Even if you're not a die-hard fan
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you keep your team motivated? is written by Daniel Saks, co-CEO and co-founder of AppDirect.
Whether you feel the pull toward the Dark Side or the Light—or don’t really get the fuss about the Force to begin with—it’s hard to ignore the Star Wars mania that has swept the globe. Count me as one of those millions of happy movie-goers. But, I didn’t like The Force Awakens just because it has all of the lightsaber battles and star fighter action that any die-hard fan could ask for. As a startup co-founder and co-CEO, I also think the movie offers important lessons for anyone looking to build a strong workplace culture.
No really. Hear me out.
You can stretch and make all kinds of cute comparisons between Star Wars and the business world. Your competitor is the evil First Order (or Empire, if you’re keeping things old school), controlled by ruthless villains who will stop at nothing to crush you. Your company is the Resistance, who, with a well-aimed product, er, blast from an X-wing fighter can destroy your competitor’s Starkiller Base (or Death Star).
Okay, eye-rolling aside, maybe this is true, but I’m more interested in the human side of the saga. Star Wars has always been about people facing huge challenges and not being entirely sure how to overcome them. The adventure is figuring it out along the way, and The Force Awakens shows just how powerful having a solid set of core values to guide you can be.
See also: 6 Things That Will Make You Work Harder
It’s an idea that leapt out at me when I saw the movie (and not because I was at a 3D showing). When we started AppDirect, we founded the company on a set of values that guide everything we do. They’re uncannily similar to what you see in The Force Awakens, which doesn’t surprise me. Our values have allowed AppDirect to build a strong workplace culture that has helped us do some awesome things, and they help the movies’ heroes achieve some pretty amazing things, too. With that in mind, here are four of the biggest team-building lessons from Star Wars.
After teaming up to ditch some TIE fighters in an early chase scene, Rey and Finn (played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, respectively) burst with compliments for each other. Their humility is a refreshing departure from the typical action hero—or coworker—who steps in, tries to fix things, and never gives credit to anyone. These compliments seal their friendship, and they can go a long way toward building rapport at work.
When BB-8 rolls up to Rey’s makeshift home, no one tells her she has to help the droid complete its mission. But, she takes ownership and does anyway (with incredible results). Sometimes work projects don’t have a clear owner either; if you step up and take responsibility for a project—or, like Rey, ensure that it gets handed off to the right person—you’ll not only earn the respect of your team, but also drive results for your company.
Have a positive attitude
Finn is accused of running away from problems, but he’s actually always trying to solve them. He may not know exactly how to rescue Rey from the Starkiller Base, but he keeps on talking, trying to get to something that will work. When you run into obstacles at work, a steady stream of ideas and new approaches are the only way to overcome them. In the end, you may not use any of your ideas—in one of the movie’s best moments, Finn turns around to see that Rey has already figured out her own rescue—but the key is to keep trying.
Okay, so you can roll your eyes a little at this one (blame the screenwriters, not me!), but it is true that it takes a lot of intensity to make a hyperspace jump to a planet-sized weapon, dismantle its shields, and take out its thermal oscillator—all in about 15 minutes—but that’s just what the Resistance does. Back here on Earth, there are numerous distractions, big and small, that can get in the way at work. Making a conscious effort to move fast and stay focused will go a long way toward helping your team achieve its goals.
Sure, the challenges of starting or growing a business may seem a little less… galactic in scale, but they can still feel monumental to the team that’s striving to build a successful company. Many businesses have values and mission statements, but the key is making sure your values surround you, flow through you, and bind your company together (hey, that sounds a lot like the Force). As you build a team that can take on any challenge, may these values—whatever you decide they should be—be with you.