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The Human Herd

With ever increasing access to technology, we have become more and more independent, especially in the way that we work. We are no longer required to punch in and out of a brick and mortar building in order to collaborate with co-workers. Gone are the days of productivity occurring behind a desk alone. Email, cloud based databases, and a multitude of other telecommunication systems have redefined workspace. As barriers and confines continue to disappear, a mobile and independent workforce emerges. Connected to laptops and mobile phones, we are no longer restrained by physical meeting space, and can operate efficiently without dependence on regular contact with others. And we’re better for it. Or are we?

At Odyssey, we are constantly asked about the value of an “all hands meeting” when the business information could just as easily be shared remotely. Likewise, we regularly field the question of whether including a “team building” element in the schedule is important when the impact of team building is impossible to measure. The answer is clear to us – the “information” is important, but it is not the most significant part of the face-to-face meeting. However, bean counters and executives cram three-day meetings with a surplus of informational presentations and ceaseless PowerPoints. Meanwhile, participants send text messages, catch-up on email, post to Facebook, and even pass notes to each other to pass the time. They suffer the meeting and hold out for the evening entertainment like a kid in church who has been promised a doughnut after the service.

Taking the time and money to put people in a room together feeds a part of us that cannot be rationalized by simply looking at costs and efficiency charts. It requires a closer look into the sociology of the human being. The evidence leads to the conclusion that the most important reason to put people in a room together is to connect them as a team and as people, and create a positive emotional memory of the company, team, or leadership. It might not be cost or time efficient, because frankly, relationships are never going to be efficient. But it is immeasurably valuable. The power of Facebook is built on our need to connect, or at least have the feeling of connection, but it will never completely satisfy us.

We can watch any movie we want in the comfort of our own home with blue ray, surround sound, and all the snacks we could want. Yet, while on a business trip in Boston a few weeks ago, I went on an evening stroll and came upon close to 3,000 people watching The Lego Movie in the park. Sitting on the ground, not on a couch, and with less than top of the line video and sound quality. We have a need to be a part of a community, and a deep desire for connection that requires old fashion human contact. No matter how well Skype, FaceTime, GoToMeeting and other technology solutions are able to connect us remotely, we will only be at our very best when our mind, heart and gut feel connected and engaged to the community, and we are reminded that we are a valuable part of it all.

– Lain Hensley

luck

1 in 10,000 – the occurrence of a single four leaf clover for every regular three-leaved one. Given that degree of scarcity, favorable luck is not looking very probable for any of us. Fortunately, not all believe that good luck is dependent on a charm or external source. It is often said that luck is the result of opportunity meeting preparation. The luck of a buzzer beating shot for your favorite college basketball team is the marriage of the opportunity of possession and the preparation of hours of drills and repeated practice shots. Regrettably, we have no control over the development of such opportunities. Lucrative lunch dates, fortuitous trends in the market, and providential offers cannot be manufactured by sheer will. Those are the moments that luck in its truest sense does seemingly come into play.

While we have no way of influencing opportunity, we have total control over preparation. Preparation is the difference between a seized opportunity and a missed one – the title-clinching basket or a bounce off of the rim. Without the proper knowledge, skills, relationships, and resources, lucky opportunities will slip past. And here at Odyssey, we strongly believe that a crucial element of preparation is the formation and maintenance of your team. A team that is cohesively striving towards the same goals, holding shared values, and working together to accomplish tasks, will have the wherewithal to capitalize on the lucky circumstances, conversations, and situations that arise.

Whether it’s due to a long sought after four leaf clover, an extra bowl of that marshmallow dotted cereal, or a time tested ritual, we hope this is a year marked by the best kind of luck for you and your team. And if you prefer to make your own luck – and are looking for some preparation in anticipation of a golden opportunity – give us a call. That’s what we’re all about.

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Relational Remodeling

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“The relationships are valued long after the work is done.”

When I was in middle school, my parents remodeled our kitchen and bathrooms. The process involved all the typical ups and downs – dishes washed in the bathroom sink, five people rotating through the single functioning shower each morning, and way too many take-out meals. However, the unsuspected highlight was the months spent in close quarters with our contractors. Mike and Mike showed up every morning as we were eating breakfast. They were the first to greet us as we parked our bikes next to their table saw in the garage after school. My little brother called the younger of the two “Spike Mike” in reference to his styled hair, and would spend hours following around at a distance. When the house was finished, and the lingering dust finally evacuated from the corners of the house, there was a definite loss felt by us kids. And quite the euphoria when a Mike sighting would occur at the grocery store or a local restaurant.

Our kitchen is great – countless are the memories of gatherings friends congregated around its countertops. And the bathrooms are quite the improvement over their dated predecessors. If my parents were to sell today, they would pocket a substantial profit from the updates. But when they recommend Mike and Mike to people around town, it is only in part due to the work that was accomplished. Referrals readily flow based on the relationships that were formed during those loud and dusty months – the trust, rapport, and friendship that undergirded and outlive the job well done.

We all do work that involves people to varying degrees. In the coming weeks, take notice of the intersection of work and relationships in your own business. Is there need for a relational remodel? Relationships are not always the most efficient endeavor, but we are confident they are worth the investment. The immediate is an improved process, and the extended results could very well be a positive impact on future returns.

Bullying

When Combating the Bully, Our Hands Aren’t Tied

As a part of growing-up, most of us have experienced bullying either directly or indirectly. And despite our efforts to build awareness, today bullying still persists. As a society we have to not only work to eradicate bullying, but also to prepare children for it. Like animals in the jungle, if somebody is weak, they get picked on so another can assert dominance. And the sad truth is, the behavior kids face today is at a new high, or low, depending how you measure it. Thanks to the Internet, cyber bullying is a whole new outlet for kids to attack the weakest members of the social herd outside the classroom. So how can we, as adults, combat this critical issue? As it turns out, we’re not as powerless as we might at times feel. Here are a few steps we can take.

In the School Environment

We show up for kindergarten excited to be a part of something. We take risks, we raise our hands without hesitance, we want to participate and grow. And that can work out pretty well for a while, but then 3rd or 4th grade rolls around, and we get made fun of for getting an answer wrong. The next time the opportunity to participate in class comes up, that little voice inside tells us, “hey, that didn’t feel good last time, let’s not take that risk again.”

School should be a place for taking risks and seeing good things happen. It should be an environment where people can make mistakes and try new things. I like to call it learning ugly. Like in sports, learning should be ugly at times. If you go to a sports practice and never strike out, then the pitcher isn’t pitching hard enough. But the difference is with sports, it’s expected that you’re going to learn ugly—in school it’s not so safe to fail, which results in a sacrifice of knowledge and growth.

In school, our intentions should be focused on reprogramming the experience of taking risks and having something bad happen as a result. We want our youth to understand that if they take a risk, something good should happen next. It’s up to us to create this type of learning environment where positive reinforcement is king—not just for getting the right answer, but for trying and taking that risk in participating. Being positive and uplifting is the most powerful tool.

In the Home Environment

Kids need the support of a family to lift them up, such as an available family that listens to them at the dinner table. At least four times each week, families should make the effort to sit together for a meal. No cell phones, no TV, just talking and listening—good old fashion conversation. Let kids know that they matter, and give them a voice in a safe place where their thoughts and opinions are heard.

Find activities, such as sports or music lessons, which will build kids’ self esteem so they can withstand the impact of other’s bad behavior that can’t be controlled outside the home.

Help them develop a work ethic by doing chores around the house such as cleaning their room or even watering a plant. The overwhelming hours kids spend watching TV, using social media and texting do not teach them how to become an important part of the operations of the family and the world. These two roles tend to go hand-in-hand.

Most importantly, give them a place where they belong, so if they feel out of place at school, at least they feel comfortable at home. Without a sense of accomplishment and value outside of peer acceptance, kids may take extreme measures to let people know how much they are hurting.

SPACE

This is a great acronym that shows the five ways parents and caregivers can create a safe space for kids to flourish.

Safe place to learn and grow.

Perspective. Shifting perspective to understand differences.

Awareness. Recognizing what it is that we’re most aware of (such as ethnicity and economic status), and redirecting if misguided.

Choice. Making it safe for people to make a choice, and recognizing that we have one.

Energy. Getting in touch with energy. You can feel if a setting, such as the classroom, has a positive or negative environment.

The ugly truth is that bullying has gone too far and we all need to step up and do our part to make a difference. But the good news is, with a little effort, we can all look around and do something to help.

-Lain Hensley is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Odyssey Teams, a corporate training and youth education company that works with schools and non-profits across the nation. 

Conquering the February Blues – part II

This is part II of a two-week look at how to keep yourself and your teams motivated this year.

  • Get together with your work team in person or virtually.  We need to feel like we are a part of something bigger than us.  It will lift your spirits and help remind you that your work matters and that you are not alone in the challenges and the rewards.  Talk about the ups and the down of life and work and be honest. People love to help others when you let them know what is real for you in your life and work.  People lifted me up when I was at my lowest point and I am constantly amazed at the generous spirit of people.
  • Enjoy time with your customers if you can, or take time to follow your work to the eventual end user or beneficiary.  We often lose our sense of flavor for life and for our work because we are distant from the impact on them and us.  Taste the joy of helping someone or making the world a better place through your work.  It feels good to do something good!
  • Answer these five questions on a sheet of paper or on your computer and print them out.  1. Why is my work important to me?  2. Why is the answer to number one important to me?  3. Why is the answer to number two important to me?  4. Why is the answer to number three important to me?  5. Why is the answer to number four important to me?  Odds are very good that the answer to number 5 is motivating and downright powerful in a meaning of life kind of way.  Know your 5th why.
  • Move your body.  Motion creates emotion and if you are feeling the blues you are probably sitting and standing in a slumped posture. Get up and MOVE!  Walk, run, play, workout, or do anything that changes your posture and could be called exercise.

 

It is okay to feel a little off now and then. Don’t deny how you feel.  Life is challenging and life can be hard. Remember, the greatest gift in life is not what you get, but what you become.  Stay focused on who you are becoming as you face another year of learning and growth.

-Lain Hensley

Conquering the February Blues – part I

The beginning of another year can be a bit overwhelming and demotivating. The lights only just came down from the roof, while the neighbor seems to have already completed spring cleaning, trained for a marathon, and clearly doesn’t face the same credit card bills given the new car gracing the driveway. There is not a handicap large enough to make up that difference, so why even bother? We know that we should have high expectations for the year ahead, but by now it’s February and life is real and demanding and on occasion really difficult. Resolutions and personal development shrink to make room for other requirements of time and energy. So how do you motivate people who are facing another year of change, continuous improvement, and the always-growing stretch goals?

Last year I was fighting tonsil cancer.  I survived the torture of surgery and 6 weeks of radiation, only to be overwhelmed by the daily challenge of eating enough calories to keep my body healthy sans feeding tube. I would start the day with my treatment and then I would begin to climb “my mountain” as I called it.  The mountain of calories with a summit of 2,500, compounded by the bizarre radiation effect of tasteless food.  Just texture and temperature, no flavor.  How did I find motivation and how can the same principles be applied to propel you and your team through another successful year?

Some simple places to start:

  • Set short term goals and work your tail off to hit them.  Make them realistic and achievable.  You need a partner, friend, coworker or boss who knows your goals and will be ready to celebrate with you when you achieve them, and hold you accountable when you slip.  My wife was my cheerleader, cook, and she would be honest with me on my progress each day.  She had the confetti and air horn ready for my 2,500-calorie summit and was the first one to push me when my determination waned. (My kids would also help her in these tasks.)
  • Look past the obstacles of the day.  Now is the time to start dreaming about the family summer vacation at the lake, the goal of adding a pool to the backyard, or catching a game with a friend.  Make plans that include fun and are beyond the work.  We need to work to live, but we should not live to work.  Find a healthy blend of the two and do your best to separate them from each other.  Notice I did not say “healthy balance.” Balance implies equality, and they are not necessarily season-to-season.
  • Ask yourself a very important question each day. “What do I need to do today to stay motivated and hit my goals?”  Your brain is an expert at solving problems, and will apply its magic to this question lead you to rock your world.  Ask this question one to two times each day.  Do not confuse this question with. “Why am I not motivated and not making my goals?” This might sound like an interchangeable question, but one leads to solutions and an action plan. And the other to excuses. Do not fall into the trap of the latter.

 

To be continued next week.

-Lain Hensley

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Bad Day

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good to not share.

“Millions of people in the world would love the opportunity to experience your bad days.”

This quote originated from an accountant that had just completed a Helping Hands program, in which participants receive a glimpse of what life is like for an amputee living in a developing country. It offers a perspective oft forgotten – that the challenges and hardships that we face pale in comparison to those lived daily by countless around the world. An anxiety laced deadline, an emotionally charged conversation, an unexpectedly poor performance review, an ill-timed empty gas tank are trivial when placed on a scale opposite the poverty, corruption, disease, and conflict faced by so many in our world. At the end of the bad day, we drive a car home, walk into a temperature controlled home, and open a refrigerator stocked with multiple meal options. A few minutes of the news ticker and all of a sudden a dropped account seems fairly trivial and TGIF becomes TGI Have A Job in light of staggering statistics of poverty. Bad days can be exactly that – really bad. But sometimes a littler perspective is the ideal antidote for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

 

 

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The Loop

Despite the overcast morning, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this past Monday, predicting six more weeks of winter. Here at the Odyssey office, spring blooms are popping up all around, so we may have some doubts about our furry friend. While the marmot’s annual forecasts may be suspect, his celebrated role in American culture is undeniable. And Bill Murray’s 1993 film Groundhog Day only serves to further canonize the strange holiday. In the flick, weather man Phil Connors is begrudgingly sent to cover the Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, only to find himself stuck in an eternal time loop. He awakens each morning to repeat the same day over and over again.

While most of us likely do not plan our spring skiing weekend around the predictions of a large rodent, we can all relate on some level to Phil Connors’ predicament. Our lives can sometimes seem to be as repetitive and suffocating as his time loop. Get up, work out, meeting, deadline, conference call, traffic, eat, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Here at Odyssey Teams, we participate in the loop alongside you. Our scuffed suitcases are evidence of the many hours spent in airports, taxis, and hotels. The boxes of prosthetic hands donated are the result of thousands of quality checks performed at our office. Retired ropes are proof of the many participants that we have harnessed and belayed as they balance on wires and jump from platforms.

But rarely do we feel the strain of the repetition. For us, the distinguishing characteristic is the people. Each time we deliver a program, we have the incredible opportunity of connecting with new faces. Event planners, participants, ten year-olds receiving bikes, the grandma seated in seat A on the plane. The people we have the privilege of interacting with, learning from, and building up, serve to differentiate one program from the next, and make each day spent on the road more than worth the repetition. We so hope to be the break from the norm for you and your team this year. If you’re finding yourself bogged down by the redundancy, give us a call. We’d love to be the exception to the rule that provides perspective to the loop.

Team building is not the aim!

Effective teamwork is powerful. We have all seen great sports teams and organizations rise above – not because of their individual skills, but their ability to align those skills in a direction that is superior to their opponent. However, effective teamwork does not come from ‘team building.’

In studying the essentials of producing great teams, we have found that great teams do not focus on team building. They focus on individual building — together. There is a difference. A focus on team building usually results in a temporary “feel good,” but lacks the individual accountability necessary for synergistic results. A commitment to individual building — together creates longer, more sustainable results.

What does this mean? It means that the Golden State Warriors and Chelsea F.C. do not do ‘team building’. They practice the skills that are required for them to be successful — together. That is, each person has a motivation to be their best AND to leverage the best from each other. Team building is a by-product of ‘practicing’ on and off the field.

So what do we need to practice? Achieving great results collectively requires each individual to assess critical skills and then practice like mad. Shoot penalty kicks on repeat, tune up your own listening skills, or intensively train self-confidence, trust, and respect. It is about bringing the whole player to the field.

-Bill John

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The Climb

Dust rose from beneath my boots as I stepped from the parking lot onto the rock path that would be my guide for the next five hours. I could already see the glow lights of my fellow climbers stretched far ahead. The voices of the lead climbers and the sounds from the line of students that followed blended into one chorus of laughter and singing. The sound of my own breathing became more difficult as the thin air was already taking its toll on my body’s ability to oxygenate my blood.

I could not have done more to prepare the students for the climb ahead, it was up to them now. It was out of my hands and up to each senior to make the difference for each other. I had my own challenge to overcome and I would need their help if I was going to make it. I trudged ahead leaving the parking lot in the distance and embracing the mystery of the full moon and the night ahead.

Thoughts of my 12-year-old nephew, Cody, began to enter my mind and I was comforted to have his memory as my companion for the long hours ahead. I took one look back at the parking lot which was now one half mile behind me. I looked forward to standing on top of this pile of rocks and feeling close to my God, close to my fellow climbers, and close to Cody’s spirit. I missed him so much, but I would have to go on with only his memory.

In memory of Cody Richardson, my nephew and my friend.

January 15, 1988 to September 23, 2000

-Lain Hensley

It's Powerful Stuff.


WHEN PEOPLE FEEL LIKE ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.