ISPCS Founder & Chair Pat Hynes on Nudging Leaders into a State of Creativity

ISPCS Founder & Chair Pat Hynes on Nudging Leaders into a State of Creativity

Leadership Monthly: Thanks Pat for Taking the Time to Speak with Us About Leadership in the Space Industry. Each Year, You Gather Together Industry Leaders for the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS). How Do You Successfully Engage Them over These Two Days?

Pat Hynes: Leaders from the agencies to Boeing need to be thinking about what their bosses are thinking about. So, I have to know what this is in order to be effective. Also, they need to know that I'm worried about what they're worried about, and that I'll bring them information they need, at the time they need it.

So, for an example, take the position leaders at NASA and Lockheed Martin are in. The opinion is that the new US administration seems to think putting people on the first SLS Orion launch is a good idea. Well, if this administration wants a big win during its term, then they might want to rethink that course of action as the first Orion capsule has no environmental control systems, and it was never in the critical path for its first test. So, what’s going to be the continuity of purpose here? How can these leaders align with what the new administration is thinking? That’s the sort of thing I need to think about to engage them as it’s what they’re thinking about right now.

Leadership Monthly: How Do You Nudge These Leaders into a State of Creativity That Leads to Something Transformational for Them?

Pat Hynes: I curate not only the content but the environment that surrounds everybody for the two days of ISPCS. The leaders stay together on site, and we create a community for two days that’s just about us, and then we go back out to battle for another year. It's a recharging experience. We’re building a family. I keep it intimate, and the message is: you're with your family, relax. Choosing the right environment is important to facilitate this, and we’re on a great site: The Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. It's a gorgeous non-traditional setting. When people drive in, they tell me that they look at their brochure, and they see the banners at the entrance, and they know they’re in the right place, but then they see Longhorn cattle and sheep, and think what on earth’s this! So, they know they’re going to be in a non-traditional environment for the two days, and that’s the start.

Every morning, we organise a run. We steward it, take people out that want to run, lead the way, and get them back for breakfast. AIAA’s Sandy Magnus, NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, Boeing’s John Elbon … never miss a run, as they get to meet people there, again, in a totally non-traditional environment, and when they get back and they've got a warm breakfast, baristas, tea, flowers and a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains waiting for them. The new people think, goodness: what kind of conference is this … who cares … bacon … I'm going to eat, I'm going to sit down and grab a burrito or whatever … I don't care I'm going to get a coffee … goodness this is great coffee! We give them the feeling that they don’t need to worry about a thing, everything is here for them, which is important too.

When the conference starts, they hear the call to assembly. If you've ever been to Churchill Downs, you’ll have heard the call to assembly for the riders to saddle up and get out to the starting line. We do it at ISPCS with live trumpeters. So, new people start thinking, what on earth’s that. Then everyone starts to get up and move in to the hall, and they realise, goodness, the conference is starting, that's what that is, that's so goofy!

Every year, when we start the conference, we have a live performance. This year it’s a performance of "In the Room Where It Happens" from Hamilton, if you’ve heard that song you’ll know how it tells the story of how Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison got in a room together and decided where the capital of the United States was going to be and that they would allow Hamilton to establish the central banking system. That was the trade, and when Aaron Burr heard about it he was incensed that he wasn't in the room where it happened. So, it’s how we let them know they're in the room where it's going to happen for the next two days, and that's how we start the show.

So, all of this makes people think: okay, maybe I can relax here a little, maybe I can take a break, maybe I can do something about this one problem that I'm trying to work on in my business, maybe I can meet somebody who's going to help me with that, maybe it's the one time this year I'm really going to be glad I'm in this business. So, it's funny and unique. It makes people laugh and put their swords down. They’re not nervous anymore it all changes their brain, it changes the way their brain works when they’re with us and they leave feeling renewed and that's what we want to achieve.

Leadership Monthly: These Leaders Demand Access to Great Information for Their Decision Making. With Such an Informed Crowd, How Does Your Information Strike the Right Chord and Bring Everything That They're Thinking About Together for Them?

Pat Hynes: After you get to a certain level of career development, when you have all your basic needs met, you have a need for personal growth and that’s what we aim to satisfy for these leaders, over the two days.

First, we have to connect with their thinking and set expectations. This starts with mobile communication to them before they arrive. I write to the leaders, in almost a Haiku style, to set these expectations of what will happen and what our theme will be, which, this year, is purpose and the continuity of purpose. So, very short statement-type phrases to control the eye and convince their curious minds, that they need to be part of these two days, and it also begins to engage them with our annual theme.

When they’re here, there needs to be many more ways to communicate because we have different people with different ways of acquiring and absorbing our information through how they interact, and their styles of interacting, with each other.

Essentially, there’s four ways of achieving this through our interactions with them. Some learn from a formal situation, sitting in a room listening to a speaker, that's one way. Some learn from talking to their colleagues, that's another way. Some people, and you'll often see this, learn by interacting with our materials and they don't need necessarily to talk to anybody. So, there are people who will come to our conference and take some of the supplementary materials and go out and learn by themselves, and then some people learn through informal interaction with our primary sources. We use primary sources on stage. So, for example, this year, people are thinking about monetary policy, fiscal policy, the need to understand what the implications of constrained money supply will be, and, for example, the need to understand the blues our central banking partners across the globe are dealing with in the European Union as well as Japan. These are our partners, and what happens to them has to always be on the minds of these leaders. So, I will get somebody from the Dallas Fed to be here. So, somebody with the Federal Reserve will speak on this topic, set within the context of our theme of purpose and what is going on in the environment. So, if you're the kind of person who's going to learn from interacting with the primary source, you're going to prepare ahead of time and realise you know you need to talk to this person so one of the things we have is "ISPCS Connect" so you can arrange this talk.

The reason we have these core themes each year is that when I give these leaders the stage, they all address this theme, e.g., purpose and this idea of a purpose-driven life, a purpose-driven organisation or project. We construct a three-act play each of the two days, with a beginning, middle, and an end. We tell the story of the theme, and how this industry is growing, coming together, how it's moving, what it needs to do, what we need to think about, and this leads to personal and group insights in to shared problems.

Leadership Monthly: You Mentioned Purpose a Few Times and It's Your Core Theme This Year. How Do You Lead Through Purpose?

Pat Hynes: You know, I study all the time. I'm a writer, and I have a column. I read a lot and talk to people like yourself, and I'm aware that the great thinkers of our time have a lot to teach me. Napoleon Hill is one of those people, he wrote "Think and Grow Rich" and he learned from Andrew Carnegie. Essentially, Hill wanted to find out how to help other people gain wealth, and he wanted to learn it himself. So, he went to Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie said, okay I’ll work with you but I’ll pay you nothing and for 20 years they worked together and out of that work came this book. Essentially, what Hill learned is you have to have a purpose in life and then everything you do, your incremental approach to accomplishing that purpose, has to come from that white-hot desire.

This idea, that you need to understand your purpose, is what you start with, and that is what really matters. Then you have to have very specific goals. If you study business then you understand goal theory: specific measurable goals that have a time constraint attached to them. It's something that stretches you. If you just say I'm going to get up and go out walking today, that's not a goal. A goal stretches you. So, when you looking at how am I going to achieve what it is I believe I need to do, and even if it's only from now until the end of the year, you need to know what your purpose is to effectively work toward the goal you set.

Leadership Monthly: You're on the Board of Directors of Future Space Leaders. How Does This Organisation Help These Leaders?

Pat Hynes: Simply stated, surround yourself with great people. That's what Future Space Leaders is about, and it was started by somebody I greatly admire, Clay Mowry. Clay started Future Space Leaders because he believed in the power of leaders to create future leaders by helping them learn. So, he created Future Space Leaders to help professionals, just starting in the industry, go to conferences because he personally learned a lot from going to conferences.

So, what I do at ISPCS, and what I've learned about leadership, is that good leaders have a very personal commitment to helping other people succeed. That's Clay, no doubt about it, his entire life that's been one of his purposes in life.

Leadership Monthly: Finally, You Could Transfer into a New Industry, Where I'm Sure Your Leadership Skills Would Be in Demand. What Is It About the Commercial Space Sector That Keeps You Engaged?

Pat Hynes: So, I've been at this a long time, and I've seen the cycles we go through, the communities who have been through the ebbs and flows of the Apollo and Shuttle programmes. So, the reason I do these two days is to give a snapshot of the industry, here's where we are, right here right now. Here's where the industry’s commercial approach to space access is right now. We have to look at where are we every year and so the conference is a way for us to benchmark how we’re doing and that's the value of me being the curator of the conference.

It’s my purpose, and I feel very committed to delivering what I promise to the people who come. If they're going to take the time and effort to get here, talk with their bosses to let them go, prepare their staff for when they're gone, and prepare talks for my stage, I really want to give them something valuable.

It’s a very demanding purpose for me and my staff each day, and when they hear what other people say about our work, yeah, it’s a great feeling knowing that we're doing something that, for everyone we interact with through ISPCS, helps them do what they need to do when they go back out to battle for another year.