Locked in leadership

I heard this impressive story recently and want to pass it on to you because I bet you work with teams that could benefit from it.

Picture this: Six astronauts locked into the International Space Station zooming around the globe for five months. Working and living together in tight quarters 24/7. “Six men in a tin can” is how some described it. Can you imagine not being able to separate from your work place and work mates for five months?

When Chris Hadfield (a Canadian) was named Commander of this team of two American and three Russian highly skilled astronauts, he knew that getting them to work well together for five months could be a challenge. They had different backgrounds, cultures, spoke different languages. There was a 25-year age difference between the youngest and oldest.

Hadfield was intentional about getting to know each of them individually. He brought them together to get to know each other, their backgrounds, interests, goals, why they had signed on for this mission. Then he had them meet each other’s families to develop more connections.

They trained keenly, learning all the rules and procedures they must abide by in space. But Hadfield knew it would take something more for them to work well together. He gave it a lot of thought and talked with them about it.

Together they committed to one thing that made a huge impact: Each of them had to do one unsolicited kind thing for every other member of the crew every single day—for five months.

Hadfield said many of their random acts of kindness were anonymous. They would cook a meal when it wasn’t their turn or tidy up a sleeping area for a mate who had to rush to duty. One might check a piece of equipment or do calculations so another could get some needed rest. “These actions focused each person on serving others, versus themselves, and kept tempers in check and egos in the right place,” Hadfield said. “This one simple practice had a profound effect.” He credits it as the most impactful thing he did to bring his team together.

The mission was “wildly successful from a scientific and public relations perspective,” but even more remarkable was that during those five months they “worked beautifully together” without a single heated argument.

You can read this story and the Five Disciplines of Team Leaders and 101 Ways to Inspire Your Team in The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick.

Enjoy doing something for someone else today!

P.S. Commander Chris Hadfield is a cool guy. See some of his videos from space here.

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