Much like Scott’s Tots, you probably know that Michael Scott wasn’t the best business mentor. His emotional outbursts and inappropriate jokes made him an odd choice for a manager. However, while most of the time he was a complete (yet lovable) mess, he did have a few lessons to teach us about developing a business.
“I Understand Nothing”
Need to figure out a solution but can’t quite connect the dots? Listen to Michael Scott. Though unconventional, Mike had great methods for tapping into his creativity to solve problems:
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”
While I don’t recommend speaking before thinking about the point you’re trying to make, it might help to talk out your problem to see if the solution comes to you after hearing it out loud. In fact, saying goals aloud or to a friend—as opposed to keeping them to yourself—increases your chances of achieving those goals by up to 85%, according to a study posted on Inc.com.
Additionally, talking through a problem with a coworker or friend gives another perspective on the issue and points to details you may not have noticed. Using associative thinking through small groups and brainstorming generates creativity and provides alternate viewpoints.
Admittedly, Mr. Scott wasn’t great at acknowledging his shortcomings. But, his flashes of introspection might inspire you to reconsider the answers you thought you had:
“I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”
Thinking twice about your ideas and playing devil’s advocate brings new ideas to light. You may think you have it figured out, but alternative viewpoints reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a solution. Acknowledging alternative business practices is the first step to uncovering better options or staying the course.
“Nice to Meet Me”
Above all, Michael treasured his relationships with coworkers and clients more than any other part of his job at Dunder Mifflin. Although his desire to be liked was often overbearing, he would have done anything to preserve his friendships:
“Make friends first, make sales second, make love third. In no particular order.”
While Michael’s affections toward some coworkers (Ryan) might have been overkill, his ability to make them feel valued is admirable. An employer’s treatment of employees is so essential that even consumers take it to heart; based on research conducted through Cone Communications, 94% of consumers only want to purchase from businesses that treat their employees well above all other factors.
By prioritizing and fostering genuine connections with his clients, Michael became the top salesman at his branch, which earned him the Regional Manager promotion at Dunder Mifflin. And even though technology is an essential component of modern business, Mike emphasized the importance of strong social connections:
“People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me the choice is easy.”
Building relationships with clients and coworkers cultivates longevity in your business model, and shows people that you care. In fact, according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials agreed that prioritizing the treatment of employees and customers were two of the top values directly related to a business’s success. Fair treatment of clients and staff also:
Builds company culture and improves morale
Differentiates your business from others
Helps generate leads to new clients
Retains customers, which is cheaper than attracting new ones
Improves customer satisfaction by directly catering to their needs
Reduces the chance of negative buzz from dissatisfied customers
“That’s What She Said”
If we learned anything at all from Mike, it’s to never take yourself too seriously. Michael Scott was a fun-loving, inappropriate joke-telling whirlwind of chaos, but he often used his bouts of creative thinking to reveal deeper truths:
“The reason that you are all so stressed around me is that you are too intimidated to tell me what you really think. You are keeping these feelings inside, and that is causing stress. So what is a solution? Solution is honesty, laughter, and comedy.”
Mike identified clear stress within his employees, and despite the fact that he was the primary cause, he provided proven relief techniques to ease tensions. Research through Mayo Clinic suggests that laughter is, in fact, one of the best medicines; humor may relieve stress, improve health, reduce pain, and strengthen your immune system.
Although having a roast at his own expense may not have gone as he planned, he still found solace in being able to laugh at himself and others in the end. Mike’s roast idea even exposes deeper truths: getting employee feedback and receiving constructive criticism not only makes employees feel valued, but also improves management practices all around.
I would be remiss not to mention the importance of boundaries in the workplace. Michael Scott crossed many lines, and I do not recommend using his style of joking. Use your best judgment as to what is appropriate for your work environment, and add a little lighthearted humor to make the day better. While some people may find offensive jokes humorous, a few jokes guaranteed to be inappropriate are the most offensive ones. Basically every joke Michael ever told throughout the series can be considered offensive.
On a different note, Mike was an advocate of the occasional two-step:
“Sometimes you have to take a break from being the kind of boss that’s always trying to teach people things. Sometimes you just have to be the boss of dancing.”
Learning to relax through exercise, and dance in particular, is a scientifically proven method of stress relief. According to research published through Harvard University, dancing produces serotonin in the brain, which improves mood and decision-making skills. While you don’t need to open up a disco café in your spare office, taking intentional steps to reduce stress in your staff has lasting benefits that will boost productivity.
“I Am Beyoncé Always”
Mike believed in himself wholeheartedly. He consistently spoke of the importance of confidence, and especially displayed this when he began his own paper company. While it’s important to make calculated decisions to minimize risk, Michael had a point when he wrote:
““‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ -Wayne Gretzky” - Michael Scott”
You’re never going to grow your business or sharpen your skills if you don’t take a chance. Research suggests that creativity and innovation are a direct function of how often you pursue new ideas. The more you try, the more often you will fail—but you are more likely to come up with the most impactful solution for your company. Every failure teaches a lesson and improves your chances of success for the next attempt.
In case you didn’t notice, Michael Scott doesn’t take no for an answer. He climbed his way to Regional Manager of the Scranton branch and left with the reputation as the leader of the number one branch in the company. You’d be wise to take a page from his book:
“The only time I set the bar low is for limbo.”
Raising your standards and setting clear, definitive goals will improve your processes and generate new business. Adapted from Psychology Today, a few ways to reach goals include:
Writing them down
Committing to the idea
Making them measurable and specific
Making them challenging but attainable
Asking for support and feedback
Actionable objectives make it easier to visualize a benchmark and achieve progress efficiently.
“I’m Sort Of An Expert At Photoshop”
Michael maintained a roller coaster relationship with technology over the course of the series. His groundbreaking observations serve as a metaphor for the integration of technology in the modern American’s daily life:
“When I discovered YouTube, I didn’t work for five days.”
Consumers are spending more time on their devices than ever before. According to research by MIT Technology Review, U.S. adults spend an average of 24 hours per week on the Internet. Follow Michael’s example—don’t spend five days on YouTube, but get your business’s online presence optimized and prepared for Internet traffic.
Mid-series, Mike realized the importance of updating technology and streamlining new processes. He emphasized the direct effects of modernization through timeliness and efficiency:
“Fax? Why don’t you just send it over on a dinosaur?”
Especially with the millennial generation, modern equipment is a monumental factor in choosing an employer. In fact, according to a Microsoft survey, 93% of millennials say that having updated technology at their job is important to them. If your business is working with antiquated tech, consider updating for the sake of retaining nearly all of this generation’s workforce.
Bears. Beets. Battle the Entire Internet.
Technology is developing at a rapid rate. Consumers are entrenched in their online searches, and staying ahead of the game starts with beating the Google search game. Instead of making sure that “YouTube comes down to tape this,” get your business noticed with strong content and a solid Internet presence. Contact Ethos Copywriting to compose your brand guidelines, company newsletters, and all of your branded content marketing needs.
Catch you on the flippity flip.
Daniels, G. (Writer). (n.d.). The Office [Television series]. Panorama City, California: NBC.
Daniels, G. (Writer). (n.d.). The Office [Television series]. Panorama City, California: NBC & Netflix Season Five - Episode Nine.