Management Lessons......


 Five Management Lessons I learned from watching Longmire

Three good ones and two awful ones 

by Fred Schippa - Managing Director, RISE Consulting Group, February 5, 2018 

We don’t watch much television. Actually, we only watch Netflix and Amazon Prime, which allows us to occasionally binge on shows that we really like. We REALLY enjoyed Longmire, which I would (and have) recommended to anyone who will listen. The characters are relatable and complex, the scripts are well-crafted and just unpredictable enough, the dialogue is clever and real, the location is beautiful and the music is perfect. But beware, it just finished its final season so, if you decide to watch and I hope you do, pace yourself. There are only six seasons and 63 episodes to enjoy. The show was inspired by several novels by author Craig Johnson - I haven’t read any of the books yet and look forward to doing so.

Walt Longmire is the protagonist. He is the sheriff of a fictional county in Wyoming.  He is the quintessential cowboy/lawman. He would have been at home in the late 1800s but fits just fine in the present-day setting. Except that he stubbornly refuses to have a cell phone. The town where the show takes place is adjacent to a Cheyenne reservation and I think the writers do an excellent job of weaving the two cultures together to create a special dynamic that is both moving and inspiring. It also has Lou Diamond Phillips who I have loved since La Bamba.

Okay, enough of me channeling my inner-fanboy. Let’s get to the reason I chose Longmire for this month’s article. Upon reflection, I think we can all learn some practical management lessons from watching Longmire. Some of his traits we should strive to emulate, others we should avoid at all costs. I am highlighting examples of both below.



Have a clear moral compass, always – Even though Walt lives in a complicated world and deals with complex situations, he NEVER compromises his moral and ethical values. Well, maybe once, but I can’t go into that here without spoiling part of the narrative. He is clear in what is right and what is wrong and steadfast in pursuing the truth and doing what is right, no matter where it leads. Being honorable, trustworthy and ethical is what we should ALL aspire to and will inspire those who work with and for us. Some people familiar with the show might have a different perspective, and again I am not going to spoil the show for anyone, so suffice it to say that, IF he ever did something that would be defined as “illegal”, he did it for a good reason AND he would absolutely be willing to take responsibility for the choices he made. At the end of the day, our reputation is our most valuable asset. With a good one, you can always recover from setbacks and unfortunate circumstances. With a bad one, no amount of success or financial gains will sustain you in the long run. Guard your reputation, don’t compromise your values, do the right thing always and trust that good will follow you.

Take care of your people, no matter what – I’m sure this is a given in law enforcement, where people’s lives depend on knowing that your boss and co-workers have your back, but it should apply as well to us in business, where the physical stakes are lower. Walt values and protects those who are in his charge. He would never “throw someone under the bus” or lay blame. In fact, he often takes the fall for what happens on his watch, regardless of who made the error. This is a very admirable trait and it goes both ways. If you take care of your people, they will be loyal and invested in your relationship and business. If they know that you have their best in mind, they will move mountains for you, look for opportunities to make you successful and forgive you when you make mistakes, as we all do. As leaders of teams in business, it really is our job to take care of our employees first. If we do that, THEY will take care of our customers and clients, who will, in turn, take care of us through their repeat business and referrals. That is the healthy business circle of life…hey, I like that!

Face your problems “head-on”, and as soon as you can – Whenever something required action, Walt took care of it right away. He also took on the toughest and most difficult duties personally. As you can imagine, one of the toughest jobs law enforcement has, is to notify family when someone is in trouble or worse. I can imagine some people might seek to delegate those things but not Walt. He would never procrastinate, delegate or vacillate when it came to a difficult task. We would do well to adopt that trait in our lives. It is natural to avoid conflict, but if something needs to be done or said, waiting doesn’t usually make it any easier and ignoring or avoiding it usually makes it much worse. In fact, dealing with the toughest things quickly usually leads to an easier resolution and less stress. Even when managing my daily tasks, always start with the “worst first” philosophy, in order to deal with those difficult tasks as quickly as possible. I think we tend to make things bigger in our minds than they are in reality so the sooner they can be resolved, the quicker we can move on. Also, we shouldn’t ever ask anyone to do anything we wouldn’t be willing to do ourselves. In business, I have always seen my “job” as doing whatever needed to be done and whatever my boss tells me it is. If your team sees you willing to take on any task, especially the unpleasant ones, they will respect you and model that behavior themselves. This can only make your team stronger as you develop future leaders.


The BAD…

Communicate with your team, clearly – One thing that Walt was awful at was communication. Again, in keeping with the stoic cowboy persona, he rarely spoke, and when he did, it was the fewest number of syllables possible to communicate only the absolutely critical information. Consequently, his team was often in the dark about what was going on and had to work together to puzzle things out. This made for funny scripts but a lot of confusion and unnecessary speculation. Perhaps one reason Walt’s character was so poor at communicating, is that the mysteries that were solved each week would have only taken 20 minutes, rather than the 40 or 60 that made up each episode. One of the main responsibilities of leaders is to keep everyone pulling in the same direction, toward a common goal and vision. We need to “over communicate” to mitigate the risk that someone might do something inconsistent with our goals and values. Communication is the grease that keeps the engine of a company running smoothly I suppose one saving grace of Walt’s poor communication style was, when he finally did speak, it was easy to understand what he meant since he spoke plainly and clearly.

Don’t be unwilling to consider you might be wrong – Again, I don’t want to spoil any of the storylines in the show, but one flaw Walt exhibited on more than one occasion was a stubbornness to consider he might be wrong, even when evidence pointed to it. It should be noted; WAY more often than not, he was right and very clearly gifted at his job, but on a few occasions, his personal feelings got in the way of his ability to be objective, and it had major consequences. In business, we need to find that balance between being firm in our convictions, which sometimes means sticking with our plans in the face of adversity, including other people’s criticisms and disapproval. There will always be people who point out something they think you are doing wrong. They may mean well, but for those of us who are trying to push the envelope and build something by getting out of our comfort zone, many of our friends may try to discourage us because we force them to consider why they aren’t doing the same thing. There will be times when we actually need to consider facts and situations requiring us to pivot and move in a different direction. I’m certain Bill Hewlett at HP wished they hadn’t been so certain that personal computers were a waste of time, when they refused Steve Wozniak’s first computer design five times before he went on to found Apple. I have always believed, the more certain you are that you are right, the greater the risk you are wrong and don’t see it. At those times, you need to be careful and check your reasoning.


The Epilogue…

Well, those are some of my Longmire lessons. There are many more that could be gleaned from the series, both good and bad, but I will leave you to discover them yourself. I don’t know if I am violating any rules by mentioning the show and network by name. If any attorneys are reading this, keep in mind I received no compensation for this article and I have only good things to say about the show, the network, the state of Wyoming, the Cherokee Nation and anyone else who might be reading this. Warning - There is some violence and colorful language in the show. It is, after all, a crime drama in a rugged community, but it certainly isn’t “Samuel L. Jackson colorful” (please don’t sue me Mr. Jackson, I love your work and am probably one of the few people who liked Snakes on a Plane). So just make sure the kids are out of earshot when you watch it.

Have fun watching!