What Game of Thrones can teach you about hiring

Key to the kingdom

Do you watch Game of Thrones? You should. Not just because it’s awesome. But because, by studying a few of its key characters, you’ll be able to run your business better. Yes, really.

And it all starts with your team.

Which character from Game of Thrones would you want on your team? The answers, at least to most fans, shouldn’t be surprising. I can think of three people right off the bat.

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Tyrion Lannister is my first choice. OK, so he killed his own father. And yes, he’s an alcoholic. He loves prostitutes, too. Oh, and he’s hedonistic, oftentimes lazy, and is an admitted coward at times. He’s hated by most of his family members and ridiculed by both soldiers and citizens alike for his dwarfish size. He’s perfect for your business.

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I would want Lord Varys, too. Sure he’s known as a manipulator, a schemer and a rogue. He holds the position of “Master of Whisperers” on the King’s Small Council. He’s oftentimes referred to as “The Spider” because he appears and disappears so quietly and seems to know all the secrets worth knowing from his expansive network of “little birds.” This is a guy you want on your team, too.

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Finally, I would want Brienne of Tarth in the next office. She is a giant, ungainly female warrior known for her fighting skills and her loyalty to whomever she serves. She is headstrong, stubborn and a badass. She’s willing to kill for her beliefs and she’s not afraid to die. Oh yes, you want her on your team, too.

These people certainly have their faults. Yet they are the kind of colleagues you want at your side as you grow your business.

 

It’s not just because they’re smart, brave or loyal. There are many smart, brave and loyal people in this world, just as there are in Game of Thrones. There are many people who can do their jobs well, work under pressure, and solve problems. But Tyrion, Varys and Brienne share one significant characteristic that rises above all of their other strengths and weaknesses. Do you know what that is?

A defining characteristic

“Perhaps that is the secret. It is not what we do, so much as why we do it.” ~ Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion gives young Bran, heir of the rival Stark family, a saddle made especially to help him ride a horse without the use of his legs. He holds the kingdom together as the Hand of the King and later works to balance the books as Master of Coin. These are responsible jobs. Tyrion promises the fearsome “men of the mountain clans” that they will be paid for rescuing him for “a Lannister always pays his debts” … and he does. He always does. He protects his family’s honor even as he struggles with their deception. He hates his father and his sister and his nephew the King and is not afraid to share his opinions and reap the consequences.

Yet in the end he does what is good for the kingdom.

Varys and Brienne behave in a similar way. Varys’ “little birds” are actually children that are part of his network of informants around the world. He pays them back with education and protection. Brienne’s loyalty and dedication earns her the respect not only of Catelyn Stark, whom she defended up until Stark’s death, but one of Stark’s most hated enemies — Jamie Lannister. How is she so admired by these two very different people who share very different goals? How is Varys so successful in a place where success is often defined in battle?

How do these people survive in a world of death, torture, broken alliances, lies and deception? And what makes them all so desirable for you, the employer of a company with (hopefully) very few of these characteristics? Ask any Game of Thrones fan. It’s definitely not their good looks. Or their brains. Or even their loyalty.

It’s that we trust them. We trust them.

Who do you trust?

Do you trust the customer who “promises” to pay his invoice, even though it’s gone 60 days past due? Do you trust the supplier to deliver his key materials to you on time, even though he’s been late before? And most importantly, do you trust that your key managers will do what they say they’re going to do? That they’re working for your little kingdom’s best interest? That they’ll share with you your concerns, respect your opinions, and work with you towards a common goal?

Run a business for more than 20 years, like I have, and you learn a very sobering lesson: there are very, very few people in this world who you can truly trust.

 

And when you find that someone, never ever let them go.

Now take a look at Tyrion, Varys and Brienne. Take away their armor, their cloaks, their swords and their goblets of wine. Clothe them in business attire, sit them in a conference room and serve them cups of hazelnut mocha from the Keurig. Examine them closely. Think about what they’ve done and how they’ve handled themselves so far in your favorite show.

Would you want these people to be part of your team, even knowing all that you know about them? Of course you would. Why? They are good people and they will be honest with you. They will do the right thing for both you and your company. They won’t let you down.

You trust them. And among all the characteristics of your inner circle, that’s the most important one of all.

Which Game of Thrones character would you want on your team? Please share in the comments!


Also published on Medium.

Gene Marks
Gene Marks writes a daily column for the Washington Post on business and public policy. He also writes weekly for Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and periodically for The Huffington Post and Foxbusiness.com. Gene also regularly appears on Fox News, MSNBC, Sirius XM Radio and ABC radio. His work reaches hundreds of thousands of business owners and executives each week. Gene is a Certified Public Accountant and runs the Marks Group PC - a 10-person technology and management consulting firm located near Philadelphia. He spent nine years with the international firm KPMG, most recently as Senior Manager. Gene speaks frequently to business groups so they can better understand the trends affecting their businesses and - most importantly - the actions they should take to continue to grow and profit. http://www.genemarks.com/