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As we’re wrapped up in the excitement of the giving season, it’s worthwhile to pause for a moment and reflect on just what giving looks like – and can look like – in our day-to-day lives year-round.
This fall, I published a Q & A with Adam Grant, a popular organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who wrote a book on the topic. In his bestseller, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam divides us into three categories: givers, takers, and matchers. The gist: Givers look for ways to share their time, connections, and resources with others. Matchers are motivated by quid pro quo. Takers seek out what benefits them first.
It strikes me that educators are natural givers. Find out what percent giver, taker, and matcher you are by taking Adam’s quiz. (Note that you’ll need to sign up.) Share your results and the quiz with friends. In 2014, let’s look for ways to carry on the spirit of giving in our communities.
Adam offers some ideas in our interview. The piece “A School-Eye View of Give and Take” originally ran in the Fall 2013 issue of Independent School. Below is an excerpt.
Ari Pinkus: You talk about a support network being an antidote to burnout. How can teachers build a support network to help themselves? What role do leaders have here?
Adam Grant: How do you build a support network for yourself? One major step is through giving. The evidence is really clear that most people are matchers: they believe that what goes around should come around, and strive to follow the norm of reciprocity. That means that if you’ve been really generous with them, when you need them, they will be there for you.It’s no easy task for school leaders to build a support network. Research suggests that formal mentoring programs rarely do much good, in part because a relationship in which you rely on people for emotional support, advice, guidance, and resources tends to be something that needs to evolve genuinely based on a natural authentic connection. It’s tough to say, “Today I am your mentor and I will be helping you,” and immediately have trust.
That said, I would encourage school leaders to legitimize help seeking. Many teachers are reluctant to seek help — they don’t want to appear vulnerable or helpless, and they don’t want to burden others. But if you’re unwilling to seek help, that’s a great recipe for burnout. And you’re thwarting the potential givers in your life from knowing what you need and how they can be of support to you.
School leaders can play a huge role in this. I would love to see more school leaders asking for help themselves: admit when they don’t know the answers, and show it’s acceptable to seek out help, that it’s safe, and even encouraged.
I would also be thrilled to see more school leaders create marketplaces for people to seek help. For example, there’s a company called Appletree Answers in Delaware that runs a call center. They had turnover at a range of 98 percent annually. CEO John Ratliff was getting together with a group of people to brainstorm about how to reduce the turnover rate, and one of the people suggested creating an internal version of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They called it the Dream On program: employees could pose any dream they wanted, and there was a committee of people at Appletree who would try to make it happen. They got all sorts of really interesting requests, from a woman who wanted to help her sick husband meet his favorite football players to a man who wanted to take his daughter to a birthday party and go behind the scenes at the circus. Not only did [the dream committee] make them happen, but turnover dropped to around 33 percent within the six months after they instituted this program because they made it acceptable for employees to ask for help. It created a lot more authenticity and empathy in their everyday relationships. I don’t know if every school should have something like that, but it’s a really interesting model.