“They will rejoice. They will sing. In movie houses all over the world, in the eyes and hearts of my kids and other kids, mothers, fathers for generations to come, George Banks will be honored. George Banks will be redeemed. George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in real life, but in imagination.
“This is what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
— Walt Disney, from Saving Mr. Banks
by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
When I first managed a team, I had big ideas of the kind of manager I wanted to be. I wanted to be fair, just, trustworthy, and approachable. My goal was to be a kinder, gentler boss that my team thought of more as a friend than a manager.
I quickly learned that this approach has some drawbacks, not the least of which was that I wasn’t getting the results I needed. Where had I gone wrong? I was practically puking fairy dust and butterflies at my team, but it wasn’t working. I was beside myself with disappointment.
In my despair, I turned to my comfort movies one weekend and discovered the mentor that I had been lacking up to this point in my career: Darth Vader.
Now he isn’t for everybody—just the managers who really need results.
Here are just a few lessons we can learn from Darth Vader’s people management skills in action:
Read your management books. A few years ago, a popular book “The One Minute Manager” made the rounds on every manager’s reading list. Author Ken Blanchard suggested that managing people should never take more than a minute, whether it was negative or positive. He informed us all that even a reprimand should take no longer than one minute.
Darth Vader takes no more than one minute to whip this underperforming commander into shape when his efforts to build the second Death Star are falling short of expectations:
Don’t waste time with disappointing performances from your team. All managers will face a hard decision when someone on the team whose routine poor performance foretells their future dismissal. Since most people don’t relish being the bad guy, however, many managers drag it out longer than they should, which can result in lower morale for the rest of the team.
Darth Vader embraces being a bad guy and acts quickly:
Also Darth Vader gets bonus points for the immediate and crystal-clear communication of his expectations and the consequences of not meeting them to the ill-fated team member’s replacement: Coming out of hyperdrive close enough to the remote ice planet Hoth alerting the rebel alliance of your presence, bad; not disappointing Darth Vader, good.
Consistency is key. As a manager, treating all your team members the same is essential to building a team with a foundation in trust.
Darth Vader is consistent—disappointing news is always met with a gasp:
Want to pursue a questionable pet project? Don’t forget to manage up. Middle managers need to manage both down and up. Be sure that you are giving your boss the information he or she needs so you can get the green light to pursue your pet project—like converting the last hope of the Jedi to the dark side of the force.
Everyone has a boss, even the Sith Lord:
Embrace technology. These days, it’s important for managers to make sure that they are able to use technology to make their jobs easier and earn the respect of their team. It doesn’t instill much confidence for your team about your ability to lead effectively if you are constantly asking them how to sync your phone to your tablet or “What Instantgram is?”
Darth Vader loves technology, and he uses vintage stuff! Just look at what he is able to accomplish using technology from the late 1970s:
Use a recruiter when you are too emotionally invested in the candidate. If there is someone that you really, really want to join the team (a long lost son perhaps?), be sure that you can disguise your intensity. If you can’t, however, use a recruiter, otherwise your negotiation with the candidate can end in maiming, screaming, and his or her leap to certain death.
Darth Vader won’t ever be on the speaking circuit. After all he died a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. His lessons live on, however, for all middle managers to use in their daily struggles to manage the team to the best of their ability.
Are his methods extreme? Sure. Did he have any friends at work? Not so much. But what he did have was results, particularly in project management. Before you decide Darth Vader’s style is not for you, remember that his methods resulted in the completion of two fully operational Death Stars.
Who is your managing mentor? Please share what they taught you in the comments below.
Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am not going to try to write a tribute to Robin Williams today. There are far more talented writers than I who are composing their tributes as I type this. Many of them have already done so. Judging from the comments I see on each of the clips I sought on YouTube, it’s clear that I am not the only one searching for their favorite scenes from his repertoire. He was an actor that touched our hearts, and I for one am sorry that I wasn’t able to help heal his.
I have put together some scenes from his career. It’s funny though; I expected that they would all be comedic because when you think of Robin Williams you think of whacky comedy. It surprised me that many of the ones that I chose were his more dramatic roles. Some lines of the dialogue are more poignant now, in light of his death today.
He didn’t write these scenes but what he did and what made him great was that he illuminated these lines, giving them life and making them beautiful.
Mork from Mork and Mindy: Love Report to Orson
Mrs. Doubtfire from Mrs. Doubtfire:
As Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting
Parry in the Fisher King Clip: Telling the story of the Fisher King
Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society – Carpe Diem
Robin Williams was an actor that could make us laugh, cry, consider our mortality and what to do with the time we have left before it. His brilliant improvisation and endless energy invigorated the words given to him. An actor whose performance made a dead language’s phrase a part of our everyday vernacular.
It’s honestly hard to imagine that a man who was so funny and silly was carrying around so much pain. Hard to imagine, perhaps, but reality has made it clear. Maybe Professor Keating can teach us one last thing today by his departure, that a broken heart can be hiding in plain sight.
If you feel sad today, as I do, there is something you can do. Instead of tearing each other apart, how about responding with kindness and love? If you have the option to do what’s kind or what’s easy, then choose kind. Instead of responding with the path of least resistance, respond with love. Most of all, be sure to seize the day and make your lives extraordinary.
I am an ex-salesperson. For anyone in outside sales, you know this is a career both revered and reviled by most people. I bet more than one of you suffered accusations of selling snake oil in your lifetime.
Outside salespeople are always sent to training. I went to Bryan Tracy. I saw a guy with the Miss Clairol black hair color…Tom Hopkins. I even went to something called, Professional Selling Skills. I’m not knocking these events; I learned a ton, and I highly recommend them to a sales person just starting out.
If you don’t have the budget or the attention span for these sales programs, however, just read Green Eggs and Ham. Do so, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the only sales manual you’ll ever need.
Why? I’ll give you five reasons:
#1: Sam introduces himself in a memorable way.
The prospect must know who you are. You need to be a person and even more importantly, a person they like. Who can deny that Sam introduces himself in a memorable way?
Personally, I can’t pull off wearing a red top hat or holding a sign while perched on my weird-looking dog’s keister (and neither can you), but I can hand them a business card and introduce myself right up front. Adapt Sam’s strategy to a more streamlined and personal introduction and you are already off to a great start.
#2: Sam doesn’t get put off by the fact the dog/bear/sheep creature doesn’t like him.
Seriously…what is that thing?
When you make a prospecting call, you are interrupting someone’s day. Your prospect had a ToDo list as long as his or her arm before you decided to drop by or call. In addition, he or she is usually not too excited you made it through the gatekeeper. Don’t let this stop you. There is always a reason to give up. The truly successful salespeople keep smiling and selling despite these reasons.
#3: Sam gets the Assumptive Close.
In my sales career, I learned that all of us snake oil types had different Closes. Closes are techniques you use to get your prospect to yes. If you want to be in sales, you must know your closes.
One of these tried and true techniques is the Assumptive Close. The assumptive close is where you just presume that the prospect is going to say yes, so you provide them the option of where or when they want the snake oil. “Sure I understand, Ms. Prospect. Can I come to your office to discuss the terms of our agreement on Tuesday or Wednesday?”
Sam gets the assumptive close. He tries it repeatedly for 41 pages:
Would you like them here or there?
“Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse?
“Would you? Could you? In a car?”
And so forth. Sam’s a fan of the assumptive close.
#4: Sam doesn’t take no for an answer.
Certain members of my family have been described as pleasantly persistent. If you don’t know what that means, just re-read the book. Sam is never deterred by the creature’s insistence that he doesn’t like green eggs and ham. He sticks to his strategy and over time wears out the thing’s resistance.
In real sales, this can be tricky. Do what Sam does, and you may find yourself on the wrong end of a harassment lawsuit.
But it is important always to keep the door open. If the prospect isn’t interested now, ask if there is a time when the company reviews their vendors so you can reconnect then. Another good foot in the door option is to invite him or her to an event or a sales booth at trade show for a personal demonstration. Whatever you do, make sure that the “No” you are getting today isn’t final so you can try again on another, better day.
#5: Sam gets the product in his prospect’s hands.
In almost any sales situation, the key to converting prospects is to get the product in their hands. You know what a great widget you have, but your prospect doesn’t. If you can get it in his or her hands and have the widget show them how wonderful it is, you are that much closer to getting the yes you want. Getting the product in the prospect’s hands is obviously harder to do in intangible sales where the widget is a concept, but there are ways. When I sold radio time we made a spec commercials so our prospects could hear what their professionally produced :60 Radio ad would sound like.
Sam offers the creature a free sample of his green eggs and ham, imploring him to “Try them! Try them!” And even though the sample he offers has been in a strange house with a known disease-causing vermin, traveled in a box with a fox, in a car, up a tree, on a train, through a tunnel, in the exhaust pipe of a boat and finally underwater…the creature eats them. Better yet, he likes them.
So there you have it. I just saved you and your sales manager a ton in training budget. It turns out that everything you ever needed to know about sales was explained to you as a child in a book that uses no more than 50 words.
Now get out there and sell some snake oil!
Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. She crafts strategies for her clients that want to enhance their content. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com.