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The Active Go-Giver

Wouldn’t it be great if the more you gave, the more you got back in return? If that were true, imagine how it would transform your workplace, your career, and even your family life. All of a sudden there’d be an upsurge in people wanting to give, give, give, instead of always taking (from you)!

go giver cover
Well, that little scenario is the seemingly implausible idea behind a recently published book, The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s written in the business parable style popularized by the bestsellers Who Moved My Cheese, the One Minute Manager – and more recently The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.

After reading it, I agreed that the underlying message was worthwhile and good… But somehow, I was skeptical. Sure, I can believe it. But will other people buy the ‘Go-Giver’ message’? Does it have any ‘new’ or fresh insights that would persuade people who are not ‘natural givers’ to adopt a giving mindset? Could it convince those people who routinely put their own interests ahead of everybody else’s to change their ways?

So, I put the book aside and mulled. I decided to put it to a test. I would observe people I come in contact with to see if I could spot any true Go-Givers.

Now, before I go any further let me give you a quick synopsis of its principles. Burg and Mann have structured their story around five laws which are based on value, compensation, influence, authenticity and receptivity.

1. The Law of Value:
Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than take in payment.

2. The Law of Compensation:
Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

3. The Law of Influence:
Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest first.

4. The Law of Authenticity:
The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

5. The Law of Receptivity:
The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

My mission was to spot a Go-Giver. We can all identify someone who is experiencing success. But how do we know their success is a result of ‘giving’? Here are the ten clues I used to look for a Go-Giver:

1. A Go-Giver does you a favor and is not looking for compensation.
2. A Go-Giver helps you just because they want to and is not keeping score.
3. A Go-Giver listens carefully to how your day was, or how a project is going.
4. A Go-Giver helps you without caring whether your status is high or low in life.
5. A Go-Giver makes connections for you because they believe in you.
6. A Go-Giver over-delivers on a job because they want you to be happy (and tell your friends).
7. A Go-Giver recommends a competitor if they are a better fit.
8. A Go-Giver is someone that others spontaneously and enthusiastically rave about.
9. A Go-Giver goes out of their way to help others.
10. A Go-Giver always seem to be connecting with the right people to make good things happen.

The rise of social media tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and blogs) has made it much easier to spot the Go-Giver’s in our midst. Many people and organizations are using these tools in creative ways to ‘do good’. One that springs to mind is Freecycle.org. It’s a global environmental network that helps keep unwanted goods from going to the landfill. Over 5,524,000 people use Freecycle to give away things they no longer want, for free. That’s right. For free! Another go-giver example is Kiva. It is a person-to-person micro-lending website which enables individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. And then there is Wiser Earth… and many more.

But giving isn’t limited to environmental causes, third world countries or charities. The Go-Giver philosophy is for people who want to create the life of their dreams, and understand that the fastest way to achieve that is to start giving of themselves – and to as many people as possible.

So as I looked around trying to spot the Go-Givers in my life, an unlikely example popped up. The Go-Giver I want to share with you is a colorful New York man identified as ‘Skydiver’ on Twitter.com.

On solid ground, he’s also known as Peter Shankman. Peter is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and the founder/CEO of The Geek Factory, a New York marketing and PR firm.

If you’re rolling your eyes at the fact that a ‘PR guy’ is my choice for a Go-Giver — hold on! Hold on! Please reserve judgment! I’m not looking for the Mother Teresa’s of the world. You can be a successful businessperson and a go-giver and not wear a ‘hair shirt’. Peter has come up with a generous ‘giving’ idea that benefits many people and is changing lives. It started off as a small experiment in social marketing on Facebook and grew organically.

Peter’s Go-Giver idea is called ‘helping a reporter out’, or HARO for short. It’s nice that Peter is able to help out his friends who are reporters, but I’m more fascinated by how his idea benefits ordinary people – giving them a shot at publicity that can transform careers, connect them with big opportunities and put businesses on the map. Wow!

So how does HARO work? Peter acts as the bridge between reporters who are looking for ‘sources’, and ‘sources’ looking for exposure in the media. On his website he says, “I built this list because a lot of my friends are reporters, and they call me all the time for sources. Rather than go through my contact lists each time, I figured I could push the requests out to people who actually have something to say.”

Unlike other rival services, Peter doesn’t charge anything to the reporter submitting a ‘query’ or the potential ‘source’ who replies. Anyone can sign up for free, and receive the three emails a day he sends out. On his site, you can see where Peter suggests that grateful subscribers make a donation to one of his favorite animal charities, but as his subscriber base grows things are changing. This little experiment in good karma is morphing into a viable, money-making business. Peter, intuitively, is following the Go-Giver laws.

1. The Law of Value:
Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than take in payment.

Peter’s got that one down. He’s delivering great value, at no cost to the reporter or the ‘source’. And he’s doing it in such a personable and entertaining way that people want to stay tuned.

2. The Law of Compensation:
Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

Peter has nailed this principle by serving a lot of people. Growing from 1400 email subscribers in March, to approximately 20,000 in July, is fourteen-fold growth. By leveraging social media tools it’s as easy for him to send to twenty thousand as to one hundred subscribers. With the click of his mouse he’s simultaneously expanding his network, and acting as a connector.

3. The Law of Influence:
Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest first.

Clearly Peter is placing the reporters’ interests, and the responding sources’ interests ahead of his own by offering HARO for free. Interestingly, it’s turned into a very smart business model. Advertisers have started sponsoring the daily emails, both for product ads and for job placement ads.

To this point, everything I learned about Peter came from the web and from being a HARO subscriber. But I wanted to hear his story firsthand. So I picked up the phone to talk to the Skydiver. “What’s all this talk about generating good karma? Have you ever thought of yourself as a Go-Giver?”

Well, Peter says he really does believe in karma and he had not heard of the Go-Giver concept. But his response was refreshing.

“We live in a society with a “ME, ME, ME” mentality. It is amazing what you can get in your life if you turn that around and ask, “How can I help?”

“How can I help?” What a simple mantra for a business. Coincidentally it’s also the heart of the Go-Giver.

Peter tells me he receives ‘thanks’ all the time from people saying how HARO has helped them get free publicity in major media like the New York Times or Business Week, or an interesting blog or online publication. Here’s one thank you from the many he’s received:

“Loving the queries, the humor, and the bridge between reporter and the people. Recommend you often. Thanks for doing this…”

I quizzed Peter whether he could continue offering the service for free, especially considering the tremendous growth.

“The growth has been phenomenal. We’re obviously meeting a need. We’ve gone from 1,400 subscribers in March of this year, to about 20,000. And that represents a very valuable demographic. The HARO subscriber list includes some of the best and brightest PR and marketing minds around, which is why we’re now attracting product and job placement sponsors. This is turning into a real business.”

Peter is a prime example of a Go-Giver. What I like most about his story is that he wasn’t looking for the money. But it came, because he focused on helping other people in a way that was uniquely within his field of expertise.

Interestingly, once I started looking for Go-Givers I discovered they were all around me, in every walk of life. I recognized so many others who are finding creative ways to give that I decided to compile a personal list of Go-Givers.

But my search for Go-Givers was not limited to online sources. My 80-year old father was over to dinner the other night and he reflected on the strong marriages that all of his children enjoy. He said to me, “With the divorce rate in society right now, it’s remarkable that all of you have found the right partners in life. I think it’s because you took your mother’s advice to heart. Focus on making your spouse happy and you will be happy.” I knocked on wood, and agreed with him.

But his comment echoed a passage from the Go-Giver book. Pindar, the mentor, is counseling Joe, the salesman, on how giving extends into all aspects of a person’s life, from their career to their marriage. He remarks on the longevity of his 48-year marriage and attributes it to this fact: “I care more about my wife’s happiness than I do about my own.”

So, I’d have to say that the Go-Giver book did pass the test with flying colors. By looking for Go-Givers, I found them, lots of them! Burg and Mann are right. It’s a powerful business idea that can change your life and lead to great success. But you have to be willing to ask yourself “How can I help?”

See my Go-Giver’s List



Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game, a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com. Franke is a creative innovator, artist and writer. She brings her creative problem solving and PR skills to work in answering letters, book reviews, articles and interviews. A longer bio on Franke can be found on her company site.

  1. 7 Answers to “The Active Go-Giver”

  2. A friend, who is an attorney, and I were in a bar (no, this is not a joke set-up!) and our food was late. The waitress offered us a pitcher of beer to make up for the kitchen being backed up. I started to tell her she didn’t need to do that when he interrupted and said we’d love a pitcher. Then he told me a piece of personal philosophy:

    “When someone offers you something and you want it, take it.”

    Think about it- if they’re sincere in their offer you’ll make them happy, if they’re not you just called their bluff.
    I now subscribe to this philosophy myself. Giving is a pleasure if sincere.
    Finally a quote from the Dalai Lama when I saw him years ago and he was asked to describe Buddhist philosophy:

    “If you cannot help someone, don’t hurt them”

    By Martin Edic on Aug 1, 2008

  3. Twittered by Christine Egger

    Awesome Go-Giver inspiration!!

    By Twittered by Christine Egger on Aug 1, 2008

  4. Hi, Franke, As a publicist I was pretty amazed to learn about HARO from your post. I can readily think of a few authors who would not have a clue if they were appropriate for a story or not, wondering why reporters don’t pelt Peter’s office windows at night with tomatoes. So I emailed him and asked. Here was his response: “Very simple: if it gets back to me that people are inappropriately pitching, I kick them off and name them on the list to 20,000 people. Its a lovely deterrent.” Ah-ha! Makes more sense now. It’s right up there with “Trust God and tie your camel.” The man is grounded in reality. 🙂 Thanks for the heads up!

    By Kathryn Hall on Aug 1, 2008

  5. Twittered by the Coyenator:

    Superb post Franke! And many new people to meet and follow! An honor to be included, warmest thanks

    By Twittered by the Coyenator on Aug 1, 2008

  6. Can You Spot a Go-Giver?
    Published August 5th, 2008 by Bob Burg

    In her blog Office-Politics, Franke James, Editor & Founder of Office-Politics®, dissects The Go-Giver and wonders if she knows people who indeed exemplify the Five Laws (i.e., could she “spot a go-giver?”). She shares one fascinating story in particular regarding a gentleman with a superb idea for “adding value” to the marketplace (simply for the sake of adding value), who then served lots of people with that value and profited greatly as a result.

    Excellent, very well-thought-out article by Ms. James. Give it a read, if you’d like, and then follow the link to the page where she lists some more of the go-givers she knows.

    Can you spot the go-givers in your life?

    By Bob Burg, Co-author, The Go-Giver on Aug 10, 2008

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