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Career Advice From A To Z: “J” For “James Bond 007′s Management Tips”

ManagementTipsJamesBond_KennedyExecutive_Blog

Most techniques you need to survive in intelligence and counter espionage will not help you to get a promotion or a pay rise when you have a white-collar job.

But when we look closer at it, it turns out some of James Bond’s skills can help us to become better in our jobs no matter if we are sales consultants or purchase managers.

Read on for the 10 most important lessons to learn from 007:

  1. Set yourself goals and always go for a close: At the beginning of each film, James Bond is given a clear mission from “M” and whatever will happen, he will reach his goal, stop the evil and end in the arms of a beautiful woman. Set yourself SMART goals (e.g. saving the world during the next 90 minutes screen time or doing your travel expenses before Friday noon) and don’t get distracted on the way there. If you have to extinguish villains or deactivate atom bombs to reach your goal, do so. But never compromise your values and let nothing and nobody hinder you from going where you want to go if you know you are right
  2. The world is not enough: James Bond always aims for the best. Whatever he does, it will be a superlative: you won’t see him chase a third class spy from an insignificant country but THE supervillain who is obsessed with world domination (often a self-made billionaire or mad scientist with German roots). His women are not good looking but simply stunning and when Bond goes to a Casino, he always wins. He drives an Aston Martin and wears a Rolex. Any questions?
  3. Be an expert: 007 knows everything about diamonds, heraldry, horses, cars, butterflies, women or poker. Expertise is great but in the real world, you need to focus. Peter Drucker, the ‘father of modern management’, says that effective executives can excel in one, maybe in two but never in more than two disciplines. He recommends that you ask yourself “Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me? They don’t tackle things they aren’t good at.” Develop a meaningful core competence, be better than your peers in this one area and make sure senior management knows about it. This will help give you a competitive edge in your organization and in your industry
  4. Do what needs to be done: In Moonraker, James Bond is thrown out of an airplane without a parachute. This is unfortunate and there is only one thing to do: catch the person in front of you and take away his parachute. This is what 007 does, the villain dies and James makes it safely to the ground. How can this story help you if your job is java programming? Peter Drucker answers: “Successful leaders don’t ask ‘What do I want to do?’ They ask, ‘What needs to be done?’” Follow Roger Moore’s and Peter Drucker’s advice, don’t complain or complicate things. Do not lose energy on things you cannot change, accept them and move forward
  5. Don’t leave a trace when it gets hairy: When James Bond travels, he uses false passports and cars with rotating license plates. He does not leave a trace (except for dead, ugly middle-aged men and beautiful young women with a broken heart). He stays intangible, untraceable and remains in control. Do the same and if you work behind a PC, choose your communication channels wisely. For touchy issues, rather use personal communication or the phone than email. When you write sensitive or touchy emails, save them, have a break and read them again before sending: You never know what happens to written words, who the email may be forwarded to and you risk losing control of your action. Do however back-up strategic information with an email and choose wisely who you put on copy
  6. Be careful who you trust: the woman you made love to yesterday evening on a yacht in the Bahamas might try to kill you today, your ally from the last assignment in Egypt might be a double agent. Solid business relationships are built on long-time trust. Until you know the true character of those with whom you do business, use caution. There’s nothing to be gained by sharing too much information, especially with the wrong person, whether a colleague or a customer. Nobody really cares for you but you yourself and even the most helpful colleagues will have forgotten about you the moment you leave the organization
  7. Know your enemies: the supervillain throughout a number of the early movies is Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Bond chases him from Switzerland to Las Vegas. Bond has studied him well and knows all his habits, forces and weaknesses. Be as far-sighted as 007 and do not forget that you have internal and external rivals. If you are successful, there are always people that want your place. Observing them closely and deciphering their motivations as well as knowing their weaknesses is the best way to stay ahead of them. Don’t become complacent and stay sharp
  8. Build powerful alliances: When in the US, Bond is working with Felix Leiter from the CIA which is a good thing to do as their goals and values are the same and they combine forces (British style with an US American no-nonsense approach). While alliances can be a good alternative to M&A for an organization in order to gain missing resources, they can also help you personally to get access to competence or contacts you do not have. Understand that 1 plus 1 equals 3 and look for alliances that suit you (clubs, chambers of commerce or other), that are based on win-win and bring you as well as your ally forward
  9. Reinvent yourself: Six actors have portrayed 007 in the film series so far. The profile of the role has changed over the years. While Sean Connery was a perfect Bond for the sixties, Daniel Craig is without a doubt a true millennium Bond. Successful people learn to adapt to change, especially in today’s challenging business world. What got you here won’t get you there. Ask yourself regularly if a decision or direction you took one year ago is still good for you today. Reassess and correct your decisions and goals if appropriate, upgrade yourself (e.g. through executive education) if you risk running out-of-style
  10. Be good: someone who kills an average 7 people in 90 minutes screen time should not be taken as a benchmark for ethics and morale. Nonetheless, James Bond is fighting for world peace, ensures that evil’s henchmen will be punished and the biggest villain around dies a terrible yet photogenic death. So you better be good unless you want to go a) into the news like Lehman Brothers’ top managers, b) to prison like the senior leadership of Enron or c) to hell like Goldfinger, Doctor No or Le Chiffre

Conclusion:

Do what needs to be done, reject mediocrity, be sharp, good and intelligent and whatever you do, do it in style to ensure not only your survival in intelligence but also a successful career in senior operations management, private banking or in accounts receivables.


Jorg Stegemann - Headhunter, Certified Coach and Business Writer - is the Managing Director of Kennedy Executive Search & Outplacement. Apart from running our company blog, he writes for Forbes, Careerbuilder, BBC and other media.
  1. Alexandre Reply

    Great article; thanks for sharing

  2. Vince Reply

    I think the only thing I have in common with James Bond is a heavy usage of Heathrow Airport…..

    • Jorg Reply

      Vince, I think you have more things in common with 007!

      • Vince Reply

        You are probably right, Jorg…

  3. Robert Reply

    Interesting parallels :)) Jorg, thanks for sharing, regards

  4. Charbel Reply

    Excellent article … well documented, with practical examples, and great input

  5. Eugene Reply

    Excellent paper.

    Still, there are some contradictions: the author says that we should “build powerful alliances”, but also to “be careful who we trust”.

    He also invites us to focus on our goal (no interruptions unless useful for reaching the target), but also mentions that we should “correct our decisions and goals” (if appropriate).

    How does this work together?

    • Jorg Reply

      Eugene, thanks.

      Having a clear goal in mind yet checking regularly if you are on the right path is no contradiction to me. I put the focus on “if you know you are right” but I firmly believe that self critics is a good thing.

      OK for the trust thing. Alliances can come and go though the goal should be long-term partnership which will increase the trust.

  6. Thomas Reply

    Very entertaining. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. Sanjeev Reply

    Interesting thoughts Jorg. However, like some laws of Physics they are true only in vacuum, applicability or results change in real organisational environment where say, gravity or friction exists. Allow me to spin some of the above 10 laws:

    1. Set yourself goals and always go for a close: Setting goals is fine, but be flexible and adaptive. Plan doing your travel expenses before Friday noon, but if your boss or customer or family brings in something important (and this always happens) address that first and prioritize. Secondly, always going for the close scares prospect eg., in a sales scenario (I presume you are a German and would know German mindsets) or leads to half-baked decisions. My advice is not to (always) go for the close, but progress a few steps further from where you had started; add value to the relationship. The closure (eg. the PO or contract) will be a natural outcome of this valuable bonding. Glengary Glen Ross’s ABC sounds so self-serving.

    2. “you won’t see him chase a third class spy from an insignificant country but THE supervillain…”- I would rather do my SWOT analysis and utilize my energy and resources where success probability is better. Bond has virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, we don’t. For eg. All James Bond cars undergo numerous modifications to include weapons, anti-pursuit systems, alternate transportation modes etc. Further he drives not just Aston Martin, but Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, BMW….What I am saying is that his support systems are the best.

    3. He stays intangible, untraceable: fine when you are a secret agent or engaged in some un-scrupulous activity. Otherwise, advertise and market yourself. Be visible. How will the head-hunter find you if you have not left your golden footprints all over.

    4. Be careful who you trust: Trust needs to be given a perspective here. Agreed one should not trust anyone with one’s life, except of course your doctor perhaps. But do have faith and beliefs. There is power in positive thinking. You may however need to manage your expectations.

    5. “If you are successful, there are always people that want your place. Observing them closely and deciphering their motivations as well as knowing their weaknesses is the best way to stay ahead of them. ” – This reeks of negativity. Don’t let the losers around you control your actions. Being successful is a continuous journey. Don’t get tied to “your place”, keep moving. Allow them to fill up and follow. You are the leader.

    You see, Bond is a missionary man – we are part of an organisation. At best we can have missionary zeal but alas not (diplomatic) immunity and need to curb our enthusiasm to fall in line. And we don’t have licence to kill.

    007 is the ultimate hero and is always successful. Mere mortals like us have our failures. Don’t forget 001 to 006 (6 of 7) have died.

    • Jorg Reply

      Sanjeev, Thanks a lot for this high quality input. I agree with with most of what you say.

      Additional remark on your point 3: yes, choose wisely when to leave a trace. Sometimes you have to and hence should do so and you are giving a good example.

  8. Aurea Reply

    Very interesting and very true parallels!

  9. Sebastien Reply

    Very interesting post Jorg. Thanks for sharing it. One consideration: a British citizen, Bond has no choice but to be loyal. Unless he goes self or evil employed. Well… I dont see him giving up his benefits in kind on self employment, or losing impact and leadership on the dark side. So he’s to be the best, and loyal, to keep his job. As a white collar, I’m not sure loyalty is the best route to success, pay rise and promotion.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Good point, Sebastien! Thanks for sharing. I agree that regular changes are part of a competitive profile: if you have been in the same company for let’s say 20 years, it is hard for us to explain our belief you will make it in a new company culture…

  10. Nicolas Reply

    Just Great

  11. Debbie Reply

    Jorg, I love reading your articles.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Debbie!

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