THE OFFICE is one of the few TV shows that I watch regularly. The setting, Dunder Mifflin, is fictitious, yet familiar. The writing is crisp. The actors are first-rate. The filming is creative. But I watch it for one reason alone: the character, Michael Scott.
What can be learned from him?
Don’t build relationships to be liked; build relationships to get results.
Most of Michael Scott’s behaviors are self-serving. Followers of the show know that Michael craves attention and praise, and he will go to great lengths to avoid accepting accountability for failure. This leads him to lie, and sometimes blame others for his mistakes. He can be crass, offensive, or unwittingly cruel in his sophomoric attempt to be funny. And perhaps because he is friendless, he has an almost pathological need to be liked by all.
Imagine THE OFFICE with an effective manager who understood the leadership role: maximize profits, grow the business, and develop employees. It would not be entertaining. In fact, it would not even be a sitcom. If Dunder Mifflin were a multi-billion dollar company, it might merit a 15-minute blurb on 60 Minutes, especially if the company founder donated $20M to Haiti relief or had personally mentored multiple world leaders.
Effective managers build relationships that are purposeful. A manager who has solid relationships with employees can:
- coach on performance issues, coaching that is based on non biased observation of behavior, and
- provide positive reinforcement for appropriate, desired work behaviors.
To what end? To maximize profits, grow the business, and develop employees.
THE OFFICE characters offer many coaching opportunities; Kevin stores porn on his work computer, Kelly is rarely on task and often distracts others, Dwight is acerbic and rude, Stanley is disrespectful, Angela is unapproachable, Andy is volatile, and Meredith is frequently intoxicated at work. And even though we love Pam and Jim, dating should be done away from the office. Pam and Jim have stolen company time at a criminal level.
All of these characters represent coaching opportunities for any manager. Having a solid relationship with employees makes correcting or rewarding behavior much easier. Coaching results in one of two things: steady performance improvement or termination.