I’m facing a bit of a dilemma. Among community professionals, I know that I am not alone in this one.

I go back and forth on the scale of humility and self-promotion on a daily, even hourly, basis. I like to do the work. I don’t always like to talk about doing the work. It takes a lot out of me to promote what I’ve done.

What’s Wrong with This?

That’s actually a problem. Working heads down all the time is not how you get promoted, get better clients, get to chase the dream. It’s how you get lost in details and lose the big picture. It’s important to do the work, but perhaps it’s even more important to promote the value of that work and your role in it? I say that with a deliberate question mark at the end of that sentence.

I do believe that the best leaders make their followers look good, but there is a great tradeoff here. The person quietly giving away the credit is often overlooked, underpaid, and under-appreciated.

I don’t know if it’s my gender or my southern upbringing, but I almost never ever take credit for the work that I do. Patrick O’Keefe once wrote about this as well. Patrick is southern too, so maybe there’s something in my latter theory above.

Giving away credit feels good, feels like an open door. In an ideal world, everyone would give each other credit and see that all our efforts are interconnected. But that ideal world doesn’t exist… yet. I like to operate thinking it does, but I can’t help but wonder what I may have missed by not taking responsibility.

What’s the Opposite of Giving Away Credit?

The person who carries around data about their contributions, charisma in the face of uncertainty, and confidence in their value is the person who attracts the attention of the C-Suite, who demands greatness from those around them, and who ultimately gets raises, promotions, and new opportunities.

So… Are we doomed if we don’t take credit, if we don’t walk with serious swagger?

Or is there another way?

And at what point do the scales balance between taking credit and giving it away?

4 thoughts on “On Giving Away Credit in Your Community

  1. It’s always a tough balance and often people naturally lean more one way than another.

    You don’t want to be overly self-promotional without doing the real work. We all know some people like that and even though they can succeed at creating a lot of awareness for themselves, their credibility is shallow.

    I think the concept of “impact” is really interesting in the conversation around credit. Would you dedicate your life to doing something that impacted everyone in the world positively if you knew you wouldn’t receive any credit for it?

    Ultimately I think a good practice is to do the work, and consistently share your learnings along the way. This way, you’re executing, but also letting others know about your accomplishments while helping them by sharing your learnings.

  2. Hey Carrie,

    Haha, I’m not even sure myself what article that might be. I am grateful for the mention, though.

    I’m a big believer in both doing the work and shifting praise away from me. I think shifting praise is such a powerful tool. Not only does it feel good and is correct usually, but once you shift praise to someone, I find they are much more likely to shift it themselves. The circle continues. Yes, some just accept it and don’t praise anyone else, but I find that doesn’t really matter. I don’t expect an ideal world.

    Because I’m constantly spotlighting others in this space, I’m sure sometimes people forget that I can hold my own. 🙂 Once in a while, I remind them. I may not attend the conferences that say they have the top community professionals in the world, but that doesn’t mean I’m not at the top of that list. I’m sure some might read that as arrogant, and that’s OK. I apologize. I’ll spend the rest of the day making up for it, and I’m sure I’ll feel some imposter syndrome soon enough. Haha.

    As you eluded to, the key for taking credit and not sounding like a lunatic is to stick to facts. This happened, this happened, this happened. I managed this operation, and here’s what happened. That’s the only way I can survive talking about myself in a professional setting. You also have to pick your spots. Taking credit within the community isn’t necessary. The community is watching, and they will either credit you or they won’t. But for your bio, your resume, your discussions about your career with the overseers… good to have those facts lined up.

    It can be frustrating to get passed up for opportunities and not get the credit you feel your deserve, but I wouldn’t change you. You don’t need swagger, just keep being thoughtful.


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