Give Credit. Take Blame.

StopSign-OldSeth Godin recently wrote of the importance of owning responsibility for your mistakes and sharing credit for successes. He focused on use of the pronouns “I”, “you” and “we,” and when each is most appropriate. Example: Instead of saying “I” when announcing a success, he suggests using “we.”

Give his post a read. He’s a master of the short blog post, so it won’t take you more than 2 minutes (if that).

It would be a different and better world if more people watched their pronouns in this way—and more organizations. Decency begets decency, I think; we might actually find a renewal of civility in a society in which it seems far too rare.

Also, when you treat people well, they reward you. Giving credit to others helps build teams and coalitions, creates goodwill, and makes people feel good about both themselves and you. Those around you will become more loyal if they learn that they can trust you as an ally and champion. Taking responsibility for your own mistakes is a sign of maturity as well as integrity. That includes the mistakes of those you supervise or direct or manage.

This is important to remember both in your daily life–personal and professional—and when you or your organization comes under criticism. As with people, organizations that sincerely acknowledge their mistakes and pledge to do better in the future garner more goodwill and are less likely to alienate allies (or customers or members or donors). They’re more likely to survive criticism and less likely to have a mis-step turn into a crisis than are organizations that deny problems, get defensive or try to shift blame elsewhere.

So the next time you find yourself or your organization being criticized, stop yourself before you go on defense. Consider whether you have made any mistakes; if the answer is yes, acknowledge them, to both yourself and others. Take a deep breath, and respond with candor, compassion, and concern.

And mind your pronouns.

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