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Give credit to those who deserve it

Who get’s the credit in your organization?  I know very few successful entrepreneurs who are solo acts.  Almost all achievement comes as a result of team effort. I remember the old T-shirts from high school that said “There is no I in TEAM.”   While this is a relatively simple concept, it is generally poorly applied.   As a leader, you want to encourage your team members to be innovative and proactive in moving the organization forward.  However, when it comes to basking in the success of the organization or getting that bonus or raise, are we really giving credit where it is due?  It is one thing to have an employee of the month parking spot, it is another to really give credit to that multimillionaire idea to your subordinate. 

Author and restaurateur Robert St. John has tapped into this secret of success.  Robert owns the Purple Parrott Café in Hattiesburg and the Crescent City Grill/Mahogany Bar in Hattiesburg and Meridian.  Robert is well known for his informative and humorous food columns, books and his restaurants which have a great reputation.  In fact, the Purple Parrott Café was awarded four diamonds from AAA Travel Guide. It is noteworthy that only 768 other restaurants in the United States have achieved that rating.   Ronald Reagan is quoted saying ‘There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”  According to Robert, “I have had this quote on my desk for over 20 years and I look at it every day.”  

Robert shared this story as an example of how he learned this valuable lesson:  “Early on, in the first couple of years, I got the big head and started believing my own press. One day, a fluke happened and about four of my kitchen employees couldn’t come to work. It struck me then, as I was facing trying to put out the lunch service all by myself, that it’s not me, it’s them. It’s always been them.”   Robert’s overarching business philosophy has been to take care of the customers first, co-workers second and the community third.  

There are over 200 employees working at his restaurants, and he gives full credit to them for the great reputation and accomplishments they have achieved.  His passion for the community includes scholarships and support of the University of Southern Mississippi, and his recently formed non-profit Extra Table (www.extratable.org).  With Extra Table, Robert has developed a simplified system for restaurants to donate to food charities, which he envisions will have a huge impact on the millions of hungry children in the United States.  

Robert’s continued accomplishments and passion serve as an inspiration for other who are leading organizations or teams.   Employer-employee relations are built on trust.  By co-opting or neglecting the contribution of your team members, it really breaks down the trust.  Forward-thinking leaders know that it is great for their team to outshine them by being high performers.  Classic poor management is to take all of the credit and none of the blame.  However, I am always inspired by real leaders like Robert who take none of the credit and all of the blame. Those are the type leaders that I want to follow.  Therefore, as we pursue our dreams and goals in 2010, let’s not forget to thank and give credit to those helping us along the path. 


Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at mew@msbusinesslaw.com.


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