For this week’s post, I’d like to share some wisdom imparted by one of our keynote speakers from this year’s recent Stronger Together event, HomeServices’ annual conference for top-producing real estate professionals. Our speaker, Col. Nicole Malachowski, wowed the crowd with her thoughts on a “push-the-envelope” mindset.
First, let’s talk about Col. Malachowski. She’s not only a 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran–with combat experience in Iraq and Kosovo–but also a pioneering aviator who was commander of an F-15E fighter squadron and the first woman Thunderbird pilot. In addition, she was a White House Fellow and advisor, among other Pentagon roles.
Needless to say, when Col. Malachowski spoke about being the best, we listened. Because for an aviation innovator, being the best means never feeling like the turbulence of life can throw you off course, no matter what kind of headwinds you encounter along the way.
An unexpected headwind for Col. Malachowski was surviving a late-stage neurological tick-borne illness (Lyme disease). Even something so crippling and uncontrollable couldn’t hold this fighter pilot back. She says don’t waste energy on things you can’t control. It’s not how you become your very best.
“Nicole,” people would ask the award-winning fighter pilot. “What’s it like to be the best?”
And do you know how she’d respond? She’d laugh. Because to Col. Malachowski, being “the best” isn’t about individual achievements, so she says she really wouldn’t know. Being the best to Col. Malachowski is about being part of some of the very best teams.
Col. Malachowski says elite teams like the ones she’s been a part of have what she calls the “push-the-envelope” mindset. The phrase “push the envelope” comes from aviation lingo, meaning to take an aircraft to its designated altitude and speed limits.
But how does this play out in real life? As an example, one of the single-greatest honors of Col. Malachowski’s career was when she taught young lieutenants how to fly F-15E Strike Eagles. She calls the aircraft “a beast,” capable of flying 50,000+ feet, pulling nine times the force of gravity and flying twice the speed of sound.
When Col. Malachowski would teach the new lieutenants and pilots how to fly the aircraft, she found the same thing happened every time: They’d get into the aircraft–eyes wide and voices shaking. Then, they’d fly up safely into the training airspace when she’d say, “You have the aircraft.”
The new lieutenant would grab the stick and take the F-15E to about 20,00 feet, 250 miles an hour, pulling 2 Gs.
“What a waste,” Col. Malachowski says with a laugh. She knew this incredible piece of technology could do far more than what the students were asking of it, and it was her job to show them how to take it to the very edge of its capabilities. As part of their team and as their instructor, it was her responsibility to show them how to make the aircraft do its best, and how they can become their best, too.
So, what’s the message? Here are some takeaways Col. Malachowski listed at the very end of her speech, which are all practical ways to be your best:
- Nothing of significance is ever accomplished alone.
- Acknowledge and show gratitude for others’ expertise.
- Honor the wingman contract, which is defined by Col. Malachowski as “an unspoken promise to each other that our actions will always represent the mission, the professional standards, and the values of the whole team.”
- Ask for and offer help.
Those are just some of the key lessons from Col. Malachowski’s incredible keynote speech, which focused on how being the best can only happen when we are stronger together.
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.