Tag Archives: The office

What Will They Say About You?

“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”

-Dwight L. Moody

I have pneumonia and the doctor told me to rest. I thought this advice was a bit silly until I became winded while changing a light bulb. After that, I decided to rest aggressively. So, I decided to pass the time by binge-watching every episode of The Office—all nine seasons. I justified it by telling myself I would search for useful clips I could show in class or during academic presentations. After all, the lead character, Michael Scott, was a walking hostile work environment and his management philosophy was worse than his execution. I found a dozen or so good clips, and I distracted myself while I rested.

Michael Scott

Photo Credit: https://cleanmemecentral.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-office-and-steve-carrell-memes.html

As I was watching, my wife and I were talking about what the actors were like in real life. I was reminded of a passage in Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy played Kelly Kapoor on the office. She wrote:

People are always asking me what my castmates on The Office are really like: Is Steve Carell [Michael Scott] really as nice as he seems? Is John Krasinski as cool as Jim in real life. What about Rainn Wilson; is he as big an egomaniac as Dwight? The answers are: yes, yes, and much, much worse.[i]

Steve Carell, the bumbling, egoistic manager was actually a really nice guy. Mindy described how they tried to get Steve to badmouth others, and he simply would not do it. She wrote:

[This] was one of the most difficult seven-year challenges, but I was determined to do it. A circle of actors could be in a fun, excoriating conversation about, say, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and you’d shoot Steve an encouraging look that said, ‘Hey, come over here; We’ve made a space for you! We’re trashing Dominique Strauss-Kahn to build cast rapport!’ and the best he might offer is ‘Wow. If all they say about him is true, that is nuts,’ and then politely excuse himself to go to his trailer. That’s it. That’s all you’d get. Can you believe that? He just would not engage. That is some willpower there. I, on the other hand, hear someone briefly mentioning Rainn, and I’ll immediately launch into ‘Oh my god, Rainn’s so horrible.” But Carell is just one of those infuriating, classy Jane Austen guys.[ii]

The first episode of The Office aired on March 24, 2005. Mindy published this review of her co-workers in 2011. When they began working together, they had no idea that Mindy would write about them in her memoir or what she would write. She just reported her observations.

In class, I call this the Washington Post test (It is sometimes called the New York Times or Wall Street Journal test). The concept is simple. If someone were to report your actions on the front page of the newspaper, would you be happy about what you read? If not, don’t do that thing.

What About You?

Would you be happy about what others would write about you in their memoir if they suddenly became successful? You cannot change the past, but you can write your future.

References

[i] Kaling, M. (2011). Is everyone hanging out without me (And other concerns). New York: Crown Publishing. (p. 104).

[ii] Kaling, M. (2011). Is everyone hanging out without me (And other concerns). New York: Crown Publishing. (p. 117).

-Darin Gerdes

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gerdes

Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor of management in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

 

This post was originally created for Great Business Networking (GBN), a networking organization for business professionals where Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Education.

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To Those Who Seek To Lead Well

Leaders talk about openness and transparency. That is good. It is nearly impossible in this age of empowered social media to be successful as a command-and-control leader. But talking about openness is not enough. You must act on that openness too.

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”  

-Patrick Henry

Openness Shrugged

 In the Obama team’s 2008 campaign book, Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise, we find  a number of passages about what openness and transparency would look like under a future Obama Administration. They write: “When it comes to the corrupting influence of lobbyists on our politics, sunshine is truly the best disinfectant” (p. 149).

This is an ironic plagiarism of Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1913 quote “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” but we can all agree with the larger point. It is better to expose potential corruption than to cover it up.

In a more interesting passage about openness, we find this elaboration:

It means opening up our government with greater transparency so average citizens can access the information they need to hold their leaders accountable. And it means inspiring and calling on all Americans to engage as citizens.
Our government has an important role to play in this work, and every aspect of it should be under review. We’ll eliminate waste, streamline bureaucracy, and cut outmoded programs. An Obama Administration will open up the doors of democracy. It will put government data online, and use technology to shine a light on spending. It will invite the service and participation of American citizens, and cut through the red tape to make sure that every agency is meeting the highest standards. It will hold true to the obligations we have as stewards of our precious natural resources. And an Obama Administration will make sure that the doors of opportunity and community are open to all. We can’t begin to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century without the hard work, creativity, and patriotism of every American (p. 146).

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityNow, these ideas are compelling. Who does not want a transparent government that is open to all? But campaigning and governing have turned out to be two different things. The promise of the campaign was not redeemed by the actions of the administration.

Openness is defined not by the leader, but by the followers.

If your followers say that you are not open and transparent, odds are that you are not. In all fairness to Mr. Obama, liberals said the same thing about George W. Bush, particularly as it related to the war in Iraq.

The First Rule of Leadership

The first rule of leadership is simple: Do what you say you will do. Your actions must be consistent with your words. In  The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner wrote:

Here are some of the common phrases people use to describe how they know credibility when they see it:

  • They practice what they preach.
  • They walk the talk.
  • Their actions are consistent with their words.
  • They put their money where their mouth is.
  • They follow through on their promises.
  • They do what they say they will do.

A judgment of “credible” is handed down when words and deeds are consonant (p. 40).

[Note: The Leadership Challenge is required reading for aspiring leaders.]

What Does This Mean for Those Who Aspire to Lead Well?

When it comes to transparency, what is true in politics is also true in business.

It does not matter if we are talking about a scandal like Benghazi or the rumors of layoffs at the office (the premise of the hit TV show, The Office),  failing to be open leads to a breach of trust. You cannot lead effectively when your people do not fundamentally trust you.

Is your organization transparent?

Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.


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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.

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