6 Business Lessons From Pixar Classics.

One of the overlooked perks of parenting is the excuse to watch kids movies, both re-visiting old classics and discovering new gems. Growing up, I loved animated films, and as I raise three cinephiles of my own—I find I still do. Not all movies are created equal, however, making me incredibly grateful for the brilliant minds at Pixar who fill their masterpieces with plenty of wit and charm for the grown-ups. In addition to their stunning visuals, sharp scripts and unforgettable soundtracks, I have found that Pixar films provide lessons not just for their smaller fans. Here are six lessons for the workplace that I have taken away from my favorite Pixar films:

Lesson 1: UP – Embrace the next generation.

There has been much talk surrounding millennials in the workplace and how to “manage” them. But while the business world stressed over perks and incentives to offer this generation, millennials grew up and became managers themselves. The conversation is suddenly about what to do with the next generation, Generation Z. Take your cues from UP. UP teaches us that instead of resisting our young, entry-level employees, we should listen to them and embrace their ideas. Of course they’re going to make mistakes – so did you when you first started your career – but they will be better off if you share your perspective with them, and you will be better off if you are open to hearing and implementing their (good) ideas.

Lesson 2: Cars – There is strength in diversity.

Lightning McQueen and his squad of Route 66 misfits offer many valuable life lessons, but the one most relevant to the workplace is to embrace diversity. While your hiring pool may not bring you as eclectic a set as a hippie, a retired military officer, an attorney with wanderlust and the human equivalent of a tow truck, try anyway. We look for diversity in gender, race and educational background – and I love that my firm has employees from all across the country, with different religious backgrounds, different sexual orientations, and different senses of humor and world views. As a result, our ideas are better. We are certainly more creative and collaborative than we would be if we were all standardized, single-track race cars.

Lesson 3: Finding Nemo – Just keep swimming.

Dory’s sing-song mantra is just as crucial for business success as it was to Finding Nemo. There are going to be hard days. There are going to be busy days. There will certainly be boring days. But “just keep swimming” anyway. As in the movie, that positive attitude may just rub off on less-optimistic colleagues too.

Lesson 4: The Incredibles – What you wear matters.

There are so many good lessons from my favorite Pixar film, from teamwork and family to trust and honesty. But let’s go with what Edna can teach us, darling. What you wear to work matters! The adage is “dress for the job you want,” but more and more I see sloppiness creeping into the workplace. If you can go straight to a ballpark or bar without changing anything about your outfit, something is wrong with what you chose to wear to work. Have a work wardrobe that makes you feel confident and powerful – your “super suit” – and please leave the casual clothes for evenings and weekends. (PS – so excited for this sequel, coming in June 2018.)

Lesson 5: Toy Story – Don’t be afraid of technology.

Nothing terrified our antique hero more than the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, complete with lasers, lights and buttons. But technology is a good thing. Every day I am grateful for email, smart phones, laptop computers – all things I started my career without. While some tools will come and go as fads, others will fundamentally change the way we communicate, gather information and do business. Rather than resist change, a la Woody, it’s best to keep an open mind when it comes to technology’s potential to make your business more efficient and effective.

Lesson 6: Inside Out – Be in control of your emotions… but also, it’s okay to have emotions.

As a woman, I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told not to let anyone see me cry at work; to keep my emotions in check; to be tough in the workplace. Okay, I guess… except I’m a human and I’ve been through some hard things, as we all have. I’m also a passionate human who cares deeply about the work I do. Maybe that’s why I love the core message of Inside Out, which is that it’s okay to have emotions – and it’s okay to be sad! The key is to manage your emotions appropriately. Fifteen years into my career, I am able to make sure insignificant things don’t set me off, and my personal life doesn’t creep into my work. But I also watch out for my team. When I see someone on the verge of sadness or anger, we step out for coffee or take a walk around the block. This allows for the opportunity to process – and resolve – whatever’s going on without disrupting the broader flow of things.


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