A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
We’ve all heard the adage “nice guys finish last.” We’re told that to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog world, we must operate with a degree of selfishness, and that people who give without expecting to get something in return risk being exploited or burning out. But new research by a Wharton business school professor upends those assumptions. It turns out, spending time to help others is not the enemy of productivity and success. It’s the opposite. It can propel individuals along the path to success and create opportunities for the people around them. Diane speaks with author Adam Grant about why being a giver and not just a taker might be the best way to get to the top.
- Adam Grant the youngest tenured professor at The Wharton School; former junior Olympic springboard diver and professional magician.
Read An Excerpt
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “Give and Take” by Adam Grant. Copyright © 2013 by Adam Grant.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Many of us hold major misconceptions about what it takes to succeed in the business world and other walks of life. That's the conclusion Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant came to when he began studying success. We've been taught that unselfish giving people rarely rise to the top, but Grant argues the most successful people are often also the most giving. His book is titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Adam Grant joins me in the studio.
MS. DIANE REHMYou are welcome to be part of the program. Give us your own experiences. Call us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, sir. It's good to have you here.
MR. ADAM GRANTGood morning. I'm honored to be here.
REHMThank you. I think a good many people begin their whole work life with the idea of if I don't take care of myself, nobody else will. You have a very different perception.
GRANTI think that's probably true. I think that a lot of people go in thinking it has to be all about me, and yet, most organizations are really interdependent. You have to collaborate with other people, you have to serve clients, and so oftentimes helping others is a way to actually rise to the top.
REHMHelping others rising to the top. One usually thinks of people rising to the top because of hard work, ambition, drive. You're putting it in a whole different perspective. Explain it.
GRANTSure. So I think that the, you know, the basic idea is we start -- when we evaluated people coming into an organization, we tend to look at their talent and, you know, their skills. But at the end of the day, how much value they add isn't just how much talent they have, but also how much they actually contribute to their colleagues, to their customers, and really whether they can use their skills to benefit others and help other people rise to the top.
REHMSo you've looked at several decades of social science to come up with this book, and you talk about givers, matchers, and takers. Help us understand who they area.
GRANTWe all know successful people who are takers, you know, who try to get as much as possible from others and contribute as little as they can in return. They tend to self-promote, they love to claim credit, sometimes they even backstab. And then you have, on the other end of the spectrum, these people that I call givers who actually enjoy contributing more to others than they receive in return and will frequently do things like make an introduction, share knowledge, offer mentoring with no strings attached.
GRANTAnd most of us aren't purely takers or givers. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle I use the term matchers, which is basically people who try to maintain an even balance of give and take, reciprocity, quid pro quo. If I help you, I expect you to help me.
REHMSo what percentage would you guess would fall into each camp?
GRANTSo it varies a lot by industry and culture, of course, but in most of the studies that I've done and others have done as well, about twice as many people score in the matcher category as opposed to the taker or giver.
REHMWhere do the givers fall?
GRANTSo the givers fall and rise in the sense that they're overrepresented both at the bottom in most success metrics.
GRANTThis was a big surprise to me, actually. So if you look at studies of the worst engineers and the best engineers, both of those groups actually tend to be incredibly generous, and the takers and matchers are more like to be in the middle when you look at their productivity or their work quality.
REHMWhy did you get into all this? Why did you begin looking at who gives, who takes, who matches?
GRANTSo there were a lot of factors that I think really stimulated this interest, but one of the ones that kept happening was I was working with students and with leaders who had the same experiences of being really helpful, generous, compassionate people in life, you know, with their families, with their friends, and then believing that they had to come into the work place and all of a sudden be self-serving and cut throat. And, you know, I thought it was a little bit of a travesty that they had to check their values at the office door, and I began to wonder, is that actually true, or is it just a misconception?
REHMAnd what about the age factor? How does that work into this?
GRANTSo there's some wonderful work, this is Dan McAdams and his colleagues, actually showing that people tend to become much more generous as they approach mid life, and I think some of that is driven by, you know, gaining mastery in skill that you can actually pass forward to a younger generation, and some of that is also reflecting on, you know, the contributions that you've made, and think about what do I want to leave behind.
REHMAnd what about young people?
GRANTWhat about young people? Well, there's actually a terrific book by Jean Twenge called "Generation Me," making the case that the millennial generation is more entitled, more selfish, more narcissistic than any on record. And I think that there are some data suggesting that. There is also data though suggesting that young people are incredibly concerned about giving back and helping others and making a difference, and I think that we probably need to work on designing organizations that give people an outlet for expressing those values.
REHMHow do you do that?
GRANTWell, I think one of my favorite ways to do that is a little activity that Wayne Baker and his colleagues call the reciprocity ring. This is at Humax Networks, and part of the University of Michigan. What they do is they bring together groups of people in about 12 or 15, and ask everybody to make a request. It could be anything you want, personal or professional, that you couldn't get on your own. And then you basically open up the floor for people to try to volunteer to help each other, and these amazing things are accomplished.
GRANTPeople are able to sometimes meet a favorite celebrity, or go and, you know, open a door for a job they didn't think they could get access to. And I think that I would love to see more groups and organizations coming together where you can sort of match up people who are seeking help with those who can actually offer it.
REHMYour first chapter offers one of your favorite examples of a giver, and that's David Horneck. Tell us about him.
GRANTDavid Horneck is this very inspiring venture capitalist who I think has broken many of the rules of the industry. He is a guy who organizes conferences and actually invites competing firms to meet entrepreneurs, and he's also somebody that has been willing to drop a lot of things on his calendar to mentor people that's he's never met. And he really believes that creating value for other people is that best way for everyone to win in the long run, even though being generous in the short run may involve some costs.
GRANTWell, I think that sometimes what happens is he's occasionally run into situations where people think that, you know, he's a little bit too friendly and too warm to succeed in a tough business world. And that for me is a myth that I really want to debunk. Givers are not necessarily nice, soft, touchy-feely people. In fact, there are a lot of people who are in credibly tough and sort of challenging in their demeanor, but at the end of the day have others' best interests at heart.
REHMBut you know, in today's job market, it would seem to perhaps many people who are looking for jobs that what they have to show in an interview, in a letter, in any kind of presentation, is I am tough, I'm your man, I can get things done, rather than, you know, I know how to collaborate, I have worked with such and such people before we together did this. I mean, it does seem as though the market is pushing people in that direction.
GRANTI think there are times in a job interview certainly where being able to stand and, you know, sort of highlight your potential contributions and your talents is important. I would ask the question though, how did you get your foot in the door for that job interview in the first place, and I think that's often where the givers end up gaining some unexpected rewards. And one way to look at this actually is to look at what the matchers do. So if you're a matcher, you really believe in a just world, and you think what goes around ought to come around.
GRANTAnd what that will mean is you spend a lot of your time trying to punish takers so that they get what they deserve, sometimes even through gossip, and at the same time actually trying to really sort of lift up givers and make sure they get rewarded for their generosity. And so I think that matchers are actually often plotting the wellbeing of the helpful, generous people around us and helping them actually get those job interviews in the first place.
REHMThere are a number of older people in jobs very much like mine. Younger people are saying, you know, it's time for you guys to move on so we can move up, and perhaps those at the top think, yeah, it's time for me to give up and move out, and yet, at the same time, there is that willingness to share, but maybe not to move on.
GRANTYeah. I think there are probably multiple ways of being a giver, right? So I'm not suggesting that people should self sacrifice, and in fact, givers who consistently put other people first and neglect their own interest and goals, end up typically I find becoming doormats or burning themselves out, or both. I think the question is really what are the ways that you can contribute to others while still advancing your own goals and maintaining your own ambitions? And I think that sharing knowledge and mentoring is one of the most powerful ways to do that.
REHMTell me how you've done that at the Wharton School.
GRANTSo I'm the first to say this is learning process for me, and actually I've taken a lot of insights from the people that I interviewed for the book...
GRANT...and the studies that I've done. For me, a lot of that is trying to set clear boundaries about who it's most important to me to help. And so, you know, number one of course is my family. My wife and my daughters are the most important priority in my life, and then second is my students. I had some extraordinary professors who are deeply caring and really changed the way that I saw the world and invited me to try to get into some research that led me to where I am. And so I've always wanted to try to pay that forward, and then sort of colleagues end up in the third position. And so those priorities have been helpful for me when I evaluate requests to say, okay, where do people fall in that hierarchy.
REHMAdam Grant. His new book is titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success." Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a former Junior Olympic springboard diver, and professional magician. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, talk more and take your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back. Adam Grant is with me. He is a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, author of a brand new book. It's titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success." Adam, during the break, you and I were talking about what's happening on Capitol Hill. Do you see example of give and take going on there?
GRANTI think it's always hard to judge from afar, and so you would be in a much better position to answer that question than I would. But I do think that, you know, if you look at all the political scandals that have broken recently, there have been some really disturbing cases of taking in politics. And I think that a lot of takers are really good fakers. In that, you know, they...
GRANTFakers, yeah. They create an air of generosity and, you know, sort of maintain this façade to get where they want to go. And then, of course, have really self-serving motives behind a lot of their actions.
REHMNow, the other question relate to how people who are at such polar opposite ends of an issue, for example, taxes. If you're talking about the givers and the takers, how do you brink those two together to create a consensus that can work for the country? It is the country that is at stake.
GRANTYeah. I wish I had a good answer to that. And I think that, you know, at the end of the day, I'm not going to be the first to call for more bipartisan dialogue. You know, I think if you look back to the way that Abraham Lincoln ran his government, I love "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And it's just a fascinating look at actually how he was willing to bring in his bitter rivals because he really believed that diversity of thought and dialogue actually led to the best decisions.
GRANTAnd I think we've moved away from that model since Lincoln's era. And so I would love to see more of those opportunities created.
REHMHow to begin converting oneself or indeed an organization to be convinced of the value of giving as opposed to taking?
GRANTI think one of the first steps is actually to be become more thoughtful about actually evaluating who's a giver, who's a taker, and who's a matcher. You know, I think a lot of people end up giving to takers and they get taken advantage of, and they learn that it's really risky and dangerous to give, which is true. It's less risky and dangerous if you're giving to matchers who tend to reciprocate and pay it back.
GRANTOr if you're giving to fellow givers who will often try to multiply and create sort of ripple effects and let other people benefit from the giving. And so, I think, really, the first step is to try to figure out who the other givers in your network or in your organization and then how can you actually target your acts of helping and contributing toward them so that they reach the broadest audience of people.
REHMWhen you do that, are you talking about reaching outside the organization or are you talking about converting the takers into givers within the organization? And if so, how?
GRANTI think there are opportunities to do both. I think many of us have to look outside if we are in a pretty competitive and cutthroat organization. But there are ways, I don't think it's easy, but there are ways to convert takers. My favorite, of course, is to try to shine the spotlight on them. Nobody wants to be a taker in a visible way. And everybody knows it's bad for their reputation.
GRANTAnd a lot of takers get away with it because, you know, they end up basically taking advantage of people behind closed doors or in the dark. And so, I would look at mechanisms for making what knowledge people share, what helping they do more visible and transparent so that it's harder to get away with being stingy.
REHMHere's an email which says: This is simple a recipe for life, not just work. As a recent convert to Buddhism, we know happiness is found in giving and making others happy. That's where our rewards are no matter work or not. Life is happier all the way around. Do you agree with that?
GRANTSo I've been looking at the data on this for a long time and I think it's true in the long run. There's a lot of evidence suggesting that people who help others do experience the greatest long-term joy and satisfaction. But it can be costly in the short term, right? If you give up your day to really benefit someone else, there are times when that can be frustrating or can leave you feeling like you're behind on your work.
GRANTI think where the real, I think, psychological advantages of giving (word?) are really in meaning and purpose. There are some wonderful work by Jennifer Aaker (sp?) and her colleagues suggesting that people actually who lived their lives like givers experience a greater sense of meaning on a day to day basis because they feel like their actions really matter.
REHMHere's another email. I think the altruism that your guest is talking about usually occurs after they have used Machiavellian tactics to rise to the top. Once established, they balance it out by being nice now that they have what they want.
GRANTSo this -- I think this is a method I would love to challenge actually and say, yeah, there are a lot of people who succeed first, maybe even as takers, at least as matchers. And then try to start giving back. But I've also been really struck by evidence that some of the people who achieved the greatest success later are those who started by giving. And as one small illustration of that, there's this wonderful study by the economist Arthur Brooks who shows that if you give money away to charity one year, you actually earn more money the following year.
GRANTAnd he can't explain this. How do you make money by giving it away. But it turns out actually that giving does lead to this boost in meaning and happiness that leads people to want to work harder and actually earn more so they can give even more away.
REHMHow fascinating. Here's another from Jay who says: A lot of the generosity of people climbing the ladder is strategic, maybe nothing returned right away. But a definite play to benefit down the line.
GRANTI think that's true. And either, you know, that would be the strategy of really effective takers who have become good fakers or very thoughtful matchers. At the same time, the pattern that I love on this is a phrase that translates from Dutch to kissing up, kicking down. Where, you know, the people who are giving strategically tend to do it to impress powerful and influential people. And so, you know, I would really look at how are the people that you're evaluating treating, you know, people laterally and below them.
REHMAnd how to evaluate. So what are the terms you use to evaluate?
GRANTWell, you know, I think a lot of it is, you know, as people pursue their own goals, are they actually looking out for, you know, giving credit and sharing, you know, credit with the people who have contributed perhaps below them or are they, you know, when they have the opportunity, actually singing the praises of other people who have done really extraordinary work. Or is it all about me? I and me as opposed to us and we.
REHMYou write about something called lekking, L-E-K-K-I-N-G. What in the world is that and how does it apply to the corporate world?
GRANTSo lekking is a term that comes out of the animal kingdom. It's usually a mating dance, think of male peacocks, for example. Sort of, you know, parading and trying to attract, you know, the most desirable of mates. And what I argue is that there are actually a lot of CEOs, specially, in the business world who end up doing a dance that looks a lot like that.
GRANTYeah. I think, you know, he was a really sad example of trying to sort of appear as generous and helpful and caring as possible, you know, to put on a good show but I think had many sort of manipulative behaviors that he was hiding behind the surface.
REHMNow, are you saying that there are a lot of people in the corporate world rising on the ladder who are giving generously to charitable organizations just to be seen as givers?
GRANTDefinitely. There's even a study by (unintelligible) and his colleagues showing that people will go green to be seen. So if you're buying a product, for example, in public, you will choose the more environmentally friendly one. But if you're buying it on Amazon, where nobody can see your purchases, you'll go to the more luxurious one that doesn't help the environment. And, you know, I think that's an example of many of the kinds of sort of strategic reputation-driven giving that we see.
REHMHere's an email from Shevon (sp?) in Hollywood, FL. At what point does a person say enough to putting other's needs ahead of ours? Is there a point where the well of givers is depleted and then how are they replenished?
GRANTOh, that's a fascinating question. So I guess I would answer it in two ways. One is to say, one of the stars of chapter two has this idea of the five-minute favor, which is instead of giving in the most costly ways, think about, can I add high value to others at minimal cost to me? And I think that that's something that I'd love to see more givers thinking about.
REHMExplain that more.
GRANTSo I think a lot of it is about saying, look, we tend to think of giving as, you know, spending hours and hours of sort of time and selfless sacrifice. But, you know, a lot of the most valuable contributions you can make to other people are, you know, making a quick introduction or, you know, sharing an article, giving some fast advice or feedback. Or, you know, even going out of your way to praise and acknowledge, you know, the sort of invisible work of somebody who's really working hard.
REHMDo you think women tend to be more in the giver category than do men?
GRANTI would that a qualified yes. I've been reading through the data on this one as well. And there's an analysis by Alice Eagly and her colleagues suggesting that men and women don't differ overall in the frequency of their helping behaviors. But they differ in where they target them. So women tend to do more giving and helping toward people they're in close relationships with -- friends, family members, close colleagues. Men tend to do a little bit more helping and giving towards strangers.
GRANTA lot of this I think comes in, you know, moments where there's a need for a hero, right? So the data say men are more likely to jump into a burning building, for example, you know, to save somebody than women are. And I think there's some evolutionary thinking that, you know, this might be a great way for men to show off their generosity and their bravery to gain status. And I might argue that, you know, the giving in close relationships is probably a little bit more, you know, more altruistic.
REHMIt's interesting because I tend to think of the men jumping in to save someone as doing it purely instinctively not thinking so much about the reflection of heroism. What do you think?
GRANTI think there's a case to be made for both. I think a lot of it depends on how much advanced notice you have. And I think that, you know, a lot of times people do act on instinct.
REHMAnd do so because they believe it's their duty to help another human being without thinking about reflected glory, at least, you know, when you hear interviews with individuals who jumped into a river, who jumped into a fire, who pulled someone from a burning car, it does seem to be those who acted totally altruistically and instinctively.
GRANTYeah. I think that's often true. Although it's interesting, you know, how often they will not admit it. There's this book by Robert Wuthnow, "Acts of Compassion," where he went and interviewed the kinds of people who are doing these incredible acts of heroism. And when you ask them why did you do it, the most common answer was, well, you know, it kept me out of the house.
REHMOh. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And of course, Adam Grant is giving, throughout this interview. He's offering others credit for their work on the air. His new book is titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success." Let's open the phones and go to Grand Rapids, MI. Good morning, Nate. You're on the air.
NATEHello, Diane. Thank you so much for taking my call. You are a national treasure.
REHMOh, thank you.
NATETo, Adam, I'm really hoping you can comment (unintelligible) about service leadership. I think it's so important to note that so many entrepreneurs start out as servants. Before they can create a successful business, they have to look at the eyes, the problems through someone else's perspective. When they create a good product or service that's never been done before or filling a need, they have to start thinking about the other person there and consumer first.
NATEAnd so it's so important to realize that so many entrepreneurs are servants to begin with. And I'm hoping you can continue that conversation, Adam.
GRANTYeah, I think it's a great observation. And, you know, looking back, it's probably my biggest regret about the book is that I didn't spend more time on the servant leadership angle. I love Robert Greenleaf's work on servant leadership. And I think what I started doing when I wrote the book was trying to get away from writing a leadership book because there are so many business and psychology books that are speaking to people at the top.
GRANTAnd I wanted to write a book that anybody could read and take some insights out of. And I think I may have pushed that too far. But I think the idea of servant leadership really embody so many of the values and principles that I've been studying and that capture what givers tend to do.
REHMSo explain what you mean precisely and broadly by servant leadership.
GRANTSo when I think about servant leadership, I think about a leader saying my first and foremost responsibility is to serve and contribute to the interest of the people who work with me and for me and depend on my products or services. And so, you know, instead of just maximizing shareholder value, my role is actually to try to help other people achieve their goals.
REHMCan you spot a giver or a taker from a photograph?
GRANTThere is some evidence that suggest that you can. There's this amazing study by Chatterjee and Hambrick who found that in companies' annual reports, the takers actually tended to have larger photographs. And so they kind of send this message, it's all about me. I'm the most important person in this company.
REHMAnd do women do that equally?
GRANTSo these data came from the computer industry where there were not as many women at the helm as I would like to see. But my hunch would be probably less so.
REHMProbably less so, but no way. But you think you can spot a taker just from, say, a Facebook profile?
GRANTI think we can get some clues. There's some work by Keith Campbell and his colleagues suggesting that takers actually post vainer photos of themselves on Facebook. And so I always like to think about this in terms of, you know, look at your average photo and then how much more attractive is your profile photo than your typical photo. Are you really trying to put your best foot forward?
REHMAnd what it is you say about yourself?
GRANTYeah. There's some evidence too that the takers tend to be more self-promoting. You know, they will tend to write status updates that are about the great things that they have accomplished.
REHMAs opposed to saying simply who and what they are.
GRANTExactly. Or even, you know, sharing things that other people have done and recognizing and celebrating other people's accomplishments.
REHMAre you on Facebook?
REHMAnd what do you have up there?
GRANTSo it's actually been a really interesting process to figure out what's the right balance between, you know, actually fulfilling my commitment to trying to spread these ideas. And at the same time trying to recognize others. So the first thing is you will not find any giant photos of my on there. But secondly, I've tried to make sure that most of what I share is about recognizing other people's really interesting and important work.
REHMSo you would consider yourself a giver?
GRANTI think it's really hard to judge this, you know, when you look at yourself. I really try to live by these principles as often as I can. But you'd have to ask people who interact with me to really know.
REHMAdam Grant, he's the younger tenured professor at the Wharton School. Short break.
REHMAnd welcome back. Some harsh emails here, Adam. One says, "This approach is extremely naïve and fraught with danger. I was a proactive new business owner, tried my best to involve my staff to respect them and provide them with everything they required. I was seen as weak. A small group of them bullied me, eventually destroyed the business, my life, the lives of 30 of the staff and the lives of the customers. They went on to join competitors, taking customers with them. If the employer is a giver and any group of employees are takers this cannot work. Enough will never be enough for the takers, whatever their position. They can be so destructive. They don't care who they ruin." Wow. What do you think?
GRANTWell, first of all, I'm very sorry to hear about that experience.
GRANTSecondly, I would say, you know, there's a lot of wisdom in it. I think that giving the takers is really dangerous. And I think that one of the things that I've learned from the research in the book is to be a lot more thoughtful and careful about screening, you know, the people who seek me out for help. And if somebody is a taker I've tried to be much more of a matcher and say, look I'm going to help this person but expect some kind of reciprocity. And I often feel uncomfortable, you know, asking for something back. So I will frequently instead ask that person to pay it forward and help somebody else that I'm trying to help.
GRANTBut I think -- you know, more broadly I do think that it's really difficult to sustain, you know, success in a culture of takers as a giver. I do think though that most people have matcher instincts and that there're often opportunities to appeal to those instincts.
REHMHere is a caller in Homewood, Ala. Good morning, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETHDiane and Adam, thank you so much for this show. I have a question. I work in an environment that is a little toxic at times. And there are I feel like two of us that I would consider givers. And it's a strange thing that I feel happens that we try to out give each other. And lately I find myself questioning, are we really giving or are we trying to appear as givers?
REHMWhat a great question, Adam.
GRANTYeah, I think it's always hard to know what people's motives are. And Key and Peele did this hilarious video last month where they were trying to one up each other with favors in exactly the way that you're describing, Elizabeth. I think that the easiest way for me to try to answer this question is to try to look at what happens when the behavior isn't visible. So, you know, if you end up giving in situations only when, you know, your co-worker's going to see it or when other people are going to give the credit, there's obviously a little bit more image and impression management involved than if you do the same behavior when nobody's watching and there's never an opportunity to be recognized for it.
REHMAnd let's go to Ashland, Ky. Jeri, you're on the air.
JERIThank you so much for taking my call, Diane.
JERII'm a big fan of the show. Adam, this is such a timely topic. I actually just last week accepted what was offered a position as the new director for the chapter of the United Way that covers northeastern Kentucky.
REHMWell, congratulations to you.
JERIThank you, thank you. I am thrilled and very excited to be representing such a great organization. And I was just curious -- I am obviously going to pick up a copy of this book and I was just curious as to whether or not you had any insights or suggestions or advice for me as I begin this new career that is obviously so involved with. This is just...
REHMCan -- let me just ask you, how many people will you be involved with?
JERIIn what way?
REHMWill you be supervising a group of employees?
JERII will be probably supervising just one or two employees that are -- we will work on a very small staff.
JERIBut we will be working with the community at large with all of the businesses as United Way has for many, many years.
GRANTCongratulations, Jeri. I think that, you know, in my experience with studying and working with nonprofit organizations, the biggest challenge that I'm encountered is giver burnout of, you know, people who are so committed to the mission or the cause that they forget to take care of themselves. And I try to cover a lot of my own findings on this in chapter six. But I think the biggest takeaway that I've, I guess, discovered in my research is givers don't always burnout when they just give too much. They tend to burnout when they don't get to see their impact and understand how their efforts are benefiting other people.
GRANTAnd so I would, I guess, suggest, you know, without knowing more details, it would be really interesting to say, can you find people who are really benefiting in meaningful ways from the United Way's work and actually bring them front and center so that your staff can hear their stories.
REHMThat's a great suggestion. Good luck to you, Jeri. I hope all goes well. Here's an email from Nisha in Florida. "Is there a correlation between those who are naturally givers and their success in personal relationships? I would think them to be better suited but maybe not."
GRANTSo we're stepping outside of my organizational psychology expertise here. So I'm going to take a leap and say that there's some terrific work by Margaret Clark and her colleagues showing that in marriages and romantic relationships, norm of giving tends to be the most sustainable as long as it's not too unbalanced so that one side is doing all the giving and the other's doing all the receiving.
REHMSo it needs to be mutual.
GRANTYeah, I think that -- there's some other work by Carol (word?) and her colleagues showing that couples that maintain an equilibrium where, you know, they're willing to help each other any time without keeping score but it's not all on one side or the other. Actually more likely to be satisfied and sustain their marriages.
REHMTo Redford, Wash. -- no, sorry, Radford, Va., good morning, Grant.
GRANTGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
GRANTI spent 30 years in management and I've been out of it for about the last ten years or so. And I really am considered a dinosaur when it comes to management. And hearing Mr. Grant's comments about how he didn't intend to write a leadership book, it sounds really as though he did because he's basically referring to going back to leadership. A good leader always surrounds himself with people who knows more about a subject then he does and he's confident enough in his leadership to be able to bring them together. And sort of like Lee Iacocca. And we really haven't had any big business leaders since they've gotten away from that.
REHMTell me why you believe this is a revolutionary approach to success which is your subtitle?
GRANTSo I think that, you know, most people when they try to achieve success really look for, you know, okay what is the shortest and straightest path to meeting my own self interest. And, you know, very few of us say, how can I actually climb to the top in ways that lift other people up as opposed to cutting them down. And so, you know, I think the different idea here is really that you can succeed in ways that bring others along with you.
REHMDo you believe that there is a comparison in your work to that of Lee Iacocca?
GRANTI think it's hard to say. I do think there's certainly a common theme in terms of trying to figure out how do you advance collective interests, you know, through the vision that you create and the leadership that you bring to the table. But there's a book that I absolutely love that I think spells out this philosophy beautifully for leadership. It's called "Multipliers" by Liz Wiseman. And it's about whether a leader is a genius or a genius maker. And obviously the givers fall into the latter category.
REHMInteresting. What about the matchers? Talk about the matchers. Shouldn't they be the ones who really are successful?
GRANTI think the matchers are playing it safe. And I think that, you know, if you want to be, you know, a good and decent person and you also want to make sure that you don't get burned or burned out, matching is a very, very safe strategy. At the same time, I think that matching comes along with two risks. One is creating sort of a transactional flavor, you know, that there's always some expectation of return. And the other is sort of limiting your interactions to people that you think you can help or who can help you. Whereas I think givers often create a wider and richer network of people that they don't have expectations of benefitting from help from but often do in the long run.
REHMShould a matcher aspire to become a giver?
GRANTI wouldn't tell anyone to aspire to anything but I think that there are ways in which matchers are able to, you know, improve their own success and their own wellbeing by incorporating some principles that givers follow.
REHMTell me about your own history. I mean, as the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School how did this philosophy work its way into your rise to success?
GRANTI think that's a very hard question to answer. You know, I guess throughout my career I've tried to look at the behaviors of my role models and take a page out of those. And let me highlight just a couple. Growing up and diving my coach Eric Best was extraordinarily generous and gave countless hours to try to help me improve as a very, very poor diver. And, you know, just really letting me to...
REHMBut you did reach the Olympics so therefore you, from being a poor diver, rose to being an Olympic diver.
GRANTWell, there's a far, far leap from Junior Olympics to Olympics but, you know, Eric led me to really believe that I could accomplish things greater than I thought possible. And then when I got to college Brian Little was my mentor. And as a psychology professor I sat down with him to meet for about half an hour to talk about thesis ideas. And he spent three hours with me giving me advice, and then took me under his wing and really fundamentally changed my life.
REHMWow. And is still having an impact on your life?
GRANTEvery day. There's hardly a moment that goes by where I don't ask, what would Brian do in this situation.
REHMInteresting. You asked me earlier who were the two most giving people I've ever interviewed. I think one of them would be Mr. Rogers. Did you happen to know or grow up with Mr. Rogers?
GRANTI used to watch him tie his shoes every morning.
REHMWell, I mean, I think he really, really was. And the second person I would name is Audrey Hepburn. She came in after she had become the UN Ambassador to many, many poor countries representing UNICEF. And she was so gaunt, she was so -- I mean, it looked as though she could expire at any moment. She was already suffering from cancer. And yet there she was continuing to give. So both of those stand in my mind as people who worked so hard and gave at the same time they were working, and rose to the top.
REHMAdam Grant is with me. His new book is titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go here to Kaufman County, Texas. Good morning, Ron. You're on the air.
RONYes, Diane. Thank you for taking my call. And you are a national treasure.
REHMOh, thank you.
RONI think the best description of a hero I ever heard, a quick comment, is an ordinary person caught in extraordinary circumstances.
RONBut my comment is, as a small businessman I find honesty is the main thing that employers want. Honest of what you know, what you can train. But you do do a battle when you try to take a servant type attitude, which is really what he's describing it sounds like, which I found out later in my business career, and looked -- self examination of myself led me to this conclusion and how people viewed me, my employers and customers. And that changed my attitude about it.
RONBut you do run -- because of dishonesty and because employees are takers, you run into a situation quite often where you get so burned out as an employer in giving young people opportunity to train them and to have them succeed. Now it does come with great rewards sometimes when you see them succeed. I've never been disappointed to hear an employee quit and go on to a better thing. It's when they quit because they're just not happy with the amount of pay or, or they think they've got a better thing.
RONBut it seems like they always want to come back and -- to work for a paycheck or they want to come back and thank you for what you taught them.
GRANTYeah, I think that I would say two things to that. The first one is, I think all of us face tradeoffs, you know, between honesty and other values we care about, like loyalty. You know, I think that there are times when there's even some research on altruistic lies, the idea that, you know, you might fib a little bit to protect somebody else's interest. That being said, you know, I think dishonesty among takers is a challenge for many organizations. And, yeah, I think Jim Collins is famous for saying, you got to get the right people on the bus. But I think he also said something that's even more important which is, you need to keep the wrong people off the bus.
GRANTAnd I think I'd love to see employers spending more time actually screening for takers in the hiring process.
REHMYou write about John Huntsman, Sr. the father of former Utah Governor and presidential candidate John Huntsman, Jr. How did being a giver make him rich?
GRANTWell, you know, I think Huntsman's story is fascinating. And I drew most of the examples in the book from his book "Winners Never Cheat." And one of the things that Huntsman writes about is how early in life, you know, his goal was to accumulate wealth, that he could give back to help people in need. And I think that, you know, one thing is that really motivated him to work harder and longer. But two, I think it actually might have built his willpower because, you know, there are these moments where his impulse may be to try to protect his own interest. And he overrides those impulses to try to help. And overtime he actually gains extra willpower and discipline from working that muscle over and over.
REHMAnd what about the younger Huntsman? Did he inherit those traits?
GRANTI don't know him personally so it's hard to say. But I've spoken to a number of people who have worked with him that have described him as incredibly generous and helpful with the people that he interacts with. And so it wouldn't surprise me if he did.
REHMAnd that's really the key here, isn't it, to be generous, to be kind, to be cautious, discerning. But in the end to be as giving as possible.
GRANTI think as giving as possible as long as it doesn't sacrifice your own interests, yes.
REHMAdam Grant. His new book is titled "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success." Good luck to you. Thanks for being here.
GRANTThank you for having me.
REHMAnd thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.
On the 100th anniversary of the publication of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a discussion about why the poem and poet are well-loved but misunderstood.
"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”