(this is the fourth part of a five part series)
As I mentioned before, i’ll follow-up the habits with some commentary on how I see these in my daily life.
The 20 habits that prevent you from getting to the top
11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
Claiming credit we don’t deserve is, if anything, severely annoying. This day and age, it’s almost delusional to think that anything worth accomplishing is accomplished alone. You know that, and believe me, other people know that as well.
Yet, what is also true is that people love faces and stories. Steve Jobs didn’t sat down to design the iPhone yet people see him as the man that brought it to the world. This attribution phenomena is a common one, and you should expect it (or even take it as an opportunity) when communicating to other people about the amazing job your team did.
Standing up and saying “my team did all the work, not me” is humble, but pointless. Does this mean that you should go in front of the camera’s and say that it’s all your invention and everybody should feel so lucky that you’re even talking to them about it? – definitely not. Bear with me while I explain further.
You see, when you say “my team did all the work, not me” the only thing people hear about that message is “not me”. That you didn’t do it and you’re just a spoke person for some huge expensive structure of people, processes and tools that somehow managed to [luck maybe?] deliver results. As one of my mentors told me, as good as this structure is, they still need someone to coordinate, provide direction and leadership, and that’s you. Leadership is either implicit or explicit. By taking ownership, directing and delivering results, you promote accountability for delivering the results. It means you can take ownership to improve things and to do so at the risk of failure. If anything goes wrong, everybody knows who’s to blame. Think football managers (they’re not the ones kicking the ball in the field you know?). The opposite is a team in where somebody is involved but not committed to be in charge. In this sort of team, you don’t do anything perceived as risky, and when things go wrong, usually fingers start pointing.
You’re only a “genius with a thousand helpers” if you start trying (and failing) to answer all questions, from UX to product features passing by operations and architecture.
Be the face that is accountable for the success or failure of what you’re doing – be the face that your stakeholders attribute to the structure of people, processes and tools that deliver success and take your core team with you to do so reliably, wherever you go. Just don’t stand in front of everybody pretending you had no help.