On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek The Next Generation, The Mind's Eye (Season 4, Episode 24). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Picard.
Steps to demonstrate and maintain integrity:
Edelman Survey: https://www.edelman.com/trust/2017-trust-barometer
Notre Dame Survey: https://ethicalleadership.nd.edu/news/do-corporate-values-make-a-difference/
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Welcome! Thanks for joining me today. Integrity. I’ll bet a few bars of gold-pressed latinum that you work at a place or have worked at a place that had this word plastered on posters throughout the building. But what does it actually look like to have integrity? And why would you even want to? I’m going to answer both of those questions, and a few more, as we watch the 24th episode of the 4th season of The Next Generation, The Mind’s Eye.
Geordi LaForge, the chief engineer of the Enterprise is on his way to Risa for a conference. It’s him, alone, in a shuttle. He’s chatting with the Computer because he’s got some time to kill. “3 hours.” 0:55 But, he’s not bored for long. A Romulan warbird uncloaks right outside the shuttle and beams him off the shuttle!
The Enterprise is on its way to a Klingon colony with an Ambassador. There’s a rebellion on the colony and he’s heading there to investigate some serious allegations. “The governor has charged the Federation with aiding the rebels.” 4:55 He has specifically asked for Picard, and the Enterprise, to accompany him because many on the Klingon High Council respect them.
Geordi is getting roughed up by the Romulans. They have him hooked up to some medical looking devices and a look-a-like is seen heading off to replace him at the conference so they don’t know he’s missing. “Your VISOR will be returned to you.” 07:14 Geordi is blind and uses the VISOR for vision. They’ve taken it off and hooked his visual cortex up to a machine. They’re showing him horrifying images and, because they’re wired directly in, he can’t not see them! The Romulan says they are conditioning him to perform a task. There is a shadowed figure, in the corner, asking questions. “How will we be certain the procedure is successful?” 8:58 Now, quick spoiler alert, back in the 18th episode of the Starfleet Leadership Academy we met Sela – that was, chronologically, her last appearance in Star Trek. This is her first, but we don’t know that yet. We just know now that there is some dark figure pushing some pretty twisted stuff.
Well, dude says they’re going to run some tests to be sure the conditioning sticks and she seems to be satisfied with that. They head into a holodeck sort of thing, and, wow, do they work! “Who is that man? Chief O’Brien. I want you to kill him. Okay.” 11:36 He just phasers him, sits down and starts drinking with the others!
They send him on his way and he returns to the Enterprise. He has a full set of memories from the conference and has no idea he has been conditioned. “I ate enough for 12 people!” 16:07 Picard asks him to help with the investigation on Federation involvement in the rebellion. As he heads off to do that, Data picks something up, “Commander, our sensors have picked up something in the e-band.” 15:17 That’s not a very normal thing. They’ll reference this a few more times in the episode but you, you just keep it in mind.
On the planet, the governor provides the evidence they’ve found that the Federation is aiding the rebels. He hands over a crate of phaser rifles. “It does appear to be Federation issue.” 17:24 He agrees to let Picard and crew analyze the rifles to see if there’s anything odd about them. Data and Geordi get to it. All the specs are lining up; it looks like it is Federation, until Data notices a discrepancy in discharge ratings. It’s enough to tell that “it’s definitely not Starfleet issue.” 21:45 They do a little deductive reasoning and confirm with their readings. They report to Picard, the Ambassador and the governor that it was “The Romulans. They had to charge them.” 22:13 Picard notes that the Romulans stand to gain from the Klingons and Federation being at odds. This tangled web is looking more and more clear.
Geordi goes to the bar at ten-forward, Chief O’Brien is there. LaForge approaches him, pauses, and purposely pours his drink on him! He thinks it was an accident and O’Brien is cool with it. Looks like maybe another test before the Romulans flip his switch? And when they do, will it be to implicate the Federation in something?
Next scene appears to answer that. Geordi is rewiring a whole bunch of stuff in a cargo bay and beams a crate of weapons to the planet. “Verify all records are being erased.” 24:34 He totally covers his tracks after they’ve been beamed down. It’s a total Star Trek VI moment! The governor intercepts the weapons, Picard denies it, but the ship’s records do show they beamed them down. Tensions are high and growing. The Ambassador is going to try to keep things cool, but it is not looking good.
They start investigating. No one, not even Geordi, can even tell how all this happened, yet. They find pieces, but there’s no trace. They say there are about 4 people on board that have the skills to do this: Data, Chief O’Brien, Data and Geordi LaForge. They all have alibis, with witnesses, except Geordi. Worf determines there must be someone else on board, so the search continues. They update Picard and the Ambassador as Riker asks Data to look into another e-band emission that the Ambassador asks about.
Before the Ambassador heads to the planet to bring the governor to the ship to observe the investigation, he invites LaForge to his quarters where he drops a bomb! “The investigation is moving quickly, you’re in danger of being exposed.” 30:56 He’s in on it!!! Oh, and there’s more. “I’ll have Governor Vagh with me and I want you to kill him.” 31:03 Whoa!! This is huge! A Federation officer killing the governor in front of everyone? Yeah, 100% chance that’ll kick off the conflict the Romulans are looking for!
In the meantime, Data has cracked the e-band code. The only thing it could be used for is covert communication sent directly into a person’s neuropathways. The receiver would need to be “a system designed to modify the EM spectrum.” 35:37 AKA, Geordi’s VISOR! So he’s on the hunt for any supporting evidence. He eventually finds, right as Geordi is in position to blast the governor. He has Worf arrest him, despite some high stakes tension and drama along the way, the day is saved! But, seriously, why didn’t he have him arrested right away??? Seems like that would have made a lot more sense!
Data explains everything he learned. Geordi’s shuttle was abducted by Romulans, he was conditioned and has been receiving commands through e-band emissions to his VISOR. But that’s not all! Data has determined the e-band communications could only have come from one of two people, Picard, or the Ambassador. All they gotta do is search them for an e-band transmitter and we’ll have all the answers! The Ambassador refuses and the governor supports him, saying they’ll conduct the search, Klingon to Klingon, but the Ambassador isn’t having it. He requests asylum. So Picard flexes, “I will grant your asylum, once you are absolved of the crime.” 42:06 The Klingons beam out and, apparently, I guess we’re just supposed to assume that he got his in the end. Because, seriously, that’s the last we see of them!
But it’s not the end of the episode. We get the rare opportunity to see Counselor Troi doing therapy. Geordi is struggling with the conditioning. “It’ll take time. A long time.” 43:27 Ah, must be nice having no-cost, available and accessible mental health services available to people.
This was a really fun episode! Action, drama, tension and an unexpected twist in it too! It’s Star Trek does the Manchurian Candidate! We even get our first appearance of the actor John Fleck in this one. And while it’s not easy to see in this episode, by itself, this one kicks off a long arc of episodes involving Sela and the Romulans that ends, really, in the unification of the Vulcans and Romulans that we don’t see until Star Trek Discovery.
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John Fleck plays the Romulan guy that is leading Geordi’s conditioning. He has a very distinctive voice that really jumps out at you. He goes on to play roles in DS9 and Voyager but really hits his stride in Enterprise. He plays Silik! The Suliban we met in Broken Bow and that is the main cabal guy we see through the series. He’s great in every role he plays and you can see all that potential in this one; he’s a great villain.
I’ve mentioned Sela a few times. I won’t tell her whole story here, that’s really for the Redemption two-parter that will come up at some point. But she’s a fascinating and important villain in the series. She adds a lot to the Romulans and does it in a way only Star Trek really can. Her story was even picked up in the MMO video game, Star Trek Online, which, if you haven’t played it, you really should! Despite being an MMO you can totally enjoy it on your own or in a group, and most of the stories are great, imaginative continuations of stories from every Trek series. It’s a lot of fun, and free to play!
And that’s not even the only arc that runs through this episode. We also get more of Worf and his struggles with the Klingon High Council. Near the end of the third season of TNG, Worf received a discommendation from the High Council to save his brother, Kurn’s, life. It’s a powerful scene that I highlight in a YouTube video on the SFLA podcast youtube channel called The Captain’s Chair. I highlight scene because of the incredible support and leadership shown by Picard in a moment that Worf shows tremendous courage. “Picard cussing in Klingon” 18:12 Picard gets Klingon culture and stood by Worf through their hypocrisy.
But he wasn’t the only one. Most every interaction with another Klingon, for Worf, is hard. He’s carrying a huge stigma. But, slowly, more are coming out and supporting him. The Ambassador in this episode is one of them. “What matters is you acted as a true Klingon.” 11:04 Now, turns out he’s not such a cool dude, but he sees the honor in how Worf acted.
I really enjoy how they were able to weave so much into this one episode. It’s also cool that we get to see Counselor Troi doing her thing. Unfortunately, even though she says it’s going to take a long time for him to get through this, I don’t think we hear about it ever again. This episode aired in 1991, a few years before Babylon 5 and DS9 really showed viewers what lasting consequences look like on TV.
Integrity. That is a word we see a lot and, in my experience, an actual quality we don’t see often enough. Picard’s integrity is the reason this episode even happened. His integrity with the Klingons, with Starfleet and with his crew. The Enterprise is involved in this whole affair because of the integrity Picard consistently demonstrates. I’m going to talk about the impacts of having integrity and offer strategies to ensure you are.
And I just talked about Picard standing by Worf and supporting him. He does that again in this episode. I am going to talk about the right way to do this that won’t leave your team floundering on their own.
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I got some tough feedback from a team member not too long ago. I was going to take some time off and they were going to cover a meeting of mine. Now, this person is brilliant and really good at their job. But they also don’t have the experience I, or many of my peers have in meetings with a lot of people with impressive sounding titles. I didn’t take this into account. I trusted them, I knew they were up to the task, and I wanted to shine a spotlight on them in front of other leaders in the organization.
And, yeah, they did great. Handled everything really well. Worked out just the way I expected. Except for one, teeny tiny, little detail. You see, they were freaked out and didn’t necessarily share my confidence in them for this situation. When I got back and we touched base, they told me that, ‘Hey, you’ve got this!’ was not enough for them. So, my takeaway? While I supported them, trusted them and believed in them, you know, the things you should do as a leader and manager, I failed to fully prepare them.
In this episode the Klingon Ambassador is inviting Picard and the Enterprise to participate in the investigation as to whether or not the Federation is aiding rebels on a Klingon colony. Part of that is a tactical appraisal of the situation and on the Enterprise, that means working with Lieutenant Worf. Picard says as much but the Ambassador isn’t keen to it. “Worf’s discommendation would make that awkward. He’s my chief and this is his job.” 5:47 Picard’s response is excellent. Whatever issue the Ambassador or the Klingon Empire has with Worf is irrelevant. Bottom line is he is a crew member on the Enterprise and a part of the senior staff. Picard is going to do the same thing I did. He’s going to support him, trust him and believe him. But, based on what we saw in the episode, Picard also did not prepare Worf for what was coming.
At a minimum, I hope Picard didn’t just sent the Ambassador to reach out to Worf. Like, call him into the ready room, tell him about the assignment and be ready to answer any questions and respond to concerns Worf might have. As much as Picard is supporting him, he might be super uncomfortable working with the Ambassador. At least give him a chance to say that. I mean, at least tell Worf, ‘Hey, you’ve got this!’ Which…if you remember isn’t good enough either, but it’s better than just sending dude to reach out to Worf.
But there is so much more to do. It all starts with the face-to-face. Do you understand the task? What questions do you have? What are you concerned about? Maybe even role-playing through specific scenarios and possibilities. In my situation, a conversation about the meeting would likely have resulted in me sharing some insights into how some of the executives think, like, what questions they were likely to have and then we could have practiced responding to them. If you’re sending someone out to a job site on their own for the first time, bring up the likely obstacles they’ll run into.
Oh, yeah! Actually, I remember a situation with a small construction company not too long ago. I was providing coaching to one of the leads – coaching that you can also get, by the way, by reaching out to me via email or social media; just listen to the ad I played a little while back in this episode – and they were about to let one of their team members run the crew for the day on their own. We talked through the likely problems they were going to face. In this case, one of the team members tended to disappear for like an hour or so, saying they were using the porta-potty, and there was a resident near the site that would sometimes come out and give them a hard time. So he met with the guy and talked through these. They even role-played talking with the resident. And everything turned out great! The bathroom bandit dude didn’t pull his shenanigans, but the resident came out and the crew lead in training handled him beautifully.
This worked because the person I work with not only trusted, supported and believed in his team member, but he also took the time to prepare him. I want you to learn from my mistake and from what I’m assuming Picard missed too. Even when someone appears to be totally ready to rock it, pause and take the time to be sure. I mean, worst case scenario, they tell you they’ve got it and don’t need the prep. But you have done everything you can do to set them up for success. But if you don’t even offer, you are missing a huge opportunity.
In Worf’s interaction with the Ambassador, he stands up not only for the Federation, but for Picard specifically. The Ambassador is prodding him trying to see if he can get anything implicating the Federation and Worf just lays it out plain as day. If Captain Picard said they’re not involved, they’re not involved. Period. The Ambassador, of course, poo poos this saying that Picard could be lying to cover stuff up to which Worf responds, “Captain Picard does not lie.” 10:22 That’s honestly a pretty immature and ill-informed statement, but there is a reason he said it. He said it because Picard has integrity. Picard is true to his word and shares as much of the truth as he is able to. He owns his mistakes and owns when Starfleet or the Federation have fallen short.
I’ve said it a few times in this episode already, but integrity is more a word that is said than an action that is seen in today’s world. Unless you’re listening to this in 2142 and people have dramatically changed from now in late 2022. And if that’s the case, hey, that’s awesome! I hope the Starfleet Leadership Academy was a part of making that happen. But for you, listening now in 2022 or 2023, we very much hear this word a lot more than we see it.
And this isn’t just my cynical world view! Edelman released results from a 2017 survey that showed a lack of integrity is the leading cause in the public’s lack of faith and trust in companies and organizations. But another survey, from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, showed that the word Integrity was the most common stated value of multinational corporations and showed up almost 80% more than the second most commonly stated value of ‘concern for customers,’ and more than double the frequency of the third most stated, respect.
So, with Integrity being the most stated value among companies, there must be an overwhelming, demonstrable outpouring of it! Right? Well…sadly, no. The generally accepted definition of integrity is seeing a person or organization behave in ways that are consistent with what they say. Does the walk match the talk?
First, what does the talk look like? There are the stated values we’ve been talking about. Which, from another Notre Dame, Whoops. Try that again. From another Notre Dame survey we see that 70% of the survey respondents said their employer had listed formal, official values, but 27% of the people couldn’t even remember any of the values listed! Like, they were just words on a poster! Some organizations even switch up their c-suite. They take their Chief Ethics Officer, or Compliance Officer and re-christen them, Chief Integrity Officer. But, even with these gestures, it is rare that we ever see observable, verifiable actions and behaviors that demonstrate integrity. That demonstrate that promises are being kept.
Now, I’m going to talk about what you can do to be a part of the solution here. To actually demonstrate integrity. But I’m going to TL;DR it for you here too. The secret is pretty simple. Do what you say you are going to do. And then keep doing that. There you go! That’s all there is to it! No spin, no games. Just do what you say you will, when you say you’ll do it and do that all the time. Boom. You’re ready to go change the world!
But there is more to it. And it may be harder to achieve. Almost every leadership example we have in the public space is the exact opposite of this. Politicians promise to cure diseases, solve homelessness and stop all crime! Despite the fact they have yet to do those things, we keep re-electing them. Not because we believe in them, or even like them! But because then the other person says they’ll stop all crime and do all the impossible things they said they’d do – but didn’t – they tell you that that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about and they aren’t qualified to do it. It’s unbelievable!!
CEOs report to their Boards and shareholders at least quarterly. They tell them profits will be up and innovations will continue. But they aren’t! Companies actively stifle innovation, and they leave so much potential profit on the table as a result of it. But when that Board is tired of the CEO not delivering on their impossible promises and they fire them, they just show up at another company a few months later to do the same thing. And they make that transition, most often, with a super sweet walk-away package. We have created a society and a paradigm that actively rewards what we say instead of what we do. So we say we value integrity, but toss it out the window the second it gets hard to do.
Now I just painted a nearly impossible problem to solve. I did exactly what the politicians do! I blamed society! That big, amorphous nothing that is really good at taking the blame. But I’m not going to leave you there. Here are three steps you can take, every day, to ensure you are demonstrating integrity.
Say you will do things you can actually achieve and be specific in what you say you will do. Be open and transparent with your decision-making. And publicly own your mistakes.
In my earlier examples, politicians and CEOs overpromised on unachievable things. ‘I will solve the homelessness crisis,’ is not a thing you will do. But, increasing low-cost housing by 14% and providing a 20% increase to crisis intervention teams over the next 2 years…those are achievable, they are specific. And, we have every reason to believe, may help people that are unhoused or homeless.
With this, you can be open and transparent not only in these end goals, but also in your decision-making process. Why a 14% increase and not 90%? Be open about that. 3 developers have stepped forward and willing to dedicate their operations over the next 2 years to developing low-cost housing. With those resources, we can expect about 14% more units. We might end up with more, but 14% is achievable. And then, share updates! Be open about how things are going.
And that leads to the third step. Publicly own your mistakes and own them as soon as you know about them. 9 months in, you are not tracking to hit the targets you set. Looks like you’re only going to hit 8% growth and it’s because you thought you could change the zoning of a certain parcel of land, but you weren’t able to do it. You share that and you share it right away. ‘I made a mistake and thought I could do this thing. I was wrong. Here is what I’m going to do to make it right,’ or, ‘so now we only hit 8% instead of 14% and that’s on me.’ I absolutely guarantee you that the outcome of that will be dramatically different than if you just buried your head in the sand and waited till the end of the 2 years for people to see you failed. You own it up front and you are more likely to either get someone to step up and fill that gap or, worst case, at least everyone knows what’s up and you aren’t caught trying to cover something up.
These three steps work in every situation. You have someone on your team that wants to start working the morning shift instead of evenings. First, be honest in telling them if that is even possible or not. If it is, be specific about what that will look like. ‘We don’t have any openings there right now, but I will talk to some people and let you know by next week what I find out.’ Second, give them the outcome and talk them through what you’re thinking, ‘I talked to a few people and it looks like we can move you over, but it’ll be in about 6 weeks instead of right away,’ or, ‘I talked to the people I could on this but there just isn’t an opening in the foreseeable future.’ And then, if something goes wrong, own it and tell them! ‘I know I told you I’d follow up this week but I haven’t been able to have the conversations I need to. I’m going to make that right and will keep you in the loop.’
This isn’t hard, and you can do it one-on-one, with small groups and even entire organizations. Step 1, only say you will do things you can actually achieve and be specific in what you say you will do. Second, be open and transparent with your decision-making. And, when things go wrong, publicly own your mistakes.
I want to thank you for listening to the Starfleet Leadership Academy. My goal in creating this content for you is to help develop leadership skills and, in doing that, help build a future where people are appreciated and able to do the great things they are capable of.
If listening to this has helped you achieve those things, or even if you just enjoy listening to me talk about Star Trek, will you do me a favor? Will you share the Starfleet Leadership Academy with someone you know that could also benefit from it? I deeply appreciate you doing that.
And I’d love to connect with you! I’m on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can follow me on most all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Ten-Forward, a k i n.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Yes!! Finally, our first episode from Strange New Worlds! Now, whenever a series pops up that we haven’t watched before, we start with the first episode, which in this case, is Strange New Worlds. They kick off with a self-titles album, which worked out pretty well for Rush and a lot of other bands, so I have high hopes. We going to meet Number One, a younger Spock, and someone I am so excited to finally bring into the Starfleet Leadership Academy, Captain Christopher Pike! Hey, I just asked you to share this podcast with someone that can benefit from it. Strange New Worlds will be an excellent episode to start them off! I cannot wait!
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!