At first glance, the parallels between the glamorous life of James Bond and the decidedly more prosaic world of management may not be obvious; but it turns out that many of 007’s unique skills—the techniques make him the top secret agent in the world—can also be applied to surviving and succeed in the world of business.
Here are some of the lessons managers can learn from Mr. Bond:
1. Set specific goals for yourself and never waver in your determination to achieve them. At the beginning of each film, Bond receives a clear mission from “M.” Whatever happens, we know that within 90 minutes of screen time, he will reach his goal, vanquish evil, and spend a bit of time in the arms of a gorgeous woman (or two!). I advise everyone to set themselves SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals. Your goals may be less exciting than saving the world from evil (say, finishing your expense report before Friday noon), however, you must make a vow to yourself that you will accomplish your goal, no matter what. Never compromise your values and let nothing and no one hinder you from getting where you want to go.
2. The world is not enough. James Bond always aims for the best. Whatever he does, it will be a superlative. You won’t find him wasting his time chasing some third-class spy from an insignificant country. He takes on only THE supervillain who is obsessed with world domination. His women are not just beautiful, but drop-dead gorgeous. And when 007 goes to a casino, he always wins big. His preferred brands? He drives an Aston Martin and wears a Rolex. While you may be living on a more modest scale, the lesson here is to always aim for the best. You’ll never win a gold medal if your eye is only on the bronze. Any questions?
3. Be an expert. 007 knows everything about diamonds, heraldry, horses, cars, butterflies, women or poker. (Of course, he is a fictional character.) Expertise is great, but in the real world, you have to find a focus. Peter Drucker, the “father of modern management,” says that the most effective executives excel in no more than two disciplines. They don’t tackle things they aren’t good at. Drucker recommends that you ask yourself, “Of all the ways to make a difference in the world, which are right for me?” Develop a meaningful core competency, be better than your peers in this one area, and make sure senior management knows about it. This will help give you a competitive edge in your organization and in your industry.
4. Do what you have to do. In Moonraker, Bond is thrown out of an airplane without a parachute. In such an unfortunate circumstance there is only one thing to do: grab the person in front of you and take away his parachute. Bond does just that; the villain dies and 007 makes it safely to the ground. How can this story help you if your job is java programming? Again to quote Drucker: “Successful leaders don’t ask ‘What do I want to do?’ They ask, ‘What needs to be done?’” Although in the real world, circumstances are not generally life or death, the lesson is: Don’t complain or complicate things. Don’t lose energy on things you cannot change. Accept them and move forward.
5. Make sure your communications are secure. James Bond travels a lot and uses false passports or cars with rotating license plates. He stays untraceable and always remains in control. Like Bond, choose your communication channels wisely. For touchy issues, use personal communication or phone instead of email. When you write important emails, save them, take a break, and reread them before sending.
6. Be careful who you trust. Bond found out the hard way that the woman he made love to the previous evening on a yacht in the Bahamas might try to kill him today or that his ally during his assignment in Egypt might be a double agent. Solid business relationships are built on long-time trust. Until you know the true character of those with whom you do business, use caution. There’s nothing to be gained by sharing too much information, especially with the wrong person, whether a colleague or a customer.
7. Be quick to adopt new technologies. Back in 1964 in Goldfinger, James Bond used a GPS—decades before it became standard equipment. He also used rocket packs, poison pens, and bug-detecting electric shavers. When you encounter a new technology or a social media outlet, take the time to determine what it can do for you. Seventy-five percent of hiring managers do a Google background check on applicants, but many of them don’t know how to use Twitter or LinkedIn to help them do their jobs more effectively. Always be alert to new trends and stay ahead of your competition.
8. Maintain a respectful relationship with your support staff. A recurring storyline throughout the James Bond series is the assistant Moneypenny’s unrequited love for Bond. Although he does not return her feelings, he works hard to maintain a cordial relationship with her. This gives Bond a competitive advantage, as he receives key inside information from her that he would not be privy to otherwise. Involve, inform, and respect your support staff. They will appreciate it and they will help you out when you need assistance.
9. Build powerful alliances. When in the U.S., Bond works with Felix Leiter from the CIA. This is a smart alliance, as their goals and values are the same. The whole becomes stronger than its parts as they combine their unique areas of expertise to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Alliances are a good way for an organization to gain resources it lacks without resorting to a merger or acquisition. They can also help you personally gain access to competencies or contacts you do not have. Look for alliances that suit you (clubs, chambers of commerce, etc.) which will create a win-win for you and your ally.
10. Continually reinvent yourself. Six actors have portrayed 007 in the film series so far. The profile of the role has changed over the years. While Sean Connery was a perfect Bond for the sixties, Daniel Craig is without a doubt a true millennium Bond. Successful people learn to adapt to change, especially in today’s challenging business world. As Marshall Goldsmith reminds us, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Ask yourself regularly if a decision or direction you took one year ago is still good for you today. Reassess your goals on a regular basis and adjust them when necessary.
Do what has to be done. Reject mediocrity. Keep learning and growing. Above all, aim high and expect to be successful. In The World is Not Enough, when James Bond is asked, “Do you lose as gracefully as you win?” he confidently replies, “I wouldn’t know.”
And whatever you do, do it in style and with a sense of humor.