Adam Grant Speaker Series

Being a giver resonates with a core part of who we are: we want to feel like we are generous and help others. LinkedIn Influencer Adam Grant’s latest research shows that nice guys finish first, but we all know that another contingent of nice guys also finish last. As I read Adam’s book, Give and Take, I assessed my own personality: am I a giver or a taker? Doesn’t the act of raising my hand and saying I’m a giver make me exactly the opposite?

These were some of the questions Adam raised when he came to LinkedIn as part of the Linkedin Speaker Series. He is one of LinkedIn’s most prolific Influencers and has quite the following amongst LinkedIn employees, just as he does as the most popular professor at Wharton. Through his research, he encourages every one of us to reflect on how much givers mean to the world and how we can become successful, sustainable, givers.

The keyword that resonates here with me is sustainable. Adam speaks about sustainable givers as those who give to others without it directly hurting themselves. These are the people who find time for the five minute favor, believe that relationships matter, but are also able to ask for and work towards what they want. These sustainable givers are the ones who have found a way to give without being a doormat.

On the other end of the spectrum are doormats. The ones who give at their own expense, who never say no, and will probably fall in that “nice guys finish last” bucket. Sustainable givers are consciously aware of falling into the doormat-trap so they push their comfort zone by learning to say no and learning to self-promote. But what about the matchers? Adam also discusses the idea that matchers are those who try to keep a relatively even tally between what they give and what they receive (or givers-in-disguise who fear being taken advantage of.)

As a self-proclaimed matcher, I haven’t worried about falling into doormat-hood. But maybe I should: the risk I run not putting myself in the giver category means that I may not be aware of the potential pitfalls. Adam’s talk reminded me to reflect: how much of what I am doing do I love? How much of what I am doing is working towards my personal goals?

The best part about working for a company like LinkedIn is the openness with which I can ask these questions. I encourage every giver and matcher to take a moment and reflect on the work that they are doing, and if they don’t like the answer, to make a change. Ask for advice, identify internal opportunities, and divest pieces of unfulfilling work. As I think through the next phase of my career, Adam’s words will remind me to strike that balance between company need and personal development. In this journey, I will aspire to be a sustainable giver and definitely not a doormat.