How to Give Effective Credit

The Office. Dilbert. Mad Men. This media is emblematic of how many employees perceive the praise and credit their managers give them or lack thereof. That is praise and credit that is insincere, self-serving, poorly timed, and often just plain wrong. Poor praise and the absence of appropriate credit happens at all levels of the management chain, but fortunately this isn’t true of the best managers. Unfortunately, the best managers only make up about 15–20% of all managers.

In what ways do great managers behave differently? Great managers don’t stand out, but rather they lead quietly. They always give their people credit, and never take it for themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are quiet or have small personalities, but the best managers put their people first. This means they are always aware of what their people are doing, praising people for the right things at the right time, and giving their people credit when talking to others. This distinct management difference arises from a team-first mindset and then the actions naturally follow that mindset.

Simply put, as a manager, never take credit for anything. At all. Ever.

As an individual contributor, it was necessary to look out for yourself if your manager didn’t. It was always best when your manager looked out for you, but you could always take credit for your accomplishments. In your role as a manager now, your job never includes receiving praise and credit for what you did. You only get credit for what your team achieves. This means you should always give away credit to others, especially concerning members of your team. Remember to give credit to people who aren’t in the room, as word will travel back to them. You should use praise as a tool and mete it out generously, accurately, and precisely.

It is exceptionally beneficial to give credit to others for things that you helped them to accomplish. Their success will reflect back on you, and as a result both of you will shine. If your mentoring was at the root of a person’s success, praise them without mentioning yourself. People will know the hand you played in their success and the person who is now succeeding will respect and trust you more.

As a manager, you won’t move up in an organization by doing things your team should be doing. You move up when your team achieves great things. Interestingly, giving your team credit will often transform the perception of you. Others will notice when you no longer focus on yourself, but instead are more concerned about your team or larger group. When this transformation happens, leaders will recognize it. This selfless attitude is often the best sign that a seasoned manager is ready to transition into leadership.

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