Star Wars is a story that gives us some powerful lessons. Sometimes the weakest leaders can teach us the most.
In movies, non-human entities are often given human-like characteristics so that we will bond with them. The characteristics are often exaggerated, yet they have to be recognizable and believable.
In the Star Wars universe, C-3PO is a protocol droid that plays two on-going and key roles for the movie franchise:
- Tell the audience how bad things are so the tension increases,
- Provide some comic relief to keep the story from becoming too dark.
C-3PO is a classic pessimist. The quirky droid personifies the paralyzing fear in all of us coupled with the ability to keep going in spite of it.
Chances are you have had at least one of these personality types on your team or in your business.
In real life, these people tend are not there to entertain an audience. Instead, they tend to poison a group’s energy, scuttle plans and become a toxic influence.
“C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.” ~ Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Many people, and especially entrepreneurs, approach life with a lot of optimism and faith in their abilities. The danger occurs when we regularly pursue ideas and opportunities without any consideration of risk. We take on more risk than we need to.
Sometimes leaders and entrepreneurs are blinded to seeing the risk, or see themselves as more capable than they truly are. They start to believe that past success predicts future success.
We need to have people on any team that can calculate the odds and see the risk. If you don’t see it, you can’t plan for it or mitigate it. A diverse team where members can speak up and share when they see problems is powerful.
The key here is that the person seeing problems is still focused on solutions and is willing to move things forward once the risks are addressed. Addressing risks can mean to avoid, mitigate or ignore.
The danger Han Solo was in from the pursuing Empire ships forced him to take the risk. Just like Han Solo, once we have considered our options, we can still decide to proceed.
“C-3PO: We’re doomed. ~ Star Wars
We’ve all seen and heard this personality type.
You say, “let’s take a ride to the top of the mountain on the chairlift” and they start telling you about all the times people get stuck or die on chairlifts.
You get invited to a gig by someone who’s heard your band play, and one of your bandmates says, “We are not good enough to play at that venue.”
You go to implement a new software tool to give you a competitive advantage and someone in the organization reads you the negative reviews about the 30 people out of 10,000 who were not happy.
Who programmed C-3PO to be so negative and fearful?
At this level of behavior, most people have self-programmed themselves to see the negative in everything as a way of avoiding risk or new things. Or they value appearing intelligent and wise.
We are all affected by our past, and our internal wiring.
C-3PO: [to R2-D2] This is all your fault.” ~ Star Wars
Related to the chronic pessimist is the person who blames their past and everyone else for why they are in their current situation.
Most times the severity of the problem or the impact of the problem is highly exaggerated.
“I told you we shouldn’t have implemented that new software product. Now everyone is going to blame us for this mess.”
“I didn’t get the support I required from management, and now I am going to look like an idiot.”
In almost all cases, it would be easier to fix things and move on, but instead, a lot of energy is burned living in the past.
You can usually temporarily refocus or re-motivate chronic pessimists, but it takes a lot of energy. The persistent negative, or toxic, views are always contagious in group situations.
At this level, chronic pessimists are so consumed by negative energies that they become almost or totally non-functioning.
Debilitating anxiety, fear or depression takes over all rational thought.
In most cases there is an underlying illness. This is well beyond the realm of leaders, team members, families or friends to resolve.
Seek the help of professionals if you suspect an underlying illness or disorder is involved.
The Wrong Droids
“These aren’t the droids you are looking for.” ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi
You need people on your team who can add to the success of your projects and business. You might just want people with passion on the team. That means good discussion and even some healthy conflict around ideas.
There has to be trust to have healthy conflict.
When it starts to move into chronic pessimism and blame, you will start expending far more energy than the value the person brings.
If this pessimism spreads to multiple people, the cost may be far bigger than you can afford.
Sometimes you need to let the droids find a new home so you can use your energy where it will serve the most.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda
You don’t want you and your team to be the ones suffering.
Photo Credits (Modified) – Flickr/Roger Schultz, Star Wars characters including C-3PO – Lucas Films