We are excited to share a new series of articles with you that will discuss the ins and outs of managing a business. We’re taking principles from movies that we love for what they have to teach and are applying them to running a business. Please enjoy, and share your thoughts of other movies with guiding principles you think are important to the business world!


In the 1986 film Hoosiers, Gene Hackman plays a basketball coach, Norman Dale, who was dismissed from his college coaching position because he hit a player. Looking back on the incident, Dale does not remember why exactly he hit him; all he remembers is that the player did not do what he wanted, and, in a fit of rage, he struck him.

Norman Dale is given a second chance when granted a position as a high school basketball coach. His team makes it to the finals, and in the championship game, Dale wants to make a call to use one of his players as a decoy so that another can score. As he is in the huddle with his players explaining the play, Dale sees that the players are hesitant. The player that was to be used as a decoy speaks up and says, “I’ll make the shot.” Watch the scene here:

When a leader, coach, boss, CEO, etc. and their staff trust each other, the company’s goals can be met with efficiency and proficiency.  The leader trusts that staff sees and executes the company’s vision.  Along the way, the staff will feel the freedom to bring new and insightful ideas to the leader that will advance the company’s vision and goals.  The leader who is open to his/her staff’s new ideas creates an atmosphere of respect and trust.  The staff, on seeing the respect and trust from the leader, will in turn respect and trust the leader.  A good leader will develop the techniques and strategies to make decisions that will include the input of his staff and cultivate trust.

How Is Two-Way Trust Established?

There is a four step process that must take place so that trust can be established between leaders and staff. The steps are: the leader establishes authority, the leader provides structure, the leader creates a cause, and the staff and leader work within their symbiotic relationship.

Establishing Authority

In order for both staff and leadership to trust one another, each must be aware of the roles that they play within the company. This starts with the leader filling his/her role as a leader. Employees must know that a leader will fulfill the expectations he or she has established.

Another scene from Hoosiers shows Coach Dale dismissing two players from the team at the beginning of the season for talking instead of listening to him. While this seems harsh, Dale understood that if he did not set up his expectations from the beginning, the team would not accomplish their collective goal of becoming champions, because they did not trust in his authority. Without the expectations of authority being met, staff cannot trust that a leader is effective, which then can morph into mistrust about how well a leader fills his/her role. This immediately undermines authority. To the contrary, when a leader complies with the rules he/she has established, the staff knows what to expect, and can proceed in their tasks without confusion. This creates trust, which will increase efficiency.

Establishing authority goes both ways. While the leader has the responsibility to be the authority figure, the staff have the responsibility to follow through with the tasks presented. If there are staff who do not want to comply, this simply means that they don’t understand the leader’s vision, and can either learn to see it, or be helped into another position within the company or change employment. Those who do leave simply need to find a place that has a vision with which they can align themselves. Read more about helping everyone see the vision here. Once the staff that do believe in the vision begin to comply with the guidelines the leader has set, authority has been established because staff believe in the leader and want to accomplish a common goal.

Providing Structure

Providing structure is very similar to establishing authority; it is established authority that is consistent. Three essential elements must constantly be provided by the leader to make sure everyone is still on the same page: context, guidelines, and resources.

Context must be provided in order to accomplish goals. Context helps staff understand the scope of a certain job or task and how it contributes to the common goal. Guidelines let staff know what a leader wants and how structured any given goal is. If something needs to be completed that does not require a particular way in which it is to be done, then this should be communicated, and vice versa. This will help staff trust in leaders, once again, because they will have a clear idea of what their objectives are. This communication may recur, if needed. Resources may include multiple trainings and meetings, or anything that is implemented to help complete the task.

Creating a Cause
At the end of the day, people want to do what they want to do. The challenge that every leader has is finding a common cause between the company’s needs, his/her personal goals, and the staff’s personal goals. In Hoosiers, the common goal was to become champions. Leaders must find something that his/her staff can get behind; maybe it’s developing an award-winning application, saving the whales, or being the quickest at delivering a product. Whatever it may be, everyone on the team must be passionate about it and motivated to contribute. This is also a two-way street. The leader finds or creates the common cause and the staff work towards it. Coach Dale’s athletes contributed to the cause, and Dale was a strong enough leader to accept their contribution which enabled their success.

Symbiotic Relationship
Once everyone has a common cause and processes are in place, they can begin to make game-changing calls that will ultimately lead to a company’s success. Both leadership and staff will fill their corresponding roles appropriately and collaborate effectively. As the leader continues to guide and create a foundation of authority, and the staff continue to believe in the vision and cause, everyone on the team will feel comfortable speaking up about what they know and sharing their opinions that correspond with the company goals.

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