US Air Force Colonel, Author and Mission Specialist Aboard the Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis
From combat reconnaissance missions over the skies of Vietnam, to Space Shuttle missions, to climbing some of the highest peaks across the globe, Mike Mullane knows what teamwork, leadership and safety are all about. As a motivation speaker, his programs on these topics have educated, inspired and motivated tens of thousands of people from every walk of business and government. In addition, Astronaut Mullane has authored several critically acclaimed books and DVDs.
Education and Background
Colonel Richard “Mike” Mullane was born September 10, 1945 in Wichita Falls, Texas but spent much of his youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he currently resides. Upon his graduation from West Point in 1967, he was commissioned in the United States Air Force. As a Weapon Systems Operator aboard RF-4C Phantom aircraft, he completed 150 combat missions in Vietnam. The motivational speaker holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and is also a graduate of the Air Force Flight Test Engineer School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Mullane was selected as a Mission Specialist in 1978 in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He completed three space missions and logged 356 hours in space aboard the Shuttles Discovery (STS-41D) and Atlantis (STS-27 & 36) before retiring from NASA and the Air Force in 1990.
Awards and Recognition
Mullane has been inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame and is the recipient of many awards, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit and the NASA Space Flight Medal.
“Mike was absolutely outstanding. Many, many comments that he was the best speaker people had ever seen. Inspiring, motivating, funny…he’s the whole package.”–Building Commission Group
Since his retirement from NASA, Colonel Mullane has written an award-winning children’s book: Liftoff! An Astronaut’s Dream; and Do Your Ears Pop In Space? a popular space-fact book. He has also written Red Sky: A Novel of Love, Space and War, in which the story is set in the final days of the Cold War and involves a fictional shuttle mission to defeat a Soviet space-based threat. In his book, Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut, Mike Mullane takes readers into the high-intensity, high-stress world of the shuttle astronaut in this rough but charming yarn of low-rent antics, bureaucratic insanity and transcendent beauty. Chosen as a trainee in 1978, Mullane, a Vietnam vet, quickly finds himself at odds with the buttoned-up post-Apollo NASA world of scientists, technocrats and civilian astronauts he describes as “tree-huggers, dolphin friendly fish eaters, vegetarians, and subscribers to the New York Times.” The book hits its stride with Mullane’s space adventures: a difficult takeoff, the shift into zero gravity, his first view of the Earth from space: “To say the view was overwhelmingly beautiful would be an insult to God.”
In addition, Colonel Mullane has also served as a host for Inside Space, a nationally syndicated cable television program of the USA Network. His wonderfully entertaining presentations of “Stories From Space” have been eagerly solicited by organizations of all kinds – from Fortune 500 companies to professional associations; from societies to schools and universities.
As a professional motivational speaker, Colonel Mullane has thrilled tens of thousands of adults and a half-million children with his inspirational, motivational and humorous descriptions of the astronaut experience.
Countdown To Teamwork
In “Countdown To Teamwork” Astronaut Mullane delivers a hard-hitting, substantive teamwork and leadership program that is also wonderfully entertaining. The motivational speaker centers on the following fundamentals of teamwork: Guarding against a 'Normalization of Deviance,' Responsibility, and Courageous Self-Leadership. Using video projected as part of his PowerPoint program, Colonel Mullane opens with a dramatic narration of a shuttle countdown and launch. “Countdown To Teamwork” is remarkably inspirational and humorous. The audience will come away from the program with a renewed sense of their potential and the potential of their teams.
Countdown to Safety
In his program, “Countdown To Safety”, Astronaut Mullane delivers a powerful message on the individual’s role in keeping themselves and their teams safe in hazardous environments. The business and motivational speaker introduces this subject with a recount of his own near-death experience in a fighter jet, when he failed to speak up about an unsafe situation. He assumed another crewmember, with more flying time, “knew best” about the safety of their operations. At a critical moment in a hazardous operation, Mullane surrendered his responsibility for safety to someone else and became a “safety passenger”. The result was his (and the pilot’s) narrow escape during their ejection from the crashing jet. Mullane continues this thread: that each individual brings to their team a unique perspective on safety. Only when every person’s perspective is available for analysis can a team be truly safe.
Guarding against a "Normalization of Deviance"
Normalization of deviance is a long term phenomenon in which individuals or teams repeatedly accept a lower standard of performance until that lower standard becomes the “norm”. Usually, the acceptance of the lower standard occurs because the individual/team is under pressure (budget, schedule, etc.) and perceives it will be too difficult to adhere to the original higher standard. Their intention may be to revert back to the higher standard when this period of pressure passes. However, by getting away with the deviation from the higher standard, it is likely they will do the same thing when the same stressful circumstances arise again. Over time, the individual/team fails to see their actions as deviant. As a motivational speaker and expert, he uses the Challenger tragedy to make this point. Under tremendous schedule and budget pressures and over multiple launches, the NASA team accepted a lower standard of performance on the solid rocket booster O-rings until that lower standard became the "norm". By the dawn of Challenger, the NASA team had become so comfortable with seeing occasional O-ring damage and getting away with it, the original standard, in which ANY O-ring damage was defined as intolerable deviance, was no longer considered. Disaster resulted. Teams maintain their high standards of performance by "setting the highest standards"; "connecting the dots" (to insure multiple problems aren't just symptoms of a single “normalization of deviance” problem); and by "considering the instincts of team members" in the decision making process (with Challenger, some engineers had a gut feeling there were serious O-ring design issues but management refused to react to “instincts”).
Trust is achieved through “need” fulfillment. We all look to our leaders to fulfill these fundamental needs: to be treated with respect as an individual; to get honest recognition for our work; to have a voice in matters that concern us. When leaders fulfill these needs, the bonds of trust strengthen and through this trust the true potential of the team is realized. The motivational speaker draws from his experiences as a combat flyer in Vietnam to illustrate how need fulfillment by combat team leaders builds trust and through this trust the warrior potential of the combat team is realized. The same warrior potential exists in corporate teams and leaders can unleash this potential by identifying and fulfilling the needs of their people.
Mullane uses his life story to develop these points on self-leadership: self-leaders set very lofty goals; they stay focused on what's important; they constantly do their best at every task. Mullane develops this philosophy of self-leadership: "Success isn't a destination. It's a continuous life journey of working toward successively higher goals."
Courageous Team Leadership
Again, Mullane uses aspects of his life story to develop this point...that truly courageous team leaders maximize the potential of their people through this leadership philosophy: "I want YOU, to be more successful than ME." Most audiences are shocked to learn how ordinary Mullane was. Most people assume because he is an astronaut now, that in his youth, he was a super-child, destined to have great success. That is not true. The motivational speaker uses slides and video to prove he wasn't a child genius. He wasn't a sports star. He wasn't popular. He didn't date the homecoming queen. Yet he realized a lifetime dream. His success occurred, as is does for all of us, because of leaders (parents, teachers, scout masters, bosses, etc.) who didn't see him as he was, but looked past that to his potential and worked to develop that potential through this courageous leadership philosophy, “I want YOU, to be more successful than ME”. “Countdown To Teamwork” is very inspirational. It also contains great humor and inside space/astronaut stories. There will be many laughs and everybody will come away from the program feeling inspired and motivated to be the best possible team members and team leaders.
Your presentation "Countdown To Teamwork” was excellent. You are one of the most dynamic and powerful speakers I have come across and your message is an important one. When it comes to safety, teamwork is paramount and your lessons concerning teamwork were presented in a fashion that ensures they will easily come to mind when needed. Keep up the great work you are doing...you certainly have "the right stuff". I especially latched on to your lesson about past successes breeding complacency. I have worked for two organizations that made the same mistake.
- | Shell
WOW! I have never attended a dynamic speaker such as yourself and I was in complete amazement with your methods and enthusiasm towards capturing the audience with your speech. You’re an inspiration to us all. I will take what I have learned, as you have changed my thinking in many ways.
- | Ledcor Construction Limited
Our group REALLY enjoyed your presentation and as one delegate said to me “I went into the room wondering what an astronaut could teach me about safety and came out with a terrific new insight into how safety works on the jobsite”. Thank you again for making such a wonderful presentation at our event, we’d be happy to recommend you to any other group!
- | Western Conference on Safety
I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the Safety Summit with E-On and wanted to express my appreciation for your presence and the excellent presentation that you gave us. As a safety director for our company, your message was powerful and I have already begun sharing your major points with our crew members. We move heavy machinery in the nuclear power and energy industry so I could very much relate with your key speaking points about the normalization of deviance. No doubt that when our guys short cut safety they are rationalizing their acceptance of lower and unsafe work practices. I didn’t get a chance to catch you on the way out but wanted to let you know that I will refer to your comments for many years to come in my training efforts. Best wishes and continued success!
- | Edwards Moving & Rigging, Inc.