So I watched the movie 300 last week. I know… I know… about 5 years late.
It’s a heart-warming little flick about Spartan King Leonidas leading a group of 300 soldiers (who were apparently raised by Ab-rollers) into battle against the Persians.
Two scenes spoke to me as a construction professional. No, not the one where the guy has his head lopped off (oh wait… that’s nearly all of them).
TAKING A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT
The first resonant scene was the conversación between King Leonidas and Daxos, commander of the Arcadians:
Daxos: But you bring only this handful of soldiers against Xerxes? I see I was wrong to expect Sparta’s commitment to at least match our own.
King Leonidas: Doesn’t it? You, there…. (pointing at Arcadian Guy 1) What is your profession?
Arcadian Guy 1: I’m a potter, sir.
King Leonidas: And you, Arcadian (pointing at Arcadian Guy 2). What is your profession?
Arcadian Guy 2: Sculptor, sir.
King Leonidas: And you (pointing at Arcadian Guy 3)?
Arcadian Guy 3: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: Spartans! What is your profession?
(Indiscernible roar from Spartans that lets the audience know they are trained killers who’ve spent a lot of time in the gym.)
King Leonidas: You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did….
You can’t beat Talent and Preparation.
To paraphrase Tom Peters, think about your business like an NFL team – acquire & develop the best talent available. Talent with a capital T.
The Arcadians may have had larger numbers, but the Potters, Sculptors, and Blacksmiths didn’t stand a chance against the Spartans. The Spartans were professional killers.
These 300 were talented. And they had prepared their whole lives to do one thing: Go to War. These 300 were great.
Steve Jobs said the difference between a great coder and an average one was at least 25:1.
In Fred Brooks’ fantastic book, The Mythical Man-Month, he stated what is now known as Brooks‘ Law, “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” You simply cannot put 9 ladies in a room and deliver a baby in one month. That aint how it works.
It’s not how many people. It’s how many of The Right People.
On the jobsite, how large is the gap between the impact of a great construction manager versus that of an average one?
What about Estimating? The difference is at least 10:1. At least.
Get the best players and you increase your chances of winning. After the Talent is in-house, then it’s all about preparation & teamwork. Which leads me to the second important scene….
“A SINGLE IMPENETRABLE UNIT.”
The second scene is between King Leonidas and the hump-back traitor of ND (is it wrong to include a Notre Dame reference in a Spartan post? Probably.). Ephialtes, to put it lightly, has some physical issues. The kids surely laughed and called him names. He was not part of any Spartan reindeer games. But he wants to fight as a Spartan….
Ephialtes: I am Ephialtes, born of Sparta. My mother’s love led my parents to flee Sparta… lest I be discarded.
King Leonidas: Your shield and armor?
Ephialtes: My father’s, sir. I beg you, bold king, to permit me… to redeem my father’s name by serving you in combat. My father trained me to feel no fear, to make spear and shield and sword… as much a part of me as my own beating heart. I will earn my father’s armor, noble king… by serving you in the battle.
(Ephialtes fiercely stabs the air with his sword)
King Leonidas: A fine thrust.
Ephialtes: I will kill many Persians.
King Leonidas: Raise your shield.
King Leonidas: Raise your shield as high as you can…. Your father should have taught you how our phalanx works. We fight… as a single, impenetrable unit.
That is the source of our strength.
Each Spartan protects the man to his left… from thigh to neck with his shield.
A single weak spot and the phalanx shatters.
From a Safety perspective, this is a great analogy. Companies don’t have a poor safety record – individual people working for the company do. All it takes is one. One person disregards Safety measures for a moment… and someone dies. Profitability rises and falls on the actions of individuals.
All it takes is one.
Everyone must be accountable. Not only for themselves, but for the man to his side. On a different gridiron, the tenet is the same. In football, ten guys can perform with unified precision, but if the 11th guy is the weak spot….
This is construction. Things don’t go right. After all, that’s why you have a job. Take what the job gives you and deliver the goods anyway. Be flexible on all things but Talent Acquisition, Preparation, Teamwork and Accountability.
And then recall the words of the Spartan Stelios…..
Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.
Categories: Jobsite Leadership