How Star Wars Made Us Better. An Interesting Example of Leadership

Julie Jones
May the Fourth Be with You, held May 4th each year, celebrates Star Wars. Special events and themed days in healthcare facilities are common to create an experience for employees, visitors, and patients who come to the cafes. An event with a custom menu, themed menu item names, décor, and café employee participation, makes it visual, tactile, and interactive. These events are a welcome break for healthcare employees who are caring for others, visitors who are worried about their loved ones, and the patients themselves if they can leave their rooms.

Once the special event idea started brewing to celebrate Star Wars, the creativity flowed. You have to let concepts brew and simmer to move beyond the easy ideas. Once the team gets past the easy, it is like watching a train gain speed. New ideas are pitched and added to by others, and the volunteers get more excited, the group’s energy increases and the ideas take on a life of their own.

Imagine entering the café with special lighting, music, and menu boards featuring items such as BBQ Porkins Pizza, Tater Vader Tots, Endor Endive Salad, or Chewbacc-lava. Just outside the entrance are live, costumed Star Wars characters just waiting for a photo opportunity. Customers appreciate the extra touches even if they are not Star Wars fans. It is different than normal and appreciated.

So how did Star Wars make us better leaders?
Finding ways to give back to others adds fuel to your leadership gas tank. Making a difference for others cannot help but make you feel better in the process, which research also supports. When you can combine giving as an event, the effect multiplies not just for you as the leader but for others who take part. In addition to the benefits of giving, special events also develop other leadership traits and skills including:
  • Get creative juices flowing
  • Promote teamwork
  • Engage others in the journey

Get the Creative Juices Flowing
Engage employees to come up with ideas for theme days. For those with a particular passion, let them share it with others. Employees want to be engaged in work and contribute in different ways. I have seen a shy employee become a brave warrior in a Star Wars costume. As an added benefit, creativity pays it forward. It can generate new ways of doing business every day and not just on special event days.

Promote Teamwork
Someone asked me once about how we built such strong teamwork in the foodservice team. I responded that we consistently practice. Special events are a way to practice teamwork, engaging all front-line employees through the director level WHILE having fun. There is pressure to perform on event days, and front-line employees like to give direction to those of us who are less experienced in day-to-day jobs. Other teams do not have often have the chance to work together in these unique ways.

Engage Others in the Journey
Special events are always a journey from brainstorming to execution. When you invite others to participate, they are part of the process and more committed to its success. Seeing their ideas built into the event recognizes their contributions. These employees become strong brand ambassadors promoting the event to others on the team or to customers. It is also a way for employees to think for the benefit of customers. These events help employees recognize the impact they can have on other people and connect them more closely to their role.

You include customers in the journey when you create an interactive experience. Your customers are sharing the experience, not just with you but with the other customers. I have seen Star Wars movie conversations pop up between people while waiting in line to have their pictures taken. Star Wars has a large fan base, and it was interesting to watch this community develop through people during these events. Foodservice can play a pivotal role in establishing community in an organization. Public events like these shape the culture, demonstrate the values, welcome and include others, and provide a needed break for those facing tough healthcare challenges or for the caregivers delivering care.

Leaders work for the benefit of others.
These events are opportunities for leaders to give back and work for others, including your team, your customers, and the organization. These events make more of an impact than you think. You have engaged your team and their ideas and made a difference for someone who might be having a bad day. I also talked with a grandfather at one of the events who has thrilled to share an experience with his grandchildren who were visiting him while he was a patient in the hospital. These outcomes are powerful and are measured by positive feelings. These events take work to execute, but I believe we always gained more in the process by making a difference for others. Goodwill given is goodwill returned.

Ask yourself these additional questions:
  • Even if you cannot hold a special event in a public space, how can you host a memorable and interactive special event for your team that will make a difference?
  • How can you practice teamwork where line employees can direct the “volunteers”?  
  • How can you include others in this journey?

  • Recognize National Healthcare Foodservice Week October 6th – 12th, 2020 and National Healthcare Environmental Services and Housekeeping September 12th to 18th, 2021 in a special way. 
  • Google search interesting holidays, observations, and national days. Keep this list handy to jumpstart brainstorming. Consider these unique October “holidays” – October 6th – National Mad Hatter Day recognizing the character in the Alice in Wonderland; October 17th – National Mulligan Day -Wouldn’t be nice to give people a second chance; and October 30th – National Candy Corn Day, of course who doesn’t love a treat? 
  • Commit to hosting one special touch event and include others in the journey.