When I was in graduate school one of my professors commented that, “The world is filled with two types of people: net givers and net takers.” Over the years I have increasingly valued his insight and the truth of his statement in individual relationships, groups, team and companies.
Recent conversations with clients who have shared their concerns about the imbalance of givers and takers in their organizations has led me to draw upon my professor’s wisdom once again. It is impossible for any of us to understand our personal mix of “giver and taker behavior” without both periodic personal reflection and seeking candid feedback from others.
None of us ever 100% give or taker but all of us do have clearly defined and practiced life patterns in which one of the two modes tends to dominant our decisions, actions and behaviors. To help you with the personal reflection and gathering of feedback, here are a few simple questions you can use:
When a problem occurs is my first thought about how it affects me or how it affects those around me?
When someone else needs my help is my first thought about what offering help will require of me or how offering help will benefit the other person?
When I am part of a team effort is my primary thought about ensuring I get my share of the credit or ensuring that others know it was a team effort?
When I am part of a team effort that does not meet the expectations of others do I try to deflect or avoid the blame or raise my hand and acknowledge what I could have done better?
When I am asked to make changes or perhaps a personal sacrifice for “the greater good” is my first reaction, “what’s in it for me?” or “the greater good is more important than me.”
If someone receives a promotion or assignment I wanted do I become resentful and blame others for not being selected or am I able to recognize their success and offer positive feedback.
Do I find myself talking and thinking most often in the context of “I” or “me” rather than “us” or “we”?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “See how the masses worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there some great unselfish soul forgets itself into immortality.”
Over the years I have come to believe that, when the balance of givers and takers in an organization has a larger percentage of givers it is a stronger, more vibrant and successful organization and that, ironically, when a giving mindset prevails we all end up getting more of what we need and want so the drive to take becomes unimportant.