Ooops, I Did It Again

25 May

There were thirty-some-odd business owners/professionals around the rectangle of folding tables. They were from a variety of professions, ranging from insurance and banking to clothing and cleaning services. Each, in turn, was taking 60 seconds to tell a bit about their business and who, or what type of referral, they would like help meeting: I would like an introduction to Tom Kelly, the owner of ABC Collision Repair; I would like an introduction to a co-worker who is struggling with weight loss; I would like an introduction to any friends who are planning graduation parties this year.

Then me: “I would like an introduction to someone you may know in management at the B company.”


This was my first time visiting the group, a BNI chapter. They are located in a town 80 miles away. I was visiting in my role as a Director Consultant with BNI of Minnesota. I was there to help. But I hurt someone; I stepped on their toes.

Even as a visitor, but as a fellow BNI member, I get the opportunity to give a 60-second “Sales Manager Moment.” But, given it’s distance, I would not be seeking any martial arts opportunities in that town. However, my newer endeavor of professional leadership development work with younger professionals — emerging leaders — could benefit from some connections. The problem was that a member of that chapter is in a profession closely related enough to what I was seeking that I stepped over the line a bit into their bailiwick. That’s a no no.

I didn’t hear about it that day. I heard about it second hand. Being in a bit of an authority role in relation to the group, the member did not address me directly. That’s understandable, even if not preferable. The solution: an email, a phone call, an apology, a discussion about how to best help each other in the future. Starting with conflict but working to move to thinking win-win and perhaps even seeking synergy. Most so, my commitment is to help that member the best that I can.

BNI’s founding philosophy is Givers Gain. In it’s highest manifestation, it’s really cool. People join BNI chapters to get help finding more business. Yet, the best members actually get very good at helping others get more business. They become expert Givers. In fact, the best of the best truly seem to not even care about getting anything themselves.

Yet, they do. I think over time, with the odd exception, the best Givers become some of the biggest Gainers. It really is true: what goes around comes around. It may start with thinking, “I’ve got to help others so that they will help me.” But this can soon evolve into wanting to help others because they have helped you. Then, it can take the next step into helping others because you can, with no expectation of reciprocity or return. And then, in it’s own time, that goodness, that Giving, comes back around.

Certainly, BNI members and BNI chapters aren’t perfect. There are great ones and there are struggling ones. But the core philosophy of Givers Gain is quite obvious across the organization, within chapters and among members. It’s really neat. Helping others can get contagious; it can feel good and be fulfilling. It’s great to help and be happy for someone else.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own business, our own mindsets, our own expectations of what we want, or what we deserve. The best BNI members are Givers. I think that has wisdom across many realms of professional and personal lives. Leadership? Friendship? Marriage? Make it about Giving, make it about Serving. Forget about you: help others to succeed, develop, grow, win. Don’t expect anything; that’s a kind of a small-g giving. We need to do BIG-G Giving. Give, and we will Gain. And the really neat part is that so will someone else.

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