Category Archives: Friday Afternoon Edge-takers

Leadership Lessons from Galaxy Quest (Friday Afternoon edge-taker)

Friday afternoon…time to take the edge off the week.

I’ve written before that, as a veteran of many a leadership course–can’t you tell?, I grew quite tired of having to draw leadership lessons from required viewings of war movies. (Henry V is always a favorite here, although to be fair that is one of the more nuanced of the lot.) And I offered up that it would be great fun to work up a leadership seminar based on the movie Galaxy Quest, a sendup of the Star Trek genre. (For those of you who don’t know the movie, well first shame on you, but it features Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and several others. They play the actors of a Star Trek-like TV series who many years later make their living by attending fan shows. The problem occurs when the group of actors meet up with a distant alien population, the Thermians, who understood the old TV shows to be historic documents. When these pacific people are threatened by a belligerent enemy planet, they build out all the technology exhibited in Galaxy Quest for real but now need the experienced crew, i.e. the actors, to make it all work correctly. Here’s the trailer.) (It looks like the whole movie is currently available on YouTube, cut up into scenes, if you’ve never seen it.)

So the clips available (legally) are limited, but the clip below actually captures one of my favorite leadership moments. Tony Shalhoub, who plays the engineer “Scotty” character–Tech Sgt. Chen, has been asked to help the gentle Thermians with their engineering problems. The Shalhoub character’s only real expertise, however, is eating, but watch how he engages the Thermians with his questions to draw out the answers they don’t know they already have. So here you see the importance, as a leader, of listening, asking the right questions, and encouraging your colleagues to think for themselves. This has the extra benefit of being a scene cut from the movie, so even if you’re a Galaxy Quest fan you haven’t seen this scene before. (You only need to watch the first scene in this clip, but you may enjoy the others. The clip does seem to play slow most times, but usually plays better if you click through to YouTube itself.)

There are many other wonderful lessons in the movie about the importance of being corny and emotional as a leader and about how a group of selfish actors become a selfless team. Unfortunately, I’m not enough of a hacker to isolate the scenes. But maybe some day, when I’m a high-priced consultant and can afford the film rights…

Happy Weekend!!!

The Two Tow Trucks–Friday Afternoon Edge Taker-3

My car has a manual transmission. I’ve always driven cars with stick shifts–I just love the more intimate connection with the engine. I particularly love to drive the 6-speed manual, diesel-engined cars you get to rent in Europe. (I think one of the dynamics you have to guard against as you get older, by the way, is the inclination to want to make things smoother–take the bumps and dips out of life and experiences. Not only does this make life less zestful, but it’s actually bad for you. The more experiences you have, the sharper you remain. Researchers, for example, have concluded that walking barefoot (and baring other appendages) is actually good for your brain health. Exposing and stimulating all those nerve endings, otherwise trapped behind layers of fabric, keep your mind even more active. See here for the radical cure.

But as I was saying, my car has almost 90k miles with its original clutch, a personal best for me. And the specter of clutch failure had been preying on my mind for about twenty thousand miles when Wednesday, KERPLANK, the clutch pedal collapsed to the floorboard, and I immediately had to pull over. (Those of you who are car experts will recognize this turned out to be not the clutch, but a leak in the hydraulics–a more reasonably priced repair but a turn of events which still leaves me prey to clutchophobia. Sigh…) FINALLY I get to call AAA after decades of loyal subsidies. The service rep was excellent, the tow truck arrives within 15 minutes of the call, drives past me on the two-lane residential street, and proceeds to make a u-turn to come back to me.

In this picture, you can see the truck in the rear view mirror just as it has become stuck in the mudpit on the shoulder. Perhaps you’ve heard it’s been raining a lot on the East Coast this year.

After about five minutes of reverse-forward, forward-reverse, the driver stops by to say Hi and to tell me he has called another tow truck to tow him out of the mud pit. Here they are when they first meet.

And here you see the kiss and embrace of the two trucks.

And the resulting environmental damage.

The truck driver was a jolly fellow. I’ve tweeted this elsewhere, but I took the opportunity to ask him which cars he towed most often. With no hesitation, he said VWs. The cars he tows least–Nissans.

Happy Spring to all!!!

PS: I have no connection and receive no financial remuneration from any of  companies/businesses mentioned.

Friday Afternoon Edge Taker–2

While in Florida doing the spring training thing, I met one of my college roommate’s fellow ushers at the Washington Nationals ballpark in Viera. This is a new acquaintance for my longstanding friend Susan and as the three of us were having lunch the usher mentioned she had worked in Germany for 30 years as a school nurse in the DOD school system for military dependents. Oh, I had lived in Germany as a kid, I said. I remembered it fondly, particularly my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Fisher, whom I consider the best teacher I ever had. Mrs. Fisher was a Japanese-American and the only other fact I remembered about her personally was that she liked Lana Turner movies.

Susan’s fellow usher said: Mrs. Fisher!! One of my best friends in Germany was a Mrs. Fisher who was a Japanese-American. She had retired and was now living in Chicago.

Could it be? Yes, it could be. I now have Mrs. Fisher’s email and will send her a note reintroducing myself. I hope she remembers me from 44 years ago.

And I got to thinking about the incredibly strange, surprising, scary, and yet at at times incredibly uplifting journey life can be. Of course this is just some 1 in a trillion coincidence. No matter that the previous day I had been thinking about what metric I should employ to decide among the options available to me in my second life. And I had decided, I should choose the option which offers me the greatest opportunity to learn. Nah…it is just a coincidence, I’m sure.

But I’m reminded of the great book I read more than ten years ago, Leadership and the New Science by Meg Wheatley. If you check her website you learn it is now in its third edition. One of the most inspirational statements I ever encountered came from that book’s first edition. In the epilogue, it used to say, but now I think it has been rewritten, that we should live our lives in confidence, knowing each step we take brings us closer to understanding the meaning of our lives.

Friday Afternoon Edge-taker (One Day Early)

I’m riding the DC metro today and I overhear the following conversation. Scout’s honor.

Two women, in their 40s, probably in the workforce on their lunch break. They’re talking about a television show and the conversation turns to exotic dancers and pole dancing.

Woman 1: Hey did you hear that some people are lobbying to make pole dancing an Olympic sport?
Woman 2: No, but that would be good. It would give exotic dancers another career option.
Woman 1: You know one thing I’ve never understood is where do they put their money.
Woman 2: What do you mean?
Woman 1: Well if they get $1200 in tips where do they put it. I mean if they get 12 $100 bills well I can see how they could tuck that into their G-string but what if they get it all in twenties. Where do they put it.
Woman 2. Well, maybe they have lockers.

In my effort to keep readers educated as to latest trends, here’s a link to a story about the Olympic petition.