Helping professions like financial planning often attract “Givers” – people who are naturally inclined to put others before themselves and help those people to succeed. Yet the challenging reality for many helping professions is that often the practitioners go so far out of their way to help others that they undermine their own careers and success in the process. When comparing Givers who tend to focus on others, and Takers who put themselves first, it’s no surprise that those at the bottom of the success ladder are often a group of burned out and worn out Givers.
Yet recent research from Wharton Professor Adam Grant made a startling discovery; while the bottom of the success ladder is populated by Givers, the top of the ladder is also dominated by Givers! In other words, the traits that lead some people to be Givers who are taken advantage of lead others who are also Givers to propel themselves to success. Accordingly, in his research Grant digs further to identify what the key traits are that separate the successful Givers from the unsuccessful ones, and how anyone can set themselves on a more successful path.
Although the book is written as a guide for success in any business context, the lessons of Grant’s research are certainly relevant for financial planners in particular, from how to help those experiencing burnout, to making slight changes in your Giver behavior to keep from “being a doormat,” to how to shift the Takers in your business to act more like Givers for the benefit of the team. Ultimately, changing one’s style of interacting with others is difficult – the implications of Grant’s research are profound, but certainly not a cure-all. Nonetheless, what emerges is some interesting clarity about why some financial planners seem to build growing, successful businesses, while others stay mired in a practice that can’t seem to get ahead.