What’s most exciting about revisiting favorite books and movies is finding a new lesson, usually related to something new in my life.
I had a chance to re-view “The Princess Bride” and I got to thinking about the character Inigo Montoya. You know, the swordsman looking for revenge and repeating his catch phrase over and over: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die.”
About a year ago I joined Glassdoor as director of corporate and employer communications, and I spend a lot of time thinking about recruiting, employer branding and all things HR. That and my encounter with “The Princess Bride” and Inigo got me thinking about what a great employee he’d make.
I have eight great reasons I would hire Inigo tomorrow (if I needed a swordsman on my staff). First, for those of you who do not remember Inigo, or the Princess Bride, let’s catch up:
Before you read on, a word of caution: The following article contains spoilers. If you have not seen the movie, please stop reading now and go watch it.
Here are eight reasons Inigo Montoya is the perfect employee:
1. He puts co-workers at ease in a tough situation.
- Situation: Inigo and Fezzik work for Vizzini, who is not a nice man. One day, after they’ve kidnapped Princess Buttercup, things get a little tense as they make their getaway. Vizzini yells at Inigo and Fezzik without good cause, and Fezzik is distraught.
- Inigo’s response: Recognizing Fezzik’s reaction, Inigo plays the rhyming game with Fezzik, thus taking his mind off the unpleasant situation.
- How does this make Inigo a good employee, and what can we learn? A good employee recognizes the needs of other team members and does what he can to fix a situation.
2. He isn’t afraid to ask hard/unpopular questions.
- Situation: At one point during their sea journey, Inigo notices a boat following them. He knows that asking whether they’re being followed will upset Vizzini.
- Inigo’s response: He asks anyway: “You are sure nobody’s followed us?” Vizzini gets upset, as predicted, saying, “As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally and, in all other ways, inconceivable.”
- Inigo’s lesson: Inigo is trying to do his job well and help them make a clean getaway. He knows someone is following them. He also knows this will upset Vizzini, but Inigo—being a good employee—doesn’t hesitate to ask the tough question.
3. He sets goals.
- Situation: Inigo explains that when he was a boy he saw his father “slaughtered by a six-fingered man.” Inigo tried to avenge his death at the time but lacked the skills. It was that moment that set his lifelong quest in motion.
- Inigo’s response: “ I was 11 years old. And when I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say: ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'”
- Inigo’s lesson: When you have a goal, stick to it; the payoff will mean that much more. Sure, your quest may not be to avenge a loved one, but the lesson stands strong.
4. He is a master at his craft.
- Situation: Did you ever meet someone who is just great at what they do, a pure master of a craft? That’s Inigo, a master at his craft; no one knows swordsmanship like Inigo-no one.* In his famous swordfight with the Man in Black, the two discuss his motivation and his craft. Inigo is asked, “You’ve done nothing but study swordplay?”
- Inigo’s response: Inigo’s response says a lot about who he is, “More pursue than study lately. You see, I cannot find him; it’s been 20 years now, and I’m starting to lose confidence. I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.”
- Inigo’s lesson: Simply, Inigo has a goal, so he has mastered his craft to achieve that goal.
* Actually, the Man in Black might be a better swordsman.
5. He doesn’t always take the easy path.
- Situation: In the same swordfight, things are not going well for Inigo, so he says, “I admit it; you are better than I am.” The Man in Black replies, “Then why are you smiling?”
- Inigo’s response: “Because I know something you don’t know,” says Inigo. “And what is that?” asks the Man in Black. “I… am not left-handed…”
- Inigo’s lesson: The premise is that Inigo is so good that he takes on The Man in Black left-handedly. Sometimes, the easy path is not the best path for continuing to improve. Inigo knows that, so he challenges himself accordingly.
6. He speaks up, even in telling the boss he’s wrong.
- Situation: Vizzini has a catch phrase, “Inconceivable!” He says it over and over again, often mixed with other words for emphasis. There comes a point where Inigo has had enough and calls him on it.
- Inigo’s response: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
- Inigo’s lesson: A good employee speaks up when a problem arises or a co-worker is getting it wrong, regardless of the risk.
7. He’s trustworthy.
- Situation: After escaping with the kidnapped Princess Buttercup, the three encounter the “Cliffs of Insanity,” where it becomes obvious that the Man in Black is indeed following them. Fezzik and Vizzini push on and leave Inigo to fight the Man in Black. Inigo waits at the top of the cliff and, growing impatient, asks him to hurry up. “If you’re in such a hurry,” says the Man in Black, “you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.”
- Inigo’s response: “I could do that. I have some rope up here, but I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.”
- Inigo’s lesson: Inigo could have lied, but he takes pride in his integrity, so he stays true to his values. He answers with truth and continues to wait. An honest employee is a must; with honesty comes trust.
8. He admits what he doesn’t know.
- Situation: The end of the film shows Inigo aglow with the realization that he has achieved his goal: He has killed the six-fingered man. He then realizes he doesn’t know what to do from now on.
- Inigo’s response: “ You know, it’s strange: I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
- Inigo’s lesson: A good employee admits what they do not know. Not knowing is not a fault; not knowing, and admitting it, means you’re willing to learn and grow.
A friend pointed out that this list of eight is just the beginning, that there are many more lessons we can learn from Inigo. If you see or know of more, please share them in the comments section.
Marc Cowlin is the director of corporate and employer communications for Glassdoor. A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.