Give and Take

Why helping others drives our success

Key points

According to conventional wisdom successful people have motivation, ability and opportunity ahead of others.

Success however depends on how we approach our interactions with others.

Every time we interact with a work colleague, we have a choice to make, do we claim as much value as we can, or contribute without worrying about what we receive in return.

There are givers and takers in life.

Takers have a distinctive profile – they like to get more than they give.

Takers believe that the world is a dog eat dog place. To prove their competence, they self promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts.

Givers are a relatively rare breed. They prefer to give more than they get. Givers focus on what other people need from them.

A giver at work strives to be generous in sharing time, energy,knowledge,skills, ideas and connections with other people.

Most people act like givers in close relationships like marriage because we don’t keep score in such relationships.

At the workplace we see a third kind- the matcher – someone who maintains a fine balance of giving and getting.

Givers dominate the top of the success ladder, a few givers are also at the bottom.

When takers win, someone else usually loses. Givers give in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.

Abraham Lincoln was a giver. He went out of his way to help others even if it was inconvenient to him. He is seen as the least self centered, egotistical, boastful presidents ever.

When Lincoln became president, he invited three of his republican opponents to the cabinet to be secretary of state, secretary of treasury and attorney general.

In medical school, givers do poorly in year one, when everything is an individual activity. However by year two when they start dealing with patients, nurses and hospitals, they turn out to be the best. Every service industry needs more givers than takers.

Giving is particularly risky with takers. Most venture capitalists are big takers , always squeezing the idea owner.

Networks are important and give three advantages-information, diverse skills and power. Strong networks help gain access to knowledge, expertise and influence.

Takers may rise by kissing up, but they often fall by kicking down.

Takers use language like I, me, mine, my and myself. Givers use words like us, we , our, ours, ourselves.

There is a direct co relation between size of the CEOs picture in a balance sheet and failure of the company. Bigger the picture, more spectacular the failure.

Takers and matchers use networks strategically. They tend to focus on who can help them in the near future and this dictates what they give.

When favors come with strings attached, then it becomes a transaction.

Takers are black holes, they suck energy from the system.

The givers are suns, they inject light around the organization. Givers create opportunities for their colleagues to contribute in a meeting, they listen, even if they disagree, they don’t belittle people.

When a group has a consistent giver, then the group members contribute more.

Givers see interdependence as a source of strength.

Mountaineering has an expression called expedition behavior. Expedition behavior involves putting the groups goals and mission first, showing the same concern for others that you do for yourself.

Givers code of honor is : a. show up, b. Work hard, c. Be kind and d. take the high road.

George Meyer shaped 300 Simpsons episodes, yet got credit for only 12. He was the ultimate giver.

In a study of Slovenian companies, takers struggled to be creative because no co worker gave them information or responded to them.

Takers exaggerate their own contribution in a meeting or success. This is known as responsibility bias. It happens because we have more information about our own contribution and we don’t really know how others have worked.

Between 1993 and 1997, in four years, Hollywood had 400 screenplays and a third went to credit arbitration.

Givers create psychological safety- a climate where everyone feels they can contribute and its okay to fall flat and fail or being judged or punished.

Psychologically safe environments help people learn and innovate more.

Teachers beliefs always create self fulfilling prophecies. A teachers belief is the best tonic for success.

In accounting, work ethic and motivation are ahead of intellectual capability for success.

Grit is having passion and perseverance towards long term goals. Gritty people have interest, focus and drive, hence achieve higher performance.

The key to cultivating grit is to make the task interesting and motivating.

Powerless communication is about expressing vulnerability, showing weakness and doubt, but wins only if you are seen as competent.

Asking questions is a form of powerless communication that givers adopt naturally.

Advice seeking and feedback seeking is a form of powerless communication. This works if it is genuine.

Empathy is a pervasive force behind giving behaviors, but its also a major source of vulnerability.

Men negotiate more than women on issues like salary. Women do a great job when they negotiate for someone else.