Employees are not like Stormtroopers
Walking through Disneyland a few weeks ago, we came upon a long line of little girls, waiting anxiously to meet their favorite princess and get their photo taken.  They were all jumping up and down in line, craning their necks for a better look.  Their favorite princesses from books and movies were suddenly real and they could barely contain their excitement.

A few hours later, a much older and bigger girl was jumping up and down and practically squealing in delight.  Darth Vader had just come out to battle little boys and girls learning how to fight the dark side.  I was on the sidelines, wishing I was still young enough to participate.

Fans of books and movies usually have a character that is their personal favorite. Star Wars fans likely lead the pack in their strict preferences.  Whether it’s rule-breaker Han Solo, wise Master Yoda, or – my personal favorite – redeemed bad guy Darth Vader, we all have our pick.  For me to see the big man in person brought on all the excitement and joy that each little girl felt waiting to meet her favorite princess.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos with the big man.  I did, however, run right into two of his armed patrollers – stormtroopers – and insisted on a photo op.  Darth is normally surrounded by them, in the movies and at Disneyland, but I usually look right past them.  I would have kept going if I didn’t have any other option.  It got me to thinking…who’s favorite character is a stormtrooper?

Stormtroopers were created to build an imperial army.  They are given orders and execute on those orders.  They have a job to do, just like Han or Luke, and they do it well (at least they did until the Rebels defeated the Empire).  Then why are they so overlooked?

To answer that question, I decided to consider what it might be like to lead stormtroopers.  Not as Darth Vader, but as a real-life manager.  Would I want a bunch of them working for me?  Let’s take a look at the difference between stormtroopers and today’s employees to find out…

 

Stormtroopers Employees
Clones of Jango Fett, sharing his exact DNA. Originals with unique DNA.
Nameless, faceless beings with no sense of self, just the Empire. Unique beings with a defined sense of self.  Individual names and faces.
Expect to be treated the same. Desire to be treated based on individual needs and abilities.
Lack emotion. Emotional beings able to experience happiness, sadness, elation and anger.
Never-ending, replaceable supply of resources that meet the needs of the organization. Replacements require time and money to recruit, hire and get up to speed.
What you want done is their only purpose. Employees have other needs and desires beyond what you want done.  Motivations vary by person.
Groomed and trained from birth to do the job they are assigned. Each person comes to the table with different histories and skills.  They need to be developed and trained for what they don’t know coming in the door.
Homogeneous thinking and problem solving.  Every problem is evaluated against the same perspectives and thought processes. Diverse.  Employees bring different personalities, cultures and perspectives to their daily work and group problem solving.
If they fail, you can force choke them. No force choking allowed.

 

Ultimately, while stormtroopers take orders and do what they are told, those are not the most important qualities of an employee.  Being faceless and nameless, stormtroopers seem more like robots and less like people.  For all the flaws we have, humans are where it’s at, even if it means differences of opinion and that warm and fuzzy people stuff.

As a leader, treating employees like stormtroopers – all the same, as if they are content to do what the job requires and nothing more, with severe penalties for mistakes – is a sure-fire way to lose them.  It’s a formula for failure.

While I still consider Darth Vader my favorite Star Wars character, I won’t be moving over to the dark side anytime soon.  I’ll continue to take real people over stormtroopers and motivation over force choking for the foreseeable future.