Don't Get Taken by the Takers

In the 2008 movie Taken the main character Bryan Mills, played by one of my very favourite actors Liam Neeson, shares a short telephone conversation with Marco, the leader of a gang responsible for taking his daughter.

On realising Marco has picked up his daughter’s mobile phone Bryan delivers the immortal lines “I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know what happens next, if you haven’t I won’t spoil it for you. Despite the opening to this post let me clarify that I’m not advocating any form of threats, violence or retribution, but what I am wanting to highlight is that just like Bryan Mills we all have “a very particular set of skills” we can call on to prevent ourselves from being taken by the takers.

Before we explore those skill let’s answer the question: What is a taker? Here at Go-Givers we say the opposite of a Go-Giver is a go-taker, that’s a person who feels almost entitled to take, take, take, without having added any value to the other person, to the process, to the situation. They may well be good people and well-intentioned but they're also continually frustrated by the fact that they never seem to obtain the kind of success they think they deserve. And even those rare times when they do, it's typically short lived because they haven’t built the foundations necessary for that success to flourish and grow.

In Adam Grant’s awesome book Give & Take he explains that “Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their interests ahead of others’ needs.” Later in the book in a section that explores how to spot a taker in givers clothes he writes about Ken Lay the infamous Founder and CEO of Enron, an American energy, commodities, and services company, who was convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud after the company systematically deceived investors, hiding huge debts (we’re talking billions), manipulating markets, eventually going bankrupt in 2001 and making over 20,000 employees jobless.

Prior to being indicted Ken Lay was perceived to be a massive giver. As Adam points out “His giving attracted the attention of former president George W. Bush, who commended him as a “good guy” and a “generous person.” Of course now we know he was the opposite. He was a taker.

So how do we prevent ourselves form being taken by takers? Let’s take a look at those very particular skills we can all tap into:

  • Live in a state of trust: The skeptic may be thinking, “Hold on a minute. Not everyone is trustworthy. Isn’t the idea of trusting everyone a bit naïve?"Although the Takers of the world will try and take advantage of you in some way, living in a state of trust isn’t the same thing as being naïve. In The Go-Giver our main character Joe likens living in trust to having a “healthy immune system”. He says “The disease is all around you but you don’t catch it.” When you keep your focus on giving, you’ll be far less likely to attract those people to you. If there’s one trait that Takers universally share it’s a profound lack of trust, in anyone or anything.
  • Exercise your perceptivity muscles: Being a ‘Giver’ doesn't make you some kind of doormat or martyr open to the manipulative mindsets of Takers, quite the contrary, when you seek to serve, focus on creating value for others and building trust you become even more perceptive and therefore less likely to be susceptible to the unscrupulous motivations of takers. You become an excellent judge of character and you begin to attract more and more like minded people to you.
  • Always be on high receive: Adam Grant writes Takers tend to Kiss Up and Kick Down. They’re very good fakers when it comes to dealing with powerful people but that’s a lot of work so they tend to let their guard down when dealing with peers and subordinates.
  • Share the credit: Takers take the credit. They tend to talk about ‘I and Me’ when talking about ‘their’ successes whereas Givers will share the credit and seek to elevate others
  • Learn from your mistakes/failures: Takers tend to blame others for the mistakes and failures in their lives/careers whereas Givers will openly take ownership and learn from these situations
  • Shift your focus: Takers live on the constant lookout for how the world can serve them. They think “The world owes me, big time!” Givers on the other hand are always on the look out for how they can serve others, how they can create exceptional value for others, how they can touch the lives of others and how they can form meaningful connections with others. As a result they not only enjoy a more fulfilling and satisfying life and business they are also more successful.
  • Stay Open: Many of us have grown up with the idea that it’s better to give than it is to receive. As Nicole, one of the characters in The Go-Giver, says “I was brought up with the belief there are two types of people in the world. There are people who get rich, and there are people who do good. My belief system said you’re one or the other, you can’t be both.” To be genuinely successful we need to allow ourselves to receive. As long as you're focused on giving you have earned the right to receive, not the entitlement to receive, but the right. The key of course is to stay open to the receiving part.

As I mentioned earlier in this post these are skills we can all start applying in our lives and businesses right away, but they’re certainly not the only skills. I’m sure everyone reading will have some great advice and tips so please share them with us in the comments box below. The more we can collaborate to advance the cause of Givers and halt the progress of Takers the better.

Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling. 

Image Credit: Taken movie 2008 - 20th Century Fox