Book Review: Give and Take

Give and Take book cover

Book: Give and Take

By: Adam Grant

Reviewed by: Colleen Jones

The Premise: Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist, best-selling author and one of Wharton’s highest rated professors, who dedicates his work life to the study of how people operate, perform and interact at work. In Give and Take, Grant shares his idea that people adopt one of three main operating styles in the workplace: Givers, Takers and Matchers. Challenging conventional notions that good guys finish last, Grant leverages his extensive research to weave a compelling provocation for why it is ultimately (some) Givers who come out on top. As always, Grant is a compelling storyteller who leverages data from his own research, real life examples and his own experiences to effectively persuade the reader that in the end, giving will garner you greater impact and meaning than taking.

The Bottomline: In the work that we do, we often talk about the impossibility of the hero leader – that mystical leader who can be everything to everyone all the time, In the complexity of today’s world of work this notion is simply no longer viable. Instead, we help leaders build collective leadership and a shared sense of responsibility. In Give and Take, Grant outlines three basic types of operating styles – Takers, who help when it serves them; Matchers, who keep score with a “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” perspective; and Givers who will gladly help anytime the benefit to someone else outweighs the cost to themselves, and even sometimes when it doesn’t. Grant’s research shows that, in the end, the folks who come out on top are the Givers because not only are they willing to help, they are also more likely to accept help as well, helping foster a culture of collective leadership. I often coach leaders who might be perceived as “too nice” and perceived as being unable to make the tough business calls. What I appreciated the most about Give and Take was Grant’s position that Givers actually create a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them along with their own, as those they’ve helped are inspired to support them and cheer them on. At the end of the book, Grant provides 10 practical strategies that everyone can adopt to become more effective Givers. Who wouldn’t want to work in a world with more Givers and fewer Takers?

Recommendation: Highly recommend. This book is a quick and enjoyable read, and especially useful for those natural Givers who may feel dismayed by the Takers of the world. Grant offers a useful re-frame with practical strategies for becoming a successful Giver.

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