Stop taking credit for what you’ve not done. More critically, stop taking credit for what you didn’t think of or didn’t think through in detail. It’s far too easy to take credit for someone else’s contributions. Truth is, if it wasn’t developed in your mind, it isn’t yours. Taking credit for it is, quite literally, theft. Unfortunately, weak, bad leaders and teammates steal what isn’t theirs all the time. It occurs in every organization, in every corner and culture of the world, and throughout all time. Even our primate relatives do it.
This isn’t an issue of morality. Never take credit for what you can’t defend. Regardless of your title or authority, whether you’re the boss or not. No matter how much better educated or experienced you may be. Never underestimate the vast amount of information processing that led to the contribution of sufficiency that you’re willing to steal. The necessary, immensely complex thought processes mean, 99.999% of the time, you can’t defend what didn’t originate in your mind. Not with anyone sufficiently knowledgeable. Not with critical decision-makers looking for a reason to say no.
Don’t feel bad or get all self-righteous. As with deceiving ourselves about our value. This self-deception, with the intent to deceive others, leads to contribution theft. It’s wired in. Into left and right hemisphere differences, self-arguments built into how each hemisphere perceives the world and our place in it:
– Left maintaining a virtually static repository of the vast array of known things “data”. “I know more than you and can defend the contribution better than you”;
– Right maintaining a fluid map of all the many connections between things “context”. “I understand more than you and can explain the contribution better than you”
Our brains are constantly balancing between these two arguments. Internally with ourselves and externally with others, among our groupings. It’s all driven by an immensely complex molecular, electromotive and neuropsychological process that occurs in a four-phase cycle, roughly 60 times a second. To be fair, neither argument is true if the balance between hemispheres is not maintained. Again, this applies internally and across our groupings.
The reason, excepting those highly skilled in meditation, is a little more Left or Right Hemisphere dominant. This, again, is due to differences wired into our own brains. Genetics seems to play the dominant role in that wiring, though with environment impacting substantially. These differences are amplified among groups which themselves inevitably become a little more Left or Right “data vs understanding” dominant. The problem with unbalanced teams, which leads most often to contribution theft, is:
– The Right is aware when it’s missing the Left, missing data, but will compensate with what it incorrectly perceives to be complete understanding.
– The Left is utterly oblivious to the Right, missing understanding, and will employ data it incorrectly perceives to possess contextual meaning.
The only way to ensure a proper balance is to rewire the unbalanced brain to promote others first. This isn’t something touchy-feely, the right thing to do, artificially conflate others, humble ourselves, kind of rubbish. Aside from the incredibly important benefits of trust and respect within professional and social groupings; the deeper and far more impactful truth is, imbalances occur between hemispheres in our own brains and among our groupings. This arises almost solely from an unwillingness to accept and live with reality. It forces us to introduce untruths, dishonesty and lies that our brains must rectify at expense of balance. Recognizing the contributions of others is the only way to live real, truthful, internally, and externally balanced lives.
Rewiring our brains to promote others first, is no easy task. It turns out we’re not actually wired for honesty and truthfulness. Anyone who’s raised a child knows this. Instead, we’re wired in a vast array of ways to deceive ourselves about ourselves, so that we can feel okay about improper and bad things we do. Stealing the contributions of others being the top of this list. The only way to rewire to promote others first is to first make ourselves worthy of promotion by others.
In Special Forces we have a few hard ‘guidelines’ to help in developing ourselves into someone worthy of promotion:
– Really give a F&%$ | Life’s a team event with lives on the line! Doesn’t matter if you like them or not, know deep down in your gut your success is almost solely dependent on that of others. So, really give a F&%$ about others and their success. If you’re not actively working to ensure others rise, you fail.
– Know your S!@# | No part of this life is uncomplicated! Doesn’t matter what role you play on your team. You must work hard your entire life to be an expert. To help others rise, you must know your S!@#. Particularly, when recognizing and developing talent in others.
– Stop being a little C%$# | There isn’t a single aspect of life that’s easy! It doesn’t matter if you believe you’re strong, courageous, intelligent, well-educated, or connected enough. You’re not. So, stop being a little C%$#. Own your weakness, accept your faults, and get stronger!
Additional to these ‘guidelines.’ There are two ‘truths’ which make Special Forces what it is. Two truths Startup leaders need to adopt if they hope to succeed:
– Your Team First Always | Your team and teammates always come before self and anyone else;
– Leaders Never Seek Credit | Your value as a leader is assessed solely by the value of your team.
Why not taking credit for what you’ve not done really matters? In Startups and Special Forces, everything you do is dependent on outside decision-makers, with whom you only get one chance. Once you demonstrate that you don’t really understand or know a thing because it didn’t come from you, or because you over-relied on “contextually incorrect data” or “incomplete understanding”, that chance is gone forever. It may cost you your company and livelihood or your mission. Moreover, it may cost the livelihood or lives of others.
E.M. Burlingame: Founder Emerio Group and the Honos Foundation | Actively engaged, leveraging diverse experience and skills developed during 30 years in technology, entrepreneurship, startup investing, and Special Operations to identify and develop the next generation of startup leaders globally.
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