The personality dynamics of winning teams image of man & woman at a table in a meeting
May 11, 2017

The personality dynamics of winning teams

Behavioral psychologist Adam Grant on givers and takers, innovators and original thinkers

Have you ever wondered how the most successful companies hire the right employees? Or what makes for a winning team? Have you ever wanted to know what characteristics distinguish the most innovative entrepreneurs? Or what makes someone truly original?

In this episode of the Tony Robbins Podcast, host Ana Yoerg talks with renowned organizational psychologist Adam Grant about how to become an effective leader that gets the most out of employees – and how employees can get the most out of their jobs. They dig into the personality dynamics of givers and takers, innovators and original thinkers. And they discuss why it’s so important to not just meet customer expectations, but to always exceed them.

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Who is Adam Grant?

Adam has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers and Fortune’s 40 under 40. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages, and has recently co-authored a new book with Sheryl Sandberg called Option B – about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. He also writes on work and psychology for the New York Times.

Adam’s speaking and consulting clients include Facebook, Google, the NBA, Merck, Goldman Sachs, Pixar, the U.S. Army and Navy, and the World Economic Forum, where he has been honored as a Young Global Leader. But it is his TED talks on original thinkers and givers and takers that have most revolutionized the business world.

What are givers and takers?

Adam’s research began with an assumption: “I always assumed that the nicer somebody was, the more generous they were.” But as he gathered data, he found there was no correlation between those traits. “Niceness,” or agreeableness, is a separate trait. There are agreeable givers (who are both agreeable and generous) and disagreeable takers (who are neither), and both are easy to recognize.

In the middle is where it gets interesting. There are disagreeable givers, who on the surface are rough and tough but have others’ best interests at heart. They’re often the champions of change in an organization because they aren’t afraid of challenging the status quo. There are also agreeable takers; they’re the ones to watch out for, because they’ll be nice to your face and stab you in the back. Listen to the podcast to hear Adam’s tips and top interview questions for spotting disagreeable takers before they can infiltrate your team.

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Building a true culture of collaboration

Hiring and rewarding givers is key to building a team you can trust and creating a culture of collaboration that accelerates your business growth. But if you’re a true business owner – if you’ve built a company that can thrive when you’re not there – how can you cultivate that environment? Many business owners pay lip service to this type of company culture, but continue to only measure, promote and reward individual achievements. That creates a world where takers succeed.

In sports, we don’t just measure points scored. We also measure assists and blocked shots to provide a holistic view of the biggest team contributors. Adam talks about how business owners can apply this principle by creating programs that reward employees for supporting others by being givers rather than takers. He also discusses how to hire real superstars – not just takers who are superstar fakers – by looking for capacity and attitude in addition to skills. This podcast is a must-listen for any business owner looking to master leadership and establish a culture of innovation.

Problem solving in business isn’t just about ROI and financial spreadsheets – the human aspect can often be the toughest to tackle. Yet happy employees have a host of benefits for businesses, including collaboration, innovation and skyrocketing profits. Understanding personality dynamics in order to build an effective and satisfied team is the first step.

Behavioral psychologist Adam Grant on givers and takers, innovators and original thinkers

Behavioral psychologist Adam Grant


[00:58] Ana introduces the episode
[02:10] Welcome Adam
[02:20] “Going above and beyond the call of duty” at Wharton
[03:00] Office hours with his students
[03:50] Asking what you can do for other people
[04:50] Givers and takers within organizations
[05:20] There is no correlation between being agreeable and being generous
[05:40] Giving and taking is all about your inner motives
[05:55] Agreeableness
[06:10] The benefits of the disagreeable givers
[06:30] The fakers: the agreeable takers
[07:00] Patterns to look for to identify givers and takers
[07:15] Why bosses are not good references to decipher character
[08:00] “Tell me what caused your success and your failures”
[08:30] A key question to spot an agreeable taker
[11:00] Assumption of others’ behavior is a reflection of your own behavior
[11:45] “Takers rise quickly, but fall quickly at the hands of matchers”
[12:35] I’ll do something for you if you do something for me
[13:15] True matchers want to punish the takers
[13:40] Why most matchers engage in gossip
[14:20] Working well with takers
[16:15] Confronting takers head on
[17:30] Make a reputation visible, then give them a chance to earn a new one
[18:40] Takers are predictable
[19:00] Relationships and reputations drive the economy
[19:35] The challenges for business owners when it comes to givers and takers
[20:50] The trouble with only valuing and rewarding individual achievements
[21:05] The Corning case study
[22:30] Drive your own results and elevate the work of others to build a winning team
[24:15] Add more value than anyone else to get raving fans
[25:00] What is motivating customers more than ever?
[26:00] Most consumers are matchers
[26:45] Consumers are constantly wondering how they can trust a company
[27:00] The importance of competence, benevolence and character
[28:20] Trust is easier to destroy than it is to rebuild
[29:30] One of the best indicators of how you treat your customers is how you treat your employees
[31:45] Why it works against you to only hire “A Players”
[33:00] Hiring for culture fit works well for startups, but not as well for established businesses
[34:15] Don’t map your culture, hire those who could enrich and enhance it
[35:00] Where to learn more about Adam Grant
[35:45] What’s next for Adam

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