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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Mentioned in Dispatches

There is a uniquely British concept that deserves a moment of consideration in the way we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives:  Its called ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ (MiD for short). 

MiD is a military term for when the name of a member of the armed forces appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command describing their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.

In some cases, it is a prerequisite to being considered for an individual medal or award.  But even on decorations that are issued to all service members who served during a given campaign (e.g. the Falklands War or the Afghanistan Campaign), if you were ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ during that time, you are entitled to wear an oak leaf spray on the ribbon of the award to show that it is a bit more than just a participation trophy.


But more importantly, it underscores the fact that the officers alone aren’t responsible for the outcome.  The soldiers make success possible, and MiD is a public recognition of that fact.

Why am I mentioning this today?

I’ve always been in the habit of giving credit when I perform a job whose outcome is dependent on the contributions of others.  It’s the way I was raised, and it was part of the professional culture instilled in me by the mentors I had in my early working life. 

But on a more basic level, people like being thanked.  They like being recognized publicly for their contributions.  And they are more likely to step up again in the future if they know their contributions are appreciated.  Think I’m wrong?  My mom once announced to a room full of adults that I was the world’s best corn husker when I’d carried an armload of husked ears back inside after doing the tedious job.  From then on, if I saw a pile of fresh corn on the kitchen table, that was my job… because I was the best.  You probably have similar memories from your childhood.

Sadly, giving/sharing credit seems to have mostly fallen out of fashion to the extent that the effect is even more profound when you do it. 

I was recently given a rush assignment at work that was outside the scope of my experience, capabilities and comfort zone, and I was sorely tempted to try to beg off with some turf excuse like ‘that’s not really my job’.  Because, let’s face it, who wants to take on a task that looks like it has ‘failure’ written all over it?

Instead, I bit the bullet, said ‘sure’, and went to a colleague who is more knowledgeable, and told them I was in over my head.  They not only pointed me in the right direction, but they happily gave me something that I was lacking; the benefit of their experience.

Later, when I sent out the email with the completed assignment, I copied all the usual people in my professional universe.  But I also made a point of thanking the person who helped me put it together, and mentioned that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their timely help.

When I saw the guy who’d helped me out in the cafeteria later that day, he thanked me profusely for mentioning him, but said it wasn’t necessary.  I told him that while it might not have been necessary, I saw it as a collaborative effort and he helped me get the job done.  At that moment I felt a warm, professional bond being formed where before there had only been casual prefessional acknowledgement.

Two lessons:

  1. Giving someone the opportunity to teach you something is a grossly neglected gift.  We all enjoy sharing / showing off our knowledge and skills.  Most people just never bother to ask.
  2. Giving public credit (the professional equivalent of ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’), costs nothing, pays huge dividends by building up the people around you, and strengthens the sense of teamwork and shared responsibility that make any work environment more cohesive.

So go ahead, give credit where credit is due… mention the people who support you in your daily dispatches.  It doesn’t diminish you that you couldn’t do the job alone.  It builds you up as someone willing to share credit for success.

Posted by David Bogner on August 4, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (3)