President Obama’s State of the Union address last week was referred to as more of a “farewell speech” than a State of the Union speech (NPR News). Not uncommon in the eighth year of an eight year run.
What struck me about the speech was the number of times Obama shared what he DID accomplish in his last term, let alone the last eight years. Setting aside your political biases, it was quite an impressive list. Many things in our country have stabilized since he took office. No one is in free fall now and our major banks are healthier than ever. The auto industry is healthier than EVER. “We’re back. We’re all the way back from the recession,” said Charles Chesbrough, senior principal economist at IHS Automotive. (Detroit Free Press, 10-15-15)
Obama did in his speech what I think every good leader does – claim and name his own achievements so that we don’t forget and also - because they belong to him.
Here are my questions for you:
1. Should YOU claim your own successes if your company culture, corporate culture or media culture does not automatically give YOU the credit?
2. Should we worry about assigning “credit” anymore at all?
3. Is everything always a “team” win?
Think back. Remember the job you had a few years ago, when YOUR ideas drove the product sales to double-digit growth? Or when your hard work and attention finally won-over that tricky client? And how deflated you felt when the credit for that success was attributed to “everyone pulling together and executing the plan.” But really, it was YOUR idea to begin with. Is that the right way to attribute success? Is there another, better way?
On the other hand, I remember the times I was given the sole credit for a business success, knowing full well that my team, or certain members on my team, made it happen. Not just me. Not by a long shot….
In my career I am obsessed with giving individual people credit where it’s due – for ideas, work ethic, skills, ambition, spirit and drive. If all “wins” belong to the team, we are leaving behind - in a big heap on the table - the vision and passion of the special leaders who may have shined brightest on this project. Is it wrong to highlight contributors that stand out among the team?
I think the challenge in both scenarios is that SUCCESS NEEDS TO BE RIGHTFULLY CLAIMED.
So, if you do come up with “the next new cool idea” and aren’t credited in your job – do you need to take ownership of your own success?
I vote YES, YES, YES. If no one gives you the credit you deserve, go ahead and claim it yourself. We are not a nation or culture that thrives on “group think”. Innovation and individual accomplishment is the engine that drives our country.
However – no (wo)man is an island. A great deal of the time teamwork proves crucial to success and is therefore rightfully valued.
So if by chance you are given the sole credit for something that you did not remotely do on your own, share the success. Give the rightful credit to the team.
Be sure it is rightfully claimed. There is room for all of us.