Last Friday night Kurt and I saw Captain America: Civil War. The summer’s hottest movie taught us a lot about international diplomacy, teamwork, spandex, friendship, and ourselves, too. Here are five professional lessons from Captain America: Civil War that you can apply to your career development and community building today!
Align your values with an organization
Captain America, Steve Rogers, believes in doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and he knows what’s right. Iron Man, Tony Stark, believes what I just wrote is pretty stupid and particularly arrogant. Cap personifies justice, fairness and what’s right in his relationship with Bucky “The Winter Solder” Barnes. In an effort to allay his crippling guilt, Iron man begrudgingly signs-off on a bureaucratic system of checks and balances aimed at putting constraints on the actions of superheroes. Based on their personal values and the vision laid out by two leaders, other heroes – and Hawkeye, who is basically Kurt learning how to use a bow and arrows – choose the side that best reflects their values.
What this means for your career development is that you will not last long with an organization – or in a community – that isn’t strongly aligned with your values. For example, if you genuinely care about preserving the natural environment and you have offers to work as a social media coordinator for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a giant mining conglomerate that dabbles in oil exploration or the Fraser Institute, well, the choice should be pretty obvious. And if you value making money then a full-time in the non-profit sector might not be the best fit, but a volunteer board role with your favourite charity might be, so think deeply about who you are and what you value before jumping into just any job.
Trust is everything
The presence and elusiveness of trust is a core theme in Civil War. Cap trusts that Bucky won’t attack him. The Falcon trusts Cap unequivocally. Black Widow trusts Cap’s instincts and helps him escape. Iron Man doesn’t trust the Winter Soldier, but learns that his instincts were wrong. Ant-Man and Spider-Man trust their respective superhero mentors blindly, not fully understanding the context of the fight. And, by the end of the movie, Iron Man and Captain America want to trust each other, but both guys have been very badly hurt by the other and it will take some time to re-establish their effective relationship.
I have an amazing colleague, Sam, who very eloquently explains the importance of “giving trust up front” – this means assuming peoples’ trust in you and giving it openly to them, as opposed to either party having to earn it. She argues that by offering trust, like Netflix did with its DVDs and eBay users do every day, we have the opportunity to build beneficial relationships in business and life. Being able to inspire trusting relationships in your community is one of the most important qualities in leaders.
Bring enthusiasm to work
Ant-Man, Scott Lang, and Spider-Boy Spider-Man, Peter Parker, are so genuinely happy just to be invited to the super-hero showdown of Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man. Ant-Man can’t stop shaking Cap’s hand. Spider-Man can’t stop talking like an awkward teen fanboy. Both scene-stealing heroes bring authentic joy and enthusiasm to their work.
The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) recently surveyed Canadian executives about what they’re looking for in employees and found that “a positive attitude” topped the list – Kurt wrote a great article about it. The simplest thing that you can do to add value to your community is unleash your positive potential.
There is strength in diversity
One of the many reasons that super-hero teams kick so much ass is that the diverse talents and experiences of individuals are combined and complemented to achieve a greater outcome than any one hero could on their own. This movie has a healthy amount of inclusion: women, people of colour, youth, immigrants, people of lower socio-economic status, senior citizens, and whatever Vision is collaborate to achieve their goals.
Communities – workplaces, classrooms, neighbourhoods – are stronger, more resilient and sustainable for the long term when they are diverse. One of the reasons that Vancity Credit Union achieves strong financial results is because we outperform many other financial institutions when it comes to embracing the power of diversity with our employees and our customers, all of whom are valued members of our cooperative. Diverse communities are more viable and successful.
Compromising sucks (and we’re better for it)
SEMI-SPOILER ALERT! The movie ends in a compromise because nobody wins. And, as the great Bill Watterson said through the greatest English-language comic strip in history, Calvin and Hobbes, “a good compromise leaves everybody mad.” Captain America and Iron Man do not get their way in the movie. One lets a killer escape, while the other began the story as the world’s hero and ended it as a fugitive.
When we work in teams rarely do our ideas make it from concept to execution without enduring a compromise of some kind. This is usually a good thing. Embracing diversity of thought and harnessing the perspectives of people result in stronger ideas and have the added bonus of engaging the whole team the whole time. By allowing your ego to be absorbed into the team’s ego then everybody shares in the win, which is a supercool thing that I learned from improv superstars Key and Peele.
Photo: Marvel Studios