Give and Take; Givers Dominate the Top of the Success Ladder

The Expert Coach Center Summer Book Club, has been reading the book, Give and Take by Adam Grant.

We’ve complied insights from Give and Take, Chapter One. Click here to get your copy of Give and Take. 

According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity.

If we want to succeed, we need a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. The story of Danny Shader and David Hornik in chapter one highlights a fourth ingredient, one that’s critical but often neglected: success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people.

Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?

Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place. They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Garden-variety takers aren’t cruel or cutthroat; they’re just cautious and self-protective. “If I don’t look out for myself first,” takers think, “no one will.”

Being a giver doesn’t require extraordinary acts of sacrifice. It just involves a focus on acting in the interests of others, such as by giving help, providing mentoring, sharing credit, or making connections for others.

Give and Take, Adam Grant

Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.

Research demonstrates that givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder. Across a wide range of important occupations, givers are at a disadvantage: they make others better off but sacrifice their own success in the process. Across occupations, it appears that givers are just too caring, too trusting, and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.

Yet, givers also dominate the top of the success ladder. These givers reverse the popular plan of succeeding first and giving back later, raising the possibility that those who give first are often best positioned for success later.

But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers like David Hornik win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them.

Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it. As the venture capitalist Randy Komisar remarks, “ It’s easier to win if everybody wants you to win. If you don’t make enemies out there, it’s easier to succeed.”

It is noteworthy that Lincoln is seen as one of the least self-centered, egotistical, boastful presidents ever.  “…he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.”

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.”  The key, he believes, was learning to harness the benefits of giving while minimizing the costs.

Are you a giver or taker? Rate the importance of different values in the two lists below:

List 1
Wealth (money, material possessions)
Power (dominance, control over others)
Pleasure (enjoying life)
Winning (doing better than others)

List 2
Helpfulness (working for the well-being of others)
Responsibility (being dependable)
Social justice (caring for the disadvantaged)
Compassion (responding to the needs of others)

Takers favor the values in List 1, whereas givers prioritize the values in List 2.

Successful givers have unique approaches to interactions in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing.

A close look at networking highlights fresh approaches for developing connections with new contacts and strengthening ties with old contacts. Examining collaboration reveals what it takes to work productively with colleagues and earn their respect. Exploring how we evaluate others offers counterintuitive techniques for judging and developing talent to get the best results out of others.

If these insights have intrigued you, we encourage you to get your own copy of Give and Take and join our Book Club.

Does the thought of changing the lives of others, while improving your own interest you? The Expert Coach Center is a Virtual Wellness Coaching Certification Program, composed of a 6 course curriculum series in Coaching Foundations, Nutrition, Fitness, Stress Management, Relationships and Life Balance. 

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