When you think about great teamwork, you’re likely to be thinking about collaboration, support, sharing, helping, co-operation and cohesiveness. But would you also be thinking givers, takers and matchers?
Dr Adam Grant, management professor at Wharton, has just released his book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success”. I don’t have his book (*yet ) but I have enjoyed reading a number of press articles, particularly the recent Harvard Business Review and McKinsey Quarterly articles. I think you too should read those articles, because although I provide some highlights below, it’s not possible to cover the depth of Grant’s work. And because I don’t have the book (yet) I’m definitely missing some depth. Nevertheless here is some food for thought and something to whet the appetite.
Cultures of Giving
Grant draws together many years of his and others’ research on reciprocity and pro-social motivation. He suggests that corporate cultures sit on a continuum with ‘giver cultures’ and ‘taker cultures’ at the extremes, and matcher cultures around the midpoint.
Matchers help others but expect an equal amount of help in return. They give to people who they think will help them in return.
Takers ask for help and give little or nothing in return. They tend to claim personal credit for success for example saying ‘me’ and ‘I’, rather than ‘we’ and ‘us’. They tend to ‘kiss up and kick down’ and seek to come out ahead.
Givers are guided by pro-social motivation, “the desire to help others, independent of easily foreseeable payback”. Givers “add value without keeping score”, they do not expect immediate gain. The most successful givers care highly for others but also have some self-interest such as attending to their work and other needs. They give in ways that reinforce social ties. They set boundaries to ensure giving has maximum impact and joy, without burning out or compromising their work commitments. They are cautious about giving to takers. Givers are motivated by a sense of service and contribution and are more productive when they think of helping others. Grant found however that givers are not successful if they lack assertiveness, become a doormat, or burn out by excessively giving.
Reaping the Rewards
Dr Grant’s work reveals that businesses benefit from effective ‘giver’ behaviours. Improvements include:
- Group effectiveness, cohesion, coordination
- Interpersonal networks
- Sales performance, revenues
- Client satisfaction
- Problem solving
- Staff retention, job satisfaction, sense of belonging, pride
- Personal success
“The greatest untapped source of motivation, Grant argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other peoples’ lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves”
Creating a Giving Culture
Grant suggests that people in leadership positions can:
- Encourage reciprocity: it’s ok to seek help; it’s good to give; pay it forward
- Help givers to set boundaries. Guide them to be perspective takers if they are prone to lacking assertiveness or to being overwhelmed with excessive empathy which can cloud their judgement
- Guide giving behaviour in the direction of best impact: helping others whilst protecting one’s own work commitments
- Emphasise the intrinsic motivation which occurs when being a giver
- Help staff to match their own expertise and resources to others’ needs
- Implement reward and recognition systems which favour givers
- Role model giving behaviours
- Design jobs to connect the role directly to the recipient, client and to a sense of purpose
- Screen out takers; minimise the number of taker employees
“By putting these into action, it’s possible to transform win/lose scenarios into win/win gains”
“Organizations will always have a mix of these three basic styles. But there’s reason to believe that in the long run, the greatest success — and the richest meaning — will come to those who, instead of cutting other people down, pursue their personal ambitions in ways that lift others up. From a manager’s perspective, it would be wise to clear the path for more givers to succeed, so that they can bring others along as they climb to the top.”
(*) Note – A big thank you to K, who is one of my email readers and a colleague. K is sending (giving) me a copy of Adam Grant’s book.
Adam Grant is an award-winning teacher, researcher, and tenured management professor at Wharton. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Michigan in organizational psychology and his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honours, Phi Beta Kappa honours, and the John Harvard Scholarship for highest academic achievement. Dr. Grant has been recognised as the single highest-rated professor in the Wharton MBA program, one of BusinessWeek’s favourite professors, and one of the world’s top 40 business professors under 40.
Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (Adam Grant, 2013)
In the company of givers and takers. Harvard Business Review, April 2013
Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture. The McKinsey Quarterly, April 2013
Viewpoint: Good Guys Can Win at Work, Adam Grant, April 10, 2013
Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? March 2013
Be a Giver Not a Taker to Succeed at Work. Forbes Magazine, April 2013