By the early 1850s, the California gold rush had attracted a less desirable crowd made up of crooks, bandits, gamblers and claim jumpers. They were all there to take advantage of the wealth being discovered. Laws were non-existent as California wasn’t a state yet. When a prospector found gold, he was immediately surrounded by other prospectors. Claim laws had to be established. In some camps, a claim was only 10 square feet, with each person allowed one claim. Claims offices were established to patrol mines and settle disputes. Taking someone else’s claim, or “claim jumping,” was common, most often followed by violence. Law and order was most often in the hands of the people. No one appreciated one person staking a claim on land that wasn’t theirs.
When a person in a leadership position claims credit that she doesn’t deserve, that’s a modern form of claim jumping, and, just like the gold rush days, no one appreciates it. On top of that, taking credit for someone else’s work means whoever deserved recognition isn’t getting it; a double whammy!
Sometimes it’s easy to determine if someone is taking credit for someone else’s work, and sometimes it isn’t. Once I participated in a brain storming session to come up with a name for a new service. I would have bet $1,000 that the name selected was my idea, but I wasn’t given credit for it, someone else was. At a minimum, I know I contributed to the name selected and so did everyone else in the room. Brainstorming by its nature builds on all the ideas thrown out and is a collaborative effort.
Just imagine what a team could accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit. No one would be protective of “their” idea. No one would withhold ideas. Everyone would be aligned to achieve the team’s objective so that the team would get the credit.
Claiming credit not deserved is on Marshall Goldsmith’s list of habits that hold you back. Marshall recommends that to stop being a credit hog, do the opposite, share the credit. For one day, write down and keep a list of every time you congratulate yourself on an achievement regardless how big or small it is. Once you have your list, look at everything on your list and ask yourself, is there any possible way that someone else might deserve the credit for “your” achievement. Ask yourself this question as you go through your list: If any of the other people involved in this were looking at this same list, would they give you as much credit as you are claiming for yourself? Would they give credit to someone else? The most effective leaders aren’t claim jumpers.