Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Giving Is The Worst Way To Succeed In Business

But, at the same time, it's also the best ...



Here's a surprising fact. The least successful people in business are those who give and expect nothing in return. So who are the most successful type of people? Well, the most successful people in business are also those who give and expect nothing in return ...

copyright: fuzzbones / 123rf stock photo

It's the same group! But what's the difference between givers who have succeeded and those that haven't? First, we need to look at why givers are at the top and the bottom on the league.

According to Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take, people vary in their attitudes towards reciprocity along a continuum of giving or taking and he identifies three strategies they adopt based on those attitudes.

On one side are 'Takers' who always put their own needs first

They thrive on competition and believe that to succeed, they need to be better than others. Their strategy towards helping is always that the benefits to them outweigh the costs.

Most takers are not bad or dishonest, they are just cautious and self-protective. "If I don't look out for myself first no-one will" is a common way of thinking for them. However, they may win in the short term, but by using up the good will of their contacts they'll find they have to move on and build new relationships frequently.

Extreme Takers may be willing to sacrifice others and even operate outside accepted legal and moral boundaries in order to win; these are the thieves and confidence tricksters. They will often masquerade as givers in order to persuade others to give to them.

If they are good at it they can appear very successful - until they are found out. And they usually are found out because it is a hard act to sustain in the long term.

Then there's the 'Matchers' who expect tit for tat

They see themselves as guardians of fairness and equality and keep tabs on how much each party is giving and receiving within that relationship.

Their strategy is to help those that help them and for most of the time, most people who adopt this strategy are successful up to a point.

However, it does have drawbacks that keeps the matchers at the 'successful, but could do better' mark because keeping track of who has given what to whom puts a strain on any relationship. "Is it my turn to give or theirs?" they often ask themselves.

So what matters most to the Matchers? The result they got or the amount of effort they put in to reciprocate? Do they abandon the relationship or get into conflict if they don't believe it's equitable? Matching can also, sometimes, feel manipulative - they could just be a Taker in disguise.

Lastly it can be uncomfortable to ask for help if you feel it's your turn to give. This can be especially difficult if you haven't been in touch for a while. So you don't ask even when it might make all the difference.

True givers just want to help the other person

According to Gray, these are a rare breed in business. These are the people who prefer to give more than they get and to pay attention to what others need from them.

The cost benefit analysis just doesn't figure in their thinking. It doesn't mean being a hero or saint, it just means you are generous with your time, energy, knowledge and connections. You get enjoyment out of seeing others succeed as well as yourself.

The result is that you enjoy a great reputation, people like you and want to help you in return. You also, as a byproduct, promote yourself and let people see your skills, knowledge and great connections. The more successful they are as a result of your help, the more that builds your credibility. The more successful they are the more they are able to help you in return.

Your authentic generosity means that they trust you and are highly motivated to want to help you in return. Gray quotes Venture Capitalist Randy Komisar, "It's easier to win if everyone wants you to win. If you don't make enemies out there, it's easier to succeed"

"As a giver no wonder you'll top the league in business success!"

The downside is that all that giving has costs. Gray's research shows that many givers spend so much time helping others that they forget to pay attention to their own work! Givers are also very susceptible to be taken in by the dishonest taker.

So what turns an unsuccessful giver into a successful business person? The answer is surprising and incredibly simple: "If at first you don't receive, give, give and give again."

That is what the most highly successful business people do, but with some caveats:

  • Be genuine, give because you want to help the other person, not just to balance the tit for tat.

  • Identify a few small things that you can do easily and focus on giving these. A listening ear, or connecting people.

  • Enable people to help you as accepting help is a kind of giving, it makes others feel good and acknowledges their worth and value.

  • Delivering excellence yourself is part of giving as you're giving to your customers and those who helped you win the work.

  • Learn to recognise and exclude the disingenuous /dishonest taker as giving does not mean being a doormat.

  • Have patience, those same people who Gray identified as unsuccessful in the early days often turned up later to be highly successful.

Does this contradict having a strategic plan for your referral marketing? Why not have a conversation about it with me on 07970 638857 to see how this fits in with our philosophy of Givers Gain®?

Until next time ...


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