NASA Lessons for Team Management

Team management is an integral part of your company’s effectiveness and productivity. Do you address employee engagement in your teams? Have you assessed how well communication is enacted in your organization? Are your teams empowered? Culturally intelligent? Good problem solvers?

The most cohesive teams are those whose leaders understand that communication, engagement, and empowerment are important for productive teams. Leaders that seek out emotional intelligence (EQ) training, communication skills training and cultural intelligence (CQ) training for themselves and their employees create environments that contribute to creativity, problem-solving, innovation and collaborative effort.


Executive coaching is even recommended by NASA researchers. Team management is an enormous area of research for the space program. As Nadia Goodman points out in a Harvard Business Review blog, astronauts must work well together as teams to make their missions successful and receive training similar to that of business teams.

Astronauts receive training in conflict management, cultural training, self-care and management. They engage in mentoring programs styled on executive coaching. They learn communication skills, problem-solving skills and build a foundation of empowerment that helps them to deal creatively with issues that they must resolve on their own in the event that communication with leaders is lost. Astronaut teams must work with utmost efficiency and deal with crises on their own. Agility and resilience training help them to do this. They must also develop great relationship management skills as they’re bound together in close quarters for a very long time. EQ and CQ training are important components of such training.

In terms of self-care, EQ training can help team members understand their emotions and seek out the kind of emotional support that they need.

Goodman lists some of the training that astronauts undergo in the space program. They’re taught that being a good leader means understanding how to be a good follower. The astronauts learn how to listen, how to ask for clarification, how to give constructive feedback and how to avoid being confrontational. They learn about leadership styles and how to flex styles and they learn to recognize the best route to take no matter if it is their idea or someone else’s. The astronauts take terms playing team leader in order to understand the different roles that make effective teams.

Conflict management is very important for effective teams. Understanding the greater goal, mission and purpose, helps put interpersonal conflicts into perspective. Astronauts learn about boundaries and positive communication. They receive CQ training so that they understand their own cultural perceptions and behaviors as well as that of their team mates.

One of the most powerful factors in effective teams is that they share a mental model. This begins with clearly articulated and shared values and vision, a key component of employee engagement. Shared objectives and understanding different team roles helps team members to function in sync, adapt to different roles and it is key for agility.

Astronauts spend time reviewing and learning from their mistakes. Mistakes become, instead of sources of blame and dissonance, opportunities for collaboration, learning and innovation. EQ and communication training helps team members to manage their emotions and turn stressful events into opportunities to bond and become more cohesive.

Mentoring is an important part of team management. Mentoring and executive coaching can help team members prevent problems they haven’t yet personally experienced. Mentoring and executive coaching can increase mission meaning and employee engagement says NASA experts.

Company retreats are a great opportunity for teams to build great skills. Time spent together away from work helps team members to gain cultural agility with one another and learn more about each other’s personal habits, preferences and idiosyncrasies. This kind of contact is an important part of the NASA program and helps astronaut teams note stressors and build common goals. This helps them become more agile and responsive and appreciative of each other.


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