Lessons from the Borg

In a slightly different take this week, we look at some team dynamics and emotions that are part and parcel of a corporate team building products. We also consider how to drive negativity out so that we can use the passion and energy to achieve our goals. Uday reveals the intricacies of the team dynamics, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

We are the Borg, You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” The Borg is a species in the Star Trek world that function like a collective. They assimilate any species that come in their path and grow from the strength of the assimilated species. They are very powerful and function in unison. Everyone in the collective is a drone that is controlled by the Queen. However, no drone has any individuality.

As I sat watching another episode of my favorite series Star Trek Voyager, I couldn’t help but reflect on the way we function in our teams. In the particular episode I was watching, 7 of 9, the Borg drone, who has recently severed her connection with the collective looks down upon the humans and talks about how inefficient they are at performing their tasks. I was enraged at her suggestion, but I decided to adapt and here I am jotting down some lessons that I have learnt from various seasons of this series.

As a part of this learning, I found the following three negative emotions a deterrent for functioning teams. These emotions should be worked upon if we want to race towards our goal efficiently. These are applicable to both team members as well as team leaders and I shall try to give a context around each negative emotion.

1. Jealousy: Do you have a super smart worker in your team that is going above and beyond to accomplish team goals? Did you notice the other folks in the team that are not so happy about this? Did you notice them trying to pull down this super smart worker? This “resistance” is not futile but really frustrating. It also does not do well to the other newbies in the team who need motivation to be the next pipeline of super smart workers!

So, how do you tackle this? A frank conversation with each of the team members re-establestablish, the shared goals will help immediately. Next, you need to figure out challenges where the other mart team members will excel. Channel their energies in the right direction. Lastly, you need to take the super smart worker in confidence and ask two things of them. (a) Speak to any peers that seem to stalling their progress and get their support in working together as a team. (b) Instill the same culture of passion and excellence in the newbies of the team. As a team leader you need to sense and weed out this negative emotion from your teams. As a team member you need to be conscious of this negative emotion and use it as positive pressure to excel yourself rather than pull the other team member down!

2. InsecurityHave you ever compared yourself with some of the other folks on your team? Do you have an inherent fear that someone else is doing your job and they are doing that job better than you? What do you do when faced with this situation? Do you get angry and start highlighting the negatives of this “intruder”? Do you spend your time on thinking how to prove that this person is not better than you? All inefficient and destructive traits – like 7 of 9 would have agreed.

Sit back and reflect. Why is this person doing your job? Are you procrastinating on taking decisions that is causing your dependent teams to stall? Are you not engaged in your work? Do you lack the capability to perform your job efficiently? Is there a general lack of clarity on who is the owner of your job? Fix these symptoms. Seek clarity, stay engaged and take decisions. If essential, ask for a formal communication that tells everyone what your ownership is and what others are supporting you on. Speak to the others appreciating their support but letting them know firmly that you are owning this initiative.

3. OverconfidenceTo some extent the Borg come across as overconfident when they tell you “resistance is futile” don’t they? Are you using arrogance that comes with overconfidence as a means to assert yourself at work? What is the other reason you are using arrogance for? For ensuring you do not lose control or ownership of your vision or to just declare your supremacy at the workplace? If it’s the former, there are other ways to do this without rubbing peers and teams wrongly. If it’s the latter, then you are engaged in wasteful behavior. Your supremacy is a side-effect which should come automatically because of achieving the former.

Get your team to own your vision and believe in it. Help them understand how this is going to be beneficial for the entire organization and if they still continue to disagree, help them get into a more aligned team. Once your team understands and imbibes this vision, the only thing you will have to control or channelize is their passion and ownership! That is always a better problem to have rather than dealing with bruised egos and an army of enemies.

To sum it all up, working in large teams that are globally located can get really complex and as engineers, you do not want to spend your time solving behavioral problems! There are technical challenges to overcome and inventions to be made. If everyone in the team made an effort to purge out negativity by talking more openly, by not judging the other and by trying to learn what others do best rather than criticizing them, the organisation will be a harmonious place. Communications is key and the way you communicate with your peers, your team as well as with the external world will continue to be important in making things happen!

©Uday Biradar

Pix from Net.

Uday Biradar

Uday Biradar

Uday Biradar is a software professional based out of Mumbai. He works in the Oil & Gas industry creating software products that monitor critical machinery and keep them running. Outside of work, Uday likes to travel and trek the sahyadri ranges near Mumbai. He likes to share wada-pav, chai and laughter with friends.
Uday Biradar

Latest posts by Uday Biradar (see all)