A culture of reciprocity is built on a foundation of mutual expectations. But what are we supposed to reciprocate, and what should the expectations be?
The cornerstone of reciprocity is respect. The main reason we give respect to others is not because of who they are, but because of who we are. We don’t have to respect everything they do, or even everything they are. But we can respect what they give that is valuable, or what they could give with a little encouragement.
The best way to gain respect is to give respect. Respect is one of the easier things to reciprocate, but someone has to take the initiative. It is ideal when both people take this initiative from the beginning, but it can start with one.
An expectation of mutual respect leads easily into an expectation of mutual support. What are we supporting? We are supporting their pursuit of success. We are admitting that we will be more successful with their support, and we want to contribute to their success as well.
Next comes mutual trust. I trust you because you have not given me any reason not to trust you. If you have given me a reason not to trust you (or if I have given you reason not to trust me), I will address it with you in a spirit of wanting to make things right for both of us. I am seeking an agreement on what that will look like – what we each need in order to rebuild our trust – and then an agreement to honor those needs. We need to express our expectations of each other and our commitments to each other in order to maintain a spirit of reciprocity.
In a culture of reciprocity we know where we stand with each other. If we don’t, we ask in terms that are as specific as possible, such as, “If there is ever anything you need me to do differently than I’m doing it, I want you to tell me. Will you do that?”
We reciprocate encouragement to each other. We give each other courage.
In a culture of reciprocity, I don’t want to stay in debt to you. When you give me something of value, I want to reciprocate. And I don’t want you to stay in debt to me. If necessary, I need to be willing to say, “You need to do that yourself. I know you can.”
A culture of reciprocity is a culture of mutual accountability. We agree to be accountability partners.
We reciprocate truthfulness – telling the truth that needs to be told when it needs to be told, in a spirit of wanting what’s best for each other and for the rest of the team.
And finally, a culture of reciprocity depends upon reciprocating positive influence. We remain committed to being a source of positive influence to each other. We are there to lift each other up, to help each other maintain an empowered and empowering perspective.