Quotes And Leadership Lessons From My Spy

A Reel Leadership Article

My Spy is a cute comedy starring Dave Bautista as the hardened CIA agent JJ. He’s been demoted to watching over the family of a murdered bad guy. The family is that of 9-year old Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her mother Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley).

JJ runs into trouble when Sophie notices JJ and “not” his partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) are spying on her and her mother. This leads into the many comedic, and heart-warming, moments in My Spy.

Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman in My Spy

Originally scheduled for a release in the theater, My Spy was pushed back… Again and again, until Amazon Originals picked it up for their Amazon Prime movie platform.

The back and forth between the adult CIA agent and the young kid is cute. It shows how easily one can become attached and controlled by someone else.

Be ready for laughs. My Spy brings that and more… Including the Reel Leadership lessons.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From My Spy

1. We’re not good at everything:

JJ was an excellent soldier. Some would even say he was a natural soldier. When he stopped being a soldier and joined the CIA, he became a spy.

This was something JJ was not a natural at. He struggled to remain undercover. In fact, we see this at the beginning of My Spy.

JJ blows his cover during a plutonium deal with the bad guys. He reverts back to his soldiering days and kicks butt.

We all want to be good at what we do. We even want to be good at the things we don’t do. This gets us into trouble.

By trying to be good at everything, you fail to be good at anything. You struggle to lead well. You struggle to deal with people. And you struggle to bring your organization to a level of success that it needs to be at.

Rather than focusing on everything, discover the one or two things you do well. Maybe the one or two things only you can do.

When you focus on the things you excel at, you will propel yourself and your organization to the next level.

2. Know your mission:

When the mission went sideways, JJ chose to kill everyone at the buy. He missed one bad guy, Azar (Ali Hassan).

JJ felt he did good on the mission. He took out the bad guys and ended the sale.

He didn’t, though. The mission was a failure.

His boss, David Kim (Ken Jeong), called him into the office. He let him know that the mission was a total and utter failure. The mission wasn’t to kill or stop the sale. The mission was to get more information.

We can get so caught up in the moment that we forget what our mission is.

Think about the mission of your organization… Are your actions moving you toward this goal? Are the products you’re producing moving you toward the goal? Or is the way you’re treating your team members moving you toward your organization’s goal?

We have to be mindful of our goal at all times. When we take our eyes off of it, we can mess up as JJ did.

3. Sophie:

It’s a fine line between friendly and desperate.

Sophie was getting ready for the bus ride to school. She was rehearsing what she would say to the girls she would like to be to be her friends.

The words she was rehearsing became more and more desperate. They weren’t the words of someone who was friendly. They were the words of someone desperate for relationship.

Leaders have to be careful with the way they say things. We may want to lead well… so we try to talk like a leader. Or maybe it is dressing like a leader.

The harder we try, the more desperate we seem.

Watch yourself. See how you’re coming off. Make sure you’re not coming off as desperate.

4. Your face tells the truth:

Kate receives a text message. Her face distorts. Sophie notices.

Sophie asks her mom what is wrong. Kate tries to play it off as nothing. Sophie pushes. She tells her mom she could tell something was wrong.

Kate admits there is something wrong. The text she received was work. Kate wouldn’t be able to bring Sophie to the ice skating party.

How did Sophie know something was wrong? The look on Kate’s face told her everything she needed to know.

Be aware of your body language. Your face is a huge clue to what you’re feeling or what is going on.

Leadership expert Michael Hyatt recalls how his face actually told a different story than what he wanted to. His face told people he was angry. He wasn’t but he had to learn to control his facial expressions.

Be aware of what your face is saying. It can tell the truth or it can put people off.

5. People see different things:

Sophie conned JJ into taking her to the ice skating party. When they arrived, Sophie asked JJ what he saw.

He saw:

  • A soft perimeter
  • 90 Civilians
  • Minimal security

Sophie saw something different. She saw:

  • Smiling people having fun

Our backgrounds and what has happened to us makes us view the situations in our lives differently. We can take a super cautious view of what is happening. Maybe you only see the negative. Or you might see the positive side of life.

We will all see the things happening around us differently. We have to be willing to accept the varying viewpoints around us. They will help us better understand the people we lead.

6. You can have fun:

JJ was a hard man. He didn’t have a lot of fun. You saw this in the ice skating example. He saw threats all around him.

Sophie saw people having fun. She told JJ this. She also told JJ he should try to have fun sometime.

Do you see the world like JJ? Do you only see the business side of things?

Leaders need to see the business side of the job. They also need to see the personal, fun side of the job.

You can lead well and still have fun. Work on this. Try to see the fun side of leading.

7. Sophie:

We’re all just trying to survive it.

JJ opened up to Sophie that he had never liked school. Sophie admitted she didn’t either.

She told JJ they’re all just trying to survive school. They’re trying to get through it to the next thing.

I liked this subtle cue that we’re not alone in the things that we go through. No one really likes school. They’re all trying to survive it. They’re all in it together.

You may feel alone in leading your team. You may feel as if no one else has gone through what you’re going through.

You’d be wrong.

We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to survive this thing called leadership and do what we’re supposed to do.

8. Sophie:

What’s your real story?

While JJ was out for a run, he runs into Sophie. She asks JJ what his real story is.

She knew there was more to him than what he had told her. He wasn’t just a bumbling spy. He was something more.

The truth behind JJ’s story was that he had been an excellent soldier. However, his team had been killed. This set him back.

Our stories matter. We can’t hide our stories from those we lead.

As we share our stories with our team, we become someone real to them. They begin to relate to us. They may even think they can become a leader.

This is the power in sharing your story. Let your team know the real you.

9. Figure out the first steps you need to take:

Sophie wanted to learn how to become a spy. She bugged JJ to teach her until JJ final says okay.

Once she got JJ to teach her how to be a spy, she asks JJ what was first. Was it:

  • The shooting range
  • Walking away from an explosion
  • Etc…

Sophie knew there was a place to start. She wanted to know what the first steps were.

Leaders need to be aware of the first steps too. Every new initiative will require the leader to take new, different steps.

Figure out what the first steps are. Take them. Then figure out the next steps.

This is how you will progress as a leader.

10. We all struggle to know what we’re doing:

Kate tells JJ a secret. The secret was that she had no idea what she was doing.

I think this secret is something we all have. Or we all feel.

So many of us struggle to know what to do next. We feel like we’re lost in the sea of leadership.

You’re not alone. We all struggle to lead well. Some hide this fact better than others but we all struggle to know what we’re doing.

11. Your team wants to see you as a normal person:

Bobbi was infatuated with JJ. JJ was her hero. She looked up to him and saw him as larger than life.

As My Spy progressed, JJ becomes more human. More relatable.

Bobbi notices this. She sees JJ becoming a normal person. She appreciated seeing his humanity.

Your team will know you as their leader. They will look up to you and admire you. They will also want to see your humanity.

Your team knows you’re not perfect. They know you have interests outside of the office. Help them to see this and realize you’re a normal person.

12. You will get the unexpected:

Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk), Kate’s dead husband’s brother, had kidnapped Sophie. He drove Sophie to an airfield and was planning to fly away with her.

Kate and JJ pursued Victor in her little Fiat. They were racing toward the airfield when they noticed the chainlink gate was shut.

You’re watching the movie and expecting Kate to crash through the gate. You don’t get the satisfaction of seeing the gate fly open.

Rather, you see the Fiat hit the chainlink gate and stop. The Fiat wouldn’t go through the gate.

We have so many expectations in leadership. Maybe you expect your team members to become great leaders. You might expect a 30% increase in revenue. Your expectations may be that it will be easy.

Then reality hits. Your expectations turn out to not be right.

Leaders have to deal with the unexpected. This is what leadership is all about.

Leadership requires us to shift and change as what we expected to happen doesn’t. We are to adapt to what is reality.

Expect the unexpected. Then be willing to adapt.

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