BY LISA EARLE MCLEOD
Is it better to give than to receive? When it comes to gifts and charity, it feels great to put others first. But in the dog-eat-dog world of business, most people believe, if you want to get ahead, you need to look out for No. 1.
The spirit of the holidays may be about giving, but the spirit of business is all about getting - more promotions, customers, money, and stock options. It's every man for himself.
However that beat-the-other-guy-at-all-costs mentality doesn't always come naturally to women.
Our mothering instincts, combined with our programming since birth, wire us to put other people's needs ahead of our own. We'll take the heel of the bread or rump roast, put off exercising to drive the kids to soccer and put aside our own agenda to help someone else with theirs.
At a recent family dinner I asked my stepmother what kind of pie she wanted and she actually said, "Oh, I'll just have whatever nobody else wants."
Nurturing instincts are why women often gravitate towards "helping" professions, and why so many women in corporate America found themselves doing support jobs so well that they never got out of them.
Yet, as women reach for their own success, many of us (including yours truly) discover that while we're tired of settling for a burnt end of rump roast, stifling our natural instincts and morphing into ruthless sharks doesn't feel very good either.
I'm all for being the best you can be, but you can only plant your stiletto onto so many backs before you realize that the Donald Trump "it's all about me" model runs counter to your nurturing nature.
But what happens when women capitalize on their giving instincts, instead of treating them as a potential liability?
A few innovative business models are tapping into the feminine power of giving before you get, and one of the coolest is Ladies Who Launch, a group that literally puts nurturing instincts on turbo charge.
In addition to a web community, speaker series and on-line events, founders Victoria Colligan and Beth Schoenfeldt have created a chick friendly business launching model, appropriately called the Incubator program, that allows women to give, give, give, and have it all circle right back to Y-O-U.
The Incubator works like this: You and 11 other women meet once a week for a month under the direction of a leader. You bring your idea, your business, your dream, whatever you want help with. However, unlike traditional "here's my business card, what can you do for me" networking, you come to the meetings with the stated mission of helping everyone else. That means you've got a dozen people there whose sole goal is to help you move forward.
And it doesn't have to be a business you're trying to grow. Atlanta Incubator leader Traci Long says, "One woman, a very successful multi-million dollar home builder, came to get help incorporating more friends and fun into her life."
Other women have brought dreams of opening a bakery, starting a greeting card company, writing a book or even trying to balance their businesses and their kids. It's creative and supportive, and here's where it gets even better.
As you describe your goals and challenges, the other women take notes and come back the following week with their vision of what they see for you.
"It's incredibly emotional," says Long, "because many times another woman can see something in you that you can't see for yourself." In choosing to speak for his entire gender, my husband comments, "The model wouldn't work for men because they're too competitive and self-centered. They might end up stealing each others ideas rather than helping."
But to hear female attendees describe it, The Incubator is a combination of mothering, mentoring, and magic.
And who else but a group of women would sign up to give each other that?
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of "Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You've Already Got and the YOU You Already Are." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.