MonthJuly 2012

Everything I Know About HR, I Learned from Yoda

He’s little. He’s green. He’s old and wrinkly. He talks funny … Yoda is everything Star Wars for me!

We don’t know a lot about Yoda’s background. By the time we meet him in the first trilogy, he’s already near death. However, the one thing that comes across very clearly from him is his wisdom and his reverence for the Force.

Then in the second trilogy, we get to see more of Yoda in action! He’s teaching the youth on how to harness the Force so they can grow up to be Jedis; he’s mentoring Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan on being a good Jedi Master and how to guide the young Padawans; he’s serving on the Council and giving advice on how to govern and protect the galaxy … And he wields one meeaaaan light saber!!!

So what are the lessons we should take from Yoda?

  • Stay Force sensitive. No one — and I mean NO ONE — was as in tune to the Force as Yoda. The mission, vision, values and policies of our organizations are our Force. We must always be in tune with them. We must use them to train, mentor, guide, advise and protect our galaxy.
  • Forgive our failures. Yoda’s failure to recognize the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine was the one behind the Clone Wars and was the Sith Lord Darth Sidious led to the Republic being overthrown and all the Jedi being wiped out or forced into exile. As HR pros, sometimes we make the wrong call and it lands us and the organizations we serve into time-consuming and expensive trouble! It can be devastating to our professional confidence. However, we don’t have the option to hide out on Dagobah for a couple centuries while things settle down. Instead, we have to pull it together, own our error and make a plan to move forward. Failure isn’t final until you quit.
  • Just because we don’t fight doesn’t mean we can’t. Unlike many others in Star Wars, Yoda whipped out his light saber as an absolute last resort. Combat just wasn’t his thing — but when he finally decided to fight …. It was a sight to behold! Check him out here whooping up on Darth Sidious. Awesome!

Typically, HR isn’t the loudest voice in the organization. We’ve been conditioned not to make too much fuss or demand too much. But when it’s necessary, HR has got to know when to step up and fight — for our function, for our organization or for our employees. And more than just fight, we have to win.

I think no post about Yoda would be complete without his sayings. Here are my favorites for the world of work:

  • “Clear your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind this plot”
  • “You must unlearn what you have learned”
  • “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind”
  • “Control, control. You must learn control”
  • “Mind what you have learned. Save it you can”
  • “Named must your fear be before banish it you can”
  • “Always two there are, master and apprentice”
  • “Secret, shall I tell you? Grand Master of Jedi Order am I. Won this job in a raffle I did, think you? ‘How did you know, how did you know, Master Yoda?’ Master Yoda knows these things. His job it is to know”
  • “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack”
  • “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
  • “May the Force be with you”


Read the rest of the Star Wars series:

Everything I Know About HR, I Learned from Obi-Wan Kenobi




Decision Maker


Adversity Survivor



When a fellow HR Peep Buzz Rooney (whom I look forward to meeting in real life (IRL) soon at ILSHRM12) said she was doing a series on Star Wars, I jumped up and ran downstairs to talk to my son who is an avid Star Wars fan at 11 years old.  He has grown up to learn a lot about the HR field since his mother is kind of an HR nerd.  So when I asked him if he knew any Star Wars characters who could teach HR pros about HR he too jumped up and said yes, very enthusiastically.  I named the characters that were already taken and let him chose.

As you may have guessed from the title it was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master that he quickly spewed out all the “HR” related facts about.  I had to stop him and ask him to slow down long enough for me to get to a computer to document what he knew about this awesome Leader, Teacher, Decision Maker, Counselor, and Adversity Survivor (most in his own words and some I had to caress a bit).  So the following is practically word for word what he told me.

Obi-Wan’s career path was Jedi (rather than the Sith route which Adam drew both out in organizational chart format).  The steps he took under the Jedi Knight (rather than Jedi counselor) career path were: trainee, Padawan, knight, guardian (rather than sentinel) and finally master to many young Jedi’s including Anakin Skywalker/ “Darth Vader” and later Luke Skywalker.

Obi-Wan Kenobi once was a Padawan to Qui-Gon Jin. His master died — and Obi-Wan had to watch him die. And by seeing that he knew to always think before you act. Then he became a Jedi knight and master to Anakin Skywalker. As a master, he learned leadership. As a leader, he understood the importance of making the right choices and using the Force (values and morals).

Whenever Anakin did something wrong, he would tell Anakin to do it differently  (performance management). Some of his most famous sayings while he was training were:

  • Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?
  • You want to go home and rethink your life?
  • Patience. Use the force. Think!
  • But he still has much to learn, Master. His abilities have made him…well arrogant.
  • Anakin, don’t do anything without consulting either myself or the Council.
  • You haven’t learned anything, Anakin!

So when Anakin turned to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan had to make a choice about whether to fight and kill Anakin — or to try to fight with the Force and end it peacefully. He tried to keep the peace for as long as he could. But when Anakin attacked him, Obi-Wan fought and defeated Anakin. He had to make a choice between saving , leaving, or killing him. He chose to leave Anakin and return to the Jedi counsel (board of Directors) where he told them his decision and asked if it was the right choice. He found out he made a choice between good and bad (remind you of the gray in HR?) and learned to think more when making decisions.

After Anakin’s betrayal, he kept up his leadership and trained young kids to use the Force and even he began teaching Luke Skywalker. In order to do this, Obi-Wan had to learn all the languages in the whole galaxy (global HR).

Years later, when it came down to saving Luke Skywalkers’s life, “Darth Vader” saved Luke and became light again partly because he remembered Obi-Wan’s teachings. This showed that Obi-Wan had an effect on people even years later.

This was such a refreshing project as it brings youth, movies, lessons learned, and HR all together.  I certainly learned a great deal about what Obi-Wan can teach HR as I sat and listened to my son.  I also saw my son’s face light up when he thought he could help out his mom and be the expert!  How many of us sit back and listen to suggestions and incredible knowledge that our staff has?  I know it’s not the same as I am totally enamored by my son — but wouldn’t you be too if this was someone you were training to eventually take over your job? Think how Star Wars could’ve have been a very different story if Obi-Wan had done more of this with Anakin … Thanks Buzz for this wonderful bonding opportunity and excellent idea to apply the movies to our profession!


This post was written by Donna Rogers Skowronski, SPHR with assistance from her son Adam Skowronski. Donna is a consultant, trainer and speaker with almost 20 years experience as a Human Resources practitioner. She serves as an instructor for traditional and online classes in Human Resources Management (HRM), Organizational Development (OD) and Organizational Behavior (OB) for  the University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and Management.

I am just as excited to meet and talk with Donna at the Illinois SHRM Conference in 2 weeks as she is. You can connect with Donna on Twitter (@DonnaRogersHR), Facebook, LinkedIn, and read other posts via Women of HR and DonnaRogersHR


Don’t miss any of the posts in the Star Wars series:

Star Wars — Working for The Empire

It’s not Darth Vader you need to fear. It’s the unknown faceless guy you never heard of.

We all know the central characters of the Star Wars universe.  The stars – the A Players who stride across that universe’s story arc, rewriting history in the bright flashes of  exploding Tie Fighters and Jedi Lightsabers.

Go ahead, say them with me now — Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Obi Wan Kenobi.  Darth Vader. Han Solo. Chewbacca.  Hell, I’d even throw R2D2 and C3PO into that bunch.

I love those guys, just like everyone else.  They are the stars of the main story, but they are not the only characters and their story is not the only story in Star Wars.  For example, consider just one of the many secondary story characters

Secondary characters in stories are always the troublemakers.

Consider Jango Fett.



“I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe” – Jango Fett

According to Wookiepedia, Jango Fett was a renowned human Mandalorian bounty hunter, assassin, mercenary, and the “father” of Boba Fett, a genetic clone of his, whom he raised as a son.

A Human from Concord Dawn, Fett was adopted by Mandalorian warriors following the murder of his parents and the disappearance of his older sister Arla in 58 BBY. Years later, he would go on to lead them through much of the Mandalorian Civil War as Mandalore. After being imprisoned by Jedi, Fett was responsible for destroying the Death Watch, a Mandalorian group who killed Fett’s mentor, Jaster Mereel.

Following the conclusion of that conflict, Fett became a bounty hunter, quickly establishing a reputation as being one of the best in the galaxy. Later on, Fett agreed to serve as the genetic template for the clones that would form the bulk of the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars. When Master Obi-Wan Kenobi located Jango and Boba on Kamino, Fett fled to join Count Dooku. Though struck down by Mace Windu in combat, Fett’s legacy would live on through his son, Boba, as well as his cloned brethren, who would have a profound impact on galactic history.

Just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe, huh?

Jango Fett and his cloned genetic offspring became the storm trooper army of the evil Empire, giving service without reason in battle after battle.

Predictable. Precise. Unquestioning. Overwhelming in sheer numbers.

Perfect soldiers put to work serving a corrupt cause, they were just copies of the first Jango Fett, right down to his attitude.

Simple clones trying to make their way in the universe without reason.

Don’t let the members of your organization be like Jango Fett.

Don’t let the clones win.  You are your organization’s only hope, Obi Wan!


This post was written by Mike VanDervort. Mike is a life-long human resources professional focused on building a workplace driven by  positive associate relations.  Mike is a volunteer leader for SHRM at the state and national level. He is currently a member of the SHRM Special Expertise panel on Labor Relations, and a volunteer leader with HR Florida. Mike is also an accomplished social media user, and is frequently asked to speak and write on the topic.

Mike was one of the first people to reach out to me when I began blogging. I admire his wisdom about the world of work — from labor relations to tech to social media to coffee and hockey! And when I least expect it (and usually most need it), he just comes out of nowhere with an encouraging comment that makes me keep pressing in my journey. He’s a gem!

I will get to spend time with Mike at the upcoming Illinois SHRM Conference. You can read more of his writings and connect with him at his blog, The Human Race Horses.


Don’t miss any of the posts in the Star Wars series:


Everything I Know About HR, I Learned From Darth Vader

Anyone who pretends to know anything about Star Wars knows that Darth Vader is the scariest, most powerful and most memorable villain in cinema history! Who else can make his enemies wet their pants at the mere sound of his breathing pattern? Who else can choke the crap of an underperforming employee from another room without physically laying a finger on the dude? Vader is awesome — but more than that, he is a very complex character.

Yes folks, you think you know Darth Vader but you have no idea.

He’s a man looking for love, people! If it’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2nd trilogy in the saga, it’s that everything Vader loved was taken from him — his mom, his lady, his kids and they even tried to withhold that promotion to Jedi-Knight (that really pissed him off). He had some serious work-life balance issues.

Here’s what you can learn from Darth Vader…


  1. Choke employees with your hands — or the force. Violence and murder don’t end well in this galaxy.
  2. Let the distractions of your home and personal life cloud your judgment at work. Just because you’re not happy doesn’t mean you should try to rule over the galaxy — or your employees.
  3. Manage your employees with fear and oppressive tactics. Your team will rebel against you and eventually get your legs and arms chopped off and put on a ventilator  (Seriously folks, all dictators die)



  1. Think strategically and move swiftly. Vader didn’t play around — if someone disobeyed a direct order, he terminated them. Now you should not TERMINATE, terminate them — but sometimes we tend to want to build solid cases before we let an employee go and it just gets to be ridiculous.  If you have an employee that doesn’t do what you need them to do … pull out your light saber.
  2. Be passionate about your cause. You’ve got it to give the man/machine, he believed in his cause and he dedicated most of his life to it.
  3. Let love win. Darth Vader eventually wanted to be loved, and Luke showed him love. HR wants to be loved (appreciated) and often times we’re not. So when you’re at work and you’re in a sour mood, remember to search your feelings and don’t be seduced by the dark side.
  4. Use the force. Now in the movie the force was an ancient religion that allowed the Jedi to do amazing things. Part of using the force is trusting your instincts and believing in your ability. You’ve got this. Nuff said.

Follow these steps and, in the end, you’ll be a bad-ass HR professional that the people will eventually cheer for!


This post was written by Chris Fields. Chris is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs at Cost of Work.   And he’s been a guest here a couple times before (Read those posts here and here).

Chris is my BFF — blogger friend forever! He is a great sounding-board, constant support and encourager, and all-around ride-or-die dude … I will finally get to meet IRL and hang out with him in 3 weeks at the Illinois SHRM Conference. And that is just another reason the event is going to be epic!

Contact Chris via email at And he’s known on the Twitters as @new_resource.


Don’t miss any of the posts in the “Star Wars” series:

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