I read a book this year called Give and Take by Adam Grant. He proposes an interesting model of organizational interaction.

He says there are three types of people: takers, matchers, and givers.

  • Takers approach things with a win/lose approach. In every interaction, they try to gain more in return than they contribute.
  • Matchers have fairness as their standard. They desire even trades. They want their contributions to receive a like-minded return. Most people are matchers. They give as good as they get.
  • Givers like to help. They are empowered when asked to contribute. They embrace the idea that generosity will yield favorable results.

I saw a video recently where Grant applies this theory to building a team. He gives three pieces of advice.

  • The first should be no surprise. Weed out takers. If takers dominate, disruptive things happen. Teammates feel marginalized. Inappropriate competition exists. Communication is constrained. Takers can look very productive, but they can serve as rotten apples that ruin the barrel.
  • Second, reward giving behavior. As leaders, we need to recognize those who demonstrate giving behavior. They create a favorable atmosphere. They model unselfishness which leads to trust and better teamwork. Givers inspire everyone to a higher standard.
  • Finally, foster an asking culture. Grant says givers are empowered when they are asked to help. Because they are inspired by helping, an invitation to contribute their efforts to a project or cause inspires them. Having teammates who routinely ask for help evokes the best nature of the team. It fosters collaboration. People love the work coming and going.

Some would think that if everyone gave more than they received, you would end up losing somehow. Grant says the studies reveal otherwise.

People with capability who give generously win.

“If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit,” says Grant.