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How Productive is Michael Scott?

How Productive is Michael Scott?

    Last night marked a milestone in American sitcom history: the beginning of the end for Steve Carell on the NBC comedy “The Office”. Even if you happen to like the British version of this comedy more than its longer-running American counterpart, you have to admit that Carell has carved out his acting niche in the role of Michael Scott, the bumbling boss of a regional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    The Michael Scott character is often seen as incompetent by those above him on the corporate ladder (such as Jan Levinson-Gould and CFO David Wallace.) Of course, both of those seemingly more competent people were eventually fired from the company, while bumbling Michael Scott got to stick around for seven seasons.

    The second part of “Goodbye, Michael”, which will be Steve Carell’s last episode of “The Office”, is set to air on April 28th, 2011. As Steve Carell’s final season on “The Office” begins to wind down, we’re compelled to take a look back at the last seven seasons of the show, and answer one burning question. Since Lifehack is all about helping people to boost their productivity, we just have to ask: How productive was Michael Scott, anyway?

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    Real-Life Michael Scotts

    According to an article from U.S. News & World Report, Michael Scott’s wacky antics are actually firmly grounded in reality.

    “Ninety percent of the population deals with a Michael Scott in their lives,” says Aine Donovan, a professor of business ethics at Dartmouth’s Tuck business school.

    The article goes on to add that Kelly Leonard, a New York City publishing executive, recalls early in her career working for a “female Michael Scott type” who, among other things, would invite staffers into her office to watch Lifetime movies on TV. “Other departments thought we were hapless idiots who lucked into our good work results,” she says. “Just like the gang in Scranton.”

    Michael’s Unproductive Behavior

    There is no question that Michael Scott is not an ideal employee. He’s got a serious YouTube addiction, as seen in episodes like “Business Ethics” where he reveals that he didn’t work at all during the first 5 days after he discovered the free video site. As he says, “I viewed ‘Cookie Monster sings Chocolate Rain’ about 1,000 times.” And because this is Michael we’re talking about, it’s likely he’s speaking literally there.

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    In another episode, Jim Halpert makes a pie chart of how Michael spends his time: 80% “distracting others,” 19% “procrastination,” and 1% “critical thinking”, adding that he inflated the “critical thinking” percentage so people could actually see it on the graph.

    And let’s not forget Michael’s penchant for indulging in personal interests as a priority over work, a habit that leads to frequent parties and off-topic seminars in the conference room, usually headed up by alter egos like “Michael Klump” or “Prison Mike”.

    Most damaging of all to his productivity, however, is his constant procrastination. Consider the episode “Initiation”, where Michael’s boss asks Pam to keep a detailed log of how Michael spends every hour that he is at work. Michael then proceeds to spend the day standing in line waiting for a free pretzel. As he explains, “Productivity is important but how can I be productive if I have this one little thing in my brain? That I cannot get out. And that one little thing is a soft pretzel. So I’m just going to have my soft pretzel, then I’ll get to work, and I’ll be super productive.”

    He then eats a giant pretzel covered in cotton candy, chocolate, caramel, and a dozen other types of sugary treats, goes on a rant about productivity during his sugar high, and then crashes spectacularly.

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    Examples of Productive Behavior

    But it turns out that even though he spent most of the day dealing with pretzel-related activities, at the end of the day he nails an impressive sale, and Pam is stunned. Michael Scott is a prime example of a manager working smarter, not harder. He nailed a big new account for the company, doing a single day’s work in less than an hour.

    And this is a trend we see again, in episodes like “The Client” where Michael woos a new client with a single, well-timed sentence over dinner at a Chili’s, and in the episode “The Duel” where Corporate reveals that the Scranton branch is the best-performing company branch. Ultimately, Michael is asked to visit each Dunder-Mifflin branch to share his secrets for productivity and business success. By working in a method that maximizes his personal productivity, he “works” very few hours per day, but still manages to get ahead in business.

    Conclusion

    Andrew Alexander, CEO and executive producer of The Second City comedy troupe adds that Michael also spurs his employees to be very productive…by being insufferable. “This causes his staff to be highly productive, since they would much rather work than have another potentially awkward exchange with him.”

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    “He takes ownership of his flock,” adds Noah Rowles, CEO of Los Angeles software company Iolo Technologies. “The lesson learned is that people would much rather follow someone who is passionate and dedicated than someone who may be perfect on paper but otherwise uncommitted to achieving success as a group.”

    What do you think of Michael Scott’s productivity? Is he someone you’d want to work with? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2019

    How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

    How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

    Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

    Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

    But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

    To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

    What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

    You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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    You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

    If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

    1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

    Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

    Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

    While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

    2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

    It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

    “While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

    In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

    Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

    3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

    Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

    For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

    4. Good leaders are students.

    In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

    I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

    Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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    As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

    5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

    It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

    “As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

    This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

    6. Good leaders understand themselves.

    I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

    Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

    Final Thoughts

    Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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    Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

    After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

    Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

    If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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    Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
    [2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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