“The true measure of a
man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
Have you ever met that person in the office where it is all about them?
They are always getting people to do them favours, but they never help anyone else. They are a real jerk! It’s about them…Have you ever met them?
People like them know that people who give to others are seen as some might say doormats or even weak who deserve to be walked on. What do you think? Are they right? Or are they wrong?
I hate to tell you, but they are right. But the good news is, they are also wrong.
‘Give and Take’
I am currently reading Adam Grant’s book called
Give and Take. Extensive research on this question finds that some people who
care deeply about people and put others first can be left with little to show
for it. They end up at the bottom.
However, the more important part of this
research shows that some people who give to others are among the most
I am really enjoying the link to this book
and my work and research in leadership, courage and kindness. I was struck by
the depth of his research, colourful stories and, most of all, the
counter-intuitive nature of his conclusions.
Key to Success
Grant’s examines “the surprising forces
why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the
Grant notes that “in professional
interactions, it turns out that most people operate as either takers, matchers
or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and
matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who
contribute to others without expecting anything in return.”
Grant writes that what your style is at
work can have a huge impact on your success: “Although some givers get
exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide
range of industries.”
Here are some my key take-aways:
Takers ultimately fail.
Take a moment and think about this:
That person in your office, the jerk you
were thinking of when I mentioned them above, doesn’t everyone know that they
out for himself?
The answer is “yes,” and Grant’s research
shows that they won’t have long-term success because there is a long line of
people (maybe including you) who are waiting to plunge to that person not
succeed or will not help them in the future.
A great story around this
in Grant’s book is the story behind Jonas Salk
In 1952, the worst polio epidemic in U.S. history swept the nation,
causing more than 3,000 deaths and 20,000 cases of paralysis. The medical
researcher Jonas Salk came to the rescue. Salk’s lab at the University of
Pittsburgh developed a vaccine, which was disseminated by the herculean efforts
of the March of Dimes. By 1957, the incidence of polio was down by nearly 90
percent, and four years later, there were just 161 cases. The vaccine had
similar benefits worldwide.
Jonas Salk became an international hero.
But at a historic 1955 press conference announcing that the vaccine was safe
and effective, Salk gave a valedictory speech that jeopardized his
relationships and his reputation in the scientific community. He didn’t
acknowledge the important contributions of John Enders, Frederick Robbins, and
Thomas Weller, who had won a Nobel Prize a year earlier for ground-breaking
work on growing the polio virus in test tubes, which enabled Salk’s team to
produce the vaccine. Even more disconcertingly, Salk gave no credit to the six
researchers in his lab who were major contributors to the development of the
vaccine—Byron Bennett, Percival Bazeley, L. James Lewis, Julius Youngner, Elsie
Ward, and Francis Yurochko.
moment of taking sole credit haunted him for the rest of his career. As
one observer put it, Salk had broken the ‘unwritten commandments’ of scientific
research,” which included “Thou shalt give credit to others.” According to
Youngner, “People really held it against him that he had grandstanded like that
and really done the most un-collegial thing that you can imagine.”
“When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers like David Hornik win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.” ― Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
Matchers give to get.
Matchers are people who help others with the expectation of return favors. In that way, they can be perceived as only helping you to get something from you. Not a particularly favourable reputation.
Givers fail and win…big.
Grant’s research finds the very
interesting results of being a giver in the workplace: “Givers dominate the
bottom and the top of the success ladder. Across occupations, if you examine
the link between reciprocity styles and success, the givers are more likely to
become champs–not only chumps,” he writes.
The difference between winning and losing
for givers is in approach, as Grant details in his book.
Grant indicates most of us develop a
primary way of interacting with people at work, which determines whether we are
successful. “And this primary style can play as much of a role in our success
as hard work, talent, and luck,” he says.
For leaders, Grant’s approach is even
more important because the composition of your team and people’s individual
approaches may determine success or failure. This holds true for corporate
cultures as well. Having the wrong ratio of givers to takers can create a toxic
culture producing poor morale and poor results.
Givers are the most likely to
experience long-term success according to Adam Grant’s research in ‘Give and
The most effective leaders prefer to
give rather than take.
Givers focus on what others need from
them and endeavour to be generous with their time, knowledge, energy, skills,
ideas and interactions with others.
One of the least self-centred,
boastful, and egotistical American presidents ever was Abraham Lincoln. He was
The reason why givers make the best
leaders is that they have the ability to create a psychologically safe climate
where everyone feels they can contribute.
This type of environment is necessary
for people to learn and be more innovative.
Grant also writes about how givers end up being successful in three
different dimensions of work: (1) building networks, (2) collaboration, and (3)
communication. These skills are pivotal today.
I want to you give us a few examples from Fast Company (read more here) of how workplace leaders can begin to model more generous and supportive practices, and how these drive greater success –
Recognise the full potential in people.
Share your knowledge and expertise.
See and express the best in people.
Identify giving tendencies in performance evaluations and job interviews.
“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” ― Grant Ph.D., Adam M., Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
You a Giver? Are you sure?
Think about yourself – Are you really a
giver, or do you keep a tally sheet of who returns the favour?
What about the people you work with?
Identify one person in each category: giver, matcher and taker. Keep your eyes
open and you’ll see people, and yourself, in a different way.
And please do me a favour: share this
with friends who might benefit–even the takers. Especially the takers! 😉
Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.
She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.
Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”. Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, and humour will enhance any event she appears.
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