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All Your Employees Should See This (Old) Movie

Sometimes the best way to teach group dynamics is to get your staff together to watch a film.

From The Godfather to Wall Street, many movies teach valuable lessons about the fundamental elements of business--loyalty, team building, greed, power struggles, leadership.

One great example that isn't often talked about is Twelve O'Clock High, which was released in 1949. It stars Gregory Peck as General Frank Savage, who takes command of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress unit charged with daytime bombing missions during World War II. The group he takes over suffers from poor morale after a number of casualties in battle. While their previous leader made excuses for poor performance, Savage institutes harsh discipline and a team mentality, telling his men on no uncertain terms:

"The one thing which is never expendable is your obligation to this group. This group...that has to be your loyalty; your only reason for being."

I recommend Twelve O'Clock High for some great lessons in management and group dynamics. You'll see, among other things, an incredible illustration of:

Team Accountability

You can't make excuses when the mission isn't accomplished. You have to work on what went wrong, no matter what it takes. If you make excuses, you will meet with failure again and again.

The Top Can Be Lonely

Savage is despised by his men when he first takes over command. He has to make tough decisions to help the group improve. As a leader, you have to respect the individuals working for you while keeping the group as a whole and the business your top priority. That won't always make you popular.

High Expectations

Savage doesn't celebrate mere competence. He raises the bar and his team raises its proficiency. The unit in Twelve O'Clock High had come to accept "bad luck." A new leader changed that by expecting discipline and skill. The group began hitting targets. The same can be said for your sales team; set really high quotas and see if your reps can meet the challenge. 

Twelve O'Clock High can be an excellent tool to use to train your staff. Consider playing it at the end of a formal training session as a way to spur a group discussion.

There are countless examples of great movies that impart valuable leadership lessons. What's your favorite? 

Last updated: Apr 16, 2013

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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