"Givers Get" - Myth or Reality?

Article By

Peter Wilkinson

Director - Tipping Point Advisory

In my experience, many businesses struggle to make effective referrals, even when they’re aware of the benefits that flow from applying the “givers get” principle. Of course, many would much rather they just receive referrals. So what is the fear that sits behind the reluctance to commit to abundant behaviour?

  • It takes precious time and effort to build relationships
  • Worries show up around losing control of clients
  • Trust is a key issue – can you be trusted to manage my clients like I do?

Most people accept that giving referrals is a virtuous activity, particularly if they’re truly focused on delivering the services their clients need. But is there actually any truth to the maxim “givers get”? Let’s consider the argument Professor Adam Grant of Wharton University, Pennsylvania puts forward in his book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success”.

Adam approaches this argument from the perspective of behavioural psychology. According to conventional wisdom, success involves a combination of hard work, talent and luck. Adam proposes that success also depends on how we behave with others: in essence, do we give or do we take? It turns out that people typically display one of three distinctive styles: Takers, Givers or Matchers.

Takers like to get more than they give, whereas Givers pay more attention to what other people need from them. In business, few of us are purely givers or takers — rather, we become “Matchers”, trying to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting and exchanging favours on this basis.

SO which behaviour gets the best results in business? The answer seems at first unfortunate. Research demonstrates that givers sink to the bottom of the business success ladder.


If givers are at the bottom though, then who’s on top, takers or matchers? As it turns out, neither! Adam’s data showed that givers can be both the worst and the best performers, with takers and matchers more likely to land in the middle. The reason for this lies less with raw talent or aptitude, and more about the strategies givers use and the choices they make. Successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals. And guess what else shows up? When givers succeed, they create a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.

So here’s a challenge: why don’t we all strive for business success by becoming better givers?

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