Col. Terry Virts (ret.) served as a U.S. Air Force test fighter pilot, is a NASA veteran of two spaceflights and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Harvard Business School. In 2019 he directed his first film, One More Orbit. His second book, How to Astronaut, continues to amass excellent reviews. He is currently involved in several film and television projects, serves on corporate boards, consults to the entertainment industry, writes and promotes public policy.
He is a celebrated thought leader, speaker and author whose seven months in space included: piloting the Space Shuttle; commanding the International Space Station; three spacewalks; and performing scientific experiments, while working closely with multiple international partners. Virts worked with Russian Space Agency cosmonauts during some of the most stressful U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.
While in space he took more than 300,000 photos – more than on any other space mission. The images are an integral component of the National Geographic IMAX film A Beautiful Planet, which Virts also shot and stars in. His first book for National Geographic, View From Above, combines his best photography with stories about spaceflight alongside his perspectives about life on earth and our place in the cosmos.
Terry shares the importance of feedback, cultural understanding, and fair treatment when leading diverse teams. He discusses topics such as debriefing, stress management, and skills-based training. Gain insights into balancing productivity and well-being, prioritizing tasks, and overcoming fears. Don’t miss the valuable advice for handling emergencies.
[01:53] Terry talks about his experiences as an entrepreneur and the challenges of selling ideas in comparison to being a leader in the military. During his time commanding the International Space Station with an international crew, he learned that feedback is important and helps to resolve conflicts between team members from different cultural backgrounds.
[05:36] He also emphasizes the importance of understanding where people are on the experience spectrum and treating everyone fairly regardless of their position or length of service.
[11:23] Terry shares his experience working with people from different cultures and the importance of a culture that values accountability while not punishing mistakes.
[16:58] He also emphasizes the value of debriefing and learning from mistakes to improve safety in industries like aviation.
[23:19] Terry discusses how stress can impact performance during missions, highlighting the need for moderate stress levels to optimize productivity. Additionally, he talks about pre-mission training and team-building exercises such as National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
[25:25] Terry touches on the importance of skills-based training, including medical skills necessary when someone falls ill during a mission. He talks about medical procedures in space and how to handle potential emergencies like appendicitis.
[31:22] Terry also discusses leadership styles and ways to balance getting things done while also taking care of their team’s well-being.
[40:01] The discussion revolves around the concept of being a “lazy” commander. Terry refers to a quote by Steve Jobs, highlighting the idea of hiring smart people not to be told what to do, but to receive their guidance. The importance of prioritizing tasks, working smarter instead of harder, and being a little bit lazy as a leader were key takeaways from the conversation.
[45:43] Terry shares the three steps to handle emergencies: maintain control, analyze the situation, and take appropriate action. He also gives advice for business leaders facing adversity and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing tasks in order to avoid making things worse.
[47:33] Closing quote: Remember, the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. — Neil deGrasse Tyson
Quotable Quotes"If you're a leader, try and see things from other people's point of view, a skill we must have." Click To Tweet "You kind of have to know where people are on the experience spectrum… People mature at different rates." Click To Tweet "You need to be open to feedback also and not make it too awkward or strange." Click To Tweet "If you've got a CYA culture in your organization, you have to look at how you're holding people accountable." Click To Tweet "If people make mistakes… you can use people's mistakes in a positive way, that can be really good for your industry." Click To Tweet "You figure out what you need, and then you train that need so that people know what they're doing." Click To Tweet "If you can take your team and travel overseas, that's when you get to know people, you can hang out and do things outside of work, that's important." Click To Tweet "There's a terminal velocity by which a team can come together." Click To Tweet "You need to have some kind of moderate amount of stress to perform optimally." Click To Tweet "Part of what we have to do as leaders is to get stuff done, and the best way to do that is through the commitment of people who are willing and engaged." Click To Tweet "The best commanders are a little bit lazy." Click To Tweet "I hire smart people so they tell me what to do." Click To Tweet "When working in a big bureaucracy, choose one specific goal you want to accomplish and focus on achieving it." Click To Tweet "Sometimes you just need to chill out and let things happen." Click To Tweet "Be like water, find the path of least resistance." Click To Tweet "Work smarter, not harder." Click To Tweet "Don't crash into the ground. Do your analysis then take your action." Click To Tweet "The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you." – Neil deGrasse Tyson Click To Tweet
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- Terry Virts Book | View From Above: An Astronaut Photographs The World
- “5 Strategies to infuse D&I into Your Organization,” HBR