Admit it, you were glued to every episode. You might have equally despised and identified with the characters. It was well-written, well-acted, and well-watched. It reminded me of watching Karate Kid when I was young. I instantly wanted to rush out and try every cool move I saw in the film. Well, if you do that with House of Cards, you either have very few friends at this point or are one step closer to a plush Washington DC career. Just like Mr. Miyagi taught us, the lesson might be deeper than what is presented on the surface. I mean, there have to be some solid lessons we can glean from Francis and the gang, right?

Yes. Yes there are.

Here are five functional business lessons the dysfunctional characters of House of Cards taught us.


Doug Stamper – Look for mutual wins.

Doug was always busy managing fragile relationships, running cover, and being a fixer. What is cool about Doug is that he seemed to look for ways to help the parties involved. Let’s say you are a hooker who just lost a big DC client. Oh no, you are out of work and the only place for you to get your life back on track is to stay with with a DC secretary and work at AppleBees (or the equivalent). Doug totally hooked that up (pun intended). He went the extra mile and even helped the little whore get her own place. In return, she kept her mouth shut (literally and figuratively). Everybody wins. Way to go, Doug.


Janine Skorsky – Leverage situations, not people.

The old journalist was getting pushed out by the social media savvy spring chicken. Now, Janine didn’t go quietly. Would you if you lost your post in the White House Press Corps? Hell no! But the jaded journalist didn’t stay knocked down. She kept her eyes open and looked for an opportunity. Soon she partnered up with her nemesis and squeezed her way into the blogosphere. Janine recognized the power of embracing change. She made her move, jumped in, and broke a few big stories…140 characters at a time.


Peter Russo – If you want to control the message, then don’t let loss of self-control become the message.

PR lesson #1: It’s not a crisis until someone uses the word “crisis.” In Peter’s case, it’s not a relapse until you do a radio interview blitzed out of your mind. Peter is a perfect example of loss of control. Screw the message. Who cares about the message. Did you see how stoned that guy was? Often there is too much emphasis on crafting the perfect message and less emphasis on who will be delivering it. Peter tried to get cleaned up. He was almost the governor of Pennsylvania. He had everyone convinced he was “the guy.” Then he lost control. Then he lost hope. Then…well, I don’t want to spoil anything. I will exercise self-control.


Zoe Barnes – Make the conditions of the relationship clear in the beginning…and revisit those conditions often.

It’s just sex. It’s just an exchange. Good old fashioned quid pro quo. What could go wrong? Everything. Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned. So much of the drama between Francis and Zoe could have been avoided if they just stuck to the original agreement. I know, I know, it’s not realistic. But then Frankie gets butt-hurt when Zoe won’t return his texts. This is not just about their sexual relationship–which should not be part of the business lessons you take from this. This is about their working/professional relationship. She wanted access and he wanted to help shape the stories. They moved away from the original arrangement. I blame the sex. Her daddy issues and his schoolgirl fetish probably didn’t help.


Francis Underwood – Understand that action doesn’t create a new reality — impact does.

I think the simple way to watch House of Cards is to look at all the things Francis sets in motion to achieve his end goal. Everything had to move at just the right time. However, nothing ever did. Francis knew this. He didn’t watch actions. He didn’t rely on actions. He was entirely concerned with impact. When an impact occurred he assessed the new reality and moved accordingly. From impact to impact he navigated the waters. A focus on actions over impact generally leads down a narrow road. Francis showed us that there are several action one can take to create the desired impact, but you must work with the impact in mind.

So, it’s not all bad. They aren’t a crew of lost souls lacking a single redeeming quality. I found them quite helpful.