When we sat down for our latest Business Impact Workshop, it was for a conversation with someone who perpetually avoids the word “I.”
For David Akridge, the Chief Information Officer of Mobile County Public School District, every accomplishment is attributed to “we.” Even ideas that originated in his mind and were executed under his leadership are always, without fail, a team win.
It’s a habit he didn’t even seem aware of, and when we pointed it out, he once again gave credit elsewhere. This time, it was to his father: “When I took the job here, he said, when you’re working … you’re hired to work under the boss and make their vision come true,” Akridge said. “You don’t worry about getting in the spotlight.”
Business is competitive. And, in turn, it attracts people who thrive on competition -- people who want to build the best product and bring the most profit. It’s only natural that so many business leaders have an ego. They’re creating a brand, and more often than not, they want their own names weaved into it.
But what Akridge has found, and it will come as no surprise to those who’ve worked in truly collaborative, supportive environments, is that sharing credit isn’t just about keeping egos in check. Sharing credit is a long-term investment in your team.
To be clear, there are times when it’s not only appropriate but completely necessary to highlight individual accomplishments. To attribute every last success to a team effort, when in fact some were the result of just a few people’s labor, is unfair to the people who put in that extra time and energy.
Akridge’s outlook is moreso a perspective on effective leadership. He cites football coaches as a prime example. “You watch any good football coach, when things are going well, it’s all about the players,” he said. “And when they lose, the coach is the first one to take responsibility. That’s how it should be.”
When an entire team shares a goal, each employee is doing their part to reach the finish line. At times, it may look like some people are pulling more weight than others. But as a leader, it’s important to recognize every last effort.
What does that look like in practice? Here’s an example. Think about a receptionist who handles front-desk calls while senior-level staffers are in a meeting. That meeting is perhaps where the details of a new project are hashed out. But over at his or her desk, the receptionist is doing their own individual part to keep everybody focused and on task.
In turn, when that project is finally completed, a great leader will recognize every person who played a part -- even those who, to continue that football analogy from earlier, were second-string.
If you’re a leader, your employees already know your name. There’s no need to keep repeating it. The real task is proving that you know their names, and their jobs, and their efforts.
You should be proud when your company achieves a goal. But that pride will feel even better when it’s shared equally. And when your employees feel valued, supported and thanked, there’s only more pride to come down the road.