Select Page

The Importance of Boundaries

In his book Give And Take, Adam Grant describes three types of people [1]:

  • Givers: Those people who give with no thought of reward or reciprocity;
  • Matchers: Those who will only give if they feel they will get something back in return;
  • Takers: Those who take and do not give back.

Grant points out, according to his research, the style that is the least successful are the Givers. Takers can take advantage of Givers’ generosity. Givers may also burn themselves out by giving too much.

So, who are the most successful people?

Also Givers.

Givers thrive when the following conditions are met:

  • When they are sheltered from burnout;
  • They work in a culture where giving and asking for help are encouraged; and
  • The Takers have been weeded out.

I believe another important aspect is appropriate.

Boundaries.

You cannot give to everyone.

It is still possible to give, with no thought of reward, within carefully defined and managed boundaries. Understand what you can achieve and what you can’t and realise that it’s vital to look after yourself if you want to be able to keep giving over the long term.

If you’re asked for something and you can’t help, be honest. Tell the person who’s asked you’re unable to help them. Then point them in the direction of someone who can. That way, at least you’re still giving in the best way possible.


[1] Grant points out that we all have Giving, Matching and Taking traits and will behave with a mix of the styles over the course of our lives. We do, however, have a predominant style that aligns with one of the three.

Do You Need Every Alert?

Today marks my first full day back at work after a relaxing two weeks of leave.  

While I was away, I turned off all my alerts for social media, email and other apps on my smart devices.  The only notifications I left on were for personal messages from friends and family.

Do you know what I discovered? 

I don’t need to be alerted every time someone tries to get in contact with me.

I also discovered that I could control my intake of data.  I can choose the times when I check my emails. I can choose the times I check my social media. I can choose the times I read and reply to emails.

I also discovered (or, perhaps, rediscovered) that no one gets upset if you don’t reply to their emails or messages straight away.

Over the last two weeks, I learned (or, perhaps, relearned) to use my smart device the way I want to use it rather than being reactive to it.

For more interesting thoughts on this topic, I recommend Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.


Become a Chief Storytelling Officer.

For thousands of years, we have communicated with each other through stories. We’ve told stories about our history, our successes and our failures.

Leaders need to take on the role of storyteller. I think they should become the Chief Storytelling Officer.

As the Chief Storytelling Officer, the leader looks for real and valid stories connecting the work their people do with the higher purpose of the organisation. Why does this matter? Because one of the basic psychological needs that motivate humans to do great work is a sense of purpose. A feeling that what they are doing matters.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take and creator of the WorkLife podcast, describes a call centre in the United States. The call centre operators had the thankless task of making cold calls to seek donations to support disadvantaged students. Performance in the call centre was flat, and morale was low. As you can imagine, making multiple calls every day asking for money can be a difficult job psychologically, especially when the rejection rate is high.

Then the manager of the call centre had an idea. He found two of the disadvantaged students who had benefited from the fund and asked them to come into the call centre and meet with the phone operators. They revealed how they had received a good education and achieve success, all because of the money the operators had elicited from donors.

Performance and morale in the call centre improved when the operators could see what they were doing was making a difference.

Closer to home, I recently worked with a leader looking to motivate his team of data analysts. He embraced the role of Chief Storytelling Officer. He showed the team how the numbers they crunched formed the basis of a report that positively changed the way the company interacted with its customers. Showing those data analysts the results energised them for the next task.

Many people work for us, with us or around us that may not be able to make the connections between what they do and a more significant positive outcome. Often, this is because they are too close to their work and are unable to see the longer-term effects.

As leaders, we can provide people meaning to the work they do through real and valid stories and motivate them to perform at their best.


Yes. Competitors Can Collaborate.

Yesterday I wrote about the concept of competing with your own team.

Today, I want to take it one step further and talk about how competitors can collaborate.

As it happened, yesterday I listened to Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra, address the National Press Club.  He was discussing the future of the telecommunications industry in Australia.

One aspect addressed was the issue of cybercrime. What resonated for me was when he talked about working with the industry, including his competitors, and the Government to combat this threat: 

“The only way to look at cyber is as a team. Large enterprises, small enterprises, medium business, Government, we all have shared platforms, common customers, and we’re all the target of the same attacks. We all, therefore, play a role in keeping Australian’s safe. It’s a shared accountability. It’s not a competition. If one party loses, we all lose. As the online landscape continues to expand, we cannot afford to operate in silos, and we must work together.”

– Andy Penn, National Press Club Address, 31 July 2019

There is any number of ways for competitors to work with one another.  They just need to find common ground, which is an essential first step. That requires us to look at our competitors as having something to contribute rather than as a foe to be vanquished.

Imagine what you could achieve if you were to work with your competitors towards a common goal.


Are You Competing With Your Own Team?

Competitive people have a desire to win. On the surface, you might not think there is anything wrong with that. But what if the person they are competing with is someone in the same company or organisation?

This happens more often than you realise.  

  • If there is a culture that recognises individual performance, there will be competitiveness;
  • If there are rewards or bonuses for getting higher sales figures, there will be competitiveness;
  • If the company promotes the person who gets the best results, there will be competitiveness.

The competitive person sits across the table from the people they are ‘competing with’ and says, “I need to be better than you.”  This approach promotes an adversarial relationship which may not encourage cooperation or collaboration.

The culture will have a part to play in this. The system may be set up to promote it. You may not be in a position to change the system.  You may not be able to have a significant impact on the culture. If, however, you find yourself thinking competitively, a simple mindset shift can help you move into a better space.

Rather than say, “I need to be better than you,” shift your frame of mind to, “What can I learn from you?”  This perspective will put you into a growth mindset rather than an adversarial one. It will offer you opportunities to work with your team rather than against one another, and it will promote relationship building rather than competition.