4 Things Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Taught Me About Effective Teamwork

Avengers Age of Ultron, A Lesson In Teamwork

Avengers Age of Ultron, A Lesson In Teamwork

I just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (View the Trailer HERE.) for a second time! When watching this film, as multiplied millions have, one can’t help but notice the effective teamwork.  The reason the Avengers exist is to “fight the foes no single super hero can withstand.”

As a comic book geek I know that an ever-changing team roster becomes a theme in the comic book Avengers but teamwork was always emphasized.  This comes through in Age of Ultron and is an important lesson for us.

Don’t click away! You don’t have to like comic books or even Marvel movies to read this blog. This film contained some important lessons about effective teamwork.  Here are a few:

1. Effective Teams: Meld Together Diverse Personalities.

The team is made up of wildly different individuals: a billionaire arms manufacturer, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.); a fabled Norse god, Thor (Chris Hemsworth); a raging monster/mad scientist (a modern-day Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); a WWII war hero, Captain America (Chris Evans), a cold-war, Russian spy, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); and expert marksman who was a former thief, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They are under the authority of a mysterious leader Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) who is the director of a government covert ops organization. Wow, how could they ever get along?

Any team needs people with diverse personalities and skill sets.  The key to being an effective team, is melding those individuals into a unit whose skills compliment each other.

In order to do this, creating a team identity is paramount. When a sports team for example shouts “Wildcats!” as they break their pre game huddle, they’re reminding themselves that they win or lose as a team. The effective team player may pass on personal glory or accomplishment for the better of the team. Any effective team must learn that we win or lose as a team.  A great player knows it doesn’t matter if I get my points if we lose the game.  An effective team member realizes it isn’t just about me doing my job but about all of us pulling to accomplish our team goals. As the old cliché says, “There’s no I in team.”

Leaders cast vision for the team and create situations where we win together. [Leader read Servant Leadership to learn more.]

2. Have a Clear Chain of Command

Tony Stark (Iron Man) at one point says, “I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.” A  shield agent had called Tony ‘boss’. Tony points to Captain America saying “He’s the Boss.”  While there is resentment in his voice there is something more important for effective teamwork, CLARITY.

There is no doubt about who has final decision.  I believe in the synergy or group input and discussion but in the heat of battle, someone has to make the final call. Have a clear team leader and give then the authority to make decisions.

Side note: That leader must have humility as a dominant character trait or the team will become discouraged.  A good leader shares the credit for success and motivates their team to work harder.

3. Give the Team the Information They Need to Succeed 

Tony Stark (Iron Man) is trying to create an artificial intelligence that will protect the world from alien attacks.  He accidentally creates Ultron who decides after some brief contemplation, that the Avengers (and humanity) are the problem with the earth. “I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace… your extinction.”  Ultron becomes the Avengers greatest foe.

(Geek note: In the comics Henry Pym aka, Ant Man creates Ultron.)

Here’s where it all went wrong.  Tony Stark decides to work on the ‘Ultron project’ with Dr Bruce Banner but decides not to tell the rest of the team.  He didn’t want to hear their objections to this dangerous project.

An effective team communicates with each other to avoid their projects and activities hindering or harming the other team members!  Over communicate.

4. Take Time to Celebrate the Cool Things and Have Fun

As Tony Stark is searching the Hydra base (a terrorist organization) he mutters, “Please be a secret door. Please be a secret door.” and yells, “YES!” when the wall moves and he discovers one. This billionaire inventor gets excited about a secret passage hidden in an old stone wall.

We begin every meeting with “What went well this week.”  We take time to celebrate the good things, the fun stories, the lives being impacted and the successful executions.  Celebrating team success is an important key to being an effective team for the long-term.

I sincerely hope 4 fun facts about being an effective team taken from the Avengers: Age of Ultron will help your team become a super team!

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Read the first two installments in the Avengers inspired blogs: 5 Marvel Marketing Tips, and 5 Leadership Lessons from Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

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5 Leadership Lessons from Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron

I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron (View the Trailer HERE.) Friday at the IMAX in 3D.  Wow, I was instantly 12 again.  I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much since the first Avengers. It was so well-written, a modern-day twist on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

As I viewed this special effect wonder, it occurred to me how many great one-liners were in this picture.  However, you don’t have to like Marvel movies to read this blog. Most interesting about this film was it contained some great truths about leadership and life.  Here they are:

1. “You never have to recover from a good start.” In the opening scene the Avengers are attacking the Hydra base and this line was uttered touted the importance of beginning well.

Church planters have learned that successful church plants start well.  If a church can ‘launch’ big and start with a healthy culture (see Nelson Searcy’s book Launch) they are far more likely to exist 5 years down the road.  A general leadership principle is proper planning saves pain during implementation.

[also read Someday Syndrome to avoid procrastination]

2. “Teams are only as strong as their weakest link.” – During the battle with Hydra, the evil Baron ordered, “target the weak ones.”  His strategy to distract the others. They shot Hawkeye, the super-accurate archer who has no super strength or other power.  The others stopped to care for their fallen comrade and to evacuate him.

Any organization can come to a grinding halt when there is a weak staff member, leader, or team member. I experienced this when we had a staff member who was mistreating people and needed constant monitoring.  This led to many meetings, hours of discussion, and increased stress. The result was our church didn’t grow for the first time in years.

Plan ahead, put more time into your hiring and promotion processes to make sure you have the right team members. Don’t settle for people who have talent but character flaws, they’ll distract the whole team.

3. “Everyone creates the thing they dread.”  Ultron quoted this as he mused about people attempting to avoid destruction by make greater weapons of destruction.

We must be fearless when leading.  If we fear failure, we will surely fail.  For example the more I’ve tried not to offend people the more people seem to be offended. When I simply lead, explaining the vision, there are actually less roadblocks from people.

4. “I tried to create a suit of armour around the world but I created something terrible.” As leaders we must realize that our actions affect others.  We can’t make decisions in a vacuum.  It’s important to take a moment and think worst case scenario. This is hard for me as a positive, glass is overflowing kind of guy, but we must remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  In our haste to help others we may actually hurt them.  Ultron told Stark, “I know you meant well but you didn’t think it through.”

[Ever felt this way? Read this devotional on regrets.]

5. “Sometimes exactly what I want to hear is exactly what I don’t want to hear.” Bruce Banner (Hulk’s mild-mannered, scientist side) said this quote.  It is a great contrast to prideful attitude of Tony Stark (Iron Man) who isolated from his friends when creating Ultron.  Stark didn’t want to hear the ‘what ifs’  from the ‘caution crowd’.  His lack of accountability lead to creating a monster. The Bible says in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Have people on your team that will tell you what you don’t want to hear.  I don’t mean negative people who stop progress but honest people who aren’t impressed by you. People who ask the question, “Have you considered this?”  We all need those people.

BONUS QUOTE: “I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.” Tony Stark (Iron Man) corrected the shield agent who called him ‘boss’ pointing to Captain America. “He’s the Boss.”

The person who is the leader isn’t always the most talented or even the most valuable. Every person on the team has a critical function. The caution is, team members must be willing to follow the leader and their vision, even if their pride says, “I’m more talented (or smarter, harder working, etc.) than the leader is.”

I sincerely hope these leadership quotes from the Avengers: Age of Ultron will inspire your team to heroic accomplishments!

5 Marvel Marketing Tips

Subtitle: What the Avengers can Teach Churches about Marketing

Ok, full disclosure…I’m a comic book geek. I know Captain America and Iron Man from when they shared Tales of Suspense and I still yell out “There’s Stan Lee!” when I see the Marvel Mogul in any TV show or movie. I admit to my geekiness but it wasn’t just comic book nerds that went to this opening weekend. What marketing lessons can church leaders learn from the box-office frenzy that is Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron at the box office?

movies-avengers-age-of-ultron-ew-coverAs you can imagine, Marvel (an LLC owned by Disney since 2009) is a marketing machine. Marvel rose above its comic book competitors with superior marketing before being acquired by Disney. Now with Disney, one of the greatest marketing companies in the world, behind the Marvel characters they no longer just target only hard-core comic geeks. No, their target is world domination (cue evil villain laugh Mwuhahahahaa!) Ok, I promised marketing lessons for churches.

Let’s look at the way Marvel marketed this Avengers sequel as part of their BIG-picture plan to market all their films…and look at how we can apply these techniques to church marketing.

1. Marvel got “non-comic geeks” excited about these movies.

My wife and daughters are not comic fans but they are as excited about this movie as I am. Moviegoers don’t have to be comic readers to enjoy Marvel movies. Their story lines we beautifully lifted from classic comic book moments but if you didn’t know that, the stories are easily understood and explained. Bottom line, you don’t have to be a comic book insider to enjoy!

If you look at the trailers, posters and other marketing pieces, you almost forget The Avengers are from a comic book. Marvel is advertizing a movie to any moviegoer who enjoys Action/Adventure pictures. That is a key for churches when marketing, target the general public in your area, not just church people.

Marvel Marketing Tip #1: Create Marketing for People Who Are Not Already Fans

2. Marvel put the right people in the right roles.

One reason for this movie’s wide audience is the quality of actors cast. There is star power in the leading roles, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America) etc. etc. That is expected in a blockbuster movie.

What is more amazing is the Academy Award quality in minor or supporting roles: Gweneth Paltrow (Iron Man’s assistant/girlfriend), Anthony Hopkins (Odin: Thor’s Dad), Natalie Portman (Thor’s girlfriend), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).

Marvel Marketing Tip #2: Create Roles for People To Widen Appeal

When possible, leverage star power. The impact a quote from a local celebrity or a 15 second spot from a well-known guest speaker will draw people who would never be interested other wise. A testimony service from heavy metal legend Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn remains one of our churches biggest days.

Last thought on this…marketing doesn’t end at the front door, put quality people in support roles such as usher or café server to ensure people get a quality experience.

Beyond the celebrity drawing power, people must identify with your people. Ask some questions about whom you’ve ‘cast’ to represent your chfireproofurch. Is everyone in your marketing material a nicely dressed, thin, white, 30-something? Does your church look like that? More importantly does your city look like that? This isn’t about celebrity as much as having ‘characters’ people can identify with.

For example: Iron man is a flawed man. He has pride, daddy issues, a complicated relationship with his love interest, health concerns, and trouble getting along with others. To target real people, use people they identify with in marketing images and issues people identify with as topics.

3. Every movie has teasers about the next one.

One of my favorite things to do with my youngest daughter is to hang around the theater after the movie ends to wait for the teaser at the ending credits! This gets us thinking (and talking) about the next Marvel movie!

For example, two of the characters in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, were revealed in a post-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years ago! I remember explaining to my family who they were including that Magneto from the X-men franchise was their father.

There are some teasers during the films themselves also. In Iron Man 2, Agent Coulson hands Iron Man a half-constructed shield that would later become Captain America’s shield alluding to an upcoming Cap film.

Marvel Marketing Tip #3: Find creative ways to give information about upcoming services or events.

When I send out a mailer advertizing a special service, I try to have a ‘bounce-back’ event included, like a guest speaker. An example of this was Brian ‘Head’ Welch, mentioned earlier, was a January event advertized on our Christmas mailer. We also made it a big deal during the Christmas services to say ‘mark your calendars’ and to show a 30 second teaser commercial. It can be as simple as announcing your new comers gathering on Easter. Leaking info about an upcoming event is a great way to get them to come back and Marvel knows it.

4. Marvel Merchandises EVERYTHING.

Marvel will make millions at the box office, but they will also make millions more from merchandise affiliated with the Avengers. There are action figures, toys, video games, posters, collectables, lunch boxes, clothing, and partnership deals with places like Subway. This is an area where Marvel has always outshined their comic book competitors but now that Disney, the best in the world at affiliated merchandizing, owns them, you see Marvel products EVERYWHERE.

Marvel realizes that the residual money from this kind of marketing can outsell even the biggest blockbuster’s ticket sales. What does this mean to churches? We aren’t merchandising products to get more money.

Marvel Marketing Tip #4: Use merchandizing to keep your church in people’s minds.

A pen with your churches name and website will be found in a purse a month later. A free mug is a reminder to get back to church with their morning coffee. A T-shirt can be a conversation starter for a long-time member who is shy about sharing their faith.

5. Marvel Announces release dates way in advance.

Marvel has told us there are at least two more Avengers films, a two-part series called Infinity War, (They revealed the villain Thanos in one if those teasers). The next Avengers releases in 2018 (yes, 3 years from now), with the second part coming in 2019. Leading up to these films, Marvel has: Captain America: Civil War in 2016, with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok both in 2017. People are talking about them now because Marvel announces dates well ahead of time.

Marvel Marketing Tip #5: Get important dates into people’s hands early, and in writing.

Don’t assume people know the dates or times! Ok, we may know that Christmas is December 25th each year but what time is the Christmas Eve service? Easter? Forget about it, they move the date every year! In your announcements, mailers, TV commercials, newspaper ads…PLEASE put the dates and times on them. The most effective marketing I’ve done is to hand out invite cards to our people with the dates and times to give to friends.

A big opportunity churches miss is to have a countdown. Marvel is great at saying “Three days until the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hit the screen near you.” Count down to your big days on your website or in your marketing. A mailer that says “Easter is less than two weeks away” grabs attention better than “This Easter come to Church XYZ”.

In closing, when we are looking at marketing churches we should look at companies that understand how to put butts in the seats. Marvel is certainly good at that. I hope these ‘marvelous’ tips (I couldn’t resist.) will help us all market more effectively to grow our churches and ultimately touch more lives for Christ.