What can Michelle Forbes teach us about giving credit?

Michelle Forbes? The actress? Yes.

Ms. Forbes appeared in two productions that contained themes about giving credit where credit is due.

As pictured above, Michelle appeared in a Seinfeld episode where she played Julie, George Costanza’s love interest.  She was accused of taking credit for the purchase of Elaine’s big salad.

In the 1994 movie “Swimming with Sharks” she played alongside Frank Whaley, and was there to help pick up the pieces when Kevin Spacey (playing Frank’s boss) takes the credit for work that Frank’s character had done.

Both stories remind us how important it is to give credit where it’s due, as well as what can happen if you don’t (even if those outcomes are enhanced by Hollywood storytelling).

In the Seinfeld episode, George paid for Elaine’s big salad, but Julie handed it to Elaine. Elaine thanked Julie, leaving George feeling under-appreciated for his efforts.  George later tells Elaine that he paid for the big salad, and then Elaine makes an off-handed remark to Julie in a later scene.  Julie then confronts George, and all sitcom hell breaks loose.  Julie and George argue and break up.

The Swimming with Sharks example is a little more extreme.  Guy (Frank Wahley) is Buddy’s (Kevin Spacey) assistant.  To say that Buddy would win worst boss of the millennium is an understatement.  The last straw is when Buddy promises to tell his boss about Guy’s contribution on a current project, but instead takes 100% of the credit, right in front of Guy.

Guy’s reaction?  He breaks into Buddy’s house, ties him up and tortures him. It’s not pretty.

Not giving credit for other peoples’ ideas or contributions can be way too easy at times.  We already know that most people feel they don’t get enough thanks and recognition, so when a sincere thank you comes their way, it can be hard to deflect it to its rightful owner.

But we need to make a conscience effort to do so, especially if we don’t want to end up tied to a chair with Frank Whaley waving a gun at us.

Even though it may seem that giving away credit is the same as giving away credibility, it’s not.  Here are some ways that sharing the credit can help you:

  • Builds trust – employees see that you believe in them and are willing to go out on a limb to help them.  They also see you putting their needs ahead of your own. That shows that you care about them as a person, not just an employee.
  • Increases input – nothing can survive in a vacuum and no leader can succeed without input and suggestions from their team.  Giving credit encourages more ideas to flow. Taking the credit yourself will stop those ideas in their tracks.
  • Shows you are a good leader – people who take the ideas as their own sometimes are doing so to make themselves look good.  As a leader, your job is to develop those around you and sharing great ideas (and the credit for where they came from) shows that you foster greatness in your team, not just yourself.  Ultimately you are judged by your teams performance and accomplishments.  Why wouldn’t you want to show those off?

In true “giving credit” fashion, I must acknowledge Ms. Forbes and the cast, writers and crews of Seinfeld and Swimming with Sharks. This post would not have been possible without them.

Thanks for reading!


Not giving credit causes employees to burnout and not perform up to their potential.  To learn more about my research about employee burnout what it takes to overcome it in your business, click here.

Are you sure about that New Years resolution?

I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  We’ve all done it.

We’ve all made new years resolutions with good intentions, but somewhere around February (or earlier for some) our good intentions turn into bad behavior and we are right back where we started.  It’s well documented that many new years resolutions don’t work… the question is why?new-year

Lack of a plan – Often we enter into a new year with hope (faithful readers know my thoughts on that!) and visions of a better life.  Unfortunately, we rarely make a specific plan to improve or change what we do.  Resolving to change is part of the battle, but you have to know what it is you want to change and how you are going to do it to be successful.

At the beginning of 2007, Linda and I decided to try Nutri-System at the recommendation of my parents.  Our first order happened to coincide with early January, but this was not an official “resolution”.  Instead it was a decision, and with that decision came a plan.  With that plan came 40 pounds of weight loss!  A resolution comes with cookies and ice cream!

We’re rational – As human beings, we can think and rationalize and essentially make ourselves believe anything.  As George Costanza from Seinfeld says, “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”  This may explain why we wait until January 1st to potentially improve our lives.  The funny thing is that if we know there is something we need to do, why do we need an arbitrary date to start?  It’s because we allow ourselves to.  If we want to lose weight, and we know HOW to do it, what makes January any different from December… or June… or August.  Nothing.

In fact, November and December are the BEST times to start a weight loss regime.  This is when eating becomes a sport and if you aren’t comatose after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, something is wrong.  There are cakes and cookies and all sorts of treats to tempt you.  If you can control your portions and make good eating decisions at this time of year, the other 10 months will be a piece of cake (no pun intended).

So what do we do?  Don’t resolve, decide.  Make a choice and get some back-up.  Let someone else know what you are planning and ask them to help you remember what you want to do.  Remember that we can talk ourselves out of anything, but if we know someone else will be checking up on us, it increases our chances of following through.

If you need help with a plan or goal, try the SMART model.  If you haven’t heard of this, it goes like this:

Specific – what exactly do you want to do?  Be as targeted as possible.

Measurable – how will you know when you are done?  How will you measure your success?

Achievable – Can you do this, given your time and resources?  If not, rethink your original objective.

Relevant – how does this impact you?  Why is this important?

Timed – how much time will you spend, how often will you do it, and when will you do it?

I know I used a lot of examples around losing weight, but this concept really does translate to anything we do, or that we want to do.  My friend Ben from Funtown Splashtown in Saco, Maine has some great ideas about improving his park and his own leadership abilities in the coming year.  He has taken some very specific steps recently to get some information about how other parks run and to immerse himself in learning about how to be a better leader.

He started with resolve to do those things, and followed that up with action.  He didn’t even wait for January.

Happy New Year!