Search

Adam Grant: Are you a giver or a taker?

This Ted talk by Adam Grant really resonated with us @AdopTic


In summary:

We all have moments of giving and taking. Your style is just how you treat most of the people most of the time.

Givers are often sacrificing themselves, but they make their organizations better.

The more often people are helping and sharing their knowledge and providing mentoring the better organizations do on every metric.

Givers spend a lot of time trying to help other people and improve the team and then unfortunately they suffer along the way.

Takers tend to rise quickly but also fall quickly in most jobs.

Givers are over-represented at the bottom and at the top of every success metric, which raises the question how do we create a world where more of these givers get to excel.

The first thing that's really critical is to recognize that givers are your most valuable people but if they're not careful they burn out, so you have to protect the givers in your midst.

If you want to build a culture where givers succeed you actually need a culture where help-seeking is the norm, where people ask a lot.

Somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of all giving in an organization starts with a request but a lot of people don't ask.

The most important thing if you want to build a culture of successful givers is to be thoughtful about who you let onto your team

The negative impact of a taker on a culture is usually double to triple the positive impact of the giver. Let even one taker into a team and you will see the givers will stop helping.

Disagreeable givers are the most undervalued people in our organizations because they're the ones who give the critical feedback that no one wants to hear but everyone needs to hear. We need to do a much better job valuing these people as opposed to writing them off early.

The other combination we forget about is the deadly one. The agreeable taker also known as the faker. This is the person who's nice to your face and then will stab you right in the back.


Selected excerpts from the Talk:

Paranoia is caused by people that I call takers. Takers are self-serving in their interactions. It's all about what can you do for me.

The opposite is a giver. It's somebody who approaches most interactions by asking what can I do for you?

We all have moments of giving and taking. Your style is just how you treat most of the people most of the time.

Most people are right in the middle between giving and taking. They choose this third style called matching. If you're a match or you try to keep an even balance of give-and-take, quid pro quo. I'll do something for you if you do something for me and that seems like a safe way to live your life. But is it the most effective and productive way to live your life?

Unexpectedly the worst performers were the givers. The engineers who got the least work done were the ones who did more favours than they got back. They were so busy doing other people's jobs they literally ran out of time and energy to get their own work completed.

In medical school the lowest grades belong to the students who agree most strongly with statements like I love helping others.

In sales to the lowest revenue accrued in the most generous salespeople.

Givers are often sacrificing themselves, but they make their organizations better.

We have a huge body of evidence. Many studies looking at the frequency of giving behaviour that exists in a team or an organization and the more often people are helping and sharing their knowledge and providing mentoring the better organizations do on every metric.

We can measure higher profits, customer satisfaction, employee retention even lower operating expenses.

Givers spend a lot of time trying to help other people and improve the team and then unfortunately they suffer along the way.

What does it take to build cultures where givers get to succeed?

If givers are the worst performers, who are the best performers? It's not the takers. Takers tend to rise quickly but also fall quickly in most jobs. If you're a matcher you believe in an eye for an eye, a just world and so when you meet a taker you feel like a true mission in life to just punish the hell out of that person and that way justice gets served. Most people are matchers and that means if you're a taker it tends to catch up with you. Eventually what goes around will come around and so the logical conclusion is it must be the matchers who are the best performers but they're not in every job in every organization.

The givers go to both extremes they make up the majority the people who bring in the lowest revenue but also the highest revenue and the same patterns were true for engineers productivity and medical students. Givers are over-represented at the bottom and at the top of every success metric, which raises the question how do we create a world where more of these givers get to excel.

The first thing that's really critical is to recognize that givers are your most valuable people but if they're not careful they burn out, so you have to protect the givers in your midst.

If you want to build a culture where givers succeed is you actually need a culture where help-seeking is the norm, where people ask a lot.

What you see with successful givers is they recognize that it's okay to be a receiver too and if you run an organization, we could actually make this easier.

Help-seeking isn't important just for protecting the success and the well-being of givers it's also critical to getting more people to act like givers because the data say that somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of all giving in an organization starts with a request but a lot of people don't ask.

They don't want to look incompetent. They don't know where to turn. They don't want to burden others and yet if nobody ever asked for help you have a lot of frustrated givers in your organization who would love to step up and contribute if they only knew who could benefit and how.

The most important thing if you want to build a culture of successful givers is to be thoughtful about who you let onto your team. I figured you want a culture of productive generosity, you should hire a bunch of givers but I was surprised to discover actually that that was not right.

The negative impact of a taker on a culture is usually double to triple the positive impact of the giver.

Let even one taker into a team and you will see the givers will stop helping. They'll say I'm surrounded by a bunch of snakes and sharks why should I contribute?

Whereas if you let one giver into a team you don't get an explosion of generosity. More often people are like great if that person can do all our work. Effective hiring and screening and team-building is not about bringing in the givers it's about weeding out the takers and if you can do that well you will be left with givers and matchers.

The givers will be generous because they don't have to worry about the consequences and the beauty of the matters is that they follow the norm.

How do you catch a taker before it's too late? We're actually pretty bad at figuring out who's a taker especially on first impressions and there's a personality trait that throws us off.

It's called agreeableness. One of the major dimensions of personality across cultures. Agreeable people are warm and friendly. They're nice, they're polite.

I assumed that agreeable people were givers and disagreeable people were takers but then I gathered the data and I was stunned to find no correlation between those traits because it turns out that agreeableness disagreeableness is your outer veneer. How pleasant is it to interact with you whereas giving and taking are more of your inner motives. What are your values? What are your intentions toward others?

The agreeable givers are easy to spot. They say yes to everything. The disagreeable takers are also recognized quickly although you might call them by a slightly different name. We forget about the other two combinations. There are disagreeable givers in our organizations. There are people who are gruff and tough on the surface but underneath have other's best interests at heart or as an engineer put it a disagreeable giver is like somebody with a bad user interface but a great operating system.

Disagreeable givers are the most undervalued people in our organizations because they're the ones who give the critical feedback that no one wants to hear but everyone needs to hear. We need to do a much better job valuing these people as opposed to writing them off early.

The other combination we forget about is the deadly one. The agreeable taker also known as the faker. This is the person who's nice to your face and then will stab you right in the back.

My favorite way to catch these people in the interview process is to ask the question can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved and the takers will give you four names and they will all be more influential than them, because takers are great at kissing up and then kicking down. Givers are more likely to name people who are below them in a hierarchy who don't have as much power who can do them no good and let's face it you all know you can learn a lot about character by watching how someone treats their restaurant server or their uber driver.

If we do all this well, if we can weed takers out of organizations, if we can make it safe to ask for help, if we can protect givers from burnout, and make it okay for them to be ambitious and pursuing their own goals as well as trying to help other people we can actually change the way that people define success instead of saying it's all about winning a competition.

People will realize success is really more about contribution. I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed and if we can spread that belief we can actually turn paranoia upside down. There's a name for that, it’s called Pronoia. Pronoia is the delusional belief that other people are plotting your well-being. That they're going around behind your back and saying exceptionally glowing things about you. The great thing about a culture of givers is that's not a delusion, it's reality. Look I want to live in a world where givers succeed, and I hope you will help me create that world.