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Sturt & Nordstrom: 007 powerful habits to learn from James Bond

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What is the secret to the James Bond franchise success? With the fall release of "Spectre," the 24th Bond film, we stopped to ponder. How has this film series thrived for more than five decades, starring multiple leading men and countless Bond girls, captivating generation after generation? Is it the epic fight scenes, the witty banter or the resourceful villains that make this series timeless? No — regardless of who plays him, it’s Bond himself who draws audiences back to the screen year after year. James Bond is the ultimate spy. He’s better than the best. His suave skills mesmerize and delight audiences every time. And most importantly, he always wins.

But how does Bond come out on top time and again? We’re researchers. With hours of grueling analysis — popcorn, snacks and notebook in hand — the seven habits that lead to 007’s greatness revealed themselves. However, they also opened our eyes to something more serious. Our initial light-hearted conversation about a fictional character’s qualities revealed something seriously intriguing — 007’s skills aren’t just for spies, they mirror skills found in rigorous workplace studies. Read on to discover how Bond’s habits of greatness can turn you into the ultimate leader or contributor in your organization.

1. Be daring

Why is James Bond the best spy in the world? Because he knows when to make a bold move. He assesses a situation, decides on a course of action and delivers without hesitation. Confidence and assertion go a long way in the workplace, too. But this tip comes with a caveat: when 007 enters a murky situation where he knows he’s not the expert, he reaches out to M or Q or another resource to help him out — and you should too. The best leaders know the difference between when to take decisive action and when to stop and ask for advice.

2. Think on your feet

Things typically don’t go as planned when Bond sets off to thwart an evil plot, but he always manages to come out on top. His flexibility and quick thinking allow him to change course when situations veer into uncharted territory. In fact, Bond often appears lucky. Dr. Richard Wiseman, after conducting a 10-year study focused on luck, reveals in his book "The Luck Factor" that people can learn to enhance their luck. Channel 007’s intuition the next time you need to switch gears or find a little luck at work.

3. Take advantage of tech innovations

There’s a reason why many Bond films begin with a scene where 007 is briefed on the mission, and then equipped with the latest gadgets and gear. You may think the flashy Aston-Martins and spy watches are just for show, but at the end of the day, they’re incorporated into the plot because they help him get the job done. Just like Bond, the best professionals are equipped with the tools of their trade and are in the know about the latest tech trends that can make their lives smoother and easier.

4. Dress for success

Have you ever seen Bond looking anything but spick-and-span when he sets off on a mission? No — because his perfectly tailored suits lend confidence and poise. Research highlighted in the Washington Post shows feeling good about your appearance and dressing the part makes you a happier, more productive employee. And you’ve no doubt heard of the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s not a bad mantra if you need an extra pep in your step when you’re headed to the office.

5. Always have a backup plan

How does Bond always manage to come through when things inevitably go awry during a mission? He comes prepared with a backup plan. Lining up a plan B is complementary to tip No. 2: not only does Bond think on his feet, but his readiness to embrace the next-best option lets him switch gears without a hitch. The best leaders and team players in the workplace do the same: they lay out multiple courses of action and are comfortable knowing that even if plan A doesn’t work, they have a contingency.

6. Finish what you start

Whether the villain is buried, exploded, imprisoned or decapitated, a James Bond film always delivers an epic finish. When 007 sets out to hinder an evil plot, he does everything in his power, often going above and beyond the call of duty, to get it done. People who deliver great work have that same tenacity. They don’t stop until their project is complete or their idea is implemented — they follow through every step of the process to ensure its ultimate completion.

007. Surprise the audience with a difference they love

This is the real key to the franchise’s success. From the action scenes to the villains to the plot twists, Bond movies deliver new, exciting innovations with every installation. In film after film, Bond proves that he’s the absolute best, because he always has new tricks up his sleeve. Delivering a difference your audience will love will bring you success in the workplace, too. In fact, research shows nearly 9/10ths of great work projects begin with the question: “How could I make a difference people love?”

David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom work with the O.C. Tanner Institute. Learn more about The New York Times bestseller "Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love" (McGraw-Hill) at