Armageddon (1998): Not Pandering to Leadership
An uplifting scene about following what feels true instead of fear-based decisions from people in positions of power
When I was a content marketing manager for a high-growth tech startup, I created a set of three values for our team to follow, complemented by a relevant movie scene. One of the values was to never pander. The idea was that we were closest to the action that drove the content strategy and that fleeting ideas from people outside the content team were to be taken lightly, or not taken at all.
The first time I exercised this value, the “disarming the bomb” scene from Armageddon (1998) that complemented the value gave me the courage to do so.
I had interviewed a leader in a different department for a podcast and, after publishing it, they asked me to delete a section because one of their former business partners who they were still under contract with said it disparaged his company. At first I said sure, I’ll delete it, but after reflecting I realized that there was no disparagement. My teammate was just pandering to the emotions of someone who was “one hundred thousand miles away” and I was about to do the same thing. Days later I notified them that I would not delete the section. They were upset and my manager and the head of legal got involved. It was awkward, but, deep down, felt like something worth pursuing.
Why are you listening to someone who’s a hundred thousand miles away? We’re here.
This scene from Armageddon kept me company during a strange time. Which is why I love movies. The spirit of a movie or movie scene can support you when others don’t quite understand. My manager said: “Why don’t we just delete it? Is it really a big deal?” I like to think that the spirit of this scene shined through me when explaining my decision to my manager and the team. Eventually, they saw that keeping the section of the podcast live was best. The teammate I interviewed even came around like Colonel Sharp. Months later they had seen the growth that the content marketing team had achieved for the company and reached out to me saying their other contract was up and that they were now an open book. It was like Colonel Sharp coming around and saying “Let’s turn this bomb off.”
INT. SHIP - BOMB STORAGE ROOM HARRY I've been drilling holes in the earth for thirty years and I have never — EVER — missed a depth that I have aimed for. And by god I am not going to miss this one. I will make eight hundred feet. CHICK (looking at bomb timer) Forty-two seconds. The timer beeps louder. Colonel Sharp looks up at it from his broken state on the floor. Straining, considering what Harry is saying. HARRY But I can't do it alone Colonel. I need your help. SHARP You swear on your daughter's life — on my family's — that you can hit that mark? HARRY I will make eight hundred feet. I swear I will. SHARP Then let's turn this bomb off. Sharp raises his hand and Harry pulls him up.
Leave it to the director Michael Bay for dramatic effect. There’s so much spirit in this scene. Triumph over fear. Trust and forgiveness. Working together in spite of differences — and this is where I made a mistake. I didn’t pander but I missed the opportunity to extend a hand to my teammate and say, hey, can you trust me on this? I know this is the right move for the company and I’d love to continue working together on good terms. It will be hard to do this marketing thing without your support.
So don’t pander, but also don’t be dismissive. Find a way to connect with the person in a way that acknowledges their concern or input and move forward on good terms. This will require vulnerability and confidence on your part and may feel awkward and uncomfortable — to the point of saying something like “God, it sucks up here” (love that line!) — but it will allow you to come together in a way that creates success outside of the task at hand.
Are you pandering to someone in a position of power? How can you make them see your side of things without putting a pipe wrench around their neck?
Note: The YouTube clip above is an unofficial upload of the scene. If you like the idea of being able to officially share scenes from movies like you can share passages from books, consider reading and sharing The Opportunity to Create the Kindle of Movies.