Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Another TED Talk (18 min.)


¼ Givers

¼ Takers

½ Matchers (reciprocators)

Givers tend to be at the low and high ends of individual productivity, but they improve overall productivity of the team. So how do you make sure they get the credit they deserve? It is probable that they spend too much time helping others and that is why their individual productivity suffers.

How to build a culture where Givers succeed:

  1. protect Givers from burnout -> teach them to do five minute favors, so that limit their exposure but spread their abilities
  2. encourage help-seeking -> help-seeking = norm – they recognize that they can be a Receiver too
    If there is a designated person whose job is to help, then people will not be ashamed to ask for it. If nobody ever asks for help, you have a lot of frustrated Givers in your organization, who would love to contribute, if they only knew who could benefit and how.
  3. Be thoughtful about who you let onto your team: get the right people on the bus.

  1. negative impact of a Taker on a culture is usually double or triple the positive impact of a Giver. [one bad apple can spoil a barrel; but one good egg does not make a dozen]
  2. let in one Taker -> Givers will stop helping
  3. let one Giver onto the team, you don’t get an explosion of generosity -> you get: Great! Let that person do all our work!
  • If you can do that well, you’ll 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 Matchers is: they follow the norm.
  • So how do you catch a Taker before it’s too late?
  • It’s hard to do, especially based on first impressions. Hides behind “agreeableness” -> constantly adapting to try and please other people.
  • Disagreeable people do less of this, they are more:
    • critical
    • skeptical
    • challenging
  • No correlation between those traits and Givers and Takers -> that’s just your outer veneer.
  • Giving and Taking are more your inner motives: values, intentions toward others
  • Draw a two-by-two

Disagreeable Givers are really useful, because they’ll give the 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.

Deadly combination = agreeable Taker => “faker”

Nice to your face and then will stab you right in the back:

His favorite way to catch these people = to ask them: “can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved?”

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 the hierarchy, who don’t have as much power, who can do them no good.

Watch how they treat their restaurant server or their Uber driver.

  • Weed Takers out of organization
  • Make it safe to ask for help
  • Protect Givers from burnout
  • And make it okay for them to be ambitious in pursuing their own goals as well as trying to help other people
  • Actually change way that people define success
    • Instead of making it about winning a competition
    • Success is really about making a contribution
  • Best way to succeed = help other people to succeed
    • if we can spread that belief
    • we can actually turn paranoia upside down
  • it’s called “pronoia”= the delusional belief that
    • other people are plotting your well-being
    • that they are 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.

I have two copies each, English and German, if you’d like to read this book for yourselves.

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