Are you a giver, a taker or a matcher?


PEO Members at Communitech, Giving & Receiving, June 23rd, 2017

by Leon Goren

Adam Grant, one of our previous speakers at the annual PEO conference, thinks that success in business depends heavily on your answer to this question: Are you a giver, a taker or a matcher? In other words, how do you approach interactions with people?

Givers are others-focused and strive to be generous in sharing their time, energy and connections. Matchers believe in tit-for-tat and have relationships governed by an even exchange of favours. Takers like to get more than they give.

Grant wants us to create business cultures where giving is prevalent. And I couldn’t agree more! It is obvious that the other options are not feasible for success.

Givers drive positive organizational performance by doing more than what’s asked of them and by making those around them better. Givers, who spend time helping others, also learn more which is key to growth, as we believe at PEO, both personally and professionally. I’d also say givers have a natural mental edge!

So why aren’t we seeing more leaders create this type of culture? Here are three practices that will move a committed leader in the right direction:

(1) Facilitating Help Seeking

Giver cultures depend on employees making requests, otherwise, it’s difficult to figure out who needs help and what to give. Below are a couple of ideas to consider within your own organization:

Build reciprocity rings.

Reciprocity rings are opportunities for everyone in your organization to ask for help. This is why no one would feel uncomfortable. These rings can be established across departments with no more than a dozen members. When a request is made, group members use their knowledge, resources, and connections to grant it.

If you become successful at this, a full circle is created where employees begin to give outside of their rings without any direct benefit to them. Grant talks about giving five minutes of one’s time every day to make a difference to others. Surely we can all commit to five minutes a day!

Create boundaries and roles.

Despite the power of help-seeking in shaping a giver culture, encouraging it also poses significant risk. Employees can become so consumed with responding to each other’s requests that they lack the time and energy to complete their own responsibilities. Over time, employees face two choices: allow their work to suffer or shift from giving to taking or matching. Some possible solutions include:

  • Create windows for quiet time when interruptions are simply not allowed
  • Designate formal “helping” roles to coordinate more efficient help-seeking and -giving behaviour. This provides employees with a clear sense of direction on where to turn for help without creating undue burdens across a unit.
  • Creating the right level of internal competition through rewards.

(2) Recognize your givers publicly even if there is no financial incentive.

Create a program that encourages employees to reward each other for giving. One company referred to it as tipping, similar to that in the restaurant industry.

(3) Keep the wrong people off the bus

Pursuing a giving culture requires hiring givers from the onset and screening out takers.  Here are three key things to be aware of when seeking out takers:

  • Takers tend to claim personal credit for success. You hear the word “I” and “me” instead of we.
  • Takers tend to follow a pattern of “kissing up, kicking down.” When dealing with powerful people, they’re often good fakers, coming across as charming and charismatic. But when interacting with peers and subordinates, they feel powerful, which leads them to let down their guard and reveal their true colours.
  • Takers engage in antagonistic behaviour at the expense of others—for example, badmouthing a peer who’s up for a promotion.

Bonus tip: Walk the Talk!

Giver cultures, despite their power, can be fragile. To sustain them, leaders need to do more than simply encourage employees to seek help, reward givers, and screen out takers: they need to walk the talk!

I should note that Adam Grant has since written two wonderful books, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World‎, and Option B, co-authored with Sheryl Sandberg.

Stay tuned for more information coming out soon on the 2017 PEO conference!



Leon Goren, owner and CEO of the Presidents of Enterprising Organizations (PEO), brings his passion for purposeful leadership to the PEO leadership community. Leon’s 25 years of leadership experience underscores his unique impact on the way PEO leaders lead, learn and live. He leverages his innate understanding of their needs and challenges to inspire leaders to excel beyond the status quo. Leon is also the Toronto Chair of TIGER 21, where he leverages his experience to develop exceptional leaders working with high net worth investors and families. As founder and CEO of in 1997, Leon became one of Canada’s first online success stories, bringing the dot com retail experience to Canadians.

Today, as an authority on leadership and business strategy, Leon is consistently invited to address various business audiences, including the graduating classes of Chartered Accountants. His thought leadership is published in the CA Magazine, The National Post and The Globe and Mail. Leon is on the Advisory Board of UMBRA and Timewyse Corp. and is a former member of the North York Athletic Club board of directors. Leon is a CPA, CA. He is married with three children and is active in sports, including triathlons and skiing.

To connect with Leon, you can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2016 PEO All Right Reserved