Let loose your favorite search engine on the phrase “pin the blame.” Wikipedia alone will serve you up thousands of examples, like this, from their entry on The Bourne Identity:
While in reality it was the U.S. government who took Marie captive, it has pinned the blame on a fictitious powerful Chinese drug lord…
It’s a common enough phrase that we don’t think about it much. But on reflection, it has two implications:
- the verb “pin”—to narrow down, narrow in on, focus, sharpen, highlight, single out, point to
- the object “blame”—guilt, condemnation, disapproval, (negative) responsibility, culpability, fault, shame
Basically: to bring down on another a concentrated dose of social pressure as being the primary cause of something really bad.
Pinning the Credit
So I’m in the car the other day (pulled over—don’t tweet and drive), in the midst of a twit-up with Rebecca Woodhead (@rebeccawoodhead). She had quoted Chris Brogan to a client, which had the effect of convincing the client to do what Brogan had suggested.
Which happened to be what Rebecca herself had been telling the client–apparently for some time—to no avail.
Full of good British humor about it, she jested, “I guess I should have thought to pin the credit on Brogan earlier.”
Pin the credit. I love it. Puts it right up there with “fancy a cheeky pint?” in my list of favorite Britticisms.
And higher still in my list of wisdom-bites. Pin the credit:
Basically: to divert to another a concentrated dose of social approval for being the primary cause of something really good.
Pinning the Credit, Reciprocity, and Collaboration
A willingness to pin the credit on another is a deceptively simple way to achieve several goals. First—as Rebecca’s example perfectly shows—it can often get things done faster, breaking a logjam by bringing in a third party or an appeal to authority.
Second, it signals a willingness to subordinate your own ego—something as valuable as it is rare in consultative and sales and support people. The client picks up that signal very clearly.
Third, it signals something to the credited party too. It says you recognize and value them, and that you’re willing to do them a favor. And favors invite reciprocal favors.
Fourth, that whole favor-giving thing requires a time perspective longer than the transaction at hand. By showing you’re willing to play that game, you suggest a plethora of ways to work together going forward. You can collaborate.
Pinning the credit shows you are polite, you can defer gratification, you are not in the game for your own ego, you can be trusted to collaborate because you’re in it for the long haul.
A powerful three words, I’d say.