“If I don’t look out for myself, no one else will.”
“Let me help you with that. It’d be my pleasure!”
Now let’s pause and reflect on the two statements above. Can you imagine them coming out of the same mouth? Probably not.
The first statement, “I have to watch out for my own interests first,” is representative of someone we’ll call a taker. You probably know someone like this. Takers aren’t necessarily or obviously evil, they just tend to put themselves first and try to get more out of situations than they put into them.
The second statement is very focused on putting others first and is typical of someone we’ll call a giver. Givers are wonderful people who are always thinking of how they can take care of other people, often to the detriment of themselves. You can probably think of someone like this too.
And now you are probably thinking that there should be a third type of person, because you don’t consider yourself a taker but you recognize that you probably aren’t a giver either. For people like us, there’s the term of matcher. Matchers are people who put as much into a situation as they pull out, not more and not less. Justice and fairness is extremely important to us (yes, I identify as a matcher).
Now, let’s take a look at how these kinds of people fit into an organization.
First, who do you think is at typically at the bottom of the totem pole within any organization? I know that we all want it to be the takers since we’d like to think that the people who exploit others should be rewarded for their selfishness with a lack of success, but that just isn’t true. We both know that at the bottom of the ladder are the givers–people who allow themselves to be trod upon, who are willing to put in long hours for people who have no interest in returning the favor.
Knowing that the bottom is filled with givers, who do you think is at the top? If you are a bit pessimistic like me, your first answer would be that takers rise to the top since they take from everyone else. Fortunately, we pessimists are wrong for once. It isn’t takers who dominate leadership.
It must be matchers then, right? Since matchers are concerned first and foremost about justice and fairness, we use all of the weapons in our arsenal to take down takers (fortunately takers also take down other takers since they can’t stand other people getting the things that they want too). But matchers aren’t at the top of the pile either.
In addition to populating the lowest rung of an organization’s society, givers also gather at the top of that society. Interesting, right?
Obviously, the implication is that in order to rise in our leadership positions, we should be givers. We should be willing to put in the long hours and put others first. If we do this well and for long enough, it will be noticed and it will be rewarded.
Speaker, Adam Grant, has a lot more to say about givers, takers, and matchers in his book, Give and Take. In addition to a killer hairstyle, Adam Grant has impressive academic and business credentials. His presentation was top-notch and if you get a chance to hear him, take it (but not as a taker would; do it in a giving way if possible).