I’m lucky enough to have my very own knight-in-shining armor — something not every high-tech marketer can say, I feel certain. My champion is my son, Geoffrey McAlister, and he really is a knight-errant for hire (for movies, live shows, commercials, and photo shoots in just about any corner of the globe).
What can a modern-day manager learn from a medieval knight? Quite a bit as it turns out. I think most parents learn a lot from their children, and I’m no exception. Here are four practical lessons that have made me a better marketer, a much better manager, and a better person besides.
- Arm yourself with the right weapons. For my son, that means learning to use the tools of his trade (a variety of swords, javelins, spears, a mace, flame throwers, shields, and who knows what else), and knowing when each one makes sense in a performance. It also means knowing how to use them effectively, and safely. Yes, in Geoff’s performances they rehearse the battles but that’s real fire, the “breakaway” lances don’t always break, and a galloping horse can do an awful lot of damage. The wrong weapon for a marketer results in a different kind of pain. Having attempted to deliver results without the right tools in the past, I’m now very picky about the weapons I take into the battle for market share.
- Recruit a band of loyal knight companions. A knight knows he’s unlikely to achieve his quest without his loyal companions — and those of us who are in a quest for business success can’t do it alone, either. My son networks with stunt coordinators, stunt performers, stable hands, trainers, weapons and prop masters, costumers, dancers, actors, casting agents, and nearly everyone else he meets when he’s performing from the vendors selling souvenirs to the ticket takers. He’s an amazing networker — I’ve seen him field calls from superstars and down-on-their luck friends, and he treats them exactly the same: with friendliness, respect, and courtesy. (Frankly, I wish I was as good at it as Geoff is.) For me, it means having a wide-ranging contact list of vendors, freelancers, agencies, sales reps, journalists, analysts, researchers, bloggers, peers and mentors I can call on for help, referrals, advice, and new ideas.
- Suit up and show up, ready to do battle, no excuses. For several years, Geoff was a lead performer at the Excalibur in Las Vegas. He worked five days a week, 8-10 sold out shows a week. Like they say, “The show must go on.” I’ve seen him limp home bruised and sore — but you’d never know it from the energy and showmanship he displays in a show. After the show, no matter how tired he is, or what he’d rather be doing, he’s always the last performer to leave the “meet and greet” sessions with patrons who want to meet the performers afterwards. I’ve seen him perform with injuries — and I’ve seen him smile for photos when I knew his heart was breaking. Whether he’s meeting a superstar, a child, or a medieval history buff who wants to talk about the details of hand-to-hand combat, he takes the time to listen, engage, and respond. It’s not that different in the business world. The work has to get done — and deadlines don’t wait because I’m tired or cranky. Suiting up and showing up means more than just being there, though. It means being there, fully engaged with the task at hand — and that’s the hard part.
- Be gracious when you lose, and even more gracious when you win. When he started working in this business, Geoff worked at Medieval Times in Dallas. Most of the performers got along well, and understood that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But there was one guy — there’s always one, isn’t there? — who never seemed to get that. He was hyper competitive, and took it personally if he wasn’t crowned the champion at the end of every show. In rehearsals, he was always critical, and he never seemed to appreciate the fact that he was part of an ensemble cast. No one was sorry to see him go. I think that happens in any business, and any career. I’ve hired people who fired me, helped someone who resented it when I was promoted over him find a great new job, mentored people and been mentored by others. I’ve never regretted being nice to someone, but every time I’ve messed up a relationship with a co-worker (usually by simply not paying attention), it’s come back to haunt me, sometimes in surprising ways.
How about you? What’s your code of chivalry, and how does it help you in your everyday business life?
Just because I can, I’m going to end this post with a few more photos of my son and the performers he works with. I hope you enjoy them! And if you need a knight-in-shining armor or even a complete medieval show for an event, I’d be happy to put you in touch with the best in the business.