As leaders, we often think about how to act in times of crisis or how to lead through adversity. There are plenty of examples of what not to do during a business crisis, of course. But there are few examples of exactly what to do in the opposite case, when, as leaders, we experience some level of meaningful success.
It’s critical to show up in the right way when faced with success because it leaves such a lasting impression and affords an opportunity to inspire others to help you achieve even more success.
And two recent Rhodes Scholars from Harvard University just provided you with a roadmap on how to do it.
Brittany Ellis and Jin K. Park told The Harvard Gazette about their awards. Ellis will continue her studies in anthropology at Oxford where she will advance her vision of creating more integration between museums, researchers, and their communities. Park will advance his molecular and cellular studies (also at Oxford), seeking to enroll the government to expand health care and insurance for immigrants.
Two focus areas that couldn’t be more different.
But their reactions to being honored couldn’t have been more similar.
Both of the leaders were quick to express gratitude to their support network and community that helped them achieve the highly-prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. As Park put it:
“Although a Rhodes Scholarship goes to a specific person, behind every recipient there is a sea of people who allowed that person to get there, and helped them along the way.”
You could fault me for highlighting such a seemingly obvious sentiment. But I do so because so often leaders fail to follow these young scholars’ example. Sometimes, credit-grabbing and grandstanding occur.
Much more often than not, however, it’s an error of omission. Leaders simply forget or fail to make the effort to acknowledge all those who helped them achieve their accomplishment.
Here’s a checklist, a helpful mnemonic, you can use the next time you receive accolades for an important achievement that involved others in the background (or foreground) assisting/enabling. Just remember the ABC’S of acting in the face of success:
Appreciate the recognition itself and the people who thought to give it to you. Take pride in what you accomplished. Just as bad as forgetting to show appreciation for others who helped you along the way is failing to self-appreciate. Piling up successes without taking time to enjoy them and to reflect on the personal growth that has accompanied it all is a travesty.
Be specific about what people did to help you achieve the accomplishment. My grandpa used to say “white bread ain’t nutritious.” So it goes with showing appreciation. Get granular if you want to nourish those who you’re lavishing praise upon for their efforts in helping you. General praise leads to general malaise.
Consider all the assistance, from minor to massive. Leaders often think to thank only those who helped them score touchdowns, forgetting those who helped them gain first downs along the way too.
So be thankful and show appreciation for the big efforts people made to help, all the little efforts that fed into the big effort, and even stand-alone acts of kindness and support that enabled your journey in other ways, even if they didn’t directly impact your achievement.
Step back and ask yourself how you can pay it forward. There’s no time to reach out and help others succeed quite like right after you’ve experienced success yourself. Let your success trigger that outreach– there’s no shortage of people who would benefit from your altruistic energy.
You don’t have to be as smart as a Rhodes Scholar to act the right way in the face of success. You just need to know your ABC’S.