Five Management Lessons from Reality TV

Posted on August 15, 2011.

I know there are TV snobs out there that refuse to watch Reality TV.  I’m not one of them. Although I do draw the line at shows like the Jersey Shore or Real Housewives, I can see some great lessons for managers from shows like Amazing Race, Survivor or even Big Brother. Here goes...

  1.  You have to form alliances.Management can be a pretty lonely place.  Unlike the reality show world, these alliances don’t need to be “secret”. Find folks in your peer group that have similar goals and management styles and create alliances that can help you get through both the good and bad days.
  2. You have to have a strategy.  No one wins the money on these shows without a strategy and you can’t manage your team to success without a well thought out strategy with goals and objectives.
  3. You have to be willing to do the tough stuff.  On the shows, contestants may have to eat insect larva, battle through an obstacle course or repel off a hundred foot cliff.  At work, you may have to deliver tough feedback or worse-fire someone.  You can’t avoid the tough stuff and win.
  4. You have to be passionate about winning.  At some point in time, every one of the top contestants says, “They want to win more than anything”.  Their passion is overwhelming.  Management is tough. If you don’t have a passion for it, find a different job.  
  5. You have to have common sense. How often have you watched some of these shows and screamed at the TV, “I can’t believe you just did that”? The people you scream at never win in the end.   As a manager, knowing the technical side of your job is never enough.  You have listen and be aware of what’s going on around you.

If you follow some of these Reality TV lessons, you may not win the $1 million prize, but you will become a more effective manager and leader.

What shows have you learned from?  We’d love to hear your comments and feedback.