Debunking the “It Doesn’t Matter Who Gets the Credit” Myth

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It happens all the time.

You’ll find yourself in a planning session with a group of leaders, when all of a sudden someone will use one of the well-worn leadership axioms, “Well, just think of what our team can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit!”

That quote is usually attributed to Harry Truman.

Well, with respect to both Truman and this leader who quoted him, this sentiment is just wrong.

It really does matter who gets the credit.

The sentiment underlying the statement is noble enough. The idea is that we don’t want our cultures to be infected by grandstanding players, vying for individual attention. I get that.

But the idea that you, as a leader, ought to be unaware as to who keeps coming up with your team’s best ideas is not in the best interest of your team, your culture or your leadership.

It really does matter who gets the credit.

You need to know the relative strengths of your team players. You need to know who it is that is consistently, and disproportionately, generating the initiatives that are creating the most ‘wins’ for your organization. And for that to happen it needs to be “okay” in your culture for those top performers to be recognized.

They need to get the credit.

Jack Welch calls this ‘differentiation’. On his website, Welch puts it this way; “Companies win when their managers make a clear and meaningful distinction between top and bottom performing businesses and people.”

If you have bought into the idea that “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” step back and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know who is generating our best ideas?

  • Do I know who is launching our most successful initiatives?

  • Do I know who is producing the most results?

  • Do I know who is the most encouraging person on our team?

  • Do I know who is going out of their way to support their teammates’ projects?

If you do, give them the credit.

The whole team will ultimately benefit if credit is given where credit is due.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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