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Workplace Lessons From "Survivor"

One journalist has picked up a few lessons from being an avid "Survivor" watcher all these years. They translate surprisingly well to the workplace.

Be prepared. Many contestants seem to ignore this Boy Scout motto. There is no good reason why a contestant should show up wearing high heels in the wilderness — but they do. And after all these seasons, prospective "Survivor" contestants have to know that their most pressing need in the first few days will be to somehow start a campfire (for boiling contaminated water, cooking, etc.).

Workplace lesson: Predict the predictable. If you're going to a meeting, bring a pen, paper, and the agenda. If you're conducting interviews, please prepare by at least reading the applicant's résumé prior to the interview.

Be adaptable. Contestants must also expect the unpredictable. Host Jeff Probst and the producers love to throw contestants a curveball at least once each season. The best contestants know how to change their game plan on the spot.

Workplace lesson:
Don't let yourself be fenced in by work routines and expectations. You may be great at your regular tasks, but if an unexpected request puts you in a complete tailspin, that's a problem.

Be willing to cooperate and collaborate with your competitors. Yes, there can be only one million-dollar winner, but smart "Survivor" contestants know they must build an "alliance" if they want to succeed.

Workplace lesson: Teamwork is essential. You don't necessarily have to like or agree with the people on your team, but you must learn to compromise and work toward a common goal, at least temporarily. A true loner generally cannot succeed within an organization.

Be an effective communicator.
It's not about being the best swimmer or fastest runner. No matter how many sweaty "challenges" a contestant wins, the ultimate million-dollar decision usually comes down to whether or not the person can make a compelling oral argument in the final "Tribal Council" for why they deserve to win over their competitor.

Workplace lesson: Communication skills are key in any setting. You may succeed at individual work tasks, but if you can't write and speak to managers and customers effectively, you will not move up in an organization.

Stay in the moment. Some contestants basically give up because of homesickness. The best contestants are those who appreciate the opportunity they've been given and compete their hardest knowing that it will ultimately benefit their loved ones back home, not those who moon about and cry over those they've left behind.

Workplace lesson:
Be thankful for what you've got, here and now. You might fret about being overworked and underpaid, but if you have a paycheck coming in right now, you've got it a whole lot better than many folks do.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at