Culture shift in an organization is hard work. Undoing long-held beliefs and ways of doing. Agreeing on the values that should underpin the organization’s work moving forward. Creating new management practices that reflect those values. If not done properly, culture change can create much pain and upheaval, with some casualties. After much struggle to deal with change, most are able to leave behind the way it used to be and get on board with the new culture. And in truth, organizational culture change never ends.
Now imagine if that organization is NASA’s Mission Control, and the group undergoing a culture shift is the senior management team?
As a business person, you might first be curious as to how that whole culture change thing worked out, and if it did, you might be eager to find out their secret, because surely anything implemented at Mission Control is worthy of consideration for one’s own organization.
In Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom: A Guide to Unleashing Team Performance, Paul Sean Hill opens up about his experience at NASA’s Mission Control where he spent most of his professional career—a good part of that as a leader at several levels. Mission Control’s leadership culture was always important to Paul, to the point of becoming a personal obsession. Paul reveals, “When I reached the senior management team and discovered how dysfunctional we were in most management functions, I was appalled. Then I became seriously concerned that we could pollute the teams who did the most critical work in our organization—the flight control teams in Mission Control.”
Paul took his concern and turned it into a personal challenge: how might the leadership team take the most critical values out of the Mission Control Room and bring them into their management practices? After much struggle, both personally and as a leadership team, they were able to do just that. “For the first time in a long time, we could connect our core values and those management practices,” reflects Paul. “We were able to pull off some strategic ‘miracles’ that mirrored our flight control teams’ prowess in rocket science.”
Recognizing that the leadership team’s culture shift experience was unique and offered much to teach others, Paul knew that he had to write it all down: the team’s journey, how the team grappled with and ultimately dealt with their shortcomings, and the process they used to reach peak performance. “I genuinely felt that I owed it to the organization,” he continues. “I realized other leaders could learn from our recovery experience just as they could from the leadership values themselves. And voila, the book….”
Paul’s goal in writing the book was twofold. First, he wanted to capture the many discussions of the management team as they journeyed together to lead the organization as well as they expected the flight control teams to fly in space. Paul saw his book as an opportunity to capture the team’s experience and knowledge and pass this invaluable information along to the next generation of leadership at NASA. “This way the next generations of leaders can pick up where we left off and fix what we didn’t quite get right,” acknowledges Paul.
Secondly, Paul realized that other organizations could also learn from their experience. His goal was to write his book in a way that others could see their challenges and solutions in his story.
As he started to write Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom, Paul began giving speeches on the same topic. Says Paul, “The book became a tremendous foundation from which to build a speaking series and leadership workshop, all focused on sharing our team’s story in ways that other teams can benefit.”
After losing hope of ever hearing from a literary agent, Paul decided to self-publish his book. “I began to lose patience as well,” admits Paul, “So, I started looking into what it would take to get on with it. As I learned more and began contacting some people in different parts of the business, I was fortunate to have 1106 Design recommended. After talking with Michele and reviewing their material online, it seemed like a good bet. And it sure was!”
When asked which part of the self-publishing process was easiest, Paul reflects that with 1106 Design helping him at every step of the way (“From soup to nuts,” says Paul), every part was easy. He laughs while admitting, “My guess is that Ronda would have a different answer by the ninth iteration of the cover or my third iteration of cover text (when I’m pretty sure I changed decisions more than once), but she never balked.” In particular, Paul found that having 1106 Design handle the technical aspects of preparing the book files for IngramSpark, CreateSpace (now Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP), and Kindle was particularly valuable.
Aware that self-published books must look like they belong in the same space as traditionally published books in order to compete, Paul says, “I was happily surprised at how ‘commercial’ my book looks. Any concerns I had that it would ‘look self-published’ were certainly taken care of by 1106 Design. The book exceeded my expectations, which is saying something!” In fact, Paul advises authors who are considering the self-publishing avenue for the first time to not let the fear that their book might look amateurish to sway them from self-publishing. He recommends, “Authors should take Michele’s advice: if it’s important to you, it should be important enough to do it right, and that means getting some professional help from editing through production.”
To market the book, Paul paid for a standard promotion in IngramSpark’s publisher newsletter. He made a series of Facebook and LinkedIn posts. Realizing that wasn’t enough, Paul reports that he is now formalizing efforts with the Cadence Group and Annie Jennings for marketing and PR help.
Paul says that he wouldn’t hesitate to self-publish again, even though he signed a contract with a traditional publisher to publish Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom internationally. He laughs, “The hard decision will be whether I’ll commit the part of me it will take to write another book!”
Leadership from the Mission Control Room to the Boardroom: A Guide to Unleashing Team Performance
Author: Paul Sean Hill
Brief synopsis: Take the ultimate insider’s look at the leadership values and culture that made Mission Control’s brilliant track record possible. Paul paints a vivid picture, candidly portraying the critical cultural connections in human spaceflight triumphs and failures. By demonstrating how his Mission Control team learned to steward this culture into their management roles, Paul provides a guide for any organization to boost their own performance by leveraging the core ideas and values that have delivered “impossible” wins for decades.
Author website: atlasexec.com/book/
Genre: Nonfiction — Leadership, Management – General, Mentoring & Coaching