Simple Management Lessons from The Batman

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Taking a break from management books, posts on linkedin, TED talks, and pep-talks from the Boss (?), I happened to pick up a comic book at the airport bookstore.

There’s no arguing that The Batman is the most iconic character among superheroes (and I sincerely hope the image stays iconic even after Bat-fleck gets out of the cave – hence this article while we still have Bat-bale fresh in our memory!)

Batman has no superpowers and no super human strength. He is subject to the limitations that apply to human physical capabilities and wit. Yes, he is super-rich and can afford such pass-time as crime-fighting for Gotham’s sake!

Over the years, he has had no career change. The Batman is consistent in his dedication and pursuit to save Gotham. And that’s quite commendable ’cause his job description had the words, “deal with nutcases like The Joker, The Penguin and Ra’s al Ghul everyday!”

How does he do it? And what’s that got to do with regular office going folk, making a living and advancing their careers … and on a much leaner bank account compared to the primary resident of Wayne Manor?

Here are some key lessons observed from The Caped Crusader’s mission over the years.

  1. Train Mind and Body. Everyday :

Batman needs to be at his optimum fitness levels everyday. His Job Description requires him to make quick (life & death) decisions, rational judgments and Holmes-like deductions to solve cases. Working out and meditating is the only way he can keep himself sane and battle ready.

Regular training can help one cope with taking the punches and still keep going. Tough days in office and long work trips take a toll on the body so much that even The Joker won’t think it funny!

In a small step towards being The Dark Knight in the office, check out this Batman workout

  1. The Utility Belt

Batman keeps The Utility Belt packed with tools for every imaginable situation. Other SuperHeroes don’t even seem to have pockets in their pants, and here Batman innovated the belt to ensure comfort and practicality!

The Utility Belt is quite the metaphor for “Being prepared”. For someone in a business or client facing role, the equivalent of a “Utility Belt” could be a “meeting kit” or a well organized folder.

The tools inside could be research, record of historic discussions, list of resolved / unresolved issues, tailored prezis, hand-outs, sample documents, and even a “backup” on cloud or thumb drive when your sidekick laptop is all tied up at security!

  1. Overcoming Fears

Being in a Bat Suit is the biggest indication of Batman’s triumph over his own fear of… Bats! Batman took time to understand his weakness and turned it into his biggest strength. He created an image which capitalized on the fear psychosis associated with Bats. The outcome of that, everyone knows, gives him that extra-second to turn any situation to his advantage.

Fear, as we know it, has a negative effect on one’s confidence and self-esteem. People have unwarranted and imagined fears that hamper personal growth and development. Students fear exams, employees fear appraisals (!), HR fears being bypassed by candidates and line managers!

Techniques such as visualization, meditation or setting of “small achievable goals” can help in easing fears and increasing positivity and motivation.

  1. Data Analysis, Research and Insight

Picture This: Bat Cave. Bat Computer. Bat Login. Bat Search. Bat Analysis!

An observation derived from reading comics – Batman seems to be the Original proponent of the “Big Data” concept! An unsung hero, yet again.

From Hi-Tech SONAR devices to trace the whereabouts of The Joker to studying behaviour patterns of every villain, Batman relies a lot on hard data.

While organizations rely regularly on data – for market or industry research, forecasting business pipelines and measuring KPIs to social media marketing campaigns – there is enough data to derive in our individual lives. Such data can provide basic analysis and insights to ensure a better living. One can track and monitor energy levels through the day (think sugary foods and that afternoon slump in energy), count reps in the gym, measure time spent on certain tasks or figure the best time of day to study or draft contracts and proposals!

How you end your work week: Friday afternoon.

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How you end your work week will not only have a huge impact on how productive you are the following week, but also may determine how relaxed you are over the weekend.

“Successful people tend to adhere to routines in general, so it’s no surprise that the most successful people I know maintain a Friday afternoon routine,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work.”

Here are 10 things successful people typically do on a Friday afternoon:

1. They reflect on their accomplishments from the week.It’s far too easy to wallow over what you didn’t accomplish, Kerr says. “Successful people tend to flip that around and remind themselves of just how much progress they did make, even if it’s only ‘small wins.'” Acknowledging and appreciating your accomplishments not only boosts your happiness levels, but it fuels momentum. “A great ritual for team leaders to create is to turn this into a Friday afternoon team huddle tradition, wherein everyone shares their top three accomplishments for the week,” Kerr suggests.

2. They figure out their priorities for the following week. Successful people take time on Friday afternoon to reflect on their professional and personal lives and determine three to five major priorities they want to accomplish for each, says Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.”

3. They establish a schedule and to-do list for the following week.They don’t just prioritize; they plan, Vanderkam says. “If you assign each priority a deadline, things are likely to get done. You want to hit Monday morning knowing what you need to do, so you’re not wasting that time figuring this out.” Having a plan for Monday also results in a more relaxed weekend, she adds. “Your to-do list won’t be nagging at your brain for two days.”

4. They carve out downtime for the following week. Kerr says driven, successful people can easily fall into the workaholic trap and lose sight of “the long game,” but they always prioritize and plan for downtime. “They think about how they can maintain their work-life balance the following week. They understand that for them to be at their best, to be most productive, and to accomplish everything they need to during the following week, they need to have some free time.”

5. They get organized. “Many successful people I know take 15 to 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to clean out and organize their email files and to clean and organize their office, so that they know they are returning to a fresh, organized start the following week,” Kerr says. “Some find it therapeutic, as it can help clear the psychological clutter as well, and it has become a ritualistic way of capping the end of the week.”

6. They let people know how accessible they’ll be that weekend.Successful people set technology ground rules before leaving, both with themselves and key people around them, Kerr says. They let their staff and coworkers know whether they plan to respond to emails or voice mails over the weekend, and if so, when.

7. They think about their weekend plans. Vanderkam says if you don’t already have weekend plans by Friday afternoon, you should take some time to think about what you’d like to do. Perhaps you’ve been dying to try that new restaurant; you really want to spend time with your kids at the park; or you have errands you’ve been putting off. Take a few minutes, before it’s too late, to make reservations, check the weather, find a babysitter, etc.

“You don’t have to plan every minute, but having a few things you know you’ll enjoy means you’re ready for a weekend of real rejuvenation,” she says.

8. They plan a fun Friday activity. Some successful people have a fun ritual that helps them create a definitive divide between their workweek and weekend. “It may be an afternoon cocktail with a group of friends, an hour of volunteer work, or a regularly scheduled gym workout or game of tennis,” Kerr explains. “What’s key is that it be something they look forward to, so they view it as a reward for reaching the end of the week, and that it’s something that gives them a complete mental shift.”

9. They acknowledge others’ accomplishments and hard work.“One leader I know uses Friday afternoons to either phone or drop by employees’ offices in person to thank them for the work they did during the week,” Kerr says. “She says doing it on Friday afternoon not only helps her employees go home feeling appreciated, happier, and more relaxed, but it also helps her feel better and happier, as well.”

10. They say goodbye to people around the office. A simple, “have a nice weekend” can go a long way. “This is especially important for leaders to do, and especially important on a Friday afternoon to give both yourself and the people you work with a sense of closure to the week and a chance to connect, if even briefly, before everyone departs,” Kerr says.

Secret: To grow big you need to start going small

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We are living through an era of big: Big Data, big vision, The Big Idea, the next “big” thing. Big budgets go to big campaigns. But I want to pause a moment to make the case for “small.” It’s really important for business leaders and marketers today to think about “small” – small campaigns, small tests, and most importantly, small pockets of growth.

Growth can be hard to find but the truth is that for many business, growth is all around you. It’s just a matter of finding it. Consider this: Averages lie. By that I mean that companies need to adapt to dig more deeply into their data to uncover the rich pockets of growth that standard broad calculations often overlook.

My colleagues recently recommended developing “market maps” as a way to systematically identify where the pockets of growth actually are. This is literally about plotting out where all those growth opportunities are (read A game of inches). They cite a wonderful example of a European consumer goods company that analyzed consumer behaviors, which revealed the company had no presence in almost two-thirds of the attainable marketplace. This insight helped the company to adjust its strategy and develop new products to profitably address those gaps, moves that the company projected would grow revenues by 8 to 14 percent over three to five years.

This insight is based on developing a really clear understanding of how customers see the category and tradeoffs they make when making purchase decisions. This is about going deep into discussions with people about how they really make choices – what motivates them, what influences them, what they really care about. Data is helpful, but this level of insight is based on much more intimate and personal levels of interaction.

That more granular approach is evident in how companies think about penetrating into new countries, which is the standard approach. The truth is that companies should be looking at breaking into cities, which have different opportunity profiles from the country at large. When you look at the fashion industry, for example, Shanghai is as large a market as Poland and Portugal. And cities like Tianjin and Chongqing are among the top 20 fastest growing cities for women’s apparel.

This “small” approach even applies to how you connect with customers too. Sometimes it’s the small things you do that matter the most – like when the Soho Grand Hotel offers a guest a pet goldfish.

Yes, you need some big systems to make this work but you really have to think small. Here’s a question every business leader should ask him/herself when embarking on a project: How can I make this smaller?