What corporate culture could learn from Star Wars' director JJ Abrams

JJ Abrams' handwritten letter to the cast a wonderful and educational exercise in leadership and corporate culture

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Fans of light sabers and Stormtroopers will be all a-fluster this week as shooting on the new Star Wars movie begins. The pressure, excitement and nerves amongst the cast must be palpable.  What a massive and daunting task to undertake. Even sturdy Chewbacca must be freaked out by the worldwide expectation placed on his and his castmates’ shoulders. So how wonderful to learn of director JJ Abrams’ motivational note to the cast and crew, sent on the eve of filming.

His handwritten note is short and sweet yet powerful. “Dearest cast and crew,” Abrams writes. “What an honour it is to work beside all of you... I can’t thank you enough, for all work past and future.

“Let’s take good care of not just ourselves, but of each other. Amazing, but true: the world awaits this film. Let’s give ‘em something great. XO JJ”

It’s not verbose but it is lit up by heart, vision and authenticity. Beautiful stuff.

You might think this is just another luvvie being another luvvie. You’d be quite wrong. This is actually a wonderful and educational exercise in leadership and corporate culture. By sending this note to his staff before they even start work, JJ Abrams' encourages his Star Wars cast and crew to make something 'great' JJ Abrams' encourages his Star Wars cast and crew to make something 'great' Abrams creates a community where everybody immediately feels as though they're working for the same goal and that their contribution is important and cherished. If you were part of that workforce, reading that note, wouldn’t you be fired up and ready to do a great job, happy that you’d be valued, supported and appreciated? A sense of purpose and the feeling that your effort is valued are two of the most motivating factors for work – and they produce great results.

How many bosses tell you that they're excited to be working with you? Sadly many leaders never the time to thank staff for their work, whether it’s a job well done or a project yet to undertake. A heartfelt thank you and a passionate and positive - not pressurised - reminder of a shared goal can go a long way.

Abrams’ approach is so different from the fear-based, impersonal management that you see in many companies. There’s a lot to learn from his approach. If your company experiences high staff turnovers, perhaps it’s the fear and lack of soul and appreciation that’s driving people out. This stuff matters to people. As Darth Vader himself might say: When it comes to corporate culture, look, you can go farther.

 

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