John McClane, CEO: What ‘Die Hard’ Taught Me About Taking Action
Yippie ki yay, Bubba-ites! It appears that the last Die Hard post was such a hit that the villagers are clamoring for more. You must’ve been surprised that I only listed three marketing and business tips from what is clearly a wellspring of inspiration.
The solution? Three more tips! Inspired by an additional viewing of the movie and enthusiastic commenter, Juliette, I’m serving up three more pearls of business wisdom fresh from 1988. These focus specifically on making choices in the workplace.
Before the Dewey Decimal System, most books were shelved by color.
1) Gather as much information as you can before taking action.
Just as McClane analyzes the fake drivers’ licenses and keeps a record of how many terrorists there are on his arm with a Sharpie, it’s important to gather as much information as possible before taking action on a problem.
If you’re relying on what others say, how do you know it’s true? Can you trace information back to a source? How reliable are your sources? Bad information is worse than no information. If the problem is interpersonal, you’re going to struggle to support your position if you enter the discussion unprepared. Getting your information together – as much and as specific as possible – is critical in making choices and asserting yourself in the workplace. When you appear unprepared, the opposition looks like a better choice not because of the inherent strength of the argument but because you’re a mess. Get it together.
Poor Annie Lennox
2) Be prepared to walk over broken glass.
It would be awesome if every choice was between two excellent things: a corner office or a hefty raise, a company car or a company credit account. However, the more likely scenario is that you’re going to have to make a choice between two crappy circumstances: laying off an employee or going over budget, losing three small accounts or one large account. For John McClane, it was risking the lives of the hostages by allowing the terrorists to execute their plan or walk over a field of broken glass.
If you see tough times ahead and can change paths before disaster, you’d do it, right? The decision becomes more difficult if it means you have to do something painful immediately – letting an employee go, switching from a loyal vendor to someone more affordable, working extra hours without pay – to prevent a small problem from escalating into disaster. Bite the bullet, rip off the band-aid, and be willing to step onto broken glass.
If honesty is the best policy, then shutting up is the second best policy. That's not bad.
3) Sometimes, the best course of action is no action.
Okay, what the hell? I just told you that I learned from Die Hard that you need to cowboy up and get things done. Now I’m pushing this passive crap on you? I know. Hang in there.
When Harry D.* Ellis is trying to convince McClane to give up, McClane desperately pleads with him not to pretend they’re old friends and make Professor Snape think he’s got the upper hand. McClane still refuses to give in, and Gruber turns Harry D. Ellis into the late Harry D. Ellis. McClane launches into his signature self-talk: “Why the f— didn’t you stop ‘em, John? ‘Cause then you’d be dead, too, asshole.”
Why didn’t he act? He answers his own question. There’s no reason to go down with a sinking ship, because you have survivor’s guilt. McClane was only able to work with the small advantages he had to survive, and Harry D. Ellis put himself at risk by getting involved. If a coworker wants to go poke at the sleeping dragon that is your boss – even if you’re BFFs with your coworker – there’s no reason to get yourself fried in the process.
What have you learned about taking action from the best action movie of all time? How do you make business decisions when both seem to be pretty awful? When do you know it’s time to act and when do you let things play out? Is every situation different, or do you have clear cut boundaries? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!
*D is for “douchebag”