Character, Credit and Credibility

by  Jane Perdue  |  Self Leadership

A small group of us had labored for months on a project to improve morale, performance and slowdown turnover in a particular facility. This assignment had been layered on top of already full task lists, yet it was a labor of love for most of the project team. Who can resist the lure of freedom to create whatever is needed to mend something so tattered and broken?

Several months into the project, improvements in metrics first trickled in, then surged. Employees were smiling again. Recruiters were less frenzied.  The project team was – as they say in corporate America – cautiously optimistic that our mix of solutions had generated the right alchemy for a turnaround.

Then came the company management meeting. The day when “I” slammed into “we.”

In his opening remarks, the president showered rave reviews on a woman from the project team, highlighting all her great efforts in turning around a troubled facility. He read the email she had sent to him. The email was full of “I” phrases:  I discovered, I researched, I thought, I did, I, I, I. There was no mention of her other four team members. (Bad on the prez for not doing more research.)

Could this be you? Have you tooted your horn yet forgotten the orchestra that accompanied you?

Credit-Taking Rules for the Road

  • Using “I” is appropriate when you’ve single-handedly done the work and the end result is stupendously good, not-so-good or just plain stinks.
  • You’re not alone. First there were six, now four-and-a-half degrees of separation between us in a world becoming ever more connected. You just never know when you’re going to bump into and/or need that someone you once threw under the bus.
  • But you’re gonna work alone.  No one wants to partner up with or even help a glory-grabber. What’s the point in signing on to be invisible?
  • You’ve written a bad story about yourself. It doesn’t get any more powerful than word-of-mouth praise…or condemnation. You’re in the driver’s seat as to which story people will tell about you.
  • The “gotcha’s” will get you. Someday when you least expect it, your boss or some other pooh-bah will ask you – in a very public venue – for details of “your” terrific work. That’s when your career path hits a dead-end, and you won’t hear the applause the orchestra gets for playing it’s about time.

Taking and sharing credit:  it’s your choice, your story, your character and you’re in control.

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Christina Haxton  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply


An excellent reminder for people to be mindful of the language we use … both written and “out loud.” Once it leaves our mouth, especially with witnesses (and elephant-like memories) to set it in concrete, we may forget, but they never will. What’s unforgettable is the “social pain” … the emotional skid mark left by mindless statements as you describe in one team-member’s email.

I look forward to reading more!

Jane Perdue  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Christina –

You are so right that the language we choose to use — and the intent with which we use it — can create pain or joy for those on the receiving end. Love your phrase “emotional skid marks” — it paints a great picture! Appreciate your kind words.


Don Shapiro  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Jane, Great blog. Made the point loud and clear. It’s all about character…who we are inside.

Your insights bring to the forefront an issue that goes beyond leadership practices in organizations…not giving credit where credit is due. As our world has become more virtual with so many people on social media and blogs, it has lead to a significant amount of written copy being shared without any credit or attribution given. People are lifting statements out of published books, commentary, blogs, Facebook post, TV shows and more without giving any credit to the people who wrote those statements. This has reached epidemic levels. I believe most of this is happening because our school systems do not teach anything about intellectual property, copyright and the more basic concept of just giving people credit for what they have created or done.

Jane Perdue  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Don – excellent point that attribution is nearly a lost art! I recently experienced just what you described — an individual was copying my LeadBIG blog posts and running them on his site as if he had written the content…amazing! Educating people regarding copyright is part of the equation, yet I also see simple ethics and integrity at play, too. Someone doesn’t need to understand the ins and outs of “intellectual property” to know that claiming the work of another is. just. plain. wrong. Thanks for your kind words about the post!

Page Cole  |  15 Mar 2012  |  Reply

I worked for a senior pastor of a church that did this same thing on a regular basis. He was on staff at the church for over 10 years, and eventually people began to catch on. Finally he moved on, but not long after the debt on the huge building project was completely paid off. A big celebration was planned, but no one wanted to invite him back, knowing he would want to take the credit for himself rather than praising the people for being faithful, and God for providing.

Karma is not just a Hindu philosophy… I’m testimony that I’ve seen it work in Baptist life too!

Praising others for their contributions is ALWAYS a good idea! Thanks for the reminder!

Jane Perdue  |  17 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Page – what a great story showing us that character knows no gender, ethnicity, faith, etc. limitations…it’s open to anyone who cares enough to make it happen. Thanks for sharing!

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