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Startup trek episode 20: The Arsenal of Freedom

Season 1, episode 20, "The Arsenal of Freedom"

Lesson: sometimes all your junior employees need to do a task is a compliment

This post is part of my ongoing quest to watch every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and pull one startup, entrepreneurship, tech, or investing lesson from each.

The Enterprise gets a message from a planet (actually a holographic program) offering to sell them weapons. Riker and an away team land on the planet and face attacks from these weapons as a warped sales demo of their power. In one attack, Picard and Dr. Crusher fall through the ground into a cavern and Dr. Crusher gets badly hurt. Meanwhile, La Forge is in command on the Enterprise and faces attacks from the planet's weapons and several internal power struggles, one from a chief engineer who's trying to usurp his command, and another from two junior employees filling in on the bridge who lack confidence around the task they'll have to execute to save the ship.


There's a lot to say about leadership from this episode but I'll keep it short. Troi notices that two less experienced ensigns who are filling in on the bridge are radiating insecurity and fear about their ability to execute a tough maneuver to save the ship. La Forge hasn't noticed because he's more focused on his clash with the chief engineer. Troi advises that La Forge should show that he believes in them: "Just remember, it's you they draw strength from. They look to you for guidance and leadership. Show confidence in them."

La Forge takes that advice to heart and reassures the ensigns that they have the skills to do the job: "You know your jobs. You've been trained, you've been tested, and you've earned the right to sit in those chairs." By showing confidence in them, they gain confidence in themselves. And of course they execute the plan and everyone survives, given that we have six seasons left of this show.

Leaders often take for granted that their employees know that they're trusted and appreciated. Taking even thirty seconds to say something that conveys "I believe in you and you're here because you deserve it" costs you nothing and can make a big difference. In her latest book "Dare to Lead," Brené Brown (a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work studying leadership, vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame) refers to times like these as "sliding door moments." You can pick up on your employee's insecurity and just keep walking, thinking that they'll be fine. Or you can stop, face them, and provide that reassurance or that compliment. It's the compounding of these small moments over time that create trust.


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