The End of Giving ‘Til It Hurts

officeWorkersHighFiveYou’ve heard there’s no “I” in team, right? Career coaches, bosses and the people you work with have told you never to take credit. Never say: “I did this project! Came up with the strategy, implemented the tactics and for sweeping up the tickertape (or shredded financial statements) from the parade, I’m happy to take credit for the success.”

You’ve seen MVPs on camera after nearly every winning series say, “It’s the team. It’s the fans. The coach was great. And, the real credit goes to the naysayers who really motivated me! But, me? Aw shucks. No. But, thank you, Mom!”

Is this any way to build your career? Can you be your own talent manager if you won’t acknowledge the talent? Is there really no “I” in team? Can you constantly be looking out for your co-workers, administrative assistant, staff, vendors, and your boss? Can you share all your resources with abandon, including the credit you’ve earned, and still have enough juice to make your way?

Being too trusting or too generous was considered a gender issue at one point in time. For example, Sheryl Sandberg wants women to lean in. My experience is that the gender issue is a bit dated when you look at the behavior of young managers today. After all, the Millennials made sure everyone in class got a valentine, there were enough cupcakes even for the losing team and no one needed a date for prom.

This fear of competition or perhaps appearing to be your own best spokesperson, have led the myth that the “I” word is a bad one. It’s not.

There is a “me” in team, if you work the letters a bit. As a career coach, I recommend you learn to take credit as much as you learn to share it. And, be careful what you give away, because your false sincerity – much less your resentment about the lack of regard or that bonus you thought you deserved – will drive opportunities and people away from you.

A more balanced approach is the only way to keep your career on track, according to Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. It’s great to be a “giver,” just make sure the recipients of your generosity are giving back in equal measure. They might not give back to you directly – but make sure they are passing on your acts of kindness, generosity and encouragement.

Grant isn’t promoting a me-first, only me, and more about me philosophy. He notes that some of the great givers including philanthropists like Jon Huntsman, Senior and Richard Branson manage their generosity.

So, make a plan to dole out your credit, appreciation and other bounty appropriately. And, make sure your career strategy is like a good financial one: pay yourself first.

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