Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

It Matters Who Gets The Credit

There is a reason for First Place and Gold MedalsYou may have heard the thought that there is no end to what we could accomplish if we didn’t care who got the credit. (Ironically, that has been credited to President Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, writer Laing Burns, Jr. and several others.) It is sometimes stated with a slightly corrective tone when an employee is frustrated over not receiving recognition for work or when someone else incorrectly receives recognition for it.  Then, we wonder why good people lose enthusiasm!

Giving credit or acknowledgement is a form of praise and it should be done correctly. If–as is often the case–raises, bonuses, promotions and perks are given on the basis of contribution, it is critical that credit is given to the right people and in the right way.

Giving credit where credit is due.

* If everyone in a group contributed close to equally on a project, don’t single out individuals for public praise.  Supervisors and managers should express appreciation to individuals privately and refer to each person’s contributions when preparing formal commendations and performance evaluations. However, if everyone did their jobs effectively, keep the credit focused on the group and on the value of working together. (Also remember that a manager’s job is to monitor work–including work of ad hoc groups–to see to it that everyone does contribute effectively. )

*If individuals are given credit in public or private for specific work on a group project, make sure it is well-deserved.  Especially make sure someone else who rightfully deserves the credit isn’t overlooked.  It’s extremely demotivating for the wrong person to get credit for work. What makes it worse is that most good employees don’t want to sound as though they are looking for praise or taking credit, so they’ll keep quiet about it but feel deeply wounded.This is why it is so crucial that supervisors and managers are aware of the quality and quantity of work being done on a daily basis by each employee, as well as what they are contributing to group work.

*Do not give special praise just because someone is perpetually needy or is a squeaky wheel. Especially do not do so at the expense of the real contributors who quietly but effectively do the bulk of the work or who repeatedly save the day in a crisis.  All employees have a strong sense of what is fair and what is not.  Even those who are not involved can become demotivated over unfairness.

*A group coordinator may not deserve accolades for work the team has done.  Often the person put in charge of a project receives most of the credit,  whether or not they displayed leadership, made assignments and guided work, or even participated at all.  Managers should praise the team as a whole or recognize each person for specific contributions, rather than automatically giving most of the credit to the person who was “in charge”, unless that person clearly was the guiding light for the work.

*The fact that someone says they are outstanding doesn’t make it so.  It’s amazing how many otherwise savvy supervisors, managers and executives believe the self-aggrandizing stories of some employees–especially when the employees downplay the work of others who may not habitually seek bragging time with the boss.  The next thing you know, the stories are repeated as truth and a positive reputation is built on nothing but self-reporting.

*Letting higher level managers know about the good work of individuals is a way to show loyalty to employees.  If an employee works faithfully to make a group, section or project successful, the least the supervisor or manager can do is make sure higher level people know how dependable that person is–and how dependable they are in comparison to others.  Otherwise, when it’s time for personnel decisions, the wrong choices are made and injustices are done. This is especially true when the manager with the knowledge is no longer there to report the facts. Documentation in a performance evaluation is good (and necessary), but nothing is as effective as using an employee’s name positively in a discussion about a project. Never make the mistake of thinking an employee doesn’t care who gets the credit–they almost always do!

*Giving credit when it is not deserved encourages mediocrity.  Why should someone who is not being effective change their performance or behavior if they get as much or more credit as everyone else? Why should someone give 150% when the person who gave 50% receives the credit for the work?

*Internal motivators have to be nurtured.  Much is said in management books about internal motivators being more compelling than external motivators.  However, like the thought about not caring who gets credit, it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny in real life. 

External motivators (job titles, increased authority and responsibility, perks, bonuses, pay for performance, commendations, public  praise and receiving credit) are important to almost everyone who works. Those are the things that nurture internal motivators in-between the praising. When someone deserves credit for work but they don’t receive it, or someone else receives it instead, internal motivators start drying up.

The bottom line:  No doubt about it, if we didn’t care who got credit for our work, we’d probably approach it differently.  Roll credits! wouldn’t matter to actors; politicians wouldn’t care whose name was on the legislation; athletes wouldn’t care who got credited with the game-saving play;  writers wouldn’t care whose name was on the byline; researchers wouldn’t care who was credited with the lab or library work.  As long as something good was being done for society, the team or the organization, it wouldn’t matter.

Life isn’t like that.

Give credit where credit is due and only where it is due.

January 13th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 24 comments

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe — We Agree About Praise

About Praising

Praise what you want to have repeated. To praise someone means to commend them, congratulate them, honor them, extol their virtues, go into raptures over something they have done, or to strongly compliment them. Those descriptions set some high standards for what is praiseworthy! It also reminds us that there is a difference between thanking someone and praising them.

Ken Blanchard and Tina Lewis Rowe. Ken Blanchard wrote about the One Minute Praise in his books on the One Minute Manager concept. I teach about the Instant Impact Praise, which is praise that only takes a few seconds.  Both Ken and I (If I had ever met him I am sure I would call him by his first name) point out that praising not only emphasizes what behavior and performance is valued, it also is a way of saying that the employee is valuable. That is what makes praise so effective.

Tips for praising in ways that mean more to employees and you:

 1. Praise individuals. Telling everyone in staff meeting that you appreciate all they have done is appropriate. However, it will not have the same impact as communicating with each individual. If you have more than twenty people to praise, you may have to rely on mass compliments. If you have a smaller number, thank each person for his or her specific role.

2. Praise specifically. There are times when a general “good job” is sufficient, because the employee knows what you are talking about. Most of the time praise should be specific. For one thing, “good job” is not really praising, it is simply acknowledging in a rather tepid way.

3. Praise honestly.  When a supervisor walks through a workplace, smiling and saying, “Good work!” to everyone, it dilutes the praise for those who really are doing a good job, and gives false approval to those who are not. Look for ways to praise to the appropriate level of accomplishment, and look for ways to recognize what is praiseworthy.

* Develop a Praise Phrase Vocabulary: Use the concepts that fit the work and the person, and praise high enough to show how valuable the work and the employee really is. “Wow! You’re really impressive in the way you handle an upset customer.” “That was exactly the way that project needed to be done.” “This report is a masterpiece of organization.” “You are certainly catching on to this assignment considering the short time you have worked on it. You’re doing the inventory just right.” “When I hear compliments from clients like the ones I heard about this program, I am so glad you work here!”

Don’t those sound more like praise, than, “Good job”? You need to say more than one sentence. But, even if you have to stop at that because of time or the situation, you will have really praised!

* Praise when it is merited, not just to be tossing out praise. Praise is a form of training, because it lets employees know what is valued, and encourages them to do it again. If you praise when work or behavior is not good, or if you praise in generalities when only one specific thing was good, you still are training–but not about the right things.

If you think you will never be able to praise an employee, because he or she is not very praiseworthy, consider these two thoughts: 1. Watch more closely and find something to praise–it nearly always is there. 2. If there really isn’t anything to praise, what are you doing about it?

Enjoy praising–it is one of the best perks of being a supervisor or manager.

Most coworkers do not praise each other. If they do, the praise is more like friendly support. When a manager or supervisor praises it often has more value to the employee–not always, but often. Praise individually, specifically and honestly, and it will brighten an employee’s day, and yours too!

July 10th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 5 comments

When “Praise In Public, Criticize In Private” Is Not The Best Tactic

Even Coach Lombardi sometimes criticized in public!“Praise in public, correct in private” is advice that is often given in supervisory training without discussing its intent or the exceptions to it as a rule.

The most ancient attribution for that thought goes back to about 35 BC when Publilius Syrus said, “Admonish your friends privately, but praise them openly.”

Catherine the Great, in the 18th Century, said, “I like to praise and reward loudly, to blame quietly.” (Although her idea of blaming was usually an execution.)

The most frequent–and modern–attribution is to the great football coach, Vince Lombardi, who wrote, as part of an explanation about building a team, “Praise in public; criticize in private.” (Coach Lombardi was likely thinking of public in the literal sense, because he spent considerable time being interviewed about the wins and losses of the Green Bay Packers.)

That axiom is useful for reminding us of a some key issues about relationships with individuals and work groups:

  • We show loyalty to groups and individuals when we support and praise them to others and reserve our complaints and criticisms for when we can talk to them face to face in a private setting.
  • When we acknowledge the accomplishments and efforts of employees in front of other employees or groups, it helps them gain status and appreciation and also strengthens our relationships with them.
  • We can damage relationships and the confidence and motivation of everyone involved if we embarrass or anger employees in front of their peers or to others in or out of the organization.
  • Sincerely praising employees in front of others sends a message about what is valued.

However, there are exceptions to that bit of advice. For example, in a work setting there are plenty of times when praising in private is preferable.

When praising in private might be more appropriate than praising in public:

1. When a supervisor observes small demonstrations of effective behavior or performance that merit a brief and sincere immediate acknowledgement but do not require a more elaborate praise.

2. When one or more employees repeatedly do outstanding work that is above the norm while others rarely do. Publicly praising one or two much more often than others can create ill feelings and can become an embarrassment to the effective employees as well.

3. When it is likely that many in the group feel they have been working hard on a project, even though you are aware that only one or two actually made the project successful. Publicly praising the one or two extremely effective employees specifically, even if you praise everyone else as a group, will often create ill feelings.

4. When the matter being praised reflects poorly on another employee by comparison, even though you do not mention the other employee.

5. When praising in public will set an employee apart in that way that creates discomfort. Supervisors should be aware of group dynamics and culture for that reason.

6. When the behavior or performance being praised is not exceptional for most employees, only for this one. Praising in those cases can frustrate and anger the employees who have been doing that level of work all along. (On the other hand, when new employees are gaining skills and knowledge, coworkers are often happy for them and will be more likely to support the praise.)

7. When there is no convenient opportunity to praise an employee in front of others because of the nature of the work or group.

8. When the personality and style of the employee is such that public praise would be a disincentive. You may be able to change this feeling by not being excessive about praise. However, there are some employees who appreciate private praise but genuinely do not want to be the focus of attention by others.

Praise as often as possible, both in public and private. There are many, many times when we can make a differene in work and the feelings of employees though a brief but sincere public recognition of the work of an individual or group. There are also many times when praise means more if given in private, when the supervisor can be a bit more effusive and personal, and the employee can bask in it for a moment, rather than feeling uncomfortable.

The key for your effectiveness is to do the right thing for the situation, rather than relying on generalized advice–no matter who said it.

April 29th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 6 comments