For Career Success, Master the Art of Taking Credit

Successful women leaders are exposed to a lot of advice on how to realize our goals and what steps can make them happen. You’ve likely even taken some of this advice and used it to negotiate a raise, lobby for a promotion or have your business ideas adopted.

But what often gets lost is knowing when and how to take credit for your successes.

applause at meeting 2-sizedIt’s a crucial part of getting ahead in any career. So why are we sometimes shy about openly accepting credit—even when it’s due?

The good news is, taking credit is an art form that we can perfect (and embrace!).

Too Quick To Admit To Faults

That same leadership advice always mentions knowing when to accept blame. No one wants to work for a leader who’s constantly pointing fingers when something goes wrong.

But what about when things go right? Do you find yourself pointing at someone else, as if you played only a small role in the success?

I’ve observed that women are typically reluctant to take credit for what they’ve accomplished, achieved and initiated,” Kathy Caprino, leadership trainer and founder of career consulting firm Ellia Communications, recently told Forbes. “They often say ‘we’ did this, or credit the team and other players rather than claiming “I” made this happen. Men aren’t as reluctant to state what they’ve accomplished in terms that make it clear who achieved the desired results.”

Why is this? Many women, no matter how successful, get uncomfortable with the idea of “one-upping” their coworkers—especially if they work with a large group of managers on the same level.

Speak Up For What You Deserve

“If you can’t speak powerfully and compellingly about your accomplishments, no one else will,” Caprino says.

Studies show that men are quick to use a list of individual achievements to negotiate for better salaries, benefits, position, and responsibility significantly more than women do. One study revealed that 57% of men list projects and achievements they take credit for, compared to only 7% of women.

The studies seem to pin this on a general reluctance to feel that we “deserve” praise exclusive of anyone else. Our communication is too often steered toward language that makes others feel accomplished, and so we lump ourselves into “group” praise rather than single ourselves out.

Instead of shying away from accepting credit—even when we’re rightly entitled to it—women should focus on how to do it with grace and magnanimity. Some tips:

  • Say “thank you.” If someone gives you credit for something you accomplished, it’s OK to acknowledge it. It’s not snobbish or self-centered; it’s just polite.
  • Describe ways that others may have contributed—but don’t eliminate yourself entirely from what went right. “Yes, I’m proud of my team; they did a great job implementing the ideas I had.”
  • Give a little background, if necessary. “Well, I came up with the idea from attending a project leadership seminar and I thought it would be perfect for our team to develop.”

There’s nothing wrong with promoting yourself as a team player. When we feel our crew was a major part of our success on a project or a department’s performance, it’s natural to acknowledge the hard work they put in. But if we forget to acknowledge how we steered them in the right direction, we could be missing out on a career-making opportunity.