How Can I Help

I love that line from the New York Times piece that highlights the thinking of Adam Grant.  Note that Adam is the 31-year-old youngest ever tenured professor at the Wharton School and not some feel-good advisor.  He is not a self centered child prodigy, but rather the most well liked professor at the school who has gotten ahead by helping others.  This is how he motivates himself and how he measures his impact on society.  The odd part of his theory is that he views helping others as one of the easiest and most predictable ways of succeeding yourself.

Read through the article and note what his typical day looks like.  See how much he is able to accomplish and how many people he is able to influence and help.  Also see that  he is very cognizant of the time it takes to help others and he is very protective of his family time and understands the need for balance in his life.  The article also points out how prolific Grant is and this proves his theory is not just about helping others, as it leads to solid work output and personal satisfaction.  Maybe these things are all tied together!

The work Adam has done with call center representatives might be important for us in the pharmaceutical industry to study.  When these representatives get to actually see the end results of their work it drives their motivation to a much higher level and, when measured in terms of dollars raised, it is proven to work time after time.  How many representatives really understand the value of the job they perform?  How many feel they are in a way connected with all the work being done in the home office and in the research labs across the company?  Do they feel like they are the driving force of growth or do they think they are just tools doing the drudge work for others?

The study where doctors and nurses are shown signs when washing their hands is also very interesting.  Two different signs are shown and the resulting hand washing time is measured.  The first sign says wash to protect yourself and the second sign says wash to protect your patients.  Guess which one resulted in the most positive action?  Think how powerful a motivator it could be for everyone in the company to see the patients who benefit from the drugs they develop and market.  Patients should be viewed as much more than revenue generators or market share.  The more a company can put a face on those they help the more driven the company will become.  It will also be a motivation to increase access to both healthcare and the drugs made by the company.

The article points out that there are three kinds of people, the givers, matchers and takers.  The givers give for no reason other than to help others.  The matchers give but expect something in return.  They give to those who can give back to them.  The takers just seek all kinds of help but never try to give anything back to others.  The article points out that most people are matchers.  The most interesting point is that givers are over-represented on both the upper and lower ends of organizations.  When being a constant giver it is incredibly important to balance that with a high level of self interest, otherwise you might get taken advantage of by others and not really get ahead.

The key is that the givers must match the intensity they exert helping others with that they show for themselves.  Successful givers protect their own careers, get their own work done and constantly deliver results.  They don’t get ahead by leaping over others but are constantly trying to lift up or pull as many forward with them as possible.  It is an interesting concept but if you look at the most successful people you know you might see it has validity.  Perhaps a good starting point might come from Grant’s comments on emails.  Think of every email you get as a possibility to help someone out rather than one more piece of work that needs to get done.  You might see how simple and how motivating this concept really can be!

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