How To Give Praise Without Destroying Your Culture

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In order to build an effective culture, you must know the relative strengths of the individual team members. You need to know who it is that is consistently, and disproportionately, generating the initiatives that are creating the most ‘wins’ for your organization.

But many organizations have developed a culture where having the leader possess such information is actually frowned upon.

Perhaps you’ve been in a meeting where a well-meaning teammate suddenly exclaimed, “Just think of what our team can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit!”

That quote is usually attributed to Harry Truman.

Well, with respect to both Truman and this teammate who quoted him, believing this idea could be damaging your culture.

It really does matter who gets the credit. In fact, it’s vital to your culture.

The sentiment underlying the “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” is noble enough. The idea is that we don’t want our cultures to be infected by grandstanding players, vying for individual attention. I get that.

But the idea that you, as a leader, ought to be unaware as to who keeps coming up with your team’s best ideas is not in the best interest of your team, your culture or your leadership.

It really does matter who gets the credit.

Jack Welch calls this ‘differentiation’. On his website, Welch puts it this way; “Companies win when their managers make a clear and meaningful distinction between top and bottom performing businesses and people.”

If you have bought into the idea that “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” step back and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I know who is generating our best ideas?

  • Do I know who is launching our most successful initiatives?

  • Do I know who is producing the most results?

  • Do I know who is the most encouraging person on our team?

  • Do I know who is going out of their way to support their teammates’ projects?

If you do, give them the credit.

Otherwise, if you continue to buy in to the “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” ethos, you will face an enormous leadership shortcoming; you will be unable to identify your key contributors.

So, no matter how noble the statement sounds, reject the notion that “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit”. Embrace the knowledge of the relative strengths of your team.

You will strengthen your culture if credit is given where credit is due.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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