Are you a giver or a taker?

Hi – another one of my musings. Let me know if you read this as I’m pretty sure I’m writing to myself most of the time. If you like this then please do help to spread the word!

I’m fascinated by how people manage (or don’t) to strike that balance between helping others and helping themselves. There’s no doubt that helping people has benefitted me in my career. Numerous contacts, friendships & professional relationships as well as involvement in surprise initiatives that would never have come about if I’d not helped or assisted someone else with whatever mattered to them. But sometimes I get the sense that maybe, not everyone is operating on the same page. Maybe some people aren’t as interested in returning favours, or *shudder* are actually out to get what they can at the expense of others.

Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist and professor at Wharton, has an interesting take on the reciprocity of people in the typical workplace. Grant divides people up into 3 categories.

  • Takers– Takers are focused on themselves. They’re interested only in what they can get out of a situation and try to gain as much ground for as little reciprocal help as possible.
  • Matchers– Matchers like it equal. They’ll help you if you help them. They’ll take from you if you take from them.
  • Givers– Givers are focused on others. They love to help other people and don’t expect anything in return. They want to add value to others and don’t expect the favour to be returned.  The act of helping is enough for them.

Most people tend to be matchers. They respond to fairness and expect people to be fair to them.Takers are less represented but also have less willingness to identify themselves as takers as most people see such behaviour as undesirable and once rumbled, a taker tends to fare poorly.

So which one should you be? If you indeed can choose your inherently natural behaviour.

Grant’s studies have shown that takers, matchers & givers inhabit very distinct zones of the workplace success scaleTakers & matchers are bang in the middle, so givers must be at the top, right? After all, givers build great networks, relationships and add value to the mission of their organisation. Well that’s correct, givers are indeed right at the top of the success scale – but they’re also right at the bottom.

How can that be? Can being super-helpful be detrimental to your career? Well turns out there are two distinct types of giver – the “Selfless Giver” and the “Otherish Giver”.

Selfless Givers are all about the giving. They’ll help others regardless of their own situation or workload. They rarely say no. And what happens? They end up helping others to the detriment of their own work. Suddenly they’ve been too busy helping others to meet their own deadlines. Selfless givers are also prime prey for takers, who know how to exploit their generosity,

Otherish Givers help loads as well but crucially have a key difference. They set boundaries, so that they will say no to helping if say that deadline is pressing, or they’re busy on crucial projects. They also understand how to recognise and respond to the takers, so don’t get exploited.

I’ve seen both throughout my career. And I’ve managed to make my own transition from selfless giver to otherish giver, which has helped me progress, without compromising my willingness to help people.

Grant suggests a number of ways to proactive being a successful (otherish) giver.

  1. Use 5 minute favours – lots of quick gestures of help is a great way of strengthening relationships, without costing yourself too much time
  2. Ask for help – Asking for advice gives the recipient a warm feeling, and is a great relationship builder.
  3. Give all at once – Grant suggests devoting a block of time to a bunch of giving acts, “chunking” your giving. There’s psychological evidence that this provides the most mental benefit.
  4. Specialise – Pick an area of expertise rather than trying to be a jack of all trades.
  5. Learn to spot the takers – Spot those on the take, and apply more of a matchers attitude to them. That way you can still help, but make sure you get something in return.

I hope that helps. I found my understanding of the workplace dynamic went through the roof once I learned to recognise these reciprocity traits in clients, peers and reports. And as a result I was able to focus my own giving to be more effective.

It’s worth checking Grant’s TED talk as well as his excellent book, Give and Take. See references section below.

And I always like to refer to Tanmay Vora’s sketchnotes for a visual summary.

TiffaniBovaAdamGrantv1600px_thumb

 

References

Adam Grant TED talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_are_you_a_giver_or_a_taker?language=en

Give and Take – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Give-Take-Helping-Others-Success/dp/1780224729

Interview with Adam Grant on the Tiffani Bova podcast – https://podbay.fm/podcast/1262213009/e/1530788400

Tanmay Vora’s summary – http://qaspire.com/2019/02/05/the-art-of-successful-giving-adam-grant/

Building a culture of trust

We talk a great deal about results, delivery and giving our best in the workplace. But what makes that possible? What are the most important factors in achieving results? Well there are several, obviously, but one of the most important in that of trust. Without trust, we don’t get results.

So I got thinking – and when I get thinking I get researching. And when I get researching I get writing!

Seems to me there are 2 key aspects of trust –being able to trust people yourself and also being trusted by others. Obviously we’d love to have both of them nailed. And some people just inherently seem to be trustworthy. But what are they doing that allows them to be trusted?

Three Elements of Trust

In a recent article [HBR], Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman outlined their “Three elements of trust”. I’ll describe them here .

  • Positive relationships

Seems obvious but we have more trust in people we have enjoyable interactions with. That might be someone who acts as a catalyst for getting things done, someone that is great at resolving conflicts or someone that provides great feedback. Or perhaps it’s someone who’s empathetic nature makes us feel comfortable. Whatever the reason, they make us feel positive, and that leads us to trust them.

  • Good judgement and expertise

It’s much easier to trust someone who comes with a proven track record of expertise and achievements. If you can clearly demonstrate that you know your subject area and how to do your job well then it’s easier for others to trust you. At highly-skilled organisations the base level of job excellence is kinda assumed, but make sure you add value to the calls you’re invited to and that your opinions and ideas make a tangible difference to others. Speed can also be important here. Trustworthy people often act fast to resolve issues, and many times anticipate problems before they happen.

  • Consistency

These are people that you can rely on. You know they’ll go the extra mile if they can, and that they back up their words with action. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was that of “Deliver, Deliver, Deliver”, i.e. carve out a reputation as someone that always delivers and you’ll become an indispensable go-to person for others. True consistency is hard to achieve, we all make mistakes, but if you can build that reliability factor then people will trust in your capabilities. Giving yourself that chance to succeed is key here. Set expectations; keep your commitments and Deliver, Deliver, Deliver. [QA]

While these make a lot of sense, there’s a bit more to it IMHO. So I have some of my own.

  • Don’t be a jerk

We all have a bit of jerk in us. We know when we’ve been unfair to someone. The key is to detect the behaviour coming and squash it at source. Developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness is the key here. Don’t take your bad day out on someone else. If you’re a jerk, then people will give you a wide berth.

  • Equanimity

Rather like the best poker players, you’ll find that key leaders respond in the same way when things are going badly and when they’re going well. You don’t see overreactions or huge displays of emotion. This can come across a little robotic, but really helps when the s hits the f. If you know someone is going to respond to problems with a cool head then they rapidly build your trust.

So those are some factors that you can employ to be seen as trustworthy. But how can you develop your own team or colleagues to be people you can trust? How can you help them?

How to build a trustworthy team culture

  • Autonomy

You have to let people get on with their tasks and resist any urge to micromanage. Give your team the freedom for them to say “hey I got this”, for them to let you detach from the nuts and bolts and trust in their delivery. Just like if you’ve ever tried to do something for a 3 year old child that they can do themselves – they’ll soon tell you “I’ll do it myself!” Maybe an adult won’t be so honest so it’s up to us to provide our teams with the autonomy to be able to take action and deliver [WNEXT]. Obviously then they need to deliver of course! J

  • Freedom to fail

I have no problem with my team failing. As long as they’re trying new things, developing new ideas and fixing problems. Creating an environment where we can all safely try out new methods is key to being trusted. I know the team doesn’t want to fail, and for the vast majority of cases, wont fail – but when they do it’s cool with me. I’ve worked in teams where the slightest error is ruthlessly punished, and it stifles innovation completely. See this post for some other thoughts on this topic. [BIZLIB]. Obviously we have to ensure failure doesn’t become a habit or a default outcome, but a good team will self-police this.

Trust vs Control – do big organisations get it right?

These days, many firms are super-highly regulated. The price for misdemeanors from non-trustworthy people is high [RTRAD], for the individuals and the firm. So you’ll probably have a LOT of governance. Mandatory training, compliance checks, risk reviews, market conduct – the list goes on. And sometimes it seems we spend too much time on governance, and not enough actually getting things done. I’ve heard it referred to as a source of frustration at a number of places that I’ve worked.

I’ve got a mixed view on this. The key risk and governance items are absolutely required, and often mandated by regulators. So we just need to get on with them. Automate where possible and seek to optimizeJFDI. However there are times when restrictions do seem influenced by a lack of trust. E.g. rejection of conference presentations because someone, once upon a time, did a bad job. Or blocking social media sites by default meaning we can’t access handy training resources e.g. SlideShare, YouTube etc.  Or excessive scrutiny of expense claims in case someone hasn’t followed policy. Even dressing appropriately for the workplace. All of those are not a problem with the right person. A trustworthy professional knows not to display client information in their presentation. They know not to be updating their Facebook page whilst on a conference call. They know the guidelines regarding expenses, and they certainly know not to wear their favourite Metallica t-shirt in a client meeting. 🙂 If they don’t, then they’re not the calibre of person your organisation needs.

So should we be concentrating more on hiring the right attitudes, rather than tarring everyone with the same brush? For sure it would be cheaper to have genuine trust in people rather than implementing complex controls [FORBES]. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading.

Supporting references

[HBR] https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust

[QA] http://qaspire.com/2010/07/21/5-ways-to-build-trust-lessons-from-a-conversation/

[WNEXT] https://whatsnextpodcast.libsyn.com/rising-up-against-the-diminisher-with-liz-wiseman

[BIZLIB] https://www.bizlibrary.com/article/bizlibrary-values-freedom-to-fail/

[RTRAD] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trading_losses

[FORBES] https://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2014/12/08/control-is-good-trust-is-cheaper/#518fc721322f

You’re a manager, but are you a coach?

Hello all. Thought I’d take a few mins to continue my series on leadership. Check out some of my other posts on Emotional Intelligence etc.

This one is about management and in particular, how management is a distinct skill from the oft-used discipline of “coaching”.

We hear a lot about management. About what makes a great manager, what makes a bad manager and how to develop your own management skills. And that’s important. Effective managers are vital to the success of a firm and also to developing and maintaining a cohesive team. In fact I’ve often seen that people don’t usually leave jobs, they leave managers.

We also hear a lot about coaching. Managers are encouraged to act as coaches to get the best from their teams, but often the specific skills involved in coaching are sometimes not fully understood.  The terms “managing” and “coaching” are also often used interchangeably, incorrectly in my opinion.

Managing refers to the task of overseeing the work of others, be that a team or a project.

Typically we see management responsibilities as

  • Delegating tasks and work items
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring performance
  • Onboarding and orienting new staff
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Resource planning
  • Status reporting and tracking

That’s very different from coaching. Coaching is much more of a two-way process between the coach and the employee which aims to implement and refine a framework that empowers the employee to develop their own skills in the areas of attitude, judgement, motivation and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches excel at the following

  • Listening, absorbing and understanding points of view
  • Asking probing but open-ended questions that encourage the employee to think
  • Providing feedback
  • Fostering behavioural change, initiated by the employee
  • Showing empathy and high emotional intelligence
  • Recognizing strengths and focusing energy on refinement
  • Helping the employee develop a natural support framework

I always think of my role as a coach first and a manager second. Sure we need to get the job done, and management skills are critical to that, but it’s also vital for me to develop a team that feels empowered to take charge of their own career. Coaching helps people to build those critical frameworks to self-support and self-manage, which gives the employee a much greater sense of satisfaction than merely following management direction. Seeing individuals join a team and then using coaching techniques to develop that person is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role, especially if that person then begins to naturally coach other team members or peers.

So I’d always encourage managers to have a strong focus on the coaching aspects of their role. Managing people enables them to get the job done, but coaching people develops the leaders of tomorrow.

As always, comments invited.

Cheers, Paul

Further reading

https://venturefizz.com/stories/boston/management-vs-coaching-whats-difference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach/