Managers, Give Your Team Credit

There are a lot of differences between good managers and bad managers. One of them is that bad managers often try to take credit for the work that their team does as though they were the ones that did it.

I once had a manager who would even try to downplay the contributions of the team doing the work when speaking at monthly meetings and literally try to act like he was the one doing all of the work. It was doubly ironic because he didn’t really do any of the work at all.

Even worse was that his boss and his boss’ boss rewarded and encouraged that behavior. He got raises and bonuses while the team that he managed essentially got nothing at all.

I hope it goes without saying, but don’t do that shit.

I can hear people saying “but I’m the manager. I should be taking credit for the work!”

No, you should be taking credit for leading a team that can do the work and helping move the boulders out of their way. YOU did not do the work – your team did. You enabled them to accomplish great things. There’s a big difference.

How do you do that? Believe it or not, it’s actually more straightforward than you’d believe.

The first step is literally to reframe how you report status and achievements. Instead of saying “I did Thing X”, you say “We did Thing X” or “My Team did Thing X” or “Our Team did Thing X”.

After that, point out concrete things that your team members did in order to achieve the thing you’re talking about.

If people father up the food chain try to give you all of the credit, go out of your way to put some of the spotlight on your people. No, I’m not kidding. A director or VP trying to give all of the credit to a single person (especially the manager, who is usually hands off) is a sign that they are a bad manager (bad managers happen at literally all levels).

That, however, doesn’t mean you have to play that game yourself. My general response when that sort of thing happens is to say “I have a good team” and then outline a few things that the members of my team did to make sure that they also get credit (ideally you’d do a thing per team member, but on large teams this can be difficult when dealing with VP+ level executives because of time constraints).

This doesn’t make you look weak. On the contrary, to competent high ups, it makes you look amazing. It makes you look like someone who can pull together a group of people that really gets stuff done, and a good executive knows just how hard that is to do consistently because they’ve had to do it too.

It’s even better if you can pull together a group to do that while, at the same time, helping the members of the team grow in skill – both technical skills and leadership skills.

Your job as a manager isn’t to do the work. It’s to help make sure that the people doing the work are able to get things done and to encourage them to grow along the way. Part of that job includes not taking credit for having done the work yourself.

There’s a word for a manager who looks like they’re doing all of the work of a team – ineffective.

There’s also a word for a manager who takes all of the credit for the work their team does – abusive.

As a leader, you don’t want to be either of those things.

And my former manager who took credit for everything and left his team out in the cold? Almost the entire team left within the span of a few months.

So there are actually two words for a manager who takes all of the credit. The second one is alone.


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