A sense of giving, of service, of helping other people, is essential to success. It’s not just about money. In fact, if you make it about money then a business becomes much harder to sustain in the long run. A successful, sustainable business has a mission, a purpose built around providing value to and helping other people.
Those are some of the key insights from Adam Grant, author of the book Give and Take and the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of business. But while he is a big believer in giving, he noticed something interesting about the success rate of people who give a lot: there are lots of givers who are very successful, but there are also a lot of givers who are at the very bottom of the success scale. There are a lot fewer givers in the middle than you might otherwise expect; they cluster around the extremes.
The reason for this comes from classifying people into one of three categories: we are either givers, matchers, or takers.
- Takers are exactly what they sound like. They are looking for a way to come out ahead every time, in every exchange. They are very defensive and look for ways to “win” when they are interacting with other people.
- Matchers, on the other hand, will give where they see they will get something back. For matchers, every exchange should be as close to even as possible. They will give you exactly as much back as you give them.
- Givers give without the expectation of immediate gain. If they end up getting something back, then great, but they don’t go around making their giving contingent upon the return.
So the giver gives freely, the matcher gives when he knows there’s something in it for him, and the taker will avoid giving whenever possible unless he will get it back with extra.
The difference between givers who climb the success ladder and those who struggle comes in who they do their giving to. The most successful givers are strategic when they give: they will give generously to fellow givers as well as to takers, but they will be very cautious about giving to takers. Giving to takers can easily lead to burning out, while targeting other givers and matchers leads to a better chance of good deeds coming back around.
Reciprocity is a powerful force. When you do something good for someone else, they are much more likely to do something good for you. But this mainly holds true for other givers and matchers, so to get the most out of your giving, make sure you’re giving to the right people.