An Industry of Givers & a Thank You

I recently finished reading/listening to Adam Grant's book Give and Take; it's a great read and I'd encourage anyone interested in workplace styles and leadership to give it a look, but I digress. One of the primary foci of the book is the notion that people fall roughly into one of three categories - categories that in some cases come naturally and others that we consciously work to fall into:

  • Givers
  • Takers
  • Matchers

Givers are the sort who collaborate and assist without any return or reward in mind. A great example profiled in the book is Adam Rifkin - LinkedIn's Best Networked Person, with real world relationship's with a who's who of tech industry titans; a group of people that Rifkin has helped out, advised, or exchanged philosophical tete-a-tetes with over the definition of punk rock. Rifkin has helped more careers start and bloom in Silicon Valley than arguably any other person in the industry and he does it all out for the pure intrinsic value of helping others as so many have helped him. Givers are the type of person who uses the collective we and means it.

Takers are best exampled in the book by the rise and fall of Ken Lay (former head of Enron); someone who calculated the value of relationships and their payoffs on the way to the top (and ultimately the bottom) of the corporate ladder. Takers are the type of person who is focused on their status and contribution, even if their contribution was really someone else's.

Matchers are the group of people - most people in fact - who look to match their output or give with their input or take. They constantly look to balance the scales and keep things status quo.

I point all of this out because I've had the fortunate opportunity to work in higher education for the better part of the last decade after several years working in corporate America; the two industries couldn't be more different. While both have their share of givers, takers, and matchers - the balance (or at least has been my experience) has felt flip-flopped and the longer I work within my own organization and more frequently sharing knowledge and collaborating with rockstar colleagues at other institutions I am convinced that higher education is comprised of a whole lot of givers. 

More and more I find myself reminded of a leadership training session I facilitated several years back to a group of campus leaders where the focus of the conversation veered toward why someone would come work at our university. We discussed things like culture and collaboration and sense of something bigger. In essence, we started a dialogue about what our employment value proposition was; we - about 20 of us - ended the conversation as one of the group insinuated that we can't compete for top talent because our pay didn't stack up to Fortune 100's in the metropolitan area. My response - a time where the words escaped my mouth before I could contain them - was that if someone was only looking at pay as their primary driver when joining the university (or entering higher education in general) then maybe, this wasn't the right place for them...

I froze and waited a beat and then around the room heads started to nod and others began to chime in on a topic I'd felt strongly about for some time and we started down the road of talking about all the great reasons to work at the university - fair pay being one of them - that includes and goes beyond the basic compensation package. There was a lot of talk about working together - one of my last projects before leaving campus HR for the university system offices was a collaboration with Alumni Relations, Student Success, and the Student Union that netted a significant amount of strategic funding to kick off the program (funding that has been renewed each of the last several years); a project that several of us had no real vested interest in other than wanting to help a good idea being managed by some good people that would create some good for our students to succeed.

And now, as I look over the last 24 months, I consider the many times I have had the opportunity to "talk shop" on an array of topics both inside and outside my institution - in some cases, my organization being in a position to share and in others where we were looking for help in building a road map to get better at something - and time after time, each experience has felt like a rewarding one. And while, I've said it to so many people from coast to coast, via phone or email or in person at conferences near and far... let me say it again, thank you! And for those of you as equally fortunate to work in higher education AND happen to be headed to Orlando at the end of the month for the CUPA-HR National Conference, I'd sincerely enjoy catching up with past acquaintances and new ones to swap stories and lessons learned - I'll be the guy live tweeting everything while drinking a seemingly endless supply of Diet Mountain Dew (or Coke Zero depending on the resort's stance on caffeinated deliciousness).

Header Photo Credit: thesaltr via Compfight cc

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