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Book Notes: Give and Take

Read On: May 2015
Reading Time: 8 hours
Rating: 7/10

Summary

Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.

Notes

  • Takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them. Givers are other people focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them.
  • People tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers win, people are rooting for them and supporting them.
  • Giving is especially risky when dealing with takers.
  • Networks come with three major advantages: private information, diverse skills and power.
  • When takers deal with powerful people, they become convincing fakers. They go out of their way to charm and flatter. As takers gain power, they pay less attention to how they are perceived by those below and next to them.
  • Takers tend to be self-absorbed and more likely to use first person singular pronouns.
  • Lekking: Using self-glorifying images, self-absorbed conversations and paying onself much more than ones employees.
  • Matchers tend to build smaller networks than either givers or takers.
  • Dormant ties offer the access to novel information that weak ties can, but without the discomfort. The trust is still there, it just needs a short conversation to reactivate.
  • Giving is contagious. Givers are able to develop and leverage extraordinarily rich networks.
  • Takers burn bridges by constantly asking for favors but rarely reciprocating. Their colleagues see them as selfish and punish them with lack of respect.
  • Geniuses tend to be takers. To promote their own interests, they drain intelligence, energy and capability from others. Genius makers tend to be givers; they use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of other people.
  • Takers often have the confidence to generate original ideas that oppose traditions and fight uphill battles to champion their ideas.
  • Americans see independence as a sign of strength, viewing interdependence as a sign of weakness. This is particularly true of takers, who tend to see themselves as superior to and separate from others. Givers reject the notion that interdependence is weak. They see it as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for greater good.
  • Givers tend to take on the tasks that are in the group’s best interests, not necessarily their own.
    • Expedition behavior involves putting the group’s goals and mission first, and showing the same amount of concern for others as you do for yourself.
  • When takers present suggestions for improvement, colleagues are skeptical of their intentions, writing them off as self-serving. But when givers suggest threatening ideas, their colleagues listen and reward them for speaking up, knowing they are motivated by a genuine desire to contribute.
  • Responsibility Bias: Exaggerating our own contributions relative to others inputs. Takers are more vulnerable to this mistake. There happens because of Information Discrepancy, since we have more access to information about our own contributions than the contributions of others.
  • Givers create an environment of psychological safety, where the team can take risks without being punished.
  • Perspective Gap: When we’re not experiencing a psychologically or physically intense state, we underestimate how much it will affect us.
  • Leaders beliefs can catalyze self fulfilling prophecies about their trainees being gifted and better than average.
  • Takers hold low expectations for potential of peers/subordinates, which triggers a vicious cycle, constraining the development and motivation of others.
  • Matchers often wait to offer guidance till they have seen evidence of promise. Givers see the potential in everyone and don’t wait. Givers focus their attention on motivation and grit.
  • Good mentors set high expectations (cultivates grit) for the mentee to suceed.
  • Sunk Cost fallacy: When estimating the value of a future investment, we have trouble ignoring what we’ve already invested in the past.
  • Takers tend to discount feedback that does not support their favorable view of themselves.
  • Takers specialize in powerful communication. They speak forcefully and are much more effective than givers in gaining dominance. The opposite to that communication style is called Powerless Communication. Powerless communicators speak less assertively, signal vulnerability and reveal their weaknesses.
  • Givers are interested in helping others, not gaining power over them, so they are not afraid of exposing chinks in their armor. Expressing vulnerability is only effective if the audience receives other signals establishing the speakers competence.
  • By asking questions and listening to answers, givers let others experience the joy of talking.
  • By just asking a question, you let the other person be convinced by somebody he already loves and trusts (himself).
  • The art of advocacy is to lead you to my conclusions on your terms.
  • Takers are perceived to be better leaders because of their powerful communications.
  • Advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority. It is a form of powerless communication that combines expressing vulnerability, asking questions and talking tentatively. It encourages others to consider our perspective.
  • Successful givers aren’t just more other-oriented than their peers, they are also more self interested and just as ambitious as takers and matchers.
  • There are 2 types of givers:
    • Selfless Givers: have high other-interest and low self-interest.
    • Otherish: care about benefiting others, but also have ambitious goals of advancing their own interests.
  • The greatest untapped source of motivation (especially for givers) is a sense of service to others. When people know how their work makes a difference, they feel energized to contribute more.
  • Giving has an energizing effect only if it’s an enjoyable, meaningful choice rather than undertaken out of duty and obligation.
  • Selfless givers ask for much less support than otherish givers, and might lead them to burn out faster.
    • Otherish givers may appear less altruistic than selfless givers, but their resilience against burnout enables them to contribute more.
  • To avoid getting scammed or exploited, it is critical to distinguish between genuine givers and fakers/takers. Being agreeable and being a giver are independent traits, but it’s easy to confuse one for the other.
  • Generous tit for tat: An otherish strategy, where you never forget a good turn, but occassionaly forget a bad one.
  • Givers can use their giving as a strength while negotiating. They need more to give more. They are representing the interests of others and need to fight to protect them.
  • Common ground is a major influence on giving behaviors. When people share an identity with another person, giving to that person takes an otherish quality. If we help people who belong to our group, we are also helping ourselves, as we are making the whole group better off.
  • People often take because they do not realize that they are deviating from the norm. In these situations, showing them the norm is often enough to motivate them to give, especially if they have matcher instincts.
  • When people assume that others aren’t givers, they act and speak in a way that discourages others from giving, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Givers usually contribute regardless of whether it’s public or private, but takers are more likely to contribute when it’s public.

Thoughts

My main takeaway from the book was learning the vocabulary to easily explain these concepts. I took the free style assessment on www.giveandtake.com/ and my biggest action item was to be more aware of my taker tendencies (According to my assessment, my taker tendencies were higher than other people in my work field). The book was life changing for some of my peers, but less so for me (the impact of reading a book is a very subjective thing). I am very grateful for my employer Improving Enterprises and my colleagues as we read this one together as a group over several weeks and talked through it.

P.S More Book Notes here.

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