Who gets the credit?

crop unrecognizable person packing ceramic tableware in parchment

Our living room is filled with moving boxes and there’s no book left on our bookshelf. Everything is in boxes, waiting to be moved to the new home. I finally packed my first box yesterday, and then spent more time telling everyone about my moment of pride than the time I spent packing it. 

Until I was corrected by both my wife and my oldest daughter, who can take the shared claim of having boxed our whole house with just the two of them. Their correction was calm, but ruthless. 

‘How much was already in that box when you started packing it?’ my wife asked me. 

‘Well, OK… it was already filled up with climbing gear and camping gear. All I added was a few crampons and then I closed it with duct tape.’ 

Did you ever get caught like that, taking credit for something you only half did? Quite the embarrassment! 

And the worst is, I honestly, genuinely didn’t even consider that I didn’t actually pack that box, but that 75% of it was already done for me. That’s terrible. That’s some serious lack of insight into one’s own incapabilities. 

So often as leaders we let our team do all the work, but we’re happy to take as much of the credit as possible without getting caught. Until someone does catch it. 

So, what did I do? I just kind of laughed it off. ‘Oh yeah, it was only half a box, haha.’ 

What I should have done is taken a moment to give them some credit. Thank them for their leadership in this massive project. Praise them for their planning and commitment. Late hours after long days of work. Keeping the joy alive after many unexpected challenges. 

Sounds a bit like leading your team? 

Here’s something I have observed. When you (unintentionally?) take credit away from someone and make it yours it evaporates, is ridiculed, and trust is lost. When you intentionally give credit where credit is due, it’s like it multiplies and comes straight back at you. When credit is shared, it isn’t divided, but it’s multiplied. 

“Great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

–Mark Twain

Next time you get up in front of your team, pick a few team members, give them some credit and watch how it multiplies. Nothing vague, nothing wishy-washy. Straight up, concrete stuff. Make it specific, tell a story, share some results. Tell them why this is important for the whole team, and allow everyone else to share in the joy of seeing a team member shine. 

Finally, look around and see how it’s making everyone shine and beam with joy. Oh, and that one team member that doesn’t seem to enjoy this whole credit-giving so much? That self-centred, ego-centric attention seeker who wished a little more credit was given to them instead? Don’t judge them.

That could be you or me.

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