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leadership and giving creditDo you smile and feel good when accolades come your way? It’s incredibly gratifying to have your work be publicly acknowledged and praised.

But what happens when you get but really don’t deserve the applause because that “I” you used in describing the work was really a “we?”

A small group of us had labored for months on a project to improve morale, performance and slowdown turnover in a particular facility. This assignment had been layered on top of already overflowing to-do lists, yet it was a labor of love for most of the leadership project team.

Who can resist the lure of mending systems that are so tattered and broken? I can’t.

Several months into the project, improvements began trickling in. Then, gloriously, they surged. Employees were smiling again. Recruiters were less frenzied. The project team was – as they say in corporate America – cautiously optimistic that our mix of solutions had generated the right alchemy for a turnaround.

Then came the company management meeting. The day when “I” slammed into “we.”

In his opening remarks, the president showered rave reviews on a woman from the project team, highlighting all her great efforts in turning around a troubled facility.

He read the email she had sent to him. The email was full of “I” phrases: I discovered, I researched, I thought, I did, I, I, I. There was no mention of her four team members.

Those of us on project team were incredulous, hurt, and angry that this woman hogged all the credit.

(Also a big bad for the president for not doing more research or asking more questions.)

Have you ever been this glory-grabbing, credit-stealing woman? Have you tooted your own horn, conveniently forgetting the orchestra that accompanied you?

Thoughts on taking credit only when credit is due


→ Using “I” is appropriate only when you’ve single-handedly done all the work. It doesn’t matter if the end result is stupendously good, not-so-good, or just plain stinks. If other people have contributed, they get to share the glory or the pain.

Connections are the currency of business. Years ago there were six degrees of separation. We’re now down to four-and-a-half. You never know when you’re going to bump into and/or need that someone you once robbed of the recognition that they rightfully deserved.

→ Consider the possibility that the day will come when you’re forced to work alone because no one wants to work with you. Word has a way of getting out. Few people are willing to partner with, or even assist, a glory-grabber. 

→ Think about the wide-ranging implications that flow from “writing” a bad story about yourself. It doesn’t get any more powerful than word-of-mouth praise—or condemnation. You’re in the driver’s seat as to what people will say about you, be it good or bad.

→ Know that someday the “gotcha’s” will get you. When you least expect it, your boss or some other pooh-bah will ask you—in a very public venue—for the details of your terrific work on such-and-such project, and you don’t have them because it wasn’t your work. That’s when your career path hits a dead-end, and all you’ll hear is people saying thank goodness, it’s about time he/she got his/her come-uppance.

When the time comes for taking and/or sharing credit, it’s your choice, your story, your character, your legacy, and you’re the one in control. How do you want people to talk about you?

What’s your favorite story of someone taking credit for something you did?

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