Business Advice Gleaned From ‘Naked and Afraid’ (Seriously)

I’m not proud of my shameful addiction. In fact, I am a little disgusted I’m fueling the machine that is the endless lineup of new reality TV.

My only comforting solace is that while watching a back-to-back marathon of Discovery’s ‘Naked and Afraid’ and ‘Naked and Afraid: Bare All, the Unseen Footage’ is that during the time it takes me to write this, I can easily say my gawking at the television is research.

article-2344667-1A6852A9000005DC-210_634x416For while the rest of the ‘Naked and Afraid’ addicts soak up the intrigue of blurred-out nakedness and bug-snake-turtle-feasting grandeur, it became intensively clear how many of the challenges and successes the survivalists faced transfer to sound business advice.

Successful professionals will verify, advancement in business depends on willingness to assess, read, adapt and perform in an endless array of obstacles. The person who innovates and excels in those same situations and inspires others to do is destined for success.

So what does today’s entrepreneurs and strong business leaders have in common with the lessons learned by watching a bunch of survivalists dropped in the jungle without supplies and totally naked?

It’s quite simple, really. If you think about it, a person starting a business, is putting himself out there, exposed to vulnerability in many aspects of life. He is also taking a chance in unchartered territory with adversity around almost every corner.

Sounds pretty similar, right? Let’s see if the rest of the theories hold:

A strong structure can withstand anything. Whether it be rain, wind, a small fire or a wild boar, a well-constructed shelter can withstand almost anything.

When adversity hits a business, the way the core structure – the leadership – reacts to this truly defines how it will make out in the end. If leadership has been put together based on a well-laid plan attracting and hiring people who are passionate and established in the business, adversity will simply make the structure stronger even though it has taken a few hits. But if a leadership is so keen on saving itself versus saving the company as a whole, it will be consumed by its surroundings and have to throw in the flag. Failure is imminent.

Starting a fire is imperative. Many of the survivalists on the show ran into difficulties when it became time to start a fire. The conditions around didn’t allow them to light one through primitive means or they were literally, just unlucky. Those people who were brought a fire starter as their one survival item were able to start the fire and keep up morale in the pair.

So what type of leader are you? Are you the one who simply can’t figure out how to light a fire under your staff or are you ready, engaged and able to motivate? The fire-starting manager is able to keep morale up by simply striking a few stones together and igniting the embers already present in a fire-thirsty team. However, the leader who can’t light a fire may have support in the beginning but momentum will fizzle to cold, gray ash.

A small victory can turn tables. In one of the episodes, a producer was bitten by poisonous snake. As the episode unfolds, Shane goes to head with the same type of snake and kills it as revenge for the producer. Shane, who was feeling pretty low just before, was pleased and satisfied with his conquest and it fueled his ability to finish the challenge.

It’s these victories that keep a team from losing momentum and enable them to pull through when competition is steep or even beating them. Momentum shifts can come in large packages or small ones. Be receptive to them and don’t discount them. Use them to keep employees focused and deliberate.

I killed it, you skin it. Some might say this is just downright bossy. But in the cut-throat jungle, it’s best to divide up the work to conserve energy.

Managers evangelize teamwork. But through lack of communication and understanding of other business units, it is often an impossibility. Good leadership guides employees to shine in their roles and then encourages them to allow others to do so when an employee is out of their range. This is teamwork and it can only be encouraged from the top, down.

The underdog rises to the occasion. OK. If I offend anyone by saying this, I am (a little) sorry. Quite a few of the men on this show were extremely whiney! They spoke of giving up, how desperate the situation was and did not contribute to solutions. In these situations, the physically weaker person – the woman – stepped up to encourage and motivate. In many occasions, the encouragement brought around much-needed success.

How often have we seen a person who usually works more in the background, step up and do what it takes to change the game? The manager who can find these underdogs and coax the greatness out of them. It takes time. But the perceptive leader is willing to invest the time because the end results could change the course of business.

To succeed, you’ve got to put it all out there. OK. Maybe you don’t have to walk into the office NAKED to put it all out there. But, we’ve yet to see a made-for-TV movie made about a person who only gave a bit. We all know true success happens when you passionately give everything you have to what you believe in. You, likewise, encourage those around you to believe in your cause, your business and your success.

Nothing speaks more to this than the entrepreneurial spirit – taking chances by putting against-the-grain ideas and cash on the line to make a business dream come true. Sometimes it pays off in abundant ways and sometimes it doesn’t. But it is worth the risk.

In evaluating all the male/female pairs who accepted this challenge and looking at who completed and didn’t complete it, it is interesting to see what prevailed in these survival situations. And in the pavement jungle, it’s just not that different. We learn whining doesn’t get you anywhere, expect the unexpected and …

A handful of worms is worth a cheeseburger …  (just watch this to find out what it means …)

Note from Deanna: In a column a few weeks back, I wrote about common sense in marketing and cited the use of ‘BBW’ in Bath & Body Works email campaigns, saying their marketing team didn’t do their homework on what the acronym meant. Since the column ran, I’ve received 8 of the normal promotional emails and the abbreviation has been completely eliminated from their campaigns … Now, who knows if the Common Sense in Marketing column played a part in it, but I’ll put a mark in the ‘win’ column just because I can.