Living our Company Values: Generosity

I get it. Every year at this time, there is an overload of blogs, tweets, essays and Hallmark movies feeding off the Scrooge and Christmas Carol theme. Ready for another one? Thanks – here is my spin on it all.

My problem with A Christmas Carol is that the tale is not possible without the premise that the “capitalist” (or capitalism in general), represented by Scrooge, is greedy, uncaring and lacks any sense of compassion. The truth is that corporations of all sizes and types, including and especially for-profit organizations, show compassion and caring for their employees and the communities they serve.

Companies are simply organizations made up of people established for a common purpose. I like to believe that organizations and the people that comprise them are, in the end, reflections of themselves. If the values of the organization and the values of its people don’t match, they will be limited in their ability to succeed since the people won’t stay.

So, I want to take this opportunity to recognize a number of examples where Austin, like so many other companies and organizations, has quietly gone about making their communities better through the actions, generosity and compassion of its employees.

Kajima Foundation and Giving Back

Austin’s parent, Kajima USA and Kajima Corporation, has established the Kajima Foundation, which provides grants to organizations served by its employees. By design, the Foundation favors organizations that serve disadvantaged or underprivileged children.

One of my favorite honors each year is reviewing and submitting the grant applications of Austin employees. Each year, I receive a stack of worthy submittals, each telling a story of individuals committed to improving the lives of children in their communities. It may be a homeless shelter, counseling center for abused children, providing summer camp experiences for kids who would otherwise be out on the streets all day, and countless other examples. It is a peek into the compassions of many of our employees. I am inspired each time I read the applications and realize how blessed I am to be a leader in an organization of inspiring people.

A few years ago, some employees came up with the idea of sending email Thanksgiving cards and donating the money we would have spent on printing and mailing the cards to local area food banks instead. Perfect!

In talking with Austin employees and learning about their lives outside of work, I believe the overwhelming majority of them are giving back. They are volunteering at animal shelters, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, committing time to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, working at a food bank, performing environmental projects, scouting and so much more.

Sometimes, they are doing it quietly on their own. Other times, they are organizing teams from their office to contribute. It is contagious and successful companies support it not just with time or money, but – more importantly – with culture and appreciation. Spread the contagion!

Year-Round Inspiration

Great leaders are thought to inspire. But I think inspiration is a two-way street and it feeds upon itself. I am fortunate in my position that I get to learn of and witness many of these quiet inspirations.

I am inspired. The late President George H. W. Bush understood this completely in his vision of "a thousand points of light.” Examples of compassion and generosity are everywhere, all year long, all across the continent.

This time of year, we are just a bit more cognizant of it all. Maybe, more importantly, what we are doing is celebrating and recognizing the goodness in people that is going on all year long.

Do you ever take time to watch people in public? Maybe you’re at an airport, a park, or the grocery store – do you find yourself making preconceptions of people because of how they’re dressed, how they are acting, or simply their demeanor? Most likely, they might fit into one or both of two categories:

They are volunteering to help someone or something in their community. Or, they are in need of help of some kind and are trying to endure their hardship as best they can.

Either way, let’s all open our eyes to the inspiration they offer us. If we do, maybe we’ll find new joy and peace in celebrating the quiet goodness in the people around us. It is there for the taking. Be open to it and don’t wait for some ghost to show you.

Peace and Joy throughout the Christmas holidays and throughout the New Year. All year long. 

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

Horace Mann

“So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to many more whose happiness depends on you!”

Charles Dickens, The Chimes

“’But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

‘Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence, were all my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’” 

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol