Work Lessons From Scandal
What Olivia Pope Taught Me About Making Gladiators Out Of Employees
It is probably telling that one of the very first things I remember about Scandal was the unorthodox hire of Quinn Perkins.
When Harrison Wright met her at the bar to offer her the job opportunity of a lifetime, Quinn Perkins was a terrified little woman not quite sure of the role she would play in the impressive setup that was headed by the great Olivia Pope.
If you have followed Scandal to the latest season then you know that Quinn Perkins is now the head of the Gladiators after Olivia passed on the reins of the entire operation to her so that she could focus on the various roles she is now juggling in the White House.
In order to share only the relevant lessons that Olivia Pope’s leadership style left me with, I did not re-watch any episodes of Scandal to write this article and as such my recollection may be a bit fuzzy at some points.
One thing that is clear, however, is that Quinn Perkins and all the other employees of Pope & Associates really embodied Scandal’s concept of “gladiating.”
Of course, to consider Olivia Pope and her band of mostly unhappy helpers and destroyers Gladiators you would have to tweak your understanding of the actual term a bit but I will be working with the much simplified concept that Scandal writers seemed to be alluding to, which I assume is, that they are fighting the good fight and mostly winning.
So here are five of the work lessons I learnt watching the interactions between Olivia Pope and her employees — The Gladiators In Suits who would follow her over a cliff.
You need a white hat
If you can make people believe that they are the heroes of a particular story then you will certainly see them attempting near impossible things. Politics is a messy game and Pope & Associates were never scared to plunge into the dirt and wrestle with the pigs but for a long time they always believed that they had the white hat, that they were doing something inherently important and good.
No matter what your company does — make phone cases or selfie sticks, write advertisement copy etc. etc. — if you make your employees feel that they are involved in a worthy endeavor then they will surely go the extra mile to achieve your company’s goals.
If we could do a quick roll call;
- Harrison: Got saved by Olivia while facing a long jail term
- Huck: Picked up from the streets by Olivia
- Abby: Saved from an abusive marriage by Olivia
- Quinn: Saved from death and then prison by Olivia
Of course, in real life it is probably not wise to be that involved in the lives of your employees but you can certainly inspire loyalty in them by standing up for them and making them believe that you do have their back and want the best for them.
Learn to play on everyone’s strengths
Whether it is sending Huck or Quinn to torture, hack, slice and dice or Harrison (while he was still alive) to do the fast talking, a role which Marcus Walker would later step into, the major gist of this point is that everyone at Pope & Associates eventually found their place and role in the firm with a little help from Olivia and the rest of the team.
Work as hard or harder than them all
Olivia Pope is not some fat, smug supervisor relaxing while her employees do all the heavy lifting. She is right in the middle of things — working for them and with them and inspiring them to go harder.
Learn how to give a speech
Actions may speak louder than words but while doing the absolute most you might as well also learn how to inspire people to follow you with words.
Pretty words only hurt when you do not do everything in your power to carry them out. So if you are committed to getting something done, learn how to whip your employees into action with words like Olivia Pope.
One of my favorite scenes from the last season of Scandal had to be the one where Charlie, faced with the absolute air of surrender in the office as everyone gives up on finding Huck, goes into Olivia’s office to confront her. He tells her to do the whole Olivia Pope thing that she does — give an inspiring speech — and raises her hackles enough so that she does just that.
Of course, Huck was later found and saved after the speech and all true fans could finally breathe easy.