and relationships externally? What’s here? // axc