Action mega-star and semi-controversial human being, Tom Cruise, has done it again! Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation has hit theatres and is receiving critical acclaim and all of our money, too. Kurt and I love action movies and we also think that there is a lot to learn from them. Here are five professional lessons from the Mission: Impossible movies.

Plan to adapt

I need to be honest. I haven’t actually seen Rogue Nation. My wife and I had plans to see it, but the movie is very popular and it was sold out by the time we got to the theatre. So we adapted by seeing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. instead. It was fine.

Ethan Hunt’s Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team always has a plan – the thing about plans (especially those to thwart megalomaniacal supervillains) is that they change. According to Fast Company’s Faisal Hoque, “the greatest overarching challenge facing leaders and their organizations today is to be able to quickly respond to market change; they must be the catalyst of organizational change that will guide their businesses to market leadership.” Resilience, innovation, agility, and adaptability are must have for the IMF and for leaders like you, too.

You probably won’t ever need to jump from a building on to a slightly shorter building or jump from a helicopter on to a speeding train, but you might need to adjust a project’s scope because your budget got reduced by 30% or temporarily promote someone into a role that’s a stretch for them because a team member went on short term leave. Our plans change all the time and great leaders know how to get great results amidst chaos.

Surround yourself with great people

Yes, Ethan Hunt is incredible. He achieves his goals because of his awesome team. Luther Stickell and Benji Dunn can hack into pretty much anything anywhere and agents like Claire Phelps, Nyah Nordoff-Hall, Zhen Lei, and Jane from Ghost Protocol possess skills (spin-kicking, lip-reading, dress-wearing, language-speaking) that make any team Hunt leads truly exceptional. Success in the world of work always requires a team, so be sure to hire and connect with great people and, if you’re leading them, provide clear direction and then get the heck out of their way so that they can do their best work.

Be mindful of masks

Characters in the Mission: Impossible universe often give away hurtful secrets when they think they’re talking to someone, but then … MASKS! People in your workplace wear masks, too. Theirs just aren’t as fancy or dramatic. Take time to think before you speak or write words that are critical, confidential or hurtful. Gossip is one of the most corrosive things in the workplace and leaders like you should always strive to rise above it.

Slow motion doves are key drivers of business success

Think about it. You’re about to lead an important, possibly contentious meeting and then – BAM – a dozen doves flutter in slow motion through the doorway as you enter the room, captivating your audience with whimsy, awe and also a little bit of fear. Editor’s Note: Kurt and I strongly advise against using doves, or any animals, as props during your next meeting. Just be yourself. We’re joking about the slow motion doves being cool. They’re totally ridiculous and so is M:I-II director John Woo.

Big risks mean big rewards (and failures)

Don’t get me wrong, the power of small wins and the progress principle are important when it comes to moving work forward. From time to time, though, leaders need to take big, calculated risks with the goal of unlocking new markets or empowering an employee to realize their own potential. Ethan Hunt and his IMF colleagues swing for the fences and, so far, have seen big risks like luring arms dealers with CIA codenames, anarchic physicists with nuclear launch codes, self- injecting a horrible virus consistently result in successful missions. As you look for potential gambits to tackle, remember to consider the potential for failure, too. After all, we can’t always turn the impossible into the possible like our friends in IMF.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

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