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Having recently finished Adam Grant’s latest book, Think Again, I decided to read his first book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success . Like all of his books, Adam provides good insights into our interactions with others along with multiple examples and case studies supporting his assertions.

In case you haven’t read the book, Adam believes that people will default to one of three stances: takers, matchers or givers. Takers will always prioritize their own interests over others and when they give, it is usually with the intent of furthering those interests. Matchers believe in reciprocity so if you scratch their backs then they will scratch yours. Givers on the other hand believing in paying it forward as their focus is on others rather than themselves. As Adam writes, it is not a question of how generous one is or isn’t but what one’s attitudes and motives are.

While his book focuses on the personal and professional behaviors of givers, takers or matchers, Adam doesn’t specifically address the impacts on project work.

Givers and matchers are both well suited for collaborative work where the emphasis is on the best possible outcome for the team as a whole. Takers, on the other hand, will collaborate with others but only if it helps them. “Taking one for the team” is not something a taker will easily do unless that is done as a strategic move to help themselves.

A giver will usually be the first person to volunteer to help a fellow team member if they need a hand. The difference between them and a matcher is that the matcher will usually keep the favor in mind and will expect the assistance to be returned at some point. Takers might help but only if it doesn’t put them at a disadvantage. If helping their colleague means their own work will be delayed which might reflect poorly on them, they won’t volunteer.

When it comes time to celebrate a milestone, takers will usually try to get as much of the glory as possible. Givers will be quick to appreciate others contributions and matchers will again look for a quid pro quo for recognition.

Projects are frequently staffed with people who may not have previously worked directly with one another so we might not be in a position to know which category our team members falls into. But if we are leading a project, understanding this might help to reduce some of the risks related to team dynamics.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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