I have a handy reminder hanging in my office:
“If everything goes well, we did it. If something goes right, you did it. If anything goes wrong, I did it.”
While each individual on your staff will have his or her own perspective on and appreciation of public praise, it’s our responsibility as leaders to promote the work our teams do. At the bare minimum, it helps clarify our own contributions to the organization’s success. If you’re doing everything you can to engage your staff and provide meaningful work, you automatically get some of the credit – especially so when you’re a big enough person not to lay claim to it when you’re sharing your stories.
The good news is that promoting your staff doesn’t have to be as formal as a weekly report or a reliable metric. Did your staff pull off some amazing feat? Mention it the next time you see your boss on the elevator or are making small talk before the teleconference begins. Did your budget analyst spot a chance to save a bundle of cash, but hates being singled out publicly? Throw a bullet into your quarterly review that highlights the savings without pointing fingers.
For me, the “black box” mentality is a disservice not only to the organization (think of all the folks who might benefit from the services your folks provide, if only they knew about them in the first place!), but, more importantly, your staff. People of all backgrounds thrive when given the opportunity to make a difference by doing meaningful work that has an impact. How can any project make a difference if the only person doing the appreciating is the boss? Put another way, if a tree falls in the woods, does the bigger tree next to it care a whit what noise it makes?