Grab your popcorn! Because this May the Fourth Be With You we are inviting laughter in and talking Galaxy Quest! First, if you are unfamiliar with Galaxy Quest (gasp!) please, stop now and watch the 2-minute imdb trailer. If you want bonus points, schedule 2 hours to watch the movie this coming weekend. Even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you will be pleasantly surprised by the hilarity that ensues!  

While Galaxy Quest may be “just another sci-fi spoof” to some, the movie is a well-loved, often quoted movie in my household. Quotes from the movie remind us to “never give up, never surrender” or to focus on “the simple things in life you treasure.” But recently, I recognized it has other leadership reminders, especially about change management.

“They wanted the commander.”

In the opening scene, Jason Nesmith/Commander Taggart, played by Tim Allen, shows up late to an appearance. His team reacts to his absence, and it is clear it is not out of the norm for him to selfishly take paying gigs on his own and justify it because “they wanted the commander.” Later, he is seen autographing at a table separate from his crew. As a viewer, his big ego seems normal. Often leaders don’t know they are putting their own needs first and standing in the way of change or organizational growth. They stay in their comfy spot thinking where they are is good enough, not recognizing others around them are wanting more or something different. Recognize if you are that person by asking yourself, how many times did I say “no” or “that won’t work” without offering a new solution? Are you feeling an “us” versus “them” mentality or like you have to “win” even within your own team or organization? If you answered, “yes,” you might be entrenched and standing in the way of your teams’ growth.

"You're just going to have to figure out what it wants. What is its motivation?"

While this quote is really about an alien attempting to eat (or maybe squash is a better word) Tim Allen’s character, it applies to any change initiative in an organization well. Too often, leaders enact change without explaining the reason behind the change. This can cause a flood of “how comes” from team members, a “father knows best” perception, or cause the implementation of the change to fail. Understanding and sharing the motivation behind a change will increase the likelihood of support for the change. If you are the one making the change, be sure to answer questions like, “Why make a change?” “What is the objective?” or “What will be better with the change?” And, if you are the one being affected by the change, before you become resistant, listen for the why behind the change.

"Look! I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I’m gonna do it! Okay?!”

Every person on your team matters. No matter a team member’s title, THEY MATTER. Before a change is made, no matter how small or insignificant it may be, consider the team members who will be affected and ask for their input or opinion. Team members want to feel valued, their voices heard, and that their contributions matter to the greater success of your organization. Ask team members for their opinions, gut reactions, or if they see any negative or positive implications to current systems or work they are involved in. Having this conversation before a change is made will help garner support and demonstrate you care about your team. It also builds trust – a key characteristic of a successful team!

"I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just 'Crewman Number Six.' I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I've gotta get outta here!"

We’ve all had a moment where we felt or wondered “what am I doing here?” or “do I have what it takes?” Asking yourself these questions is completely normal. However, if these feelings of self-doubt are holding you back from change, it is time for some self-care. My favorite technique is a brain dump: grab a pen and paper, an open word doc, or a voice memo and start writing, typing, or talking those thoughts and ideas out of your head to yourself. Ask yourself, “what am I afraid will happen if I try this?” Then, when you’ve exhausted your worries, document the positive possible outcomes and what you need to know or do to proceed. This technique helps you to separate your feelings and anxiety from actual possibilities and may highlight steps to move forward.

"What you fail to realize is my ship is dragging mines."

At one point the crew makes a rather large comical mistake and enters a minefield with magnetic mines resulting in a destroyed ship. Later in the movie, the lessons learned from that mistaken minefield are integral to their success in defeating the evil Mathesar. And, while understanding the example might be difficult for my non-Galaxy Quest readers, I think this lesson is an obvious one. Remember that mistakes are inevitable, especially as you are enacting change or rolling out something new. Learn from your mistakes and turn those mistakes into resources to fuel your next success.

“Is there air? You don’t know!”

This lesson is short and sweet. You can plan and plan and plan. Believe me, I LOVE PLANS. But with change sometimes you just don’t know. So just breathe. I recently heard a saying from Ellen Langer, psychology professor at Harvard University, when you are in a stressful moment ask yourself, “is this a tragedy or an inconvenience?” You will soon recognize that how you react changes the one big thing into a small thing that allows you to move past it.

As I wrap on my sixth annual Star Trek/Star Wars dedicated blog, I hope the lessons of Galaxy Quest remind you that even when change is hard, it really comes down to YOU and how you prepare for, plan, and react to it.

Never give up, never surrender,