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How Give-and-Take Multiplies Talent and Influence

I’d never thrive as a fire chief.

Curiosity comes naturally to me. It’s unnatural for me to make statements before asking questions. If you ask me one question, I’ll ask you four.

The ease and speed of talent confuses and frustrates others.

Give-and-take multiplies the impact of talent by giving people a chance to catch up.

3 ways to use give-and-take:

#1. Expand your lens.

Talent assumes other people see the world through the same lens. But people wonder what I’m after when I’m pelting them with questions.

It’s hard for me to imagine that some people don’t enjoy asking questions. What’s wrong with them?


  1. Tell people what you notice.
  2. Ask people to explain what they notice about people and projects.

I’ve noticed that people who anticipate problems often complain about low commitment. It might surprise you to know that many problem anticipators become highly committed once their concerns are answered.

#2. Explain your motivation.

When talented problem anticipators forget to explain their motivation, they seem negative, critical, and uncaring. But the opposite is true. They’re protecting people from failure.

#3. Explore their purpose.

Genius is acting without thinking.

Your talent is your genius. I don’t think about asking questions. I just ask them. A talented problem anticipator doesn’t think about pointing out problems. They just do. (It’s actually energizing.)

Before pointing out problems, engage in give-and-take.

  1. What are you trying to accomplish?
  2. What’s your goal?
  3. What’s important to you about this?

Give a bit of yourself when people explain their purpose. “So, you want to improve engagement. I know what you mean. I’ve worked in places that sucked the life out of me. This is an important project.”

Affirmation lowers resistance and increases influence.

How has the ease and speed of your talent frustrated others?

How might talented people increase the usefulness of their talent?

Bonus material:

How to Increase Your Influence at Work (HBR)

How to Increase Your Influence (Science of People)

4 Key Influence Skills to Strengthen Your Ability to Influence Others (CCL)

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