In Generosity Wins, you’ll follow along with aspiring executive Emily Gardner on her quest to discover the superpower—generosity—and to inspire others to embrace it as well.

Written in a business fable style, Generosity Wins blends a page-turning story with an abundance of true-life insights from some of today’s top business and thought leaders.

While Emily is a fictitious character, the highly accomplished people she interviews are very real. The hard-won expertise, wisdom, and abundant science they share with Emily are sure to resonate with you as you navigate your own career and personal life journey.

Along the way you will discover:

  • Why generosity is a superpower and how to use it.
  • Generosity’s role in fostering purpose-fueled happiness, emotional well-being, confidence, and passion.
  • How generosity, with no expectation of return from the recipient, ignites your success.
  • Why generosity will define the next generation of leaders.
  • How the benefits of generosity compound for the giver, the receiver, and communities.
  • Why technology is accelerating the benefits and power of generosity.

Authors Monte Wood and Nicole Roberts passionately believe that generosity is core to who and what it means to be uniquely human. The clear path they chart in these pages begins with one insight; you have the power.

Prepare yourself for radical new perspectives and a profoundly positive impact far greater than you imagined. Be courageous!


ANY act of kindness or support, given with no expectation of exchange or return from the recipient(s). There are limitless meaningful ways to be generous.

What's Inside

20 Chapters, 264 Pages

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Preview: Chapter One

In the entire history of the hospitality industry, no general manager of a luxury property had ever gone into her semi-annual review with her boss with higher expectations and hopes.

Emily Gardner, six months shy of her 30th birthday, had enjoyed a spectacularly rapid ascent through the ranks at The Pinafore Group, one of the world’s leading hotel chains.  After graduating the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration at 22, she had taken on increasingly important roles at Pinafore properties in Istanbul, Hong Kong, Brussels, and most recently, San Diego.

On her watch, the numbers for the San Diego property were pretty impressive – costs were down, average room rates were up.  Okay, occupancy was flat and there were a handful, or maybe more than a handful, of negative reviews on TripAdvisor, which had never happened to that property before.  But what are you going to do, Emily told herself, as she headed into the CEO’s office.  You can’t please everyone all the time, right?

So it was with an incredible sense of shock and deflation when Emily entered the LA office of her mentor, Don Jenkins, that she saw the look on his face and read his body language. Don, recently promoted to CEO of Pinafore, was a 47-year old executive who was now responsible for all dimensions of success for a very highly respected global company.

Don was a tall, handsome African American executive who had come to Pinafore ten years ago, having worked at three other international hospitality groups. He had hired Emily out of Cornell after meeting her on the campus of his alma mater during a speaking engagement. He saw a bit of himself in this confident redhead and had quietly mentored her from her earliest days at the company. He was also influential in bringing her home from Europe and giving her the top job at the San Diego property, a decision that took a lot of diplomacy to get through the executive team. Don’s colleagues thought Emily too young and unseasoned for the role. Don had believed otherwise.

Emily could read a room. She immediately saw that Don looked more like an executioner than the bearer of good news.

“What’s wrong?” Emily asked, suddenly on edge.

Emily had always assumed that having Don as a mentor would have a slingshot effect on her career.  Maybe now, though, the opposite was true. Don stood up from behind his desk and sat opposite her on the couch in his large office.

“You aren’t getting it done,” Don said, his expression grim, getting right to the point.  “We have to relieve you of your duties in San Diego.”

Emily, shocked, felt as if she had been slapped.

“But why?” she asked, mystified.  “Revenue’s up, costs are down…what did I do wrong?  Is this some sort of political thing?”

“It’s got nothing to do with politics,” Don said, shaking his head sadly, his dark eyes boring into Emily’s.  “It’s just the way you’ve been doing things.”

“I thought I was nailing it!” she exclaimed.  “You saw my reviews in Hong Kong.  In Istanbul.  Everywhere.  What do you mean, the way I’ve been doing things?”

Don leaned forward and tapped a file folder on the table between them.

“It’s all in here,” he said.  “I’m going to ask you to read this after our meeting is over.  But I will bottom line it for you.”

Emily by now was blinking back tears.  The last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of the CEO.  That would be humiliating.

“You are a good professional,” Don said, and the warmth in his tone took some of the sting out of his words.  “No one questions your abilities as a manager.  And everybody is aware of the results you have gotten.  It is just a question of exactly what results and how those results have been achieved.”

“So what exactly am I doing that is so wrong?” Emily said, shaking her head. “Look at the numbers!”

Don put a hand up.

“Emily,” he began, “in every industry, not just hospitality, there’s more to it than just the numbers.” He sighed.  “We both know that. This is the first time you have been in charge of a property.  And the way you’ve been doing things is not the Pinafore way.”

“Could I please get a for-instance?” Emily asked, still confused.     

“You let go three of the long-term loyal housekeepers,” Don began.

“They were underperforming,” Emily countered.  “There were complaints. You’re firing me because I let go some housekeepers who didn’t live up to our standards?”

“You didn’t hire new ones,” Don said.  “Instead, you gave their workload to the ones who were remaining.” All of this without explanation and counter to what your managers recommended.

“And that is a fireable offense?” Emily asked, feeling as if she had entered some sort of bizarro world. “It’s a standard cost-cutting move. Everybody does it.”

“That’s not true,” Don said in a soft voice, but his gentle tone hardly cushioned the blow Emily was experiencing. “Lots of companies avoid cutting loyal team members and dumping work onto the people who haven’t been fired. It’s not universal. And it’s certainly not how we operate. Did they ever do that at any of the properties you worked at in Europe?”

Emily sighed. She knew the answer was no.

“You got rid of the turndown service,” Don continued, referring to the practice of turning down the sheets and blankets on the bed in the evening.

“Do you realize what that costs in overtime?” Emily asked, her tone indignant.  “That was a significant cost savings for the company. I think I should be thanked for that!”

“You also cut back on the concierge staff by forty percent,” Don said.  “Now there’s nobody at the concierge desk between midnight and six a.m.”

“We’re talking about San Diego!” Emily replied with dismay.  “How many people need concierge service between midnight and 6:00 a.m.?”

“We are a seven star property,” Don said.  “Only if it is one or two a night, we still offer it.  I could go on, but I think you get the drift.”

“I get the drift all right,” Emily said, deeply unhappy now.  “I’m being fired because of some cost-cutting moves that we both know helped the bottom line.”

Don continued, your costs are down and your profit is up slightly, but the market has grown over the last year and your occupancy is flat. This is not a good indicator of where the business will go in the future. You know that.

“The bottom line isn’t the only measure of success,” Don said.  “There are other key metrics, if you will.  Not just in business but in life. One of the most important is called a spirit of generosity.  Do you remember that time in Hong Kong when a guest from Mongolia left his winter coat at the hotel, and you arranged for a courier to send it back to him in Ulan Bator, where it was 10 below zero that week?”

“Of course,” she said, thinking back.  “I got a commendation for that.”

“And do you remember the time,” Don continued, “in Istanbul, a family went to the wrong port for their cruise ship when they left the hotel?”

“It happens all the time,” Emily said, rolling her eyes. “Istanbul can be really confusing. There are two areas where cruise ships leave from. No matter how often we tell the guests.”

“You hired a helicopter to get them to the next port on the cruise,” Don recalled.

“The husband had cancer,” Emily said, nodding.  “He was a history buff and he had never seen the Dardanelles.  What was I supposed to do?  Let him miss his cruise?”

“Exactly,” Don replied.  “That is how Pinafore does things.  But once you got your own property, it’s like the whole generosity focus went out the window.”

“San Diego was underperforming for years before I got there,” Emily said hotly.  “That’s why you sent me there.  To turn it around.  How am I supposed to do that without cutting costs?”

“My expectation,” Don said, choosing his words carefully, “was that the same spirit of generosity that motivated you to send that coat and hire that helicopter would be your guiding principle in growing San Diego.”

“You are telling me that I should have spent money willy-nilly,” Emily said, stung. “That’s how a distressed hotel gets back on its feet?

“I’m not saying you should have spent willy-nilly,” Don said gently. “I am saying that you weren’t building a sound foundation.  Inconsistent is the best way to describe things. You had good quarters and not-so-good quarters. You got rave reviews and bad reviews. Your growth trended behind in a strong market. Your team was disenchanted with your hardcore ways and lack of collaboration. They felt like you didn’t care about anything but profit. We build success with a focus on brand loyalty, a tenured team, long term results and consistency. Does that make sense?”

“I’m really confused,” Emily said, raising a hand to her temple.  “I should have hired more helicopters? Spent more money? Is that it?”

“What we look for,” Don explained gently, “is growth matched by leading with important values, specifically, generosity and caring. That’s the Pinafore way.”

“That’s what I was trying to do,” Emily said, feeling her whole world crashing at her feet.

“Let me ask a completely different question?” Don asked, studying Emily carefully. “You getting enough sleep?”

“That’s kind of personal,” Emily said defensively. Thinking the questions completely out of left field, but strangely pertinent. Then she dropped her guard. “Actually…no. I’m not. I feel like I’m always worried and working around the clock.”

Don nodded empathetically and got back to his main point.

“The three examples I gave,” Don said, not wanting to pile on, but needing to make the point, “are representative of the way things were done on your watch at San Diego.  In that file you will find two dozen more.  Look., I think you have a bright future with this company.”

“But you’re firing me!” Emily exclaimed, now thoroughly confused.  “How could I have a bright future?”

“You are not being fired,” Don said.  “Your salary is going to remain the same.  Your benefits are untouched.  It is just that I can’t have you running San Diego the way you have been running it.”

“Give me another chance,” Emily said quickly, almost pleading with him.  “I hear what you are saying.  I can do things differently.  I can hire some more concierges and cleaning staff, I’ll work on collaborating better and the customer reviews.  Please don’t do this to me.”

Don shook his head.

“No can do,” he said.  “Look.  You’ve got the right instincts.  But there is more that you need to learn about our values and why they are so important. Both professionally and personally. We are at the high end of the high end when it comes to what people pay to stay with us.  There are high expectations.  I need you to have a clear understanding of exactly how we meet those expectations.  Which is why I have a different assignment for you.”

“What kind of assignment?” Emily asked, studying him.

“It’s also in this folder,” Don said, gently pushing the folder across the table to Emily.  “Take it with you, get a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and then read everything.  And if you are open to it, let me know.  But I need to know within 48 hours.”

“Are you demoting me?” Emily asked, still bewildered. “Is that it?  Or are you are basically having me fire myself?”

Don laughed, which surprised Emily even more.

“Far from it,” he said.  “I believe in you.  But you’ve veered down a wrong path.  I need to see something different from you, and that is only going to happen if you learn more about what differentiates us and facilitates our consistent success. It’s all about success, in a broad sense, not just in financial terms, and how to attract it year after year. Just take the folder.  And call me.  But within 48 hours.  I need an answer.”

Don stood, indicating that the meeting was over.  Emily rose, and reached forward, and took the folder, wondering what on earth was in it and what on earth Don expected her to do.

“I’m sorry I let you down,” she said meekly.

“In some places,” Don said, “they might reward you for what you did and how you did it.  But great companies don’t run that way. Pinafore certainly doesn’t.  You’ve worked here for years. You should know that better than anyone. Take a look at the assignment.  Let me know.”

Emily looked up at him, sighed, said, “Okay,” because there was nothing else to say.

Curious about what Don had in mind, she headed out of the office.