What New Business Leaders Can Learn From Michael Scott

The U.S. version of “The Office” is one of those sitcoms that’s difficult to forget — especially thanks to Steve Carrell’s absurdly memorable office manager, Michael Scott. During his time as Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton regional manager, Michael made his staff laugh, cry, work harder, and waste time. Though the show’s plots often made Michael into a walking, talking punchline, the character actually exemplifies some of the best characteristics of business leadership.

Though you might want to avoid developing alternate personas like Michael Klump and Prison Mike — or attempting the ill-fated beach competition to find the next regional manager — you can learn a surprising amount from watching how Michael leads his team to business success. Whether you are a new business leader or budding entrepreneur, here’s what Michael Scott can teach you.

Passion and Ambition Matter

Michael Scott loves Dunder Mufflin more than anything else in the world, and he goes above and beyond to see the company grow. This is more than obvious in the way he manages his team: He rarely misses a day — even when his foot is grilled — and he incentivizes his sales staff in innovative ways every season. Though you might not feel the same passion toward paper, there is definitely something that will make you wake up eager to get to work and build a business empire.

Michael Scott is also unendingly ambitious. Though he spends several years stuck in middle management, Michael tries repeatedly to find a better position in the company he loves. He even goes so far as to form a competing paper business to prove how valuable he is to Dunder Mifflin — and the company responds by giving him a substantial raise. However, one reason Michael doesn’t progress as he’d like to is his lack of education; in fact, temp worker Ryan Howard (played by B.J. Novak) fills a V.P. position sooner than Michael because he went through the trouble of earning his MBA. You should be as ambitious with your career as Michael, and you can succeed like Ryan by applying for the best online MBA programs.

Communication Is Key

Rarely abashed at exposing his emotions or revealing secrets, Michael Scott keeps lines of communication way, way open with his team. Frequent meetings and office huddles — as well as impromptu gatherings and clandestine conferences — ensure everyone in the office is well-informed about business strategies. Further, it helps workers feel engaged and pro-active about their futures. While it wouldn’t hurt to be a little less open with your employees, you should strive to be as honest and caring as Michael Scott in your communication tactics.

Culture Is Also Key

In recent years, “culture” has become somewhat of a buzzword in corporate environments. However, one of the first (fictional) leaders to build a strong sense of workplace culture is Michael Scott. Though his shenanigans often seem to waste time, in truth they work to transform his employees into a family that works hard to see each other succeed. Attrition is low because each team member values the solidarity of their work environment.

Leaders are responsible for cultivating a positive and productive workplace culture. You must allow your employees to feel comfortable and confident in their positions, or else you will see a high rate of turnaround and low morale. Though you might not sanction Movie Monday or other classic Michael Scott moves, you should respect his ability to bring a group together.

Confidence Is Also, Also Key

Though Michael Scott does suffer his share of loneliness and hopelessness, for the most part, Scranton’s regional manager is a force of self-confidence. He believes himself to be the funniest, the smartest, and the most capable business leader in the company — and often, he is. He never stops trying new endeavors, from running a 5k to improv comedy, and he rarely recognizes when he isn’t any good. It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can improve. However, until you only have management strengths, you should do like Michael and believe in yourself.

Employees Are Opportunities

These days, job-hopping is the norm — but that isn’t true in the Scranton branch. Michael Scott works to develop his subordinates into future leaders. Working close with promising salespeople like Jim and Dwight, Michael teaches his employees vital skills, and he is pleased to dole out promotions and raises to the workers who earn them. Once, Michael even demotes himself to give Dwight a taste of true leadership.

It is expensive and time consuming to constantly replace your workforce, especially when talented, promising employees leave for better opportunities elsewhere. If you copy Michael and show devotion to the talented few, you will make your business stronger and better in the future.


Scranton sign image by Daniel Case from Wikipedia.org

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, CEO of Inspired Marketing, Inc., is a small business marketing coach who teaches women entrepreneurs how to monetize their message so they can make more money from their expertise. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog, Entrepreneur-Resources.net.

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