"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Share Your Light and Grow Brighter

I love this story told by Ella Fitzgerald.
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt ... she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. Sh...e told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn's superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again."

Too many people believe they are in constant competition with each other and can only be successful at someone else's expense. We're always so busy trying to be the best, to stand out, to show we're better than anyone else so that we get the job, we get the kudos, we get the reward.
I know you have seen managers who take credit for the success of their subordinates, and/or blame the workers when things go wrong. I've worked for a few of these myself. At one organization I worked for as a public affairs officer a number of years ago, there was an administrator between me and the agency's front office. The policies of the organization was that this individual was responsible for reviewing and approving every press release and article drafted by the communications office before going to the Secretary for final approval. This person considered it the lowest of her priorities. She never advanced them in a timely manner and rarely gave them more than a cursory glance when she finally did get around to them.
On one particular occasion, we had an important press release that needed to go out. I had submitted it for the administrator's review two days prior, but when the Secretary hadn't yet seen the expected product, she called the administrator on the carpet for the delay. After her conversation with the Secretary, the administrator stormed into her office and sequestered herself behind its closed door for several hours, after which she emerged with the press release covered in extensive hand-written edits. She told the Secretary, "You see what I have to go through? You see how much work it takes to clean up the garbage they produce?"
Fortunately, the Secretary was not fooled and my staff and I didn't get any lashback. Unfortunately, that's not always the case and, sometimes, when people get thrown under the bus by their supervisor or coworker, the damage is done. 
Not to generalize, but it seems that people who treat others in this way are insecure in their own abilities and are afraid to be outshone by others. They never consider that the success of their team reflects on themselves just as much, if not more, than their own individual accomplishments. 
A true leader, however, understands that our individual power as like a light. It loses nothing by being shared, and only gets brighter when others around us shine as well.  Marilyn Monroe apparently understood this, and so should we all.

You shine when your people shine, so give the credit where it is due and help others to succeed.