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Adam Grant at Convergence: Do You Empower Your Organizational "Givers"?

Cornerstone Editors

At our fully virtual Convergence conference, organizational psychologist and host of the WorkLife podcast Adam Grant began his closing keynote session with a statement: Takers are people who ask, "What can you do for me?" while givers are people who ask, "What can I do for you?"

What does this mean in an organizational setting? For companies, hiring "givers" and empowering them at work could mean the difference between a productive, happy work culture and a toxic one.

In a world overcome with a global pandemic, social unrest, blurred work-life balance, and more, leaders must work to build a culture of givers and productive generosity. Adam offered these strategies for making it happen:

  1. Keep the Wrong People Off the Bus: When it comes to hiring, screen out the biggest takers, those who put on a façade of generosity. Don’t ask about their own behavior—instead ask about other people’s behavior. When we answer questions about others, we often end up projecting our own behavior. Takers anticipate selfish behavior from others—and that’s how they justify their actions.
  2. Start on the Right Foot: Once you’ve screened out the selfish takers, consider onboarding practices that help people contribute in meaningful ways. Flip exit interviews upside down and conduct entry interviews. Ask employees about their first month in the job and learn how to customize their role to their strengths.
  3. Strengthen Remote Culture: People miss structure and the sense of community that comes with working in an office setting. One of the challenges of remote work environments is disengagement. Set structured time to interact and solve problems together. If you want to let your givers shine, encourage them to come up with independent ideas and then bring the group together to evaluate and refine ideas.
  4. Create Psychological Safety: When people feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to innovate and less likely to make mistakes. "Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions" is a dangerous philosophy. If people can only speak up when they have a solution, you’ll never hear about problems. Create a space where people can safely raise issues: turn a question box into a problem box and encourage participation from givers and takers.
  5. Harness the Strength of Weak Ties: Assist others in giving and receiving help from and to other individuals they consider to be "weak ties" because the best person to ask isn’t always the one you’re closest to. In most cases, people are willing to be givers but often don’t know what other people need. The cultures of help-giving are also the cultures of help-seeking.
  6. Prevent Giver Rebound: This is particularly important in the current world as the boundaries of work and home are blurred. You don’t have to give in every relationship. Effective givers are at high-risk for burnout and exhaustion. As a giver, be thoughtful about who you help, how you help and when you help.

Want to watch Adam’s keynote in full? It’s available on demand, along with all the other Convergence sessions until October 31st!

To watch anything you missed during the conference, visit: All sessions are available on demand until October 31, 2020. And keep the conversation going! Follow Cornerstone Convergence 2020 on social media channels, visit: Twitter @CSODConvergence, Instagram @CornerstoneOnDemand and Facebook @Cornerstoneconvergence. You can engage with the conversation using #CSODConf20.

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