A Million Miles Away: A tool for facilitating leadership and goal achievement for young leaders.

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By Roberto Carmona, Carmona Strategic Solutions

This article provides insights on how to use the movie A Million Miles Away (AMMA), streaming on Amazon Prime, as a leadership tool. Young leaders need facilitators and mentors to help get them to the next level. Here is some background on how I use movies to teach. 

In January 2003, I began my final semester for my master’s degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (HKS). I took a course, “Leadership and Folly,” taught by Stanford Professor Roderick Kramer, that taught how to use movies to support HKS’ famous leadership courses.

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After graduating from HKS, I began conducting leadership trainings for business, government, and nonprofit clients/leaders. I leveraged lessons from Dr. Kramer to design my leadership training, and the feedback from clients was positive.   

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) in Washington, DC was a major client. I customized leadership training for CHCI’s internship and fellowship programs. 

Roberto Carmona and his wife Josette Heredia-Carmona with Astronaut Jose Hernandez

Using movies strategically, I facilitated training that would help CHCI’s interns and fellows dissect key scenes that could be applied to real-life challenges. Based on CHCI feedback, this approach helped generate increased confidence and applicable learning tools. 

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Through my research for identifying leadership development tools, I discovered Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero’s Journey, which George Lucas, the creator of the popular Star Wars movies, credits for shaping the narratives in his films. 

Campbell’s hero’s journey (CHJ) provided me with tools to help leaders grasp how to learn from failure and leverage uncertainty as an opportunity. Using CHJ, I integrated scenes from movies like The Lion King, Stand and Deliver, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Godfather to generate strategies, using fear as a motivator for change and creating self-awareness. 

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How would I design a leadership facilitation or training using A Million Miles Away (AMMA)?

First, read Jose Hernandez‘s autobiography Reaching for the Stars. The director of AMMA, Alejandra Marquez Abella, and screenplay writers Bettina Gilois and Hernán Jiménez used the book to structure AMMA’s storytelling approach and integrated CHJ methodology.

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There are five ingredients, introduced by Jose’s father early in the movie, that guide Jose’s learning, actions, and decisions, from a little boy picking crops to reaching his goal of becoming a NASA astronaut. These ingredients are: 

  1. Find your goal
  2. Know how far you are
  3. Draw a roadmap
  4. If you don’t know how, learn
  5. When you think you’ve made it you probably have to work harder

Ingredient one: Find your goal, I would facilitate a discussion to define What a goal is. I would include an exercise using SMART Goals.  A SMART goal has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Number two: Know how far you are. The facilitator should help the leader answer two questions: How are you doing? and How do you know? This is where applying performance measures is effective. Metrics (numbers) and grades are good for strengthening gut feelings.

Draw A road map. The facilitator should help leaders define their competition. Help clarify where the leader is in comparison to their competitors and what they need to have in terms of education and experience to reach their goals. Jose’s wife Adela helped Jose focus on what he needed to do, to go beyond his existing accomplishments, and to challenge himself to gain new achievements, skills, certificates, and licenses, to strengthen his NASA application (marathons, scuba diving, learning different languages and becoming a pilot).

If you don’t know how, then learn: Leaders need to focus their learning and should categorize challenges as either technical challenges or adaptive challenges. Technical challenges can be resolved by auditing and leveraging experience and existing know-how. Adaptive challenges require innovation, developing new thinking, new relationships, and new methods for solution design. 

When you think you’ve made it, you probably have to work harder. This is where habits and attributes amplify enabling behaviors that promote focus, tenacity, proactiveness, preparation, and mental and physical well-being. Teach self-management tools to neutralize goal-distracting behaviors.   

Final thoughts: AMMA should be celebrated, like Frank Capra’s movie It’s a wonderful life (IAWL). IAWL is on television frequently at the end of the year. A Million Miles Away should kick off every Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). 

HHM starts soon after the beginning of a new school year. AMMA is perfect for all families to experience together so they can reflect on the value of culture, family sacrifices, mentors, teachers, and friends and how they are related to achieving academic and professional success. 

Good leaders are self-aware and know how to be grateful. Thank you, Jose Hernandez, for your story. Thank you, farmworkers, for putting food on this nation’s tables. Thank you to the special teachers for inspiring children and youth to reach for the stars.   

Roberto Carmona is a contributing writer for Hola American and is the Principal Consultant for Carmona Strategic Solutions. Roberto is a nationally recognized consultant who has successfully executed complex projects in the areas of leadership development, strategy design, executive coaching, executive search, strategic marketing, and organizational change projects for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits, colleges and universities and hospitals.

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