Tag Archives: Good Boss
When the Person at the Top is a Jerk – a lesson from Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night (Casey Learns the Names)
Honored and not diminished. That’s how we all want to feel.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others
I have probably presented my synopsis of Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner more than any other book synopsis. (I presented this again at a conference this week). It is the “perfect book,” the best book I have read for building people, for knowing what to do to help people get better at their work. The subtitle says it well Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others.
There is so much great value in the book, but here is one point that is crystal clear, and critically important — a leader has to notice, to pay attention, to give credit, in order to successfully and effectively encourage others.
Recently, I thought of a scene from one of my all-time favorite tv shows, Sports Night, that reinforces a critical lesson from this book. It was the first television show created by academy award winner Aaron Sorkin (he later created The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He won his academy award for The Social Network). Many still believe that Sports Night was his greatest work.
One of the characters is Casey McCall (Peter Krause), something of a self-absorbed jerk… In this particular clip, you can see his flaws – flaws close to deadly for a man in such a top position on a team:
1) He is totally self-centered.
2) He is oblivious – oblivious to practically all other folks around him He does not see their value; he does not acknowledge their gifts or skills; he does not share the credit.(in fact, he does not give the credit where the credit belongs). In fact, he simply does not see them.
3) And he is “deaf” – he will not listen, and seemingly can not hear.
So how do you solve a problem like Casey? You create a “stasis moment” – you bring him to a standstill, a moment when he is slapped in the face with the reality of his own self-centeredness.
Enter the brave, brilliant, Monica (Janel Moloney). She confronts Casey in an assertive, yet humble, moment as she acts as a champion of others — teaching him a valuable lesson, in just the right way.
If you lead a team, or serve as a leader of manager, this is a great video excerpt to watch. A clip is worth a few thousand words. Take a look. (it is just over 6 and a half minutes. It is worth the look).
• here’s the key moment, from the script (it’s from a truly wonderful episode, The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee):
My name’s Monica. I’m the assistant
wardrobe supervisor for Sports Night
as well as two other shows here at
CSC. I think you hurt the feelings of
the woman I work for. Her name is
Maureen and she’s been working here
since the day you started.
I know Maureen.
Can I ask you another question?
I’m sorry I didn’t know your name.
(HOLDING UP A NECKTIE) Do you know
what color this is?
It’s called gun metal. Grey has more
ivory in it, gun metal has more blue.
Can you tell me which of these shirts
you should wear it with?
I don’t know.
No you don’t. There’s no reason why
you should. You’re not supposed to
know what shirt goes with what suit or
how a color in a necktie can pick up
your eyes. You’re not expected to know
what’s going to clash with what Dan’s
wearing or what pattern’s gonna bleed
when Dave changes the lighting. Mr.
McCall, you get so much attention and
so much praise for what you actually
do, and all of it’s deserved. When you
go on a talk-show and get complimented
on something you didn’t, how hard
would it be to say “That’s not me.
That’s a woman named Maureen who’s
been working for us since the first
day. It’s Maureen who dresses me every
night, and without Maureen, I wouldn’t
know gun metal from a hole in the
ground.” Do you have an idea what it
wouldn’ve meant to her? Do you have any
idea how many times she would’ve
played that tape for her husband and
(BEAT) I know this is when it starts
to get busy for you, and I hope I
didn’t take up too much of your time.
Please don’t tell Maureen I spoke to
you, she’d be pretty mad at me.
You can purchase my synopsis of Encouraging the Heart, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!
having a tendency to disparage oneself
People can be energized, or absolutely drained, by what a boss/supervisor/”leader” does. Some leaders, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Multipliers,” energize the people around them. Others, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Diminishers,” drain the very life out of those around them.
In case you can’t figure this out, it is better to work with/for a Multiplier than a Diminisher. And it is better to be a Mulitplier than to be a Diminisher.
Here is a specific clue: is your leader one who uses “self-deprecating” humor or “other-deprecating” humor? If “self-deprecating” means “having a tendency to disparage oneself,” then “other-deprecating” would mean “having a tendency to disparage others.”
Call it what you will — criticism, mean-spirited slamming, competition run amuck — but whatever you call it, it is energy draining with a very negative outcome.
Consider these two quotes from Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter:
On a whim we added “Great Sense of Humor” to our leadership survey. Our suspicions proved right. The humor of the Multiplier is very George Clooney-esque – a self-deprecating wit and an ability to put others at ease, allowing people to be themselves. As one journalist wrote of Clooney, “After fifteen minutes, he made me feel comfortable in my own house.” A Clooney costar said, “He has a way of daring you…which can be irresistible.”
Some leaders seemed to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb… They create a vortex that sucks energy out of everyone and everything around them… these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.
For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb. It is almost as though these “diminishers” in a leadership position view those they “lead” as their competitors – “I’ve got to show that I’m better than/smarter than/more successful than those I lead.” Which means, of course, that they are not leading at all – they are driving away: driving away initiative, driving away cooperation, driving away ambition, driving away their team.
Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!