We were in a brainstorming session for one of our clients, a global package delivery company which operated a fleet of hundreds of airplanes.
We were developing a TV and print advertising campaign that would convey the concept of delivery speed. The client was launching a new international overnight delivery service with a money-back guarantee.
At some point during the discussions I proposed that we show a man quickly carving an ice sculpture. Ice sculptures carved in the shape of animals were a feature of some of the more formal, elaborate dinner banquets that I attended in Taiwan at the time.
That was the inspiration for my idea, which I shared with the group in the free-thinking, brainstorming mode that we were supposed to follow for such a meeting.
A few weeks later, the creative director presented his concepts to the internal team working on the project – and one of his concepts which he had sketched out on a storyboard was that of a man quickly carving a large ice sculpture with a chainsaw.
He even named the fictional character in the scene after the Chinese name I used at the time, “Wang Taiping.”
The team members loved the idea and decided on the spot that we would present it to the client. The client loved it, and approved it for filming and for further use across their newspaper and magazine print campaigns.
I remember a few weeks after that, I was standing in a warehouse in an industrial section of Hong Kong as the production crew prepared the set.
While we were waiting for filming to begin, I mentioned to the creative director that I was pleased he had selected my concept, and thanked him for moving forward with it. To my surprise, he seemed annoyed that I would try to claim credit for developing the creative concept for the commercial.
I could see what he was doing, and of course I didn’t like it. But I was a junior account executive up against a far more senior creative director. There was nothing I could do.
I sometimes think back to this incident when I see it happen to other people – or when it happens, as it still does from time to time, to me. So I try to follow two very basic principles whenever someone deserves to be called out and credited for sharing ideas or offering help in some way:
1. Thank them privately.
Whenever someone offers a suggestion or gives me an idea that I act on, or which in some way has an impact on my work or life , I thank them privately. I’ll thank them in person, call them, or send them a quick email or instant message.
2. Thank them publicly.
When the opportunity arises, I’ll call them out and give them credit in front of their colleagues or friends.
I’m grateful for all of the support and guidance I’ve received over the years. There’s no way I would have been able to accomplish whatever I’ve managed to achieve in my career without the help of other people.
One of the simplest and most effective ways I can acknowledge the help of others is by saying two simple words: “thank you”.
Sure, I may forget sometimes. But whenever possible, I try to give credit where credit is due.
A version of this article also appeared on LinkedIn.