Me or Team?

I was having a great conversation recently with a leader. He was telling me about a conversation he had with one of his team. The team member was telling the leader about all the things that he had done and achieved. He constantly said “I” did this, and “I” did that. The leader was not impressed.  You see the team member was leading a large team of employees, all working towards the same goal. The Manager was taking all the credit when he couldn’t have done it all by himself.

The same leader was also telling me how he emailed his boss to tell him about the great work his team had done. He boss replied with praise for the work he had done leading them. When the team does well it reflects positively on the person leading them. Conversely, if the team is struggling and directionless the leader will be blamed.

Is this a contradiction? What am I trying to say?

Well the thing is, the great leaders I have worked with and respect, don’t take credit for the work their team has achieved. Instead they praise and point out their great work to others, particularly those more senior in the organization. They are generous and modest.

Of course really good leaders have had a role to play in their teams doing well. They set the direction, showed the way, helped set goals for their team, gave feedback against their progress, listened and coached….

Less than good leaders and managers tend to either micro manage tasks, do the work themselves and take all the credit. They want to control seeing this as a form of power, which it is just not a very effective one.

So when can you talk about your very own achievements? When can you take credit?

Well, in a performance review you should point out the things you have done well. Definitely. But if they are the things your team should be doing you are in trouble. Also in a job interview you should talk about the things you did. Not the things we did. Interviewers always want to know the role you played in the success of the team or the organisation so they can see how you would fit.
In October I attended a HR Conference and I can tell you that sometimes it’s not that exciting. But sometimes it is and sometimes the speakers challenge me and how I view my work in the organization I work within. Professor David Clutterbuck spoke about talent and how we define talent, the definition is that it’s contextual and very, very difficult to define.

But something stuck. The thought that “talent” is not achieving for yourself but achieving for a greater cause or purpose. The same applies for leadership and that's the stuff I'm talking about here. Great leaders help people do better and always are complimentary and modest.