I recently came across an article that offers a new perspective on the impact of behaviour on organisational success: In the Company of Givers and Takers. The article’s author, Adam Grant, takes the view that an organisation’s success is determined by the generosity of its employees. I guess that hypothesis could go some way to explaining the dramatic failure of the Banks that prompted the start of the recession.
Grant identifies three styles of interaction, that he names: giver, taker and matcher. The givers seek to help others and often do so without any strings attached; that could be by offering help and support, making introductions, or sharing knowledge. The takers are focused on getting others to serve their ends; while keeping a tight boundary around their own time and expertise. You can probably guess that the matchers are those who strive to maintain a fair and even balance of give and take.
Grant’s hypothesis is grounded in research and he draws on many studies to support his views. For example, one study shows that higher rates of giving are predictive of higher productivity, profitability, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. So that’s pretty clear; to get great business results leaders need to encourage the givers. Not so easy as it sounds; many organisational procedures and policies send out mixed messages about what good looks like e.g. forced performance rankings, bonus pots, individual metrics all create the sense that employees are operating in a zero-sum world.
Perhaps, it’s not surprising that the givers are over-represented among the least successful performers: due to being too available to everyone else and/or being exploited by the takers. More surprisingly, the givers are also over-represented among the most successful performers; due to the trust and goodwill that they have built. Grant suggests that the success of the givers and the fall of the takers is determined in part by the matchers who believe in a just world. That means they go out of their way to help and support the givers, and also work hard to ensure that the takers are not rewarded for their exploitation of others.
As a leader, what can you do to clear the way for more givers to thrive and succeed?