ME and WE

“I did this” … “I managed to” … “I concluded this” … “I succeeded in” ….

Whenever a manager speaks, please count how many times he says “me, myself and I”.  Regardless of his audience, regardless of the topic his persistence in using these words reveals an ugly truth about his personality and perspective about the world around him.  A world that keeps on spinning and evolving with or without him.

There is no significant achievement ever made truly alone.  Even the greatest artists painting or sculpting alone in their workshops may not forget the contribution others brought into their lives and works: family, teachers, competitors, friends, models, critics, patrons or assistants.  The greatest battles are won not just by the generals who may not forget their soldiers, logistical support, data gathered by various informers.  The daring expeditions to remote corners of the earth or other planets may not forget the contribution of their followers, sponsors, local assistance.  The scientifical breakthroughs or inventions in any field may not forget the impact of those researching or inventing before their own time.  The gold medals of any sport may not forget the help from their coaches, families or friends.  All these accomplishments do not reward or represent just one man’s efforts – no matter how brave, extraordinary, unique the (main) achiever truly is.

In organizations with corporate culture, it is impossible to achieve anything on your own.  Tens to thousands of colleagues work next to you or with you, help you or guide you on your trip to achieving a spectacular KPI.  And this applies from the bottom to the very top of management levels.

Mighty CEOs would be worthless without the commitment of staff executing their commands to the best of their abilities, without the assistance of shareholders or benevolence of third parties.  Sure, their outstanding track record would not exist without their own personal touch and decisions.  However their management impact is possible and supported by so many more people – whether family, friends, collaborators and stakeholders of various kinds.

We all owe (at least part of) our success to others.  Why not mention them in a generic “WE”?  Are we afraid we might lose the glamor, the acclaim, the respect?  On the contrary, by not acknowledging these contributions we are committing the capital crime of individualism.