Posted by: rebeccajrobare | May 23, 2017

Taking Command: “Encounter at Farpoint”

Blog update: The nanny started today, so maybe I can get on to a schedule?

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Summary: Captain Picard has just taken command of the Enterprise. Prior to leaving the known galaxy, the Enterprise heads to Farpoint Station, to pick up additional crew members and to evaluate the station’s suitability for Starfleet needs. En route, they encounter an immensely powerful being known as “Q” who puts them on trial as representatives of humanity. Q decides to let them complete their task at Farpoint – if they succeed on his terms, he will allow them to continue their exploratory mission. When a ship appears, fires on the Old City of the Bandi, planet’s native people, and abducts the station administrator, the crew realize that there’s more to Farpoint than just a mystery. They beam over to the new ship, rescue the administrator from torture, and realize that this ship, too, is on a rescue mission — and it isn’t merely a ship. The Bandi people have been stealing the energy of a spacefaring creature for the station. The Enterprise uses its phasers to deliver a gentle pulse of energy to the creature, giving it enough energy to return to space. The “ship” that attacked the city and kidnapped the administrator is this creature’s mate, and the two (helpfully color-coded pink and blue) fly off together, with Counselor Troi reporting on their feelings of “great joy and gratitude.” Q admits that they did the right thing, and disappears, ominously hinting that he might return. The Enterprise embarks on its ongoing mission to explore the galaxy.

On Leadership: Captain Picard is getting to know his ship and crew, some of whom he is meeting for the first time. At several points, Picard acts to balance out the excesses of his crew members. In particular, both Yar, as security chief, and Worf, as tactical officer, are inclined to be decisive and aggressive, both toward Q and toward the space jellyfish in its guise as attacking ship. Picard listens to their concerns, and while he doesn’t follow their recommendations, he takes them seriously and also explains to them his reasoning about why he doesn’t want to attack. In two cases, he presents his thinking and lets Yar and Worf come to the same conclusion as he does. I observe a few things here:

  • Listen to your people – understand they are doing the job you gave them.
  • When possible, tell them why you are making decisions in a certain way.
  • Coach them to make better recommendations of their own.

In particular, by presenting his reasoning and letting Yar and Worf draw conclusions, Picard is encouraging a growth mindset in his officers. Not only are they fulfilling a specific role, they are also learning to think more thoroughly about the situations they will encounter as bridge crew. Picard even encourages Worf in learning; when Worf says that he will learn to do better, Picard says that there will be plenty of opportunity for learning on their mission.

When Q confronts the Enterprise, Picard surrenders to him instead of fighting. As he points out to Yar, they know they can’t succeed against such overwhelming power. Picard never looks at this surrender as a failure, however, but takes it more as an opportunity for dialogue. So I take from this

  • Sometimes you have to give up something in order to get what you need

When Q transports Picard, Yar, Troi, and Data to a courtroom where he is the judge, Picard and his crew make it clear that Picard gives the orders; the crew members do not take orders from any one else. When Q gives an order, Picard instructs his team to obey, or not. Therefore,

  • Don’t let anyone else tell your people what to do; their instructions come from you and no one else, even if what you tell them is to follow someone else’s instruction.

Also during this court, Q assures Picard that he will not harm the crew — and then allows Yar to be frozen by one of the courtroom guards. Picard has Data replay exactly what Q had said, and Q acknowledges this and unfreezes Yar. I find this particularly interesting, as in the work world someone is always trying to change expectations or requirements, and the advice is often to document exactly what is agreed upon so that it can’t change by inches.

  • Document expectations and requirements – of all parties.

Following this encounter, Picard and his team are returned to the Enterprise, and they rendezvous with the new first officer, Commander Riker, at Farpoint Station. Riker is brought up to speed on the encounter with Q, has a conversation with Picard in which Picard tests him, asking if Riker will violate regulations to allow Picard to beam into a dangerous situation. Riker’s answer (“No”) appears to satisfy Picard. My lesson here is

  • Know your people’s jobs, and let them do them — a related point to (1) above.

Finally, in the conclusion of this mission, Picard chooses to consider multiple motivations for the attack on the Bandi city and selects the possibility that best explains the ship/jellyfish’s actions, rather than assuming that an attack means hostility. He also uses the empathic knowledge Troi receives as valid information about the creature and its behavior. My last two points are therefore

  • Think about all the possible reasons for someone’s behavior, even the reasons they won’t or can’t tell you.
  • Emotions matter; they will influence the actions of the person you’re working with/against.

The successful conclusion of the Farpoint mission results in the embarkation of the Enterprise on its ongoing exploration of the galaxy under Captain Picard’s able leadership.

What do you think about the leadership Picard displays during this mission? Do you agree or disagree with any of my conclusions? What lessons have I missed?



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