Sign up FAST! Login

How to manage your inbox so you don’t miss a life-changing opportunity, by Adam Grant – Quartz

Stashed in: Networking, Interconnectedness!, @ifindkarma, Business Advice, Productivity, Awesome, Email, Favors!, panda, RTFM!, Networking, Organizing

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Adam Grant says:

Email was a vehicle for fostering dialogue with my more introverted students, and I encouraged them to share their ideas electronically if they didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in class.  All along the way, email has been one of my favorite tools for helping others.  Many of the notes in my inbox are requests for advice or introductions, and I try to contribute as often as I can.  I think of these responses as what Fortune’s best networker, Adam Rifkin, calls the five-minute favor: a way of adding high value to others’ lives at a low personal cost. Since I can’t be equally responsive to everyone, I prioritize by responding to my family first, students second, colleagues third, and everyone else fourth.

Adam Grant says he would love for strangers who email him to follow four principles:

1. Ask rather than demand. It’s remarkable that many emails from strangers have included statements like “I need your help” and “We should definitely meet.” When people declare their requests as statements or pleas rather than questions, I find myself less enthusiastic about helping.  Just asking politely, and acknowledging that I might be busy, turns out to be rather endearing and refreshing.

2. Tell me how I can helpwithout requesting a call or meeting. It’s much more palatable for me to help a large number of people if I can make them the five-minute favors. During one week, I counted the hours of my time that strangers were seeking, and found that they added up to more than 24 hours per day. To manage that load, I find that I’m most helpful when the request is for me to make an introduction or share knowledge by providing references to relevant articles, studies, or books.

3. Keep the email short and sweet. After receiving hundreds of emails from strangers that were many pages long, it’s clear that longer messages require much more time to read and respond. I’m now aiming to limit my own emails to one paragraph or less, and it would be incredible if strangers did the same.

4. Show that you’re willing to pay it forward. I was taken aback by the sheer number of people who came out of the woodwork with requests for themselves. I want to invest my time where I can have the most significant and lasting impact, so I’m much more excited about helping people who are motivated to help others. The strangers who receive the most support from me are those who make it clear how they planned to pay it forward—and to whom.

It is very funny and ironic that the most common email Adam gets is a plea for help. His whole book is about the power of giving. I'm not sure how to interpret this. 

He does sometimes get emails from people offering help, too:

I’ve seen at least four broad types of emails from strangers. The most common are direct requests for help—usually people seeking career advice. Second are inquiries about the ideas in Give and Take, and how to apply them or share them with others.  Third are requests for introductions and connections. The final category, which is by far the most rare, is people writing me and asking if they can help me—or offering to help me help others. It’s very Jerry Maguire...

As for the people seeking career advice, it's probably because he's a professor.

I don't think it's ironic about Grant getting pleas for help, as Rifkin points out his being a professor is precisely a position expected to provide help to students and his knowledge has direct application and value for us all beyond the campus. 

To Rifkin's other good point, I too was inspired by Grant's work and reached out to him earlier this year, for no other purpose than offering my help, and he immediately responded: 

On Apr 2, 2013, at 8:35 PM, Adam M. Grant <[email protected]> wrote:

You’re welcome, Rob, and thank you on all counts!  it will be wonderful to connect when you’re out this way, and I would be honored to speak at SXSW next year if folks there are interested in having me.




Adam M. Grant, Ph.D.

Wharton professor and author of Give and Take

I had offered to try and get him a speaking spot at SXSW.  He was as genuine and accessible as he sounds--great conversation and a great guy.

PS.  Grant's quote about Rifkin's five minute favor is also how I learned about Rifkin and found PandaWhale and then reached out again and started posting here.  

Now whether or not my positing about on various Stashes is a net value add or not is another topic.

Rob, I think it's a net value add, so please keep positing.

And yeah, we live in an increasingly interconnected world.

Sometimes I send people Adam Grant's way, and sometimes he sends people my way.