Everything I need to know about leading people, I learned from watching Steve Carell as Michael Scott on “The Office.” Sure, you’re probably scratching your head thinking, “Wait a minute, Michael Scott was an awful boss and that’s a part of the reason the show is so funny.” While that’s true, part of what made “The Office” the amazing show it was, is that Michael wasn’t really all that awful.
Early on, he was. He really had no redeeming qualities. He was very much like David Brent from the UK’s version of “The Office” in that regard. But as the show developed and as it fleshed out the world and its characters, Michael became much more lovable than David Brent ever was. And this is exactly why I am able to create this list of 15 things Michael Scott taught me about how to be a better boss.
1. You have to care. Michael Scott cares about his employees. Almost to a fault. He cares so much that he crosses boundaries that probably shouldn’t be crossed on a regular basis, almost like we tend to do with our family members. You should care about your employees. You should care about their mental health and their morale. There is a line, of course. Michael crosses it way to frequently, but as a boss in the real world your job is to get close to that line without ever crossing it.
2. Have fun. There never seems to a dull day in the office when Michael Scott is in charge. That’s because most work is incredibly boring. Michael knows this, he feels it. So he does everything in his power to make sure his employees are having a good time. Or at the very least, he is. The same exact routine will eat away at you and your team slowly. Shake things up whenever you can.
3. Develop a good morning routine. Sure, Michael may have eventually burned his foot by stepping on his George Foreman Grill, but before that disaster, his morning routine seemed quite productive. He was able to wake up to the smell of bacon and have breakfast all ready to go before he even had to start getting ready for work. If that isn’t impressive multitasking, I don’t know what is. If you can pull off combining a few things here to give yourself more time to do stuff for yourself – like sleep longer, meditate, workout, etc, – you’ll go into the day feeling a little bit better than you would’ve otherwise.
4. Sometimes rules are made to be broken. Michael Scott doesn’t do much of anything by the book. Sometimes that ends in disaster, but sometimes it ends in superior boss-ing that even he himself is surprised by. When Michael is told he can’t have a party for whatever reason, he tends to not listen. Mainly because he loves parties, but it’s also because he likes to celebrate his employees and other things. See #2. These two things go hand in hand.
5. Create a screen name/email address that is both a part of your personality and professional. Alright, “LittleKidLuvr” might not have been the best choice, but as always, Michael had good intentions here. He wanted to catch some eyes and also let whoever would be seeing his screen name know a little bit about him. Don’t use the name Michael went with, and make sure whatever you come up with isn’t creepy either. But if says a little bit about you, that’s great.
6. Loyalty is everything. Michael would do anything for his team. He sees them as a family. In return, most of them would do the same for him. Even if they say they wouldn’t. Jim would. Pam would. Dwight DEFINITELY would. There is a sort of bond that goes beyond professional and it makes the professional relationship just a little bit stronger.
7. It’s ok to “borrow” from other success stories. We all know that Michael Scott may have plagiarized the classic Wayne Gretzky quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” But he took what The Great One said and made it his own. Well, he probably did so a little too literally. What he should of done, is taken this advice and molded it into something a little more personal and that he could then use to motivate his team through whatever giant tasks lay ahead of them.
8. Learn to forgive. Remember the whole loyalty is everything thing we talked about? Well, you’re not always gonna get loyalty from everyone. It’s impossible. Occasionally, a team member or two might even do something that hurts you personally, like when Dwight went behind Michael’s in attempt to get his job. What did Michael do? He forgave Dwight. He took into account everything Dwight had done for him previously and also realized that Dwight was also only trying to climb the ladder a bit himself, something we’re all guilty of at work. No one wants to be Assistant to the Regional Manager forever. Michael didn’t fire Dwight. He gave him another chance and Dwight was probably even more loyal than ever moving forward.
9. Distractions aren’t always bad for employees. See #2. Same deal.
10. Support your employees in all aspects of their lives. Michael tends to cross this line a little too much. You can keep things professional, while also getting a little personal. Just don’t overdo it. But knowing things about your employees’ lives outside of work will help you be a more compassionate boss and understand their needs when they come to you with specific issues.
11. Fake it ’til you make it. Michael Scott doesn’t really know how to be a boss, does he? Like, really think about it. He just sort of does it. He’s been faking it this entire time and a lot of the time, it actually pays off. Technically, we’re all faking it at everything we do. If you wait until you feel like you know exactly what you’re doing, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.
12. Basic film editing skills will always come in handy. You never know when you’re gonna need to create a video with U2’s “With or Without You” blaring over a montage of footage of your office employees. But you probably will at some point. It’s just a fact. So if you’ve got a big presentation with the higher ups in the not too distant future and don’t have these Michael Scott editing skills ready to go, you’re gonna be in a whole lotta trouble.
13. Speaking of skills, take an improv class or two. Michael Scott loves improv. Improv may not like him back, but he sure does love it. The thing is, improv isn’t just for people who want to end up one day starring on a show like “The Office.” Improv is something everyone should dabble in at some point in their lives. It will help you learn to think quickly, make decisions on the fly, switch gears when thrown a curveball, come out of your shell a little bit, and have fun while doing it all. Just don’t be like Michael and have your go to move be pulling out an imaginary gun and killing all of your scene partners.
14. Don’t be afraid to play dress up. Michael Scott was not ashamed to put on a costume to get his point across. While I don’t recommend that you put a bandana on your head and refer to yourself as Prison YourNameHere, I do think using some of those improv skills you’ve learned by now and creating an entertaining character to help make incredibly boring, albeit important, office meetings just a teeny tiny bit less boring. It always comes back to #2.
15. Leave when you’re on top. Alright, this one is more about Steve Carell than it is about Michael Scott, but he left the show when it was bigger than ever. He wasn’t afraid to step away from something he helped build and move onto some newer, less secure projects. In the past, people would stay in jobs for their entire lives, fifty to sixty years of working at the same place. That’s not how things are these day. Shake things up a bit, Don’t get stuck in one place. Make one place better and then move on to where you can be of service to another.