Adam Grant Is The Man

9781101622841_p0_v3_s550x406Adam Grant is the author of the 2013 best seller Give and Take. He is currently a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology. He will soon be 38 and received academic tenure at 28, the youngest professor to do so. He also has 2.9 Million+ LinkedIn followers, befitting his influence on me and countless others. I briefly met Adam once several years ago. I suspect he would not remember our meeting, but what he did left a big impression on me.

Here’s the story: For many years I belonged to a worldwide organization of business leaders called YPO (Young President’s Organization). I became a member in the early 90s when I was the President of the Earle Palmer Brown/Philadelphia, a major ad agency at that time.

Adam Grant was the resource for a YPO chapter meeting in late 2015. He had written Give and Take a couple of years earlier. After he spoke to the group, he asked us to participate in an exercise he discusses in Give and Take. He called it a Reciprocity Ring. Here’s how it worked.

He suggested to everyone that we take a few minutes and write down something we wanted to see happen for ourselves, our business, or family. It didn’t have to be business related. Then we all spent several  minutes walking around looking at each other’s “wishes” and those who were in a position to help another member volunteered to do so. This was part of the giving philosophy straight out of Give and Take, more on that later. I wrote that I hoped our son would get an opportunity to work at AppNexus, a tech company (since acquired by AT&T) which is a marketplace for digital advertising. Our son Carl, at that time a rising senior at U Conn, was beginning his job search and really liked that company. Adam read my wish and said to me, “I know Brian O’Kelley, their CEO. Just give me your son’s resume/email and I’d be happy to reach out to him about your son”. And he did the next day. WHAT! Now maybe this is just  in part an example of the benefits of being a “child of privilege”, and to some extent it is. But this was a bigger notion and I was struck by Adam’s giving nature. He demonstrated in 5 seconds that he is a giver and lives the principles of Give and Take.

There was no quid pro quo. How could there be? He expected nothing but just genuinely wanted to help another human achieve their goals. Carl did get a meeting at AppNexus, though he ultimately landed a position in Analytics at Digitas in NY (no Adam didn’t help him there, nor did Carl’s dad). Regardless, I was left in awe of Adam and his willingness to help others, even the son of a person who he had just met.

I’ve since read and re-read Give and Take and try hard to embrace its core tenets. My most recent re-read was on the beach at Belmar. Summer beach reading is a wonderful place to reflect (while listening to Yankees games on my transistor). In Give and Take, Adam basically categorizes folk in 3 buckets—takers, matchers and givers. We all know some takers–we resent them and expect there will be a day of reckoning for them. Matchers are ones who do give with the understanding of a quid pro quo now or in the future. Givers are just that–genuine givers, without expectations. He states that from a business perspective, research reveals that “givers who give their time and knowledge regularly to colleagues end up earning more raises and promotions”

He also comments that givers score high in “other interest”. However, he states that one can both have strong self-interest and otherish interest as well. He states,otherish givers help with no strings attached: they’re just careful not to overextend themselves along the way”. Basically he is saying give freely, but don’t be a doormat.

I strongly recommend reading his book. I promise it will be time well spent. It was helpful to me and yet I know I probably can never achieve the level of giving that Adam showed me that day we met. I try to be a giver but do have a “quid pro quo/matcher” gene in me, a vestige of my younger kick-ass self. However as I age, I find myself focused more on ways to selflessly give to give with no expectations. Adam Grant’s lessons have remained with me and as a result I know I am more of a giver based on his impact. I thank him for that. I have a way to go, but had long ago realized that it’s all about the journey in our lives, not the destination. Adam helped me see that more clearly as well too.

Thanks, Adam. U da man.

More Strumings

Leave a Reply