One of the more interesting aspects of being a geek in the corporate world is that sometimes people don’t “get” your humor. Geeks are some of the funniest people I know. I appreciate the dry wit and the ability to work movie quotes into nearly any situation. My facility with both forms is what gets me into trouble from time to time.
What brought this to mind was a meeting I was in last week in which we were discussing a colleague’s new role working with social media. The big joke in the room was that he would be the Chief Tweeter. I happened to know that he had a personal Twitter account. I (and probably you) have seen many flubs on corporate Twitter accounts where someone thinks they’re posting from their personal account and instead do it from the corporate account. So, using a combination of my Twitter knowledge, insightful wit and geek fluency I said “Good luck, but make sure you don’t cross the streams.” Dead silence. I’m thinking: “really, really? Nobody got that?” Cue snickers (directed at me) and looks of incredulity. Now I have to explain the joke and the Ghostbusters reference which only made a bad situation worse.
In truth I usually catch myself before speaking geek in the conference room. But, there are so many great lines that are so appropriate for so many work situations. It’s just a shame to limit these opportunities. So I thought it might be helpful to quote a few great geek movie lines and outline their proper use in the executive suite. And by the way, I’m not going to reference the movie these are from.
“I sense a disturbance in the Force.”
If this is to be a primer, we should start with an easy one. Now, how to use this at work? Let’s say you have a big project underway. You’re close to it, or at least closer to it than your colleagues and the people above you. You’ve just some to the realization that something ain’t right and this project is about to go south. But, instead of telling everyone it’s about to hit the fan, you can come at it sideways. As you give the project update stay positive, but toward the end roll out: “Project status is Green but, I sense a disturbance in the Force, so I’m moving it to Yellow until we better understand it.”
Sure, we geeks have lots of uses for this phrase in-game, but the concept is prevalent in the corporate world. Let’s continue on with the scenario above. Once you’ve identified the problem, what’s next? Decide who’s accountable for the problem. There’s always someone key to the project that’s out of the office or at least not in the meeting. In your meeting prep, agree with your colleagues on which person or department will be the “meat shield” when you roll out the bad news. Let them take all the hits while you and your colleagues come up with a solution.
“There is do or do not, there is no try.”
Let’s face it. Every organization has any number of whiny Luke Skywalker wannabes on staff. “I can’t meet that deadline” is really no different from “I can’t lift that X-Wing out of the muck.” You’re the wise, experienced manager who has seen much come and go. In these situations just roll out “There is do or do not, there is no try.” If nothing else it gives them something to think about. Want to really leave them wondering? Say it in your best Yoda voice.
“There is no spoon.”
Now, as a manager, you will occasionally demand more from your team than they think is possible. They’ll come into your office with a thousand different reasons why the project can’t be done or the deadline can’t be met. Most of those reasons will be eminently logical. So, your responsibility is to change their perspective, teach them to look at the problem in a new way. My suggestion? Look them straight in the eye and say: “there is no spoon.” They’ll figure it out…eventually.
“Many Bothans have died to bring us this information.”
In an era of corporate downsizing and doing more than less, there are a lot of impossible tasks and deadlines to deal with. Your team may have worked late nights and weekends to complete a research project or to figure out why the system bombed and the company lost a ton of revenue. But now it’s your turn to shine when you present this to the leadership team. You’re a good guy and you want to ensure people to know how hard your team worked. So as you fire up that Powerpoint, turn toward your boss and colleagues and begin with “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” The beauty of this one is you can use a shortened version when announcing layoffs: “Many Bothans died.”
This can’t be all of them. Leave your suggestions in the comments below