In the late 1990s I recall leaving an executive meeting with the head of one of our sales teams. He was fuming about the company president. “What did he do?” I asked.
My colleague explained that three months ago he’d told the president that the labor market was getting really tight and we needed to hire an agency to send us better customer-service prospects. The applications we were getting from the newspaper ads (remember those?) just weren’t good enough. The president objected. He said an agency would be too expensive. So my colleague dropped the idea.
“Then in the meeting today he says he played golf last weekend with a buddy who hired an agency and is getting great results, and that we need to bring in the same agency. He thinks it was HIS idea!”
I’m not interested in who was right or wrong. It may be that my colleague did a poor job of communicating the urgency of the situation, so the president, a busy guy with lots on his mind, didn’t make a well-thought-out decision. Or it could be that the president was a credit hog.
What matters in this story is the reaction of my colleague. The people who work for you crave autonomy and responsibility. They desperately want to make a difference. My colleague wasn’t just angry when our boss took credit for his idea. He was demoralized. He’d envisioned an opportunity to ally our company with a vendor who could bring us better talent. He saw himself scoring a small victory and advancing his career. And his boss dashed his hopes by stealing his idea. And if that weren’t bad enough, the president told him which agency to use. My colleague wouldn’t even get credit for finding a valued partner.
A good leader always gives people credit for what they’ve done. A GREAT leader will often do even more. That is, come up with a winning idea, or drive results on a successful project, and then give the team credit for the victory. Great leaders know that their own bulb burns brighter when their team members shine.
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