People often associate professional athletes with ego and self-interest. However, one of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how good many of them are at sharing credit with their teammates at press conferences. When an athlete gets asked by a reporter about a spectacular play they made, they will often deflect the praise and give credit to a teammate who helped make the play possible. Maybe a running back will give credit to the offensive line for opening up a hole. Maybe a pitcher will give credit to his center fielder who snagged a potential home run to save the game. Sure, it might just be the result of excellent media training, but there is a lot for those of us in the non-profit child advocacy community to learn from them.
What if, when given the chance to tell an audience, a donor, an administrator, or an elected official how effective our work is, we made a point of bringing up other organizations or leaders who played a role in that success?
I know of an organization that introduced one of their large donors to another organization they felt the donor might want to give to. They simply had a philosophy of serving their donors and helping them invest in the ways that were most meaningful to them. This, of course, is very different from a perspective that seeks to gather and keep as much for ourselves as possible. The result was that the donor ended up giving more to both organizations than they had ever previously done for the first one.
There are a lot of good reasons to be open-handed, generous, and share credit. Here are three of them:
- Credit-sharing increases trust
In a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Paul J. Zak writes, “The neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.”
In other words, when we publicly give credit to others, it helps to build trust between us and them. It is a tangible demonstration that we trust them enough to point other people to their work and that we believe they will steward that attention appropriately. Secondly, it helps them to trust us as a partner and ally that has their best interest at heart.
I think we all know what it does to our trust when we believe that someone else is simply out for their own benefit. Self-interest is a trust-destroyer while credit-sharing is a trust-builder.
- Credit-sharing is truth-telling
When we share credit with someone, all we are really doing is being completely honest with ourselves and others about reality. When good things happen in a collaborative environment, it is almost never 100% due to our own talent and effort. Almost always, someone else played a role. If you think you did an amazing thing all by yourself with no help, you are probably delusional. If you know you didn’t do it by yourself but pretend you did, you are worse than delusional. When you are collaborating, simply be honest about how these things are getting accomplished. Credit-sharing is just one manifestation of integrity.
- Credit sharing strengthens your allies
The foster care world desperately needs organizations and agencies that are as strong as possible. Our kids and families are at their best when the organizations that serve them are at their strongest. When we publicly point out the wonderful contributions others have made, it serves as an encouragement to them. The word “encourage” comes from the French word “encoragier,” which means to “make strong, hearten.” When we acknowledge the contributions of our partners it helps to make them strong.
Credit-sharing doesn’t always need to be done in front of a crowd, either. We can make sure our one-on-one conversations are sprinkled with gracious speech about the contributions of others. Even if the person you are sharing credit with never hears about it, you are becoming a better leader and the kind of person that others will long to partner with.
Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
When we cultivate the habit in our daily speech of sharing credit with others, over time, children and families will reap the benefits of your generosity.
This article first appeared in Jason Weber’s regular Foster Movement column of the Fostering Families Today magazine (Mar/Apr 2021 issue). To learn more about how you or your organization can subscribe to this great resource, click here.