Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Leadership from an Astronaut

I attended the ACA Institute of Leadership Conference in Alexandria, VA. It was one of the most enjoyable conferences I have attended as a professional. The keynote speaker was Mike Mullane, a retired Astronaut with NASA. He gave a great speech on teamwork and leadership fundamentals. Some of them are as follows: 1. Avoid Normalization of Deviance Human tendency is to rationalize shortcuts. This happens due to budget cuts and schedule problems, at times. To avoid it, PLUS everything. Figure out a plan, and PLUS it (that is from Walt Disney, not from Mike Mullane). Deviance can become the norm if you're not careful. The Space Shuttle Challenger's explosion was predictable. The problems with the O Rings were known, but not addressed. The team accepted it due to high schedule and budgetary demands and it resulted in the deaths of seven astronauts and the loss of property. Rather than address the issue and slow things down, they decided to fix the problem on the fly. They began to tolerate a problem that was previously intolerable. In order to avoid normalization of deviance, one must defend against it. Recognize that you are vulnerable. Plan the work and work the plan. Leaders must maintain "best practice." The team must be trained in "best practice." Do periodic "re-sets" which demonstrate the best practices. Also, review past failures. There must be a free-flow of information from those who have experience to those who have less. 2. Responsibility Always be a team member. Don't be a passenger. Your opinion and experience is valuable no matter how much experience you have. Weaknesses can come from position and longevity. Everyone must always have a say. Weakness also comes from the need for acceptance; fear of rejection; fear of the boss, etc. Remember that "One person with courage forms a majority" Andrew Jackson. 3. Courageous Self-leadership Expand your performance envelope and have tenacity. Set goals and do them. For more information on Mike Mullane: see