Reputation and Business

conversationsIn An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Lydia Dishman interviews CEO Justin Moore, who discusses his business leadership “lessons learned” from watching The Godfather. It’s a solid post, but very thoughtful and insightful comments take it into classic territory. That said, the post didn’t hit the bullseye for our context here—B2B relationship building—so here goes with the pieces I think it missed. I invite you to add yours in comments.

Five Lessons from The Godfather

Moore’s five lessons are solid and bear repeating here: create a community, hold people accountable, don’t get emotional, be decisive and spend time with family. Let’s look at them in more detail:

  1. Create community—this was my favorite because it emphasized serving people without having a “return favor” in mind. Implicit is, “I understand that you have something important you want done, and I can help you with that. I hope to never ask a favor of you, but I might one day. You are obligated to me.” Of course, in the film, this is dramatic and frightening, but businesspeople would do well to think long and hard about it. Helping people do things that are important to them, letting them know you understand the importance, forms a strong bond. Take these things seriously. This also reminds me of guanxi in China.
  2. Hold people accountable—the post didn’t say this, but it’s implicit: include yourself in “people.” The leader sets the tone for accountability and performance. It means maintaining commitment to your intent, especially when it’s most inconvenient. Slacking off or fudging is viral. Steve Jobs comes to mind here.
  3. Don’t get emotional—I had the most trouble with this one as Moore by Dishman described it. Reading between the lines, it means “don’t let emotion prevent what’s right for the business.” I had the most trouble with the zero sum element of Moore’s description; I don’t think a zero sum mentality need be assumed in business, although there are clearly zero sum situations for which one must be prepared.
  4. Be decisive—implicit in this one is “Don’t be afraid of risk” (although respect it). Action declares and gets results. Also nice is Moore’s remark about trusting other people to do the right thing.
  5. Spend time with family—I’d abstract this one and translate it, “Insist on balance.” Effective leaders have wide perspectives, and this requires “getting out of the office” and changing point of view. Also, having one’s work serve a higher purpose. Baked in also is being in touch with humanity; although “don’t get emotional” is key in business, being very emotional with family is likewise.

What It Missed

Many of the things Moore cited about The Godfather served a higher purpose that wasn’t mentioned: reputation. Reputation is the substrate for all five lessons and drives influence: people will ask you to help them get done what’s most important to them when they trust you. And they become big fans when you help them. Accountability and toughness/no emotion/commitment/decisiveness also add to reputation. Reputation is key to “holding the territory” in business, market position.

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