The Windmills of My Immediate Mind
Media Business Strategies – David Polakoff
“You Can Act Like A (Wo)Man!”
Company Values Comprise Individuals’ Values
Start-up companies establish company culture and the values and character of the company within the first five staff members. Subsequent hiring must measure a prospect’s ability to adhere and contribute to that culture and those values. The digital age (anyone’s ability, and propensity, to broadcast their reviews through social media) requires companies, new and mature, to identify and adhere to a company mission and values. Through film characters portrayed by Marlon Brando, John Wayne, and Will Sampson, let’s examine how the values and behavior of individuals are the pillars of a company’s reputation.
Johnny Fontane: Oh, Godfather, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do…
Don Corleone: YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!
Don Corleone: What’s the matter with you? Is this what you’ve become, a Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman? “Oh, what do I do? What do I do?” What is that nonsense? Ridiculous!
Don Corleone: Tell me, do you spend time with your family?
Johnny Fontane: Sure I do.
Don Corleone: Good. Because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.
Don Corleone, in those remarks, and in the portion of the dialogue after his son, Sonny, enters the room, sends a larger message about expected male behavior to both Johnny and Sonny. I am going to co-opt that “Godfather” quote, and bring it forward from the 1940s to 2015. Without regard to gender, Don Corleone is mentoring his son and godson that there are standards of behavior that they must live up to, personally and professionally. While there is some irony in Don Corleone’s words, because he is a criminal, he nonetheless consistently adheres to standards, mores, and traditions of respectful and courteous human behavior. We see Don Corleone’s deference to the shopkeeper, where he buys his fruit, and to his business competitors (members of the other “families”). We also see Don Corleone loyal to his colleagues and his reputation for honesty and truth-telling – his tendency to follow through with what he says he’ll do.
Lt. Col. Kirby York: But he must learn that a man’s word to anything, even his own destruction, is his honor.
John Wayne’s character in “Rio Grande” is also unequivocal of the paramount nature of his bond to standards of human behavior. Many things can be taken away from a person, such as possessions, freedom, and pride, but a person’s word remains in her/his control and defines her/his character.
Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.
Will Sampson’s character in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” similarly holds a person’s word as a promise. A commitment can only be executed by a person, regardless of words on a page, as Ten Bears notes; and such a person is only measured by her/his ability to carry out what s/he says they will do.
Now, perhaps this focus on a person’s word, character, and integrity sounds a bit pious. And, I would be unable to cast the first stone. That being said, one should care about her/his own conduct, primarily, and how they’re perceived, secondarily; with the former comes the latter. By providing a commitment to others and to missions, values, and goals of endeavors with which one associates, success will be achieved, personally and collectively.
The tenet of doing unto others as you would have done to you is true in personal, professional, and volunteer arenas. Yes, let me highlight that serving in a role without recompense cannot be distinguished from a role by which one is compensated. A commitment is a commitment; one’s word will be measured as sacrosanct regardless of the context. Of each human’s inherent complexity of attributes, one’s word is the most valuable.
What this all leads up to is do what you will say you will do. You will actually lose (dare I say, destroy) human respect by affirming to take an action that you never intend, or fail, to perform. Human nature requires closure. People would rather hear that you are unable to perform a task or role versus hearing you say that you will act when you never then do. Such is how a company, new or tenured, will survive; on the word of its people and the resulting reputation.
“I spent my whole life trying not to be careless,” Don Corleone tells another of his sons, Michael. If you are careless with your word, what could you possibly care about? Always “act like a (wo)man!”
Media Business Strategies is the blog/website of David Polakoff, a New York based, Media & Entertainment Industry Financial Executive.
David Polakoff’s media/entertainment industry experience and expertise results from his tenures in senior financial and development roles with: Ernst & Young, HBO/Time Warner, Granada America/itv plc, independent consulting, and multi-channel network, Iconic Entertainment, Inc. Currently, David provides financial, operational, and strategic services to media/entertainment companies. Read more in About.