About Johanna Rothman

Johanna consults, speaks, and writes about managing product development. She helps managers and leaders do reasonable things that work. You can read more of her writings at jrothman.com.

Give Credit Generously

I had a boss who was great at saying, “Terri did this. Jen did that. JR did this other thing.” We all knew who had learned about different areas of the system, who had succeeded at which parts of testing or development or project management. It was great.

She didn’t just tell us. Nope, our boss told her bosses.

That’s one of the reasons I had many opportunities to grow in that particular job. Not just because I worked hard and did a good job. But because my boss told her management team.

Contrast that with some other places I’ve worked, especially where command-and-control still had a foothold.

I once led a small team where we were implementing a process control application. It was a difficult project. My manager knew what we were doing, but we were on the hairy edge of success/failure the entire time. I took a one-week vacation, and my team continued while I was away.

Another VP across the organization—not my manager—inserted himself in my project while I was away. For that entire week, he “managed” our customer. I had been the sole customer contact up until then. All hell broke loose.

I returned from vacation to a gazillion voice mails on my personal answering machine. (This is before the days of cell phones :-) It took me a month of plane rides to fix this customer problem.

When we released that project, it was successful. At the next Ops meeting, he told everyone that he personally had overseen the project. My manager did not participate at Ops meetings.

Afterwards, my manager asked me about the project. “I thought you and the team were working on this project?”

“We’re still cleaning up. You should see what Andy, Bill, and Mack have done. They have really performed. I’m just about ready to write my post-project review for you,” I replied.

My manager frowned. “Well according to VP, you had nothing to do with this project. It was all him, and only him.”

“Are you serious?” I was flabbergasted. “You know how hard I’ve been working on this. You’ve been signing my expense reports. Wait a minute. What about the guys? Did he say anything about them?”

“No, he didn’t mention them either. He pulled this project out of the fire, all by himself.”

“Do you believe him?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Well, I know you’ve been busy, but I don’t know if you’ve been distracted by other things.”

And that’s when I learned about the value of weekly one-on-ones (I’d been flying, so I hadn’t had one in a few weeks), email status reports or somehow letting my boss know what I was doing, and giving credit up. If I’d been giving credit all along for my project team, no one would have been distracted by the bozo VP.

I fixed that, pretty darn quick, and apologized to my team. They laughed it off. I’d built a lot of trust with them already. But my manager had a gazillion fires to fight. He had no idea who was managing what.

That is the topic of this month’s management myth: People Don’t Need External Credit.

The more you give credit, the more you look good.
 

Reference: Give Credit Generously from our JCG partner Johanna Rothman at the Managing Product Development blog.

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