Photo credit (above): Kerry Hayes | USA Today
Leadership lessons from one of the scariest PG movies ever
Losing control of a situation is a terrible thing, and one that can make or break a leader.
In the movie Poltergeist, the Bowen family faces a surreal reality that quickly goes out of control – a loved one has vanished into thin air and the only means of communication is through the television set.
The family has just relocated. Although their only son Griffin keeps insisting that there is something sinister about the house, no-one heeds his warning.
The plot takes off when Maddy, the youngest daughter, disappears into the world between the living and the dead.
Once more, this is a tried-and-true formula of the Poltergeist franchise, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
But from here on, dear reader, I would like to draw your attention to Griffin. Much can be learnt from this seemingly nervous boy who pulls off a brilliant rescue, doing what leaders do – being aware, having a vision, and implementing a plan.
How sensitive are you to changes in your environment?
If nothing escapes your observant eye, then congratulations, you can identify with Griffin. If subtle changes go unnoticed by you, then congratulations, you have much to learn from Griffin.
Despite the chaos of moving into a new house, he pays close attention to every little thing happening around him.
He is the first to notice his sister’s odd behaviour – talking to the closet in her room as well as the television.
To make matters worse, it sounds as though she was having proper conversations with people he could neither see nor hear. He also begins to notice subtle changes around the house, such as things moving around on their own.
Similarly, situational awareness is important in leadership, be it in our personal lives or at work. It can go a long way in helping us identify and address problems early on just as how Griffin warns his family about the odd occurrences.
For Griffin, nothing escapes his eye because he is nervous by nature and this causes his senses to be hypersensitive.
For the rest of us, adopting an investigative attitude by always asking “Why?” will enable us to pay more attention to our surroundings. Needless to say, more conscious effort would initially be required to train our situational awareness but, over time, it would become second nature.
So what are you waiting for? Go out there and pay more attention to what is happening around you. You may be surprised by what you discover.
Now that you are more aware of your surroundings, you may want to change some things that you are unhappy with or increase the likelihood of the things you are happy with. What’s the next step, then?
In Griffin’s case, being aware that his decision to leave Maddy alone had resulted in her disappearance leads him to feel accountable. Therefore, he takes it upon himself to ensure that she returns safely. In essence, he had a clear vision in mind – to save Maddy.
Likewise, the next step, then, is to have a clear vision. What exactly do you want to achieve?
Let’s say you are happy that your team at work is very productive but they do not seem to be happy. Your vision then could be along the lines of maintaining productivity while ensuring employee satisfaction.
Coming up with a proper vision entails listing down all the desirable traits that you want to see or achieve. Keep in mind that a few revisions may be necessary. Once you are happy with your vision, run it through with your peers and then with your team. The best visions are those that ensure the best interests of all parties involved.
Therefore, keep your team’s opinions in mind, make changes if necessary and start working towards it.
Having a vision enables us to see the bigger picture. In order to achieve this, we need a plan. Aware of their limitations in dealing with the situation, the Bowen family bring in experts to help them out.
Though Griffin views saving Maddy as his personal vision, he allows the experts to come up with the plan, acknowledging that they know what they are doing. However, when they spend an inordinate amount of time talking instead of implementing, he takes matters into his own hands.
He goes into the world between the living and the dead, improvising as he goes along until he is finally able to bring his sister back safely.
Similarly, in coming up with plans to achieve our vision, it is good practice to seek the advice of experts in the field. However, as leaders, we need to be able to discern when to step in, implement and improvise.
In short, AVP is important – awareness, vision, plan.
The character Griffin in Poltergeist teaches us an important lesson in how to achieve our goals. We need to be aware of ecosystem changes, have a clear vision and ultimately draw up and implement our plans.
At times, thinking on our feet is necessary and we need to be able to discern when planning should stop and implementation should start.