Why should I extend a hand when someone else always gets all the credit? That is a very important question and one that should never be ignored. There is an old saying by Harry Truman that says “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”. Well, that sounds good and often times when we regurgitate that to ourselves it can help us to take the higher road. However, I am not sure Mr. Truman meant to imply that we should work hard and let others get the credit every time. Here is the difficulty; if you do things just to get the credit then you will never really accomplish great things. That is because one person alone cannot do great things. There is always someone (more than one) that has contributed in some way to our success. If you have ever watched the TV show Shark Tank in the introduction they always introduce the investors as self-made millionaire/billionaire entrepreneurs. These people are not self-made. There were many people over the course of their lives that contributed to their success. It might have been their parents; definitely it was their teachers, mentors, those who took a chance on them before they were rich. But getting back to the question of someone else getting the credit for the work we do. This is a dangerous perception for us to have as leaders and for our staff. If we perceive that our hard work goes unnoticed time after time we will not be as engaged in the work we do. That is the same for our staff. If they feel we take credit for what they did then you can bet in time your effectiveness as a leader will diminish.
Just this week I was in a large meeting full of titled leaders and the head of the organization said “We (meaning those in the room) do not do the work, we generate the work”. After all if you are in a leadership role chances are you come up with more ideas to improve your business which generates work for your staff. So we know that in order to carry out those initiatives we rely on the bright minds we lead to deliver. It is important that we give credit where credit is due. We should never receive an “Atta Boy” without recognizing our staff. On the converse we should never blame an “Oh Crap” incident on our team.
When I was in elementary school I was in a couple of plays. I learned really quickly that I preferred to be the back stage hand. I was much more comfortable in making sure the curtain went up on time and the lights were changed on queue then I was being cast in the play. There was little credit for being behind the scenes; when the play was over and the cast took bows the crowd cheered for them. The crowd was not thinking about those of us behind the stage and rightly so; if stage hands are noticed by the audience then chances are we did something wrong.
When you hear your staff or yourself saying “Why should I extend a hand when someone else always gets all the credit?” think that through. Try to get to the root of why that person (or you) feels that way. Is it because there really is not a spirit of collaboration on your team? Perhaps your leaders have failed to ever recognize your contributions, or is there a self-promotion attitude being exhibited? The root cause is more important than the question. As leaders we have to confront our part in this. We have to be willing at all times to give credit publicly and privately. We have to work hard and trust that the reward will come. If there is one thing I have learned letting something important fail in spite or patting myself on the back never yields the fruit I seek. So, why should we extend a hand when we know that person will get all the credit; because it is the right thing to do. In the end we can never go wrong by doing what is right.