1. Become an expert appreciator yourself. Give others the credit they deserve. Catch them doing even small things that help the team. If your appreciation is genuine and timely, it will increase the frequency of the “appreciated behaviors” and at the same time demonstrate “appreciating people” as an important skill in itself. Appreciating useful contributions can become part of your team culture. You can start immediately, it doesn’t require extra budget or a task force study.
2. Beware of the first person singular. Listen to how you speak. Are your sentences peppered with “I did this” and “I did that”? Odds are that you are not the “first person” to make what you think is a “singular” contribution. With some exceptions, most important efforts require singular contributions from a lot of people. No one can give you credit for anything if you always beat them to it by taking it yourself.
3. Use the “Loyal We” instead of the “Royal We.” Be careful you are not taking credit for work done by others. Managers can fall into the “Royal We” trap when they are distant from the places where the work is getting done, but need to report on it. A good check is to recognize the contributions of others by name at the outset of a report or discussion. Always add a phrase like “and others I might not have mentioned by name” or ask those present if there are other people who should be recognized for their contributions. As a team member, speak about what “we” have achieved and learned together and what important contributions others have made. This is the “Loyal We.”
4. Improve your “assist to turnover ratio.” Many sports maintain statistics on assists and turnovers. Assists enable a teammate to score and turnovers give control of the game to the opponents. Increasing your “assists” requires that you develop a sixth sense of other people’s direction, speed, and strengths – not only where they are, but where they are going. As a point guard in basketball or midfielder in soccer , for example, you must be able to pass to where your teammate is going to be so that your teammate and the ball arrive there at the same time and in a way that enables your teammates to use their strengths to score. This takes a lot of observation, communication, and practice and ultimately, a lot of trust. Turnovers by contrast seem to happen more frequently when someone on the team tries to do it all alone. Figure out with your team what constitute assists and a turnovers in your business and begin tracking them. Give credit for the assists as well as the scores.
5. Focus on getting something done together. A wise man once said to me that “there are times when you can either get something done or get credit for it, but not both. You need to decide which is more important.” In the long run, you will find that if you work with others on your team to get things done, appreciate their contributions, and become an “assist leader,” you will get some credit you deserve, and even more importantly perhaps, you will experience the considerable satisfaction of being appreciated for doing things that you yourself really value.