Karin’s Leadership Articles

Helping Leads to Successful Careers

by | Apr 16, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Helping is scarce in many organizations.
People need help.
They are reluctant to raise their hands.


  • Individualized performance management systems
  • Hidden agendas
  • History and scar tissue
  • Politics
  • Expectations of reciprocity
  • Burnout

And yet, helping is the biggest predictor of team success. Research also shows that genuine helping improves careers.

 Create a Helping Culture

Wharton Professor, Adam Grant‘s research proves helping more leads to better performance and career success.

In his new book, Give and Take, Grant categorizes people as “takers,” “givers,” and “matchers.”

Takers are out for themselves. Matchers deal in reciprocity. Givers are people who give without expectations of something in return. Giving cultures drive performance. His research also shows that true “Givers” who survive the burnout risk, are extraordinarily succesful.

I reached out to Adam for advice on how best to apply his research. (He was happy to help.)

Adam, how do we change the culture?

He offers 3 ways

  1.  Better selection.
    “Jim Collins famously argued that we need to get the right people on the bus, but he made an even more important point that’s often overlooked: we need to keep the wrong people off the bus. Research led by Roy Baumeister, Paul Rozin, and Will Felps shows that bad is stronger than good, in the sense that the negative effect of a bad apple on the barrel tends to outweigh the positive effect of a good apple. With this in mind, it may be especially valuable to screen out takers in the hiring process.”
  2.  Encourage help-seeking.

    “Studies suggest that 75-90% of all help exchanged in organizations starts with a request, yet many people hold back on seeking help because they’re worried about appearing incompetent or burdening others. To overcome these barriers, we need to make it clear that help-seeking is acceptable and encouraged.
  3. Change Evaluation and Performance Management Processes
    Instead of evaluating and promoting based on individual results alone, we should also assess employees’ contributions to the success of those around them. That way, we might see more givers rise to the top, which will set the stage for them to serve as role models to employees at various levels.

Selection. Encouragement. Evaluation. What would you add?

For more details, see Givers take allIn the company of givers and takers, and Seeking help in the shadow of a doubt.”

Want to know where you fall? Grant offers free online self and 360 assessments with immediate online results.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    Assessments are very important. Though most organizations use them incorrectly or not at all.

    The key to selection is a job benchmark which removes the bias from the selection process.

  2. Eric Dingler

    I’d add that before any of this, you have to set clear expectations. What’s the vision? What is non negotiable…your core values? What does winning look like? Make helping others part of that picture. But then remember to ask about it all the time.

    • Bob

      Great point Eric! Vision is vital and it’s there no matter what. If you don’t set it, then someone else will; good bad or ugly.

      • Eric Dingler

        Bob…love that…”If you don’t set it, then someone else will…” So very very true.

  3. letsgrowleaders

    Eric, yes! What a great add. Helping as vision. Let it be so.

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Steve, thanks so much. You might enjoy the Grant’s self-assessment and related 360 on his site. It’s free and you get immediate results. Include a link in the post. Some fo the questions make you think. I am equal parts matcher and giver (by my own assessment). I think we would all like to see ourselves more on the giving front. I will be curious to see what folks think if they take the assessment.

  5. Bob

    Spot on! Never thought about it this way! I’m adding this to my must read list for sure…

    I think the most important thing that a leader can do in order to create a giving culture is to give of him or herself. That could be time, contacts, resources or something else.

    Just be intentional about it.

    Thanks Karin!

  6. Anne Kinzel

    One could easily ask where have all the helpers gone. In watching Mad Men I am forever amazed at how people (women) have jobs whose goal is to assist others to lead. When I first started practicing law I had a secretary and a paralegal in my team. We each have roles to play to insure that our objectives were met. By the time I left the law I was down to a PT secretary. I was far less effective at accomplishing the client goals. The clients certainly did not seem to save much money. Whatever savings occurred from the downsizing of the “legal helping professionals” was quickly gobbled up by having me- a not particularly effective office professional- typing briefs.

    Lest I sound like an old fogy, let me say we could also provide jobs for a heck of a lot of good people in these helping professional if we -the so-called leadership/professional class spoke up, admitted to what is going on and hired people back .

    SignedI slogged through Law and Grad School to be a Professional not an MS Office expert.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Anne, what an important perspective and addition to this conversation. Thanks! “self-serve” does come with many hidden costs.

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