Film: The Incredibles
Release Date: November 5, 2004
Scenario: While her husband, Bob (Mr. Incredible), is on a supposed-business trip for the insurance company that employs him, Helen (Elastigirl) discovers a repaired rip in his old hero outfit. Since they have both been retired from crime-fighting for over 10 years, she pays a visit to her former colleague, Edna Mode (current fashion designer and former outfitter of supers everywhere), looking for more information. She discovers that Bob was fired from his job 2 months ago and has been lying about his daily activities ever since. She suspects he’s having an affair, and (understandably) has a bit of an emotional breakdown, lamenting “What am I going to do?” Edna immediately launches into a passionate speech reminding Helen of who and how strong she is:
“What are you talking about? You are Elastigirl! My God… Pull-yourself-together! ‘What will you do?’ Is this a question? You will show him you remember that he is Mr. Incredible, and you will remind him who *you* are. Well, you know where he is. Go, confront the problem. Fight! Win! And call me when you get back, darling. I enjoy our visits.”
Leadership Lesson: Encourage and inspire your people to be the best that they can be.
Let’s face it: the work place can be (cough cough *is* cough) a stressful place. Even if we absolutely love our job, there are times that it stresses us out. One of the biggest stressors we can face is self-doubt. This doubt can originate from a plethora of different points: feeling like a failure or struggling in areas outside of our work life, being assigned projects or tasks that are outside of our comfort zone, receiving deadlines that are shorter than we think they should be, etc. If we, who are probably sitting mid-to-top totem poll, are feeling this kind of stress and doubt, is it so hard to believe that the people sitting lower than us are dealing with it just as much, if not more?
It can be very easy to pass our stress down the line. Since we feel pressured and self-conscious, we can cause those we are responsible for to feel that same pressure. We can be critical, short, and demanding. It’s super easy, but it’s also incredibly destructive to morale, to the task at hand, and to the individuals who are depending on our leadership. Obviously, destructive = bad, and bad is not good.
In and of itself, pressure is neither positive nor negative. It is the presentation that makes the determination. Hopefully, we have a leader ourselves who encourages and inspires us to push forward and improve on every project or task we are given. Whether we do or no, *that* is the pressure we need to convey to our team. Let’s take a look at an example of how we can display pressure in a way that promotes positivity:
EXAMPLE: We are the manager of a group of graphic designers for a large marketing firm. We’ve been given a very short deadline on a magazine advertisement for a large client, and there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of this project among upper management. Lorena, who has worked on our team for several months now, emails us the final draft of the ad. In looking it over, we know that it won’t be seen as acceptable, and we still have a few days left on the deadline. We could very easily respond to Lorena’s email, telling her the work is unacceptable and to start over and come up with something better. But how does that make Lorena feel? If she’s already given us what she considered good work, that email will most likely punch her right in the gut. So, if possible, we should have a face-to-face conversation with Lorena about the ad. We should tell her that it’s a good start, but we know there’s still more she can do with it. We can tell her the positive things we see in what she’s done so far (colors, lay out, graphics, etc). We can remind her of some of the truly fantastic work she’s done for us before, or that we saw in her portfolio during her interview process. Lastly, we can offer some ideas about what can be done to improve the work. To just say “Make it different” or “Make it better” is of no help whatsoever. Collaboration, however, will lead to improved results.
None of us may be able to fly, have laser vision, have super-strength/speed, or any of those other powers we see in comics, television, and movies. However, that doesn’t mean that none of us are capable of greatness. We all are! The only thing more incredible than being great ourselves is the ability to inspire greatness in others.