I watched the ceremonies for the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions last week. Emmett Smith, long-time Dallas Cowboys running back, was one of the inductees. Smith is NFL royalty, having supplanted Walter Payton as the NFL's all-time rushing leader in 2002.
Smith's ceremony speech was all about expressing thanks to the people in his life who influenced him the most and who contributed to his success. Some of those people were pretty predictable-high school football coach, mom, dad, Troy Aikman-but one took me by surprise. At one point, Smith asked his former teammate and Dallas star fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston to stand. Then, through tears, he told Johnston that he knew of all the injuries he'd suffered and the sacrifices he'd made in doing his job of protecting him on the field. He literally couldn't have rushed for so many yards if Johnston hadn't cleared a path for him.
Now, of course, this is football, and what could it possibly have to do with the workplace? I think there are a couple of lessons that can be learned from this.
First of all, I have always encouraged managers, or any employees for that matter, to give credit where credit is due. For some reason, corporate employees seem to think that to publicly share credit with another person somehow reduces the "glory" for them; as if pretending that a success was achieved single-handedly makes that success more meaningful.
I have to say that Smith, by recognizing his old fullback's efforts, actually made himself look better, even though that was not his intention. No one in that audience walked away thinking that if it hadn't been for Johnston, Emmett Smith wouldn't have made it through one season. They walked away thinking that this man with a remarkable natural talent had even better qualities-professional ethics and generosity.
The moral? Recognize your co-workers for any efforts they make in your project's success. It won't detract from your own success.
The second lesson to be learned is that there are a whole lot of people "under the spotlight" who aren't usually recognized but should be. IT folks always seem to fall into that category. The more smoothly things are running, the less end-users know about the effort you put into things. You are the people who "pave the way" for the higher-profile business units to succeed. Are customers raving about a buying experience from an always-up web site? That's because of IT. Are corporate salespeople wooing businesses with the promise of secure data? They can do that because of IT.
I'm not sure the last time I heard a marketing person thank the IT staff for making business transactions easier. Maybe it's about time things change.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.