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Nick Hodges
Nick Hodges

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Credit Where Credit is Due

When I was in the Navy, a large part of my job was to provide daily briefings to a senior officer. Very often that senior officer was of flag rank (an Admiral or a General). It is the job of intelligence guys to keep an eye on things and make sure that the decision makers had the latest information. That usually took the form of a daily briefing. Intelligence is a 24/7 business, and so I would have a team working overnight to prepare a briefing every morning at, say 0700. I usually ended up giving the briefings, because the average enlisted guy doesn’t want to stand up in front of the “big brass”.

Now, this is a leadership “two-fer”. First, you get to take credit with your team for “taking the bullet” and being the one to stand up in front of the man, give the briefing and fielding the hard questions. Second, you can use this as an opportunity for giving credit where credit is due.

Few things can be more frustrating for a team than when the boss takes all the credit for the team’s work. This has happened to you, I’ll bet. You come up with an idea. The idea is shot down. And then two weeks later, your boss repeats that idea right back to you as if he thought it up. Or you find out later that he told his boss your idea as if it were his own. Good leaders have strong egos and don’t need to steal ideas. Instead, if they pass the idea up the chain, they go out of their way to give you credit for it.

Thus when giving those morning briefings, I never passed up an opportunity to give credit where credit was due. I often tried to work in phrases like “As a result of the excellent analysis done by Petty Officer Johnstone….” or “I don’t know, General, but I know that Chief Lyle has the answer.” This went a long way. My team (who was sitting in the back of the room) could see clearly that I knew they were doing good work and that I didn’t want to take credit for what they had done.

Some people might hesitate to do this because they think that they look bad if they don’t know everything themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most effective leaders are the ones that nurture and develop effective people. By giving credit where credit is due, you show that your entire team (led by you, remember) is up to the task. Your team sees that their work is appreciated and recognized. They see their boss standing up for them and promoting them. This engenders loyalty, trust, and more hard work.

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