Resistance is Futile

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I like Star Trek. Always have, ever since the original series debuted in the 1960s.

Over the years, I’ve watched all the series and movies more than once. I believe this qualifies me as a “Trekkie” – albeit with one important caveat. I don’t dress up in Star Trek costumes, attend conventions, or things of that sort. I’m a nerd, but I do have my limits.

There have been many friendly and hostile alien species featured in Star Trek over the years.
A few notable hostiles are the Klingons (who later became allies), Romulans, Andorians, Cardassians, Ferengi, Dominion, and perhaps the most fearsome of all – the Borg.

For those unfamiliar, the Borg are a race of cybernetic organisms. They are collectors of sorts, but instead of having what most of us would consider “normal” collections, they collect alien species. They call this process “assimilation.”

When a species first encounters the Borg, instead of exchanging the usual pleasantries such as “hey, nice to meet you guys, let’s grab coffee and get better acquainted” you would, rather, hear something like this:

“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

It’s that last line that really gets my attention.

As leaders, we know we have influence. The way that influence gets exercised is through authority. The way in which we wield that authority either strengthens or weakens our team over time. It’s our choice.

Think about your own work experience. Most likely, you’ve encountered at least one “Borg Like” leader or manager. I sure have.

When working with a Borg Like leader, several things jump right out: first, we exist only to serve them; second, our personal work satisfaction or goals mean nothing; third, we are expected to simply follow orders; and fourth, since we aren’t valued we can be replaced at any time. A Borg Like leader desires control above all else.

The natural human response to this type of control is compliance. After all, resistance is futile. We do what we’re told unless we want to lose our jobs. Commitment disappears, and most people will put up with whatever they have to until a better opportunity comes along.

Opposite the controlling nature of the Borg is the Coach. The Coach gets to know their team as individuals, considering each person’s hopes, dreams and strengths in allocating work assignments, and considering their input on important issues or decisions. And – the Coach regularly lets each member of their team know they are highly valued.

Coaching takes longer. It is messier and more frustrating. As the leader, you’ll have to clean up mistakes and invest time in teaching and helping your team improve. But – coaching will give a much better long-term result.

Control results in Compliance. Coaching results in Commitment.

A properly coached team will develop a deep sense of commitment to the work and to the organization. And your journey together as teammates will become more pleasurable, productive and impactful over time.

This week, spend a few minutes thinking through your own style. Do you find yourself barking out orders or using your positional authority (control) with your team more often than using your natural influence (coaching)? If so, maybe it’s time to consider making a few adjustments.

Being a good Coach will never land you a starring role in a Star Trek episode or movie. But, it will make you a much better leader.

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