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Exploring Talent interviews all functions of C Level executives ranging from CEO, COO, CHRO, CFO, CSO to Board Members in their profession to share their insights and advice for the benefit you, regardless of your profession.

Whether you are approaching the VP level or about to reach the C suite, hear from leaders who completed the same journey as they share their experiences and lessons learned so you can apply them to your career. You’ll even hear from an Astronaut or two.

Jan 7, 2020

The impressively humble General Kevin Patrick ‘Chilli’ Chilton joins the show today to share his 34-½ years of experience in the Air Force as well as the successful transition he then navigated into corporate America.


A note to those who have not served in the Armed Forces: I will be referring to our guest as either General or by his call sign of ‘Chilli’ out of respect for his rank and his service to our country.



General Kevin Patrick ‘Chilli’ Chilton graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and has flown pretty much every aircraft in the Air Force inventory including the RF4, F15, U2, and the B52. He attended test-pilot school, served around the world and was selected as an astronaut that included three shuttle missions. He was also the Deputy Program Manager of Operations for the International Space Station. He then returned to the Air Force for key postings such as the Commander of the Ninth Recon Wing, Commander of the Eighth Air Force, and Commander of the Air Force Space Command and the United States Strategic Command. He is currently the only astronaut to obtain the rank of 4-star General. Chilli has served on boards of the Anadarko, Orbital, Aerospace Corporation and both level three and post-merger with Centurylink today as well as with Aerojet Rocketdyne.



Podfly Productions:

Veterans of Foreign Wars:

OC Executive Search:



[1:50] Michael introduces General Kevin Patrick ‘Chilli’ Chilton and asks him to share an interesting tidbit about himself — Chilli is a proud family man, husband, and father to four very successful daughters — he also played in the MaxQ all-astronaut rock band!


GETTING CALLED TO THE AIR [5:21] Chilli shares the childhood exposure that shaped his interest in flight and explains how he got about getting himself some flying lessons!


GRACE UNDER PRESSURE [7:59] The General shares how he got his call sign while flying the F-15. He also touches on how the ability to stay cool under pressure, tackle problems, and exemplify leadership can be trained but requires operational terrain experience.


NASA [10:20] Chilli breaks down what qualities NASA looks for in their hires and how executives can strive for those traits even without military training. We also get a peek into the General’s space shuttle flight experience (Endeavour — with its tense and joyful maiden voyage — and Atlantis).


PICKING TEAMS [17:37] There are more astronauts than missions, Chilli shares how teams were built for missions during his service. He recalls his first call to pilot the Endeavour and how easy the ‘yes’ came.


THROWING YOUR HAT IN THE RING [19:45] The one person and the two reasons Chilli eventually applied at NASA.


MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE CAREERS? [21:33] It used to be a general Air Force policy that if you left for NASA, you didn’t come back… but in 1996 ‘Chilli’ was invited to volunteer to help the Air Force operationalize space.


LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES [24:07] The Air Force Hierarchy is built in a moving up/moving out fashion, which generates turnover and forces focus on the importance of next-generation leaders. Chilli touches on mentorship, sponsors and the value of a good boss.


COMMANDER VS CEO [30:15] The General breaks down the primary differences between civilian and military work. A commander isn’t just a boss.


ADVICE FOR CEOs [32:40] Chilli shares what he believes CEOs can learn from flag officers — listen in for advice on what strength the military can teach you — and he shares his personal advice on what CEOs should do today to properly plan for tomorrow.


POLITICS [35:22] The General makes a statement on politics in the military and offers his perspective on how and why a CEO might be more affected by politics. He also touches on how the military/political/civilian relationships need to be maintained in order to ensure smooth operations.


FIRST BOARD [39:00] Getting his first board appointment came through an acquaintance and it was a learning experience that Chilli appreciated. He shares his view on managing board members with all the individual egos and existing relationships and baggage that this entails, as well as what the role of the Chair is.


A DAY IN THE LIFE [42:35] Chilli shares a day in his life as a board member, and what best practices are important to keep in place.


The General shares what the role of a board is — and isn’t — for the benefit of an emerging executive and how to best recruit a new CEO.


[46:37] Michael closes out Part 1 of this interview with General Kevin Patrick ‘Chilli’ Chilton and invites listeners to tune into Part 2.


We hope you learned something today and enjoyed the conversation. Please give us 5 stars on iTunes and share your comments so we can improve and ask the questions you want to hear.





Jalan Crossland for the music

Angela Johnson at OC Executive Search

Joseph Batty at Podfly

Corey Coates at Podfly