Bob’s Top Movie Picks About Business: Pt. 2.5 — Master and Commander: Sometimes You Have to Sacrifice Something You Love

Our last article featured a scene from the movie Master and Commander. There are many principles to be taken from this movie, so we are featuring it again this week!

While traveling around Cape Horn, the British man-of-war — the H.M.S. Surprise — encounters a storm. While fighting against it, the captain orders the sails to be brought up. One of the crew, Will, begins to work on it, when the mast breaks and is tossed into the sea. The mast is still attached to the ship by ropes, and Will’s only hope of rescue is to swim to the mast so the crew can drag him in. He reaches it, but the mast is too heavy and is dragging the ship down. Captain Jack Aubrey has to once again make a difficult decision: cut the mast and save the crew, killing Will, or try to save Will at the expense of the entire ship.

Aubrey turns to the closest member of the crew, Joseph, who happens to be Will’s best friend and the same carpenter that he would have whipped later on for not saluting Hollom, and they cut the mast free from the ship.

Sometimes You Have to Sacrifice

There are times in business that require sacrificing things that are dear to our hearts, but that may be dragging down the rest of the business. This could be anything from certain traditions that have become part of the company culture, to the way a task is accomplished, or a person who ultimately needs to be fired. Whatever it may be, these things are not easy to get rid of, but are necessary for the success of the company. Have the courage and strength to know when to cut off the things that are dragging your company down.

Allow Yourself to Be Taught

In the same scene of the movie, the captain and his lieutenant have a moment, communicated in a single glance, in which they both recognize what needs to be done. Captain Aubrey is in denial at first, but his lieutenant keeps looking at him, and the captain allows himself to be persuaded into cutting Will off the ship. Aubrey communicates this to Joseph, with compassion, also in a single glance, and the three of them cut the ropes holding the mast.

Aubrey did not want to cut Will off the ship, and was stubbornly willing to do all it would take to get Will back. His lieutenant recognized this and stepped in for the good of the entire crew, instead of just one member. Aubrey listened and allowed himself to be taught by someone who, in rank, was under him. This shows true strength of character and discipline towards committing to the good of the entire ship, not just one person or agenda.

Don’t Let Criticism Sway Your Decisions

Once the rest of the crew realizes that their ship is no longer sinking, they celebrate, unknowing as to the reality of  what circumstances saved them. 

Often times, your staff will not know why you make the decisions you do. They may criticize, openly so, and insist that you made the wrong decision. It is imperative that you do not let any criticism sway you from important decisions, especially those that not everyone can see the entire picture: the reasons, the circumstances, etc. Stand your ground and let the company reap the benefits from difficult decisions.

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Bob Stephen’s Top 10 Business Books: #2 “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life”

I reference Marilee Adams’ book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life all the time. It has helped me immensely in my communication in the business world, because I have been able to strengthen my relationships with people.

It’s written in a narrative format, following the story of a man who has been having challenges at work and, because of that, decides that he wants to resign. He is counseled to talk to someone about his challenges before stepping away from the job. His journey and solutions are insightful, as he discovers that there are two different approaches to every situation: judging and learning.


We as humans beings naturally see things from our perspective. We want to judge situations and events according to how they line up to the world we’ve built for ourselves. Applying a single-viewed approach to any situation can lead to judging it incorrectly and reaching false conclusions, instead of asking questions to better understand why people act the way they do, why a problem was handled a certain way, or why the desired results are not being realized.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

One of my responsibilities outside of work includes participating in a board of members that handles travel and finances for a local organization. The communication style is such that members are constantly pointing their fingers at each other and trying to find  fault with one another for any problems that arise. I eventually decided to resign because the amount of exercise and energy it took for me to stay on the choice chart was overwhelming, and for my own personal growth, I chose to resign because I did not want to fall into the Judger Pit.


When we discount our tendency to jump to conclusions, and decide instead to ask questions that will help us better understand, some difficult and stressful situations will become experiences that allow us to level with people and strengthen relationships.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

A few years ago, a client of mine needed some help with the application my business provides. I chose a bright, quick employee, that I trusted would get the job done, to call the client and figure out what needed to be done. A few weeks later, my CFO came to me and said that this employee had used company time and money to fly to the client, book a hotel room, and pay for meals. I was confused and felt betrayed, because to my knowledge, the task would only have taken a phone call and a couple of hours.

I decided to apply the asking questions approach, instead of my usual approach that would lead to anger. I called the employee and asked what I hadn’t explained well about the assignment. The employee then recounted to me that he had called the client and realized that the task was not one, but multiple tasks, and that the client had authorized to pay for everything.

I am so glad that I asked instead of just getting angry. I understood the situation much better now, and I could see the logic behind the employees’ choices.

“Switching Lane”: Moving from Judger to Learner

Beginning to process an event as a judger does not mean that you will be limited to viewing things from a single perspective. The “Choice Map” allows us to see that there are different paths we all choose to take when tackling difficult situations. We can choose half-way through an event to see things as a learner.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

I have had many experiences when I think I am explaining something very well, and notice negative reactions, or at least reactions that are contrary to what I expected. I take those opportunities to switch from a judger to a learner and ask questions that will help everyone to feel closer and strengthened. I try to apply this in our Tech and Staff Meetings. I oftentimes will have to ask for clarification and/or other questions so I can understand better and help my staff become more unified.

Learning This Approach Is a Process

We all naturally want to approach events and situations from a judger perspective. Honing the skills necessary to become a learner instead of a judger is a lifelong process. Consistently choosing to change your approach to situations will help with this process, but it is choice.

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Bob’s Top Movie Picks About Business: Pt. 1 — Hoosiers: Trust Your Staff

We are excited to share a new series of articles with you that will discuss the ins and outs of managing a business. We’re taking principles from movies that we love for what they have to teach and are applying them to running a business. Please enjoy, and share your thoughts of other movies with guiding principles you think are important to the business world!


In the 1986 film Hoosiers, Gene Hackman plays a basketball coach, Norman Dale, who was dismissed from his college coaching position because he hit a player. Looking back on the incident, Dale does not remember why exactly he hit him; all he remembers is that the player did not do what he wanted, and, in a fit of rage, he struck him.

Norman Dale is given a second chance when granted a position as a high school basketball coach. His team makes it to the finals, and in the championship game, Dale wants to make a call to use one of his players as a decoy so that another can score. As he is in the huddle with his players explaining the play, Dale sees that the players are hesitant. The player that was to be used as a decoy speaks up and says, “I’ll make the shot.” Watch the scene here:

When a leader, coach, boss, CEO, etc. and their staff trust each other, the company’s goals can be met with efficiency and proficiency.  The leader trusts that staff sees and executes the company’s vision.  Along the way, the staff will feel the freedom to bring new and insightful ideas to the leader that will advance the company’s vision and goals.  The leader who is open to his/her staff’s new ideas creates an atmosphere of respect and trust.  The staff, on seeing the respect and trust from the leader, will in turn respect and trust the leader.  A good leader will develop the techniques and strategies to make decisions that will include the input of his staff and cultivate trust.

How Is Two-Way Trust Established?

There is a four step process that must take place so that trust can be established between leaders and staff. The steps are: the leader establishes authority, the leader provides structure, the leader creates a cause, and the staff and leader work within their symbiotic relationship.

Establishing Authority

In order for both staff and leadership to trust one another, each must be aware of the roles that they play within the company. This starts with the leader filling his/her role as a leader. Employees must know that a leader will fulfill the expectations he or she has established.

Another scene from Hoosiers shows Coach Dale dismissing two players from the team at the beginning of the season for talking instead of listening to him. While this seems harsh, Dale understood that if he did not set up his expectations from the beginning, the team would not accomplish their collective goal of becoming champions, because they did not trust in his authority. Without the expectations of authority being met, staff cannot trust that a leader is effective, which then can morph into mistrust about how well a leader fills his/her role. This immediately undermines authority. To the contrary, when a leader complies with the rules he/she has established, the staff knows what to expect, and can proceed in their tasks without confusion. This creates trust, which will increase efficiency.

Establishing authority goes both ways. While the leader has the responsibility to be the authority figure, the staff have the responsibility to follow through with the tasks presented. If there are staff who do not want to comply, this simply means that they don’t understand the leader’s vision, and can either learn to see it, or be helped into another position within the company or change employment. Those who do leave simply need to find a place that has a vision with which they can align themselves. Read more about helping everyone see the vision here. Once the staff that do believe in the vision begin to comply with the guidelines the leader has set, authority has been established because staff believe in the leader and want to accomplish a common goal.

Providing Structure

Providing structure is very similar to establishing authority; it is established authority that is consistent. Three essential elements must constantly be provided by the leader to make sure everyone is still on the same page: context, guidelines, and resources.

Context must be provided in order to accomplish goals. Context helps staff understand the scope of a certain job or task and how it contributes to the common goal. Guidelines let staff know what a leader wants and how structured any given goal is. If something needs to be completed that does not require a particular way in which it is to be done, then this should be communicated, and vice versa. This will help staff trust in leaders, once again, because they will have a clear idea of what their objectives are. This communication may recur, if needed. Resources may include multiple trainings and meetings, or anything that is implemented to help complete the task.

Creating a Cause
At the end of the day, people want to do what they want to do. The challenge that every leader has is finding a common cause between the company’s needs, his/her personal goals, and the staff’s personal goals. In Hoosiers, the common goal was to become champions. Leaders must find something that his/her staff can get behind; maybe it’s developing an award-winning application, saving the whales, or being the quickest at delivering a product. Whatever it may be, everyone on the team must be passionate about it and motivated to contribute. This is also a two-way street. The leader finds or creates the common cause and the staff work towards it. Coach Dale’s athletes contributed to the cause, and Dale was a strong enough leader to accept their contribution which enabled their success.

Symbiotic Relationship
Once everyone has a common cause and processes are in place, they can begin to make game-changing calls that will ultimately lead to a company’s success. Both leadership and staff will fill their corresponding roles appropriately and collaborate effectively. As the leader continues to guide and create a foundation of authority, and the staff continue to believe in the vision and cause, everyone on the team will feel comfortable speaking up about what they know and sharing their opinions that correspond with the company goals.

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