I have to get this out of the way, I LOVE the Office. In my opinion, it is the greatest TV show of all time and it’s not even close. Whether it be Michael Scott’s wacky managerial style, or Jim’s continuous prank war on Dwight, the show never ceases to get a laugh out of me. After watching the show top to bottom three (ok, maybe four) times, I realized that The Office is full of valuable insights that can transform the way we approach business. So without further ado, here are Five Business Lessons from The Office.
If you’ve ever seen even an episode of the show you know Michael Scott wasn’t always the most… conventional leader. However, his branch continues to be a top performer year after year. How? By, oddly enough, good leadership. Michael for all his flaws continuously provided motivation and a positive work environment for his employees, allowing them to work at their best. Teams are far more productive when they come to work knowing that they’re going to be supported. By providing a space where your employees feel valued and safe, they’ll perform at a much higher level than if they feel they are just a number to the company. Good leadership is essential for good business.
When it comes to episodes of The Office, “Scott’s Tots” has to be one of the more memorable (for the amount of secondhand embarrassment you experience alone). In this episode, Michael promised a class of third graders that he would pay for their college if they graduated from high school. When the day comes for him to make good on his promise, he ends up backing out, giving each student a laptop battery instead. Needless to say, it was an incredibly awkward situation, and those relationships were destroyed. Whether it be with an employee or a client, breaking a promise is the fastest way to fracture a relationship. If they’re making an ask that is unattainable, be honest upfront and tell them so. That way you can either work to find a solution that works for you both, or at the very least neither party will walk away with unrealistic expectations. Underpromise and overdeliver is a saying for a reason. Making a promise you can’t keep is one of the fastest ways to undermine trust and poison a relationship. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky - Michael Scott
In business, playing it safe can limit growth and stifle innovation. Encouraging employees to step out of their comfort zones, experiment with new ideas, and embrace calculated risks, can lead to new ideas and improvements for your business. One of the most dangerous things a firm can do is get complacent because they have “always done it this way”. Without risk, there is no improvement, and without improvement, a business has no future. Encourage risk taking and innovation.
Throughout the series, we can see numerous examples of communication breaking down. Sometimes it would be Michael misinterpreting instructions, other times it would be the warehouse not having the supply it needed, or the infamous “Golden Ticket” incident where Michael ended up giving their largest client 50% off their paper order for the next year. While the Golden Ticket ended up working out in the company’s favor, it is a good reminder of the importance of effective communication. Without good communication, everything falls apart. Effective communication is key.
Michael may be awkward, goofy, and at times a bit inappropriate, but he is always authentic. He sees his employees as family and means it. At some point in our careers, we’ve all met someone who can only be described as “fake”. People can tell if you’re not being yourself almost instantly. Authenticity is the best way to connect with your employees and clients. Like Michael says, “Business is always personal. It’s the most personal thing in the world”. Building relationships with your team and prospective clients is a must, no matter what industry you’re in. By being authentic you give yourself the best chance at building a lasting connection. Be authentic.