Two wolves standing in the fog

Game of Thrones is undeniably the talk of TV land as its fans reel from the latest shocker episode, The Rains of Castemere, last Sunday. The beloved House Stark was dealt a brutal blow in the show famous for its duplicitous plot twists where Seven Kingdoms vie for ultimate rule.

Spoiler Alert: Do not read this if you have not seen season 3 episode 9 of Game of Thrones

While day-to-day business doesn’t tend to involve dragons and weird smoke demons, the intricate web of allies and foes draws a few parallels to the corporate world. House Stark in particular is a much-loved family in the show, but seem to be failing miserably in the ‘game of thrones’.

Let’s take a look at the beloved House Stark family members and what business lessons can be learned from this noble family’s shortcomings.

NED STARK – Be Careful Who You Trust

Knowing who are your allies and who are your enemies is a huge part of the show (and business). Poor Ned Stark lost his head for placing his trust in “family friend” Littlefinger. From a management standpoint, building a team requires a lot of trust in the individuals you employ. Part of being a good manager is having employees you can trust and empower to build the business. Ned’s poor judgement also goes to show that just because someone was the right person for the job before doesn’t mean they will continue to be. Regular performance reviews and employee feedback are vital to keeping your finger on the pulse of your team.

CATELYN STARK – Don’t let Emotions get the Better of You

Catelyn was all mother, not manager, when she set free her family’s only leverage, Jamie Lannister, in return for her daughters’ freedom. The lack of foresight put the Stark’s campaign in a weak position and angered middle management. Being a leader requires some tough calls where emotions can run high. While we’re not saying you need to be a heartless Tywin Lannister, you have to have the big picture in mind and do what’s right strategically for your business long-term.

ROBB STARK – You’re Only as Good as Your Word

“All men should keep their word. Kings most of all”… Robb Stark said it himself. Unfortunately it was too little too late. He’d gone back on his word to Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters and ended up having his wife, mother and unborn child slaughtered. Customers don’t easily forget when you do them wrong and fail to deliver as promised. Return business is built upon the continual fulfillment of your promises and exceeding expectations. One wrong turn and your customers will be seeking out your competitors, just ask Walder Frey.

SANSA STARK – Be Informed

At 14, Sansa Stark has really been just another pawn in the ‘game of thrones’. Her naiveté and blind trust in those around her has led to some pretty horrid psychological and physical abuse for the young teen. As a young employee or manager, it’s tough to assert yourself and you normally don’t have as much authority to influence decisions. However, that doesn’t mean you should be informed and take a greater interest in your future. While we can forgive a young teenage girl for being more concerned about dresses and weddings than the state of the kingdom, the same shouldn’t be said for younger employees trying to develop their business acumen.

ARYA STARK – Be True to Yourself and Focus on Your Goals

While the older Starks seem to be dropping like flies, the younger siblings are showing much more promise. And young Arya Stark might just have the moxy to survive them all. Not afraid to speak up and defy the traditional ‘noble lady’ career path, Arya has spent most of the series going toe-to-toe with intimidating male counterparts. She doesn’t let her age or gender get in the way of her ultimate goal: to seek revenge for her father and be reunited with her family. Entrepreneurs in particular will have to fight the Arya path, dealing with naysayers and often being the sole cheerleader for their cause. It can be a long and lonely road but perseverance and conviction can see you succeed over competitors.

BRAN & RICKON STARK – Succession Plan

One of the more touching moments of last Sunday’s episode was when Bran said goodbye to his youngest brother Rickon. Knowing that his family are all facing uncertain futures, Bran sends Rickon to the safety of the Umbers so that they will protect the young boy and ensure a Stark heir survives. A pretty wise decision for an 11 year old! There are many CEOs who don’t have the forethought that Bran has. Every company should ensure its future is taken care of with careful succession planning. Top management need to identify and nurture upcoming talent that can one day fill their shoes.

So while House Stark is in complete disarray after last Sunday’s episode, there’s still hope yet. There’s a lot of talent in what’s left of the Stark crew and many lessons to be learnt from the mistakes of their elders. As we head into the season 3’s finale on Sunday, we can only say good luck to House Stark. And hey, there’s always hope that half-brother Jon Snow will save the day – outsourcing at it’s best!