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Friday, May 3, 2013

Stop Thinking About Who Gets The Credit

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Kathleen Taylor works for the VA. The signature line on her emails is the famous quote by President Harry Truman:

"It's amazing how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."

You probably don't know Kathleen. That's because she lives her values. Like most government employees, she avoids the spotlight and tries to do her best.

Kathleen joined the Federal Communicators Network last year sort of out of the blue. I can't even remember how she got to me, probably through Jeff Brooke. Who has a similar philosophy: Don't brag, just help.

In any case when Kathleen joined up we were transitioning to a new kind of FCN model, more Internet-based etc. I handed her a MailChimp account with a very complicated password and said "Can you do this? We have to do the newsletter." 

Very politely Kathleen said, "Well, I've never used a MailChimp before but I will try."

Kathleen did more than try - she did it. Her newsletters were great. They sounded homey and witty and warm. I loved reading them. But more than that I loved that she was willing to jump right in and roll her sleeves up and help out.

At a certain point she relocated out of D.C. But she offered to help even when she was moving!  That's the kind of person Kathleen is.

Meanwhile, FCN transitioned to its new and also incredible leadership - Britt Ehrhardt and Dave Hebert, who together with the new Board continue the newsletter, GovLoop (see #1 conversations here on GL nearly every week), LinkedIn, Twitter. 

Kathleen, Jeff, Britt, Dave, all the people involved in FCN and those who start and share these conversations generally - they are not looking for any credit. There are so many others with the same humility and generosity: John Verrico, Ellen Crown, Bill Brantley, Jeri Richardson. Pat Wood of course. Who else contacted me awhile back - it was Kitty Wooley - she shares so many good things on LinkedIn. It's an education just to follow her posts.

The point of all this is that everyone listed above, and you too for reading this, is helping the cause of good government. You may not think of yourself as a "champion" or a "leader" or a "trailblazer" and so on. But you are. 

You don't have to be on social media either. There's a lady at work here who is quiet as a church mouse and very "old school." But she has the greatest and heartiest laugh. And her cube is filled with chocolates. That's on purpose. She wants people to stop by and take one. "I know they don't want to talk to me," she said to me the other day, seriously laughing, "and I really don't care. I just love to see them take a Snickers and be happy."

Most people in America will never know the really good people who work for the federal government. But they do not have to. Most leaders will never know what their staff can do either. And that's irrelevant too.

What I am starting to see, what really matters, is that we band together in networks of two or three or six and simply reach across the cubes and offer to help one another. If we can just do that then I think we would see a lot of benefit - in terms of training, morale, productivity, and so on.

Stress can be defined as the gap between "what I expect" and "the reality." We can enjoy ourselves more at work if we lower our expectations of our bosses, and increase our expectations of ourselves. Without waiting for someone to hand us a trophy.