Building a Culture for High Performance

steps-up-adam-grant-wobiWithin organizations, only a minority of people identify primarily as givers or takers, but others choose a third style  called matching. Which is the most productive? Who’s the most successful? Givers, takers or matchers? Through his research into the performance and productivity of various professionals, organizational psychologist and Wharton’s top-rated professor, Adam Grant found that the givers were overrepresented on both extremes. They were more likely to fail than takers and matchers but were also more likely to succeed than takers and matchers.

In the long run, givers tend to thrive. They build more trust and social capital, they learn more from others around them because they are constantly doing things that are outside the boundaries of their job description. We have this paradox where helping others could either sink your career or help accelerate it. So as organizational leaders, how do you build a culture of productive generosity? How do you build an environment where givers are able to succeed and make the organization more successful in the process?

This is an excerpt from the WOBI on Personal Leadership and Organizational Culture Executive Summary.

Adam recommends 4 steps:

  1. Keep the wrong people off the bus: Weed out the takers so that you’re left with givers and matchers, by thinking about the taking behavior(s) you’re most worried about in your organization.
  2. Change your reward system: Measure the contribution of people to the success of others, making their teams better.
  3. Prevent giver burnout: Create an environment where givers don’t stress out about being helpful.
  4. Encourage help-seeking: Limit frustration in the workplace by normalizing help-seeking.

Organizations should measure the behavior that’s strategic and that advances their missions. Grant suggests this  behavior should be valued, rewarded, paid and promoted on. In doing so, you’re incentivizing the takers to shift in the giving direction or the matching direction while also rewarding and recognizing the givers.

How do you prevent burnout in the workplace? Adam shares the idea of Sprinkling v. Chunking: Help a person one day per week, or help groups of people in one day. If you help one person a day, it does nothing. If you help many people at once, you make an impact. In order to further develop a culture of productive generosity, you need to develop a culture of help-seeking. People need to be able to ask and feel vulnerable. As leaders, we must make our teams feel comfortable asking for help. Doing so creates valuable working relationships and environments. If such culture is not welcomed, then what you have are frustrated givers who would be willing to contribute and help but because no one addresses their need for help, they can’t assist.

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Adam Grant

Adam Grant

An organizational psychologist and Wharton’s top-rated professor, Adam Grant is a deeply original thinker and one of today’s most influential business advisors. Researching motivation and meaningful work, he has constructed pioneering studies on workplace dynamics, formulating unique ideas that are backed by data-driven management science and case studies. His highly rational approach is valued by organizations who want help figuring out whom to hire, how to keep employees motivated, and how to build a healthy workplace culture. Grant’s insights have been developed into a quartet of blockbuster books: Give and Take, Originals, Option B and Power Moves. His latest book, THINK AGAIN: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, was released in early 2021.

Learn more about Adam at his website, www.giveandtake.com

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