Build your work cred with the power of the five-minute favour

The esteem of your colleagues will get you further than almost anything else. Here’s an easy way to cultivate it

One colleague handing a sheaf of papers to the other

(Paul Bradbury/Getty)

Adam Grant is a good guy to know. Not only is he the youngest tenured prof at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a superstar in the world of business psychology, he’s the author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.

Grant theorizes that most people in an organization can be classified as a giver or a taker: they’re either sharing knowledge, helping others and building toward bigger goals, or looking for ways to convince others to serve their ends while protecting their own time and expertise. Moreover, he believes those in the former category tend to climb higher in their careers than those in the latter. And they tend to carry their organizations along with them.

In his book, Grant promotes the idea of Five-Minute Favours (a concept he credits to fellow author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Adam Rifkin). The idea is that it only takes a few minutes to do something simple to help someone out, but the goodwill and social capital you gain will justify the investment.

During a recent Facebook live Q&A, a reader asked Grant what the best Five-Minute Favour he’d ever done for someone was. Grant’s response was a perfect example of a giver attitude:

“I’m a fan of the mantra ‘Give without remembering and receive without forgetting,’ so it’s much easier to highlight my favourite five-minute favour that I’ve received. One of the best was from my mentor Brian Little, who introduced me years ago to a new writer named Susan Cain. She was just beginning to work on a book called Quiet, and not only did that conversation change the trajectory of my research, it also inspired me to think about writing a book.”

In fact, Susan Cain ended up using some of Grant’s research into the power of introverts as the cornerstone of her book. Grant was barely in his 30s when they met. It was a huge boost to his career.

A couple years back, Adam Rifkin shared a list of easy Five-Minute Favours in a Forbes article he coauthored with Kare Anderson. It’s as great place to start if you’re considering banking a few ducats in your Karmic savings account.

  1. Use a product and offer concise, vivid and helpful feedback.
  2. Introduce two people with a well-written email, citing a mutual interest.
  3. Read a summary and offer crisp and concrete feedback.
  4. Serve as a relevant reference for a person, product, or service.
  5. Share, comment or retweet something on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+ or other social places.
  6. Write a short, specific and laudatory note to recognize or recommend someone on LinkedIn, Yelp, or other social place.