Why we struggle to share credit

Back in the day when we went to university, it was a common feature in every batch to have a group of friends who would inadvertently have a designated "Khadem" or "assistant" from the same class, an ordinary-looking, kind-hearted male classmate who would take care of their every need at the drop of a hat!

If you look carefully, you can also find these "assistant" figures in the corporate world. It reminds me of a CEO friend of mine who was well-known for driving his big company to a new height with innovative and digital initiatives.

In the process, he masterminded a tech company with the support of a key partner and a prominent stakeholder. One of his loyal and trusted "assistants" who was rejected by other divisional heads of the company for his lack of professional prowess, was luckily placed in the project coordination activity to save his job.

One day, the "assistant" ambitiously approached the CEO to recommend him for the CEO role. Shocked at his proposal, the CEO reminded him of his inadequacies against the heads of competing companies. Despite the CEO's reservations regarding his professional abilities, the "assistant" eventually managed to clinch the top job in the tech company, using his so-called magic.

"Assistants" usually forget their models when they outlive their roles. True to his nature, in a recent interview with a prominent newspaper, the assistant-turned-CEO of the new company claimed full credit for himself for the entire process of conceiving the project idea to its current implementation.

"Sharing is caring is one of the first lessons we get from our parents, but we, like this "assistant", don't always follow it. And when it comes to sharing credit, we are even more remiss!

Common reasons behind this tendency include professional insecurity and being exceedingly ambitious. Another reason is the genuine belief that he/she made a greater contribution to the project deserving more credit.

Some are overly concerned about how it would impact their reputation or career prospects. And of course, there are the individualistic types who value personal recognition over team success.

Contrarily, sharing credit has many benefits to its credit – pun intended. For one, it can help foster trust and a sense of teamwork and collaboration, a sure recipe for building strong and effective teams.

Recognition can motivate team members to engage and perform better, strengthening relationships simultaneously. Finally, sharing credit prevents conflicts while building goodwill, which helps ensure recognition. In my long career, I have never found any leaders or managers ever being penalised or deprived of sharing credit with others.

There are many ways that credit can be shared in the workplace. Acknowledge the contribution of others by recognising the efforts of each and every team member. The use of inclusive language also goes the extra mile. For instance, use "we" instead of "I". And give credit, no matter how small, when and where it is due. If someone has made a significant contribution to a project, make sure the due credit is given in public.

Traditional leaders generally have a formula for success: passing all the work to others and taking all the credit when it comes to success. But the leaders of the digital era are quite different. They work together, take pains, share credit, and grow together. Let's all try to make digital-era leaders our role models and create a better working environment.

The author is a telecom and management expert.


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