Mike Mullane

Astronaut, Speaker, Author

Astronaut Mike Mullane is a 1967 graduate of West Point and holds a Master's of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He is also a graduate of the Air Force Flight Test Engineer School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He completed 134 combat missions in Vietnam as a Weapon Systems Operator aboard RF-4C Phantom aircraft.

In 1978, Colonel Mullane was selected as a Mission Specialist in the first group of Shuttle Astronauts, flew three space missions, and logged 356 hours in space aboard the Shuttles Discovery (STS-41D) and Atlantis (STS-27 & 36) before retiring from NASA in 1990.

Mike has been inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame and is the recipient of many awards, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit. Since his retirement from NASA, Mike has established himself as an acclaimed professional speaker. He has also written several books, including a novel, an award-winning children's book, and a space fact book. He has also served as a host for Inside Space, a USA Network television program.

Since his retirement from NASA, Colonel Mullane has written an award-winning children's book, Liftoff! An Astronaut's Dream, and a popular space-fact book, Do Your Ears Pop in Space?

Colonel Mullane's autobiographical story, Riding Rockets, was published in 2006 and has been featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 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 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.

Most audiences are shocked to learn how ordinary Mullane was. People assume because he is an astronaut now, that in his youth, he was a super-child, destined for great success. That is not the case. Mullane 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".

Read about Mike in the New York Times:


Countdown To Teamwork Overview

Countdown To Teamwork is a team-building /leadership program in which Colonel Mullane motivates the audience on their practice of these fundamentals of teamwork: guarding against a "normalization of deviance", responsibility, trust, courageous self-leadership, and courageous team leadership. This program is applicable to all teams everywhere. It has thrilled and inspired personnel in sales, manufacturing, production, safety…in ALL areas of company operations. It has been cheered by managers and blue-collar workers, by union and non-union teams. It has been enjoyed by men and women from every corner of corporate America…from perfume sales teams to nuclear power plant safety teams; from insurance company teams to medical equipment manufacturers; from beverage producers to record label teams.

Countdown To Teamwork is more than just a motivational and learning tool on the topics of teamwork and leadership. It is also an extraordinarily entertaining program. (Mike's programs are NEVER technical.) Colonel Mullane mixes his serious messages with hilarious never-before-heard astronaut stories and remarkable NASA video. The audience members will alternately find themselves roaring with laughter and sitting on the edge of their seats in suspense.

Countdown as been extremely successful at exceeding the expectations of meeting planners. You will get a sense of that success by visiting the testimonials page. Another indication of the popularity of Countdown To Teamwork is this fact…Astronaut Mullane has been a keynote speaker at events where other speakers included former President George Bush Sr., General Colin Powell and Tom Peters.

Countdown To Teamwork can be edited to fit the agenda of any event. Mullane's presentation is augmented with a PowerPoint program that includes spectacular video and slides.

Countdown To Teamwork Abstract

Using video projected as part of his PowerPoint program, Colonel Mullane opens with a dramatic narration of a shuttle countdown and launch, leading the audience to this question, "If it was YOU on that rocket, what type of a team would you want holding your life in their hands?" Obviously you would want a team that's the BEST!

Astronaut Mullane then establishes that teams achieve greatness when they practice certain fundamentals and he uses his experiences as an astronaut and Air Force flyer to develop these fundamentals:

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 expected 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, 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.

Mullane 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 marginalized. Disaster resulted.

The Columbia tragedy is another example of normalization of deviance and Mullane discusses the salient issue of that tragedy…that the NASA team grew so comfortable accepting occasional "hits" on the winged-orbiter by foam shedding from the gas tank, they lost sight of the criticality of the deviance.

Teams maintain their high standards of performance by "planning the work and working the plan"; 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 that an O-ring disaster loomed, but management refused to react to instincts. Leaders should investigate instinctual fears to determine if, in fact, they are rooted in reality.

The power of a team resides in the uniqueness of the team members, in their diversity of life experiences and insights. Everyone has a sacred responsibility to get their unique perspectives on the table for the leadership to consider. Leaders have a sacred responsibility to empower the voices of their people so they can gain access to those unique perspectives. "One person with courage forms a majority", is a quote by former President Andrew Jackson that Mullane will use in this discussion. He also uses an example of how a medical doctor at NASA (not an engineer or astronaut) had the best idea for a shuttle bailout system. This is an example of how great ideas can exist in the minds of people who are not considered the experts on a particular issue and this is why team leaders need to work on empowering every voice on their teams.

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. Mullane 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.

Courageous Self-Leadership
Mullane uses his life story to develop these points on self-leadership: self-leaders set very lofty goals, stay focused on what's important, and 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."

Countdown To Teamwork is remarkably inspirational. The audience will come away from the program with a renewed sense of their potential and the potential of their teams.

Travels from: Albuquerque, NM