At your place of work, is it a good idea to ask for help? If you do, are you considered weak? Are you happy to ask for help or hesitant?
These simple questions about your own behavior can help illuminate your corporate culture. More importantly, they can help you understand whether your culture is pointed toward success or failure. That’s the gist of a new book, Give and Take, and an accompanying article, “Givers Take All: A Hidden Dimension of Corporate Culture” in the McKinsey Quarterly.
The author, Adam Grant, suggests that organizations should focus on developing a “giver culture” rather than a “taker culture”. Grant takes the example of various intelligence agencies in the period after the 9/11 attacks. The single best predictor of effectiveness was “… the amount of help that analysts gave to each other.”
What are the characteristics of a giver culture? It’s a long list and includes, “… helping others, sharing knowledge, offering mentoring, and making connections without expecting anything in return.” In taker cultures, on the other hand, “…the norm is to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in return.”
Grant summarizes the benefits of giving cultures, including increased productivity, improved customer care, greater innovation, and lower turnover. So why don’t more organizations commit to creating giving cultures? Because most organizations are set up to be competitive. Only one person can get that promotion. If my department gets a larger budget, yours gets a smaller one. It doesn’t pay for me to help you.
Grant suggests a variety of steps that executives and managers can take to reap the benefits of more giving cultures. One is simply to “keep the wrong people off the bus.” In the recruiting (and promotion) cycles, focus on identifying, hiring, and promoting givers rather than takers. How do you identify a taker? Three ways:
While you can hire and promote givers over takers, ultimately managers need to set the example that others can emulate. If you want employees to think outside the box, then you should think outside the box. If you want to create a giver culture, then be a giver yourself. If you pay it forward, you’ll soon be paid back.