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Career

Should You Be a 'Giver' at Work?

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” 

 –– Samuel Johnson


You know that guy in your office who is all about himself?

He’s always kissing up to the bosses to get the best of everything; he’s always getting people to do him favors, but he never helps anyone else. He’s a jerk! 

Guys like him know that people who give to others are borne losers -- doormats who deserve to be walked on.

What do you think? Is he right? Or is he wrong?

I hate to tell you, but he’s right. But the good news is, he’s also wrong.

‘Give and Take’

Let me explain. 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 successful.

This is the research of Adam Grant, professor at The Wharton School of Business, documented in his book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. *

I was coaching senior leaders at a national convention a couple of years ago when I had the pleasure of meeting Grant, who was a featured speaker. After reading his book I was struck by the depth of his research, colorful stories and, most of all, the counter-intuitive nature of his conclusions.

Surprising key to success

Grant’s research examines “the surprising forces why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom.”

The professor 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’s an overview of the styles:

Takers ultimately fail

Take a minute and think about this:

That guy in your office, the jerk you were thinking of when I mentioned him a minute ago, doesn’t everyone know that he’s out for himself?

The answer is “yes,” and Grant’s research shows that he won’t have long-term success because there is a long line of people (maybe including you) who are waiting to plunge knives in his back when the time is right. This makes sense since success is all about relationships.

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 favorable 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. It's also critical for leaders because people are always watching your behavior, even when you think they're not.

Are you a giver? Are you sure?

Think about yourself: what is your primary style? Are you really a giver, or do you keep a tally sheet of who returns the favor?

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 favor: use the easy buttons below to share this with friends who might benefit -- even the takers.

If you're a giver, please share this message with people you care about simply hit the "share" button below. ;-)

To share your thoughts with me you can visit or have me sign you up for my exclusive Sunday Coffee newsletter, drop me a line on our contact page.

* Amazon affiliate link

How to Be Successful in Your Early Career

Congratulations on your college graduation!

You might have heard amazing commencement speeches with advice on your role in changing the world; on thinking globally but acting locally; on finding your bliss and living your dreams.

That is all good and inspirational advice. You should follow your dreams.
 
But as a veteran coach to CEOs and other leaders, I'd like to offer you some practical advice to get you started wherever your journey begins. (This advice will also work for emerging leaders new to the workplace in the past three years.)

These ideas come from my own observations and experiences of success and failure over the past 25 years.
 
Here are a few tips to help you be successful in your early career:
 
Start with face-to-face
You have the most amazing technology in history in the palm of your hand. That smartphone of yours gives you the potential to communicate with anyone in the world.
 
Yet, as a human being, the most important communication of your life will happen face to face – looking into another person’s eyes. Email, text, even voice calls will not replace in-person communication.
 
The moments that matter most in your life will be you looking into people's eyes and talking, whether to one person, ten people, or one thousand. Develop your skills in talking face to face.
 
Listen more than you talk
You no doubt have great ideas and you see the silly things people do in the workplace. When you’re first settling in, make sure you listen much more than you talk.
 
There will be plenty of time to offer up your good ideas. If you want people to think you’re really smart, listen carefully to the smart things they say and repeat them back at other times, so they know you’ve got it.


Focus on people
Whatever field you enter in business or nonprofits, your organization will have a mission. Keep your eye on the people affected by that mission.
 
People and organizations most often make mistakes because they lose sight of the people who are affected -- customers, employees, recipients, donors, or others.
 
You'll never go wrong by focusing on the people instead of the numbers, the politics, the organization, the bureaucracy. The power is with the people. Direct your attention to the people.
 
Build relationships
Speaking of people, you should concentrate on creating real relationships with the people in your organization. Not just the higher-ups, but also the people all around you at every level. Anything you have or will achieve in life is the result of people and your relationships.
 
This will always be true. In the past it was your parents, teachers, coaches, or friends. In the future, take time to build relationships that will create your success.
 
Never burn a bridge
Just as in college and the rest of your life, there will be people you can’t stand. Don’t permanently kill those relationships by some impulsive action that will make you feel good today.
 
The person you have a problem with today may well be your friend, ally, or partner tomorrow. If you burn the bridge and destroy the relationship, you'll never get the chance. To protect yourself, don't let people push your buttons.
 
Be a leader
You may not have the title, but you should think and act like a leader. Your success will come from your ability to influence others in a positive way. Observe what leaders do – both good and bad – and emulate the best of what you learn.
 
My first job out of college was in sales and marketing for Procter & Gamble, where they would tell me “you’re always selling yourself, your ideas, and your company.” This idea has been one of my most powerful forces during decades in business.
 
Persevere
This is probably the most important factor for your success in life. Don’t give up too easily. Become someone who stays positive and does the hard work even when things aren’t going well.
 
I've seen it time and time again: When the average person gives up, is the time that they were about to break through.

Fight for yourself, your beliefs and your ideas. Show the world your passion and keep fighting until you break through. Some say 80 percent of success in life is showing up.  Keep showing up!
 
Enjoy Yourself
Very little is as serious as it seems to you at this time. Don’t take it all too seriously. Have fun in everything you do.
 
Congratulations college graduate!