3 HR Lessons from Adam Grant

October 11, 2016 Sarah Payne

Long-time readers of the Globoforce blog know that we are huge fans of Adam Grant. Not only is he a New York Times bestselling author, but he’s also Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s top-rated professor, and ranked one of the top 25 management thinkers in the world. Did I mention he’s only 35?

We’re such big fans of his work that we invited Adam to be a keynote speaker at our inaugural WorkHuman conference back in 2015. And I am happy to announce that he will return to the mainstage at WorkHuman 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Why? Because Adam is one of the most respected researchers and writers on what makes workplaces effective. He’s always been ahead of the curve when it comes to uncovering management principles designed to impact the future of the workplace.

Want proof? Here are 3 HR lessons from Adam Grant:

Givers are your secret weapon. In his first book, Give and Take, Adam shares his research on reciprocity. He categories three kinds of people:

  • Givers: those who actively seek out ways to be helpful and generous to those around them without lots of forethought about whether it will be reciprocated
  • Takers: those who actively work to get more out of exchanges than they give
  • Matchers: those who keep an even balance of give and take

At WorkHuman 2015, Adam stressed that in order to build a culture of givers, you need to screen out the takers, recognize people for giving, and get people comfortable asking for help. He’s also a proponent of peer recognition to bring out workers’ giver instincts. He wrote:

I’m a huge fan of peer recognition in general and I’d like to see more organizations doing it. And it’s not only beneficial to the employees who receive peer recognition and rewards. Providing employees with the opportunity to grant recognition and rewards to their peers is a natural way to enable them to express their giver instincts.

 Stop the feedback sandwich. How do you strike the right balance between praise and constructive feedback? When managers want to lessen the blow of constructive feedback, they will sometimes open with praise, give the feedback, and then close with more praise; hence, the “feedback sandwich.” But in a recent LinkedIn post, Adam argues that we’ve got it all wrong. He cites new research that shows two problems with this approach:

  1. The compliment may come off as insincere
  2. The positive might actually drown out the negative

As an alternative, he suggests we try separating constructive feedback and positive reinforcement.

Original thinkers (and employees) might look different than you expect. Adam’s newest book, Originals, explores how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. His TED talk on the subject delves into fascinating research on recognizing the originals in your organization.

He defines originals as, “nonconformists, people who not only have new ideas, but take action to champion them. They’re people who stand out and speak up. Originals drive creativity and change in the world. They’re the people you want to bet on and they look nothing like I expected.” Here are three of Adam’s top findings about originals:

  1. They often procrastinate. “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”
  2. They have fear and doubt. But rather than self-doubt, which is paralyzing, originals have idea doubt. It motivates them to test and experiment with their ideas.
  3. They have lots of bad ideas. “If you look across fields, the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.”

We’re excited to learn more from Adam at WorkHuman 2017. If you’d like to hear Adam and other leaders speak about the future of the human workplace, be sure to reserve your spot today. 

3 HR Lessons from @adammgrant #workhuman
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