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Keeping your “astronaut” alive

The folks who make human space flight a reality.

Have you ever known someone that was so right they were wrong? Or worse, have you ever been that person who when sharing their “right” you shared in such a way it caused a “wrong”?

Let’s face it, people like to win. We celebrate championships with ticker tape parades. At NASA they celebrate a little differently. They like to say they kept their astronaut alive. Their mission critical is different than for most of us in business. But we can and should learn from them.

In business, the fight must always be with the competition or externally, not with the team or internally. Driving for victory over your competition is a rallying cry that will pull your team together, align all efforts, and secure a promising future. Laying a foundation for team development, encouraging open and honest debate, and insisting on reconciliation creates a team that can claim victory over the competition.

But what is your rallying cry? Have you identified your mission critical?

There has been much written on the forming of a team and the four steps: Storming, Forming, Norming, and Performing. All of which are critical for a team to be victorious over the competition. While some steps are painful the team will never realize its full potential if you skip any of them.

Storming
Think back to when you were placed on a new team. You had to figure out who was who. The best ideas may not have been given by the best public speaker or maybe came from the most junior person in the room. There are lot of challenges a new team faces when coming together to solve an issue. Team members must have honest debate and challenge each other.

My husband was fortunate enough to experience working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Their culture encouraged “badgeless” meetings. It didn’t matter if you were the senior, junior, contractor or government employee – all of the storming was focussed around supporting the mission.

How often we forget in our storming phase to pinpoint the mission-focus or mission-critical we are trying to solve. For NASA, keeping their astronauts alive in space is the end all. What’s yours? Who wins? Who loses? Are you so right, you’re wrong?

EVA – the folks behind spacewalks

Forming
Once the team members understand each other, they better understand each other’s expectations. You have to allow the system flexibility in getting to a solution set. A system will always fight to reach its state of “equifinality“.

You learn when to push or when to “be still”. If you’ve all agreed on your mission-focus then the team’s working environment can be less about ‘winning’ against each other and more about solving the mission-focus.

Norming
The team comes to an agreement on roles and understands how best to work together. What at first seemed like a storm becomes the norm. You can begin navigating towards the mission-focus.

Performing
This may sound trite but it’s really not. The team can now make great strides because the sum of the efforts is greater than the sum of the individual contributions. The banking industry calls it the “magic of compound interest” – in the human capital realm we call it “good teamwork”. It’s about the mission-focus. What is yours?

Some people have to always win. I believe there are issues worth fighting for and there are things worth winning. There is a difference. It is good to make victory your outside focus and working together for that victory your inside focus. Remember to identify your mission-focus early on and use it to drive all of your team’s behaviors to achieving that. Keeping an astronaut alive taught me a valuable lesson.

Be intentional,
Melissa