No Really.

Earlier in my career I spent 5 years consulting with one of the fastest most successful credit card companies in our country. Growth was staggering. They went from 1,800 employees to 20,000 in just over 5 years. Their stock had the same type of growth. Even though all this was going on there was and continues to be a large amount of suffering in their corporate structure. They are not alone.

One of the best leadership, managerial, employee tools to pull out of the toolbox is the ability (and we believe necessity) to say ‘no’. To decline is a powerful move that is often over looked while trying to navigate through a given day or to the next level. What we’ve found is that more often than not people create much of the stress and pressure they are living/working with each day. They do this by saying ‘yes’, ‘sure I can’, ‘I’d be happy to’, ‘you bet, ‘no problem’, and many other forms of…. YES – I will do it just as you asked and in the time you asked…and maybe hint or promise to have it done earlier.

Too often the YES is given out of fear. You see everyone around saying yes. If you’re the first/only one to say no then your job could be in jeopardy, you could lose the promotion, or be thought less than by the person making the request etc. etc. So you say YES and your 45-hour workweek turns to 60 and the stress/pressure shows up in areas only you may know.

If it was safe enough… you’d say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, Negotiate etc. but it’s not deemed safe enough by you and you say YES. While consulting with the credit card company I kept lobbying for the CEO to say “Ok everyone, starting on Monday you are all requested to say ‘no’ to at least one request each day. If not, it will be noted on your performance review.” Their business culture, quality, trust level, mood, and results would improve immensely. So would yours.

Too often when we say YES and then don’t fulfill on the promise, one or more of the following happen.
1. The work is done on time but not to the standards of the company – result = rework, injury, etc.
2. The work isn’t done by the time you promised (because you were in overwhelm from all of the other ‘YES’s” you agreed to) – result= you’re deemed unreliable, trust is lowered
3. The work is done to satisfaction – result= resentment from you towards the other person for them making such an ‘uninformed request’-don’t they know what your world is like?
4. The work is done to satisfaction – result= your mood, health, wellbeing is at risk, again.
5. You have perpetuated and ingrained saying ‘yes’ in your culture.
To say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, or Negotiate can be viewed as powerful.
• It shows that you are considering your other commitments to the company in your decision.
• It may highlight your commitment to safety and quality.
• Internal/external customers will be grateful that you are fulfilling your current promises to them.
• It will model for others a more accountable way of operating in the workplace.

Say yes to possibilities, opportunities, etc…and step outside your comfort zone and say ‘no’ …when you know you should.

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

kohala coast

Pop your ears lately?

We lived down on the beach – sea level. The closest town (Waimea – of Parker Ranch fame) was a 15-20 minute drive up the slopes of the Kohala mountains at 2,500 feet above sea level. My wife, family, and I made this drive frequently. One morning as I was driving up the hill with the sun rising over Mauna Kea for a meeting with leaders from the community, I noticed the need to pop/clear my ears. This was not new, though this time I realized something…I shouldn’t be popping my ears. Why? Because I’m not supposed to be ascending the hill so fast. I’m supposed to be walking, or maybe on a horse or mule at best. Going up the hill more SLOWLY. That is how my body (this gift) was designed to go up hills. At a pace that is gradual enough that my body can adapt to the pressure changes in a smooth efficient manner.

Where else am I moving/ascending unnaturally too fast that it is causing enough stress that I have to intervene? How do I intervene and deal with the stress? Sure, I can do it, survive, crunch down and ‘Git ‘er done’ and maybe instead of popping my ears I…
• Take ibprofen everyday for my 1pm headache
• See a chiropractor 3 times a week
• Wear a tooth guard at night
• Take something to help me sleep
• Get edgy towards my internal/external customers and/or the people I say I care most about.
• or… you fill in the blank

Regardless, I have to do something to cope with the velocity and capacity that I am attempting to deal with. Some choices…
1. Reduce the speed – Speed kills.
2. Reduce the capacity- I don’t have to/ nor can I do it all.
3. Pause for 30 seconds, take a breath, notice my shoulders are raised to my ears or that my jaw is tense or that I’m excessively gripping the steering wheel, etc. etc. and then release the noticeable tension with an exhale.

Grammy award winner James Taylor says…
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it….”

Slow down. Pause. You and the people you live and work with are worth it.

PS… Step #3 above works best. Do it first, at least 3 times a day.

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

IMG--114

Q + A with Lain Hensley – Part III

How do you advocate for one of these types of programs where we’re receiving feedback from attendees that they are already over-programmed during the meeting, and that what they would really like is free time?

They want free time because they do not see the value of the team building session over the other sessions. We need to do an amazing job of aligning our program with the entire meeting so that it does not feel like a disconnected session that is unrelated to business. It should feel like an interactive session that complements the existing message and builds on the overall dialogue. I do not believe that the solution is to cut the “team building” or “connection time” from the meeting.

NOTE – I am currently conducting a survey to determine the top 10 desired outcomes from company meetings. My assumption lines up with the early data, which shows that people attend meetings with the goals of connecting with co-workers, getting a personal sense of the leadership, and developing their network. Most of the presenters talking about financial stuff, company strategy, future products, and other nuts and bolts items, end up just reading from their PowerPoint. These elements can be delivered in an informational email or webinar previous to the face-to-face time. The biggest value of the face-to-face meetings is not the sharing of data and details, but making an emotional connection to the data and one another.

-Lain Hensley

Q + A with Lain Henlsey – Part II

We have a few meetings weekly, and so far none are really productive, resulting in a huge emotional response from several folks. How can we change the emotional memory so that these meetings become productive?

Research has shown that physiology is critical to our state of mind and that the complexity of the human condition requires us to address the physical self in addition to the mental state. Some suggestions and things to try — these are very simple and they will work. I have seen this work for 23 years EVERY TIME.

> Do not let people sit in the same seat for each meeting or for more than 30 minutes at one meeting.  They become territorial of their seat and their ideas. Standing is preferred when brainstorming or when you would like to have open dialogue.  Be sure ALL seats feel like they are just as important as the next, and that each person can see and be heard.  If you are going to allow sitting, then every 15 minutes have people move to a new seat. I am not joking… this will work, and they will smile, move, engage, and feel better without you even trying. They might resist this the first time, but then they will begin to prepare for the switch and move past the resistance.

> Never promise to have the meeting over in “X” amount of time so that we can all get back to work. WHAT?! I have seen so many meetings start this way. Start each meeting with a STAND. Make a strong stand for what you expect the value from the meeting will be and why you need them engaged.  Example: “Thanks for being here team. I am thrilled we have this time together and hope we have enough time to fully understand the value of this presentation to our success. We will be going over the financial today and you all know how important this information is to our ability to project the next business move and make our life easier. I value each of your input and perspective and I invited you to be here because I am convinced we can grow our business if each of us fully understand this data.” You get the idea.  Make it sound good to be at the meeting and make a big promise and then deliver. If the leader is not passionate about the meeting then the team will follow.

> Listen very carefully to the “Beliefs of your team.”  When you hear a negative belief, you need to identify the belief in a non-threatening way and then go to work to change it.  Example: I am… People are… Life is… This meeting is…  This team is…  My boss is… This project is… and so on. Beliefs influence focus, and that creates reality for people. If people say, “My boss is great,” then they will see things that support that belief.  If I love the rain, then when I hear it raining in the morning, I am already happy and my mood is up. If people believe this meeting is a waste of time, then they will be very slow to see anything else.

> The huge emotional response is actually a good thing. Change your belief about it. They have emotion because they still care and they want it to be better. If you get to a point that you no longer see emotion, then people are becoming apathetic and they will not work to improve the situation.

-Lain Hensley

Philanthropic Team Building: Good for Your Head, Hands, and Heart

There is a new paradigm in the concept of Team Building, and it’s called Philanthropic Team Building. In days gone by, it was sufficient to be selfish, even decadent, about getting to know each other outside the work setting. When it was done well, it involved heads and hands in experiential exercises and simulations. Now it’s about incorporating the heart through give back events or Philanthropic Team Building. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – all over the world.

Events like Life Cycles, the original Build a Bike workshop (Odyssey Teams has built and donated over 13,000 bikes alone), Helping Hands, the building of prosthetic hands for amputees in developing countries (over 17,000 delivered to 75 countries), and The Playhouse Challenge have revolutionized the Team Building industry. And it’s good for more than just your team. It’s good for your heads, hands, and hearts. And that means it’s good for the world.

>Bill John

Q + A with Lain Hensley

How does Odyssey incorporate meaningful activities prior to the build in particular? I struggle with people just wanting to build a bike for hours and then are underwhelmed by donation numbers.

Do not let them know anything about the building element going into the event. The philanthropic impact should be a surprise and the cherry on top. If the session is only seen as a CSR give back program, then the focus is on giving, and they will measure the value based on how much they gave. That seems normal to me. If the session is focused on learning outcomes and value to the participants, then they will be looking for the value to themselves and their team. The value that is given to the greater community is only a wonderful addition to an already valuable training session.

We start with the intellectual part of the session, incorporating simple activities or interactions simply to build on the concepts. The focus is not on activity. The activities build in complexity, and the concepts also build.  We make EVERY action have a purpose to help the participants see how the entire program is connected and relevant to their everyday life. The culmination with a CSR element or climactic activity should be when the participants are fully engaged in the learning and understand the connections between the two.  They should be seeing the learnings for themselves, and need very little spoon-feeding of the lessons at this point.

-Lain Hensley

Sign on the Side of the Road

Updates from your favorite Leadership, CSR, Teambuilding company that offers Life Cycles (Build-a-Bike), Helping Hands (Build-a-Hand), Playhouse Challenge and so much more.

I travel quite a bit as a lead facilitator for Odyssey Teams, Inc. On my route to SFO (San Francisco International Airport), I drive by a church in the City by the Bay that has a sign out front with an ever-changing quote or phrase. It’s now like my fortune cookie that I look forward to as I’m heading off to lead our programs or returning home to be a husband and father.

A few weeks back, the phrase on the sign read, “Never pass up a good opportunity to remain silent.” What a good reminder. Do I really need to say what I am thinking? If I am already planning what I am about to say, am I really listening to who is speaking to me? Am I speaking to be right, out of defense, or to raise my own ego a bit?

In our programs we often speak of A.R.T. (Aware of our Reflexive Tendencies) and of shifting our patterns to get a different/better result from whatever situation we are currently facing. Sometimes this requires stepping out of our comfort zone at some level. I think that for the majority (myself included), keeping quiet, listening for a moment longer, or pausing to reflect before speaking, is not typical behavior and thus is indeed outside of our comfort zone. We will never know the benefit gained to our goals, family, partners, relationships or self from remaining silent unless we do so more often. What do you have to say about that? ;)

-Todd Demorest

Philanthropic Charitable Team Building

In more than fifteen years around the globe, we have not met a group yet where the individuals were not able to articulate the values and behaviors that create great teams, great leaders and great organizations.

The last time I checked Amazon.com, it listed a staggering 224,196 books on the subject of leadership. It seems that anyone can write the book. Everyone knows how to say or speak the words.

In spite of this, common sense seems to be decreasingly common as the pressures of business and life increase.
Emotion – that most basic of human experiences – is hard to measure, and culture depends on it. So, we try to explain it scientifically. A lot of time and money is spent attempting to understand the science behind corporate culture, effective teams and successful leaders. And the results? They consistently point toward the obvious answer, the one we already know: Common sense is the best guide to harness the energy of emotion and to channel it into positive results, strong teams and innovation.

“It is unwise to try quantifying things that don’t lend themselves well to proper quantification.”
-Norman Glojck

Is it possible that the process that makes building teams, leaders and powerful cultures is this simple? Or, does it need to be more complex? If we charged per hour to ‘fix’ you, we certainly would gain by making it more complex. However, we are motivated by something much more human.

S.I.M.P.L.E.

Safe – Employers AND employees MUST cultivate a safe culture for risk-taking. Does the culture smell like low tide? Are people hesitant, resistant or detached? Don’t worry about extensive or expensive ‘low-tide’ measuring devices. Just get out there and get a ‘sense’ of your environment – look, listen, feel. Is it safe for people to bring and to be their best?

Intentions – You must clarify your intentions…together. Corporate goals and visions by themselves are passé. The standard ‘kick-off’ or ‘goal-setting event’ offsite will not inspire the average employee beyond a few days or deals. Read this: It’s not their fault! A plaque on the wall or a banner listing professional goals might be motivation for you personally if you created it. But if it’s a hand-me-down from your boss, forget it. You’ve got to get their heads and hearts around it. See ‘Love’ below to turn great intentions into great results. Are you willing and capable of doing this?

Morph-readiness – Employees need to adapt, change hats, and do what’s necessary to WIN. People are people. We cannot adapt our biology nearly as fast as our sociology and technology. A passive look at morph-readiness is discussed in Chapter 11 by your 5th circuit judge. The awareness of this bio-socio-techno gap is something you may want to consider. Do you think you can just tell them to adapt? Or that they have to?…wha, wha, wha, wha, wha!

Perspectives – Creativity is born out of seeing old problems in new ways. Massive improvements only come from massive changes to how we see ourselves, each other and the problems and challenges we face. Paradigms – Pair-a-dimes – that’s only twenty cents, but you’ll spend a fortune on your current paradigm if it’s not buying you what you want or what your company needs.

A coach’s job is to see what the players cannot. You’ve got to help your ‘players’ see what they have forgotten in themselves. The challenge with matrixed and cross-functional teams is they’ve got to be able to coach each other. To do this requires ‘perspective,’ one that encourages a strong commitment to and awareness of the other five principles: S-Safe, I-Intention, M-morph-Readiness, L-love and E-energy.

Love – When the pressure is on, the honeymoon is over. People forget why they were so excited when they first got ‘the job’. We are married to our work, and the ‘professional’ divorce rate is making it easier to have ten or more jobs. Find/Choose love again. Don’t throw in the towel just because your ‘default’ response to pressure is not getting you the results you seek. There is no better way to change your default settings than to ‘change your default settings.’ Hard? Probably! Can you do it? Choose one, YES or NO. Whatever choice you made, you’re right!

Love comes from a sense of purpose and relation to the things that matter to us…together. Work should matter to us because we spend so much time there. Further, it gives us the ultimate human responsibility to our social existence and the natural law of commerce. That is, to help others…and profit. We forget that if we don’t help others, we don’t profit. The farther we are removed from the satisfied/grateful customer experience, the less chance we have of feeling their gratitude and our own sense of external purpose.

If you manage a product or service and you want to see growth, you have to continually figure out how your product or service benefits the consumer. This conversation is not just about external customers; it is also about the people you manage or lead. Help them help others, and you all profit. Neglect that, and people will lose the love that initially led them to their job. Seemingly trivial complaints (the cap left off the toothpaste, for example) then become enough to trigger a ‘divorce’ when people lose their connection to collective purpose and their ‘love’ of contribution.

Energy/Endurance – Synergy comes from energy that is aligned, and endurance comes from deep-rooted purpose. Burnout, rust-out and the “I’m-out-of-here” attitude result from a lack of focused energy and endurance. To find energy and create endurance, see the preceding SIMPL principles above.

If you need help in any of these areas, everything under the sun is available to you. Just be sure not to hire copycats of well-thought-out programs or processes. They don’t have it in their bones. And don’t confuse drinking at a Red Sox game with team building. If you’ve got a culture that smells like low tide going into this approach, you’ll come out with even more stench than when you started. A dissatisfied culture with alcohol only emerges as a more dissatisfied culture with a hangover.

It’s fascinating how EVERYONE knows the ingredients to effective teamwork, but when we throw them into simulations and turn up the pressure, the usual suspects emerge and talk becomes cheap. The basics are discarded, and we find our less-than-great selves emerging. Are we just not getting it? You can probably think of ten people right now that you know need help getting back on the cutting edge of common sense. But you? Of course not!

Bill John
President
Odyssey Teams, Inc.
www.odysseyteams.com
800-342-1650
The S.I.M.P.L.E. name and process are protected under copyright law. All rights reserved.

Teambuilding

When organizations seek teambuilding, they often default to the cursory short-term ‘fun activity’ at the expense of more deliberate, long-term satisfaction. No doubt, short-term fun is better than dismal long-term satisfaction arising out of doing nothing, but many organizations too often seek to do some form of teambuilding, not realizing that they can have short-term fun and foster long-term cohesion if they are willing to invest more than just money.
The term ‘teambuilding’ has grown to include any number of activities that allow people to see each other in a different context by virtue of that activity. This may include a team lunch, a dinner, a round of golf, a scavenger hunt or an orienteering outing.

I find it very interesting when I am invited to a three-day conference and learn that a four-hour block of time has been designated for teambuilding. It suggests that the remainder of the time is something other than teambuilding. Following that logic, are the discussions about strategy and execution that arise at times during the conference not about building their team?

Ironically, sports teams don’t have the same identification with the word ‘teambuilding’. Everything they do together on or off the field of play is about building their team. A basketball team doesn’t schedule a ‘teambuilding’ block on their agenda. This is not a distinction they make, though they may share a weekly team dinner or play golf together.

Corporate ‘activities’ are often entertaining, engaging and serve a function in the development of relationships, social structure and culture. The value sought in teambuilding is derived not from the activity itself (a common misconception), but rather from the discussions inspired by those activities which give rise to better performance through increased self and team awareness. Quality discussions are considered separate from teambuilding activities, though in a successful program, they should go hand in hand.

Even with this knowledge, organizations often choose activities over discussions because the collective short-term comfort of co-workers is an easier default compared to the necessary introspection, vulnerability and self disclosure it takes to create a cohesive, trusting and meaningful environment where great teamwork lives.

No one in their right mind wants to be vulnerable and practice self-disclosure in the context of their job; as a result, many executives and worse yet, committees, choose teambuilding that relies exclusively on the activity. To dilute it even further they bring in the greatest short-term team-builder on the planet – alcohol. The effects on team performance will likely be marginal at best but this combination often masquerades as ‘teambuilding’.
Chances are that a weak team going into a teambuilding activity together will most likely emerge on the other side as a weak team unless there is conscious discussion inspired by the ‘activities’ and fueled by a commitment to learn about self in the context of their unification.

Yet another problem with relying solely on an activity to improve team performance is that most people will revert to their most comfortable means of interaction in the context of that activity. Loud people will be loud, quiet people will be quiet. Disinterested parties will converge, and nothing will compel them beyond their defaults, nothing to pull them into the context of improved performance as a team. Nothing is structured and still, nothing is deliberate.
Discussion (dialogue) is the critical missing element, especially if those discussions lead to self-discovery and disclosure in the context of teamwork. We are constantly searching for the right blend of experience and discussion. How can we create a powerful activity and have the discussion be the most significant ‘teambuilding’ component of their experience?

FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE!

The right balance of activity and discussion depends on several factors:

•  The gap between how the team performs now and how well it could perform in terms of improving results, the quality of relationships (including both those with colleagues and with customers) and the processes themselves.

•  The key decision-maker(s)’s ability to see that gap.

•  The key decision-maker(s)’s commitment to narrowing that gap

If there is no potential – gap – and no commitment from the decision-maker(s), then the decision can be – and usually is – an activity based only on short-term fun.

If there is even a modest recognition of potential (gap) and a commitment towards achieving it by the decision-maker(s), then the activity chosen should include meaningful and deliberate discussion time. At minimum, the time devoted to dialogue should be one hour per three hours of ‘activity’ time. However, with proper facilitation and structure it might be the reverse: one-hour activity and three-hour discussion.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT ACTIVITY

Every teambuilding activity under the sun, whether structured or not, can be a metaphor for the business in which the team is engaged, including results, relationships and processes. The connections are more apparent in some activities than in others, but they exist in all.

A teambuilding activity where people can readily ‘see’ themselves or ‘catch themselves being themselves’ makes it easier to self assess and generalize to areas of work and team performance. Cognitive assessments (Meiers-Briggs™, Forte™, SDI™, Insights™, etc.) easily inspire relevant discussions because they allow participants to ‘catch themselves being themselves’. And, it is implied that the discussion will have to do with team performance.

Activities that are available to the general public will be more difficult on their own as catalysts for discussion. Not many groups expect to discuss/debrief a baseball game or a dinner and draw meaningful conclusions pertaining to self, team and business from that experience.

FACILITATION NEEDED

The activity will provide an opening for discussion, but they will need a guide to take them through it.
Which baseball player that you saw last night at our “teambuilding off-site” would you say best personifies your contribution to our team? What did you see them do or not do that made you choose them? What do you think they practice most? What are their strengths and weaknesses on the team?

Think of all the connections between people and the relationships along the way required to get the food that was on the table to its place in front of us. Take two minutes and be ready to define as many team members as you can, responsible for your (the customer) experience last night. Then, be prepared to talk about how you define ‘team’ based on last night and how you apply that definition to our industry/business.

There is little doubt that both empirical and scientific data support that teambuilding activities can accelerate the process of team performance (teamwork).

Without the right activity and commitment from decision-maker(s) to structured and well-facilitated discussions, people will gravitate towards the same context with which they are familiar, and in many cases will accelerate any dysfunction that already exists.

By contrast, a carefully selected activity that focuses the energy of the team in a direction specific for the challenges its members will face, when combined with the guidance of an experienced facilitator, will create a teambuilding activity that provides fun and lays the long-term foundation for group cohesiveness, open communication and job satisfaction.

imagejpeg_0

The Barn Raising

When I was around 8 years old, my father purchased 644 acres of California land from my great uncle. It was located an hour drive from our house, and we made the trip every weekend. The land has since become a lifelong passion for my father—and rightly so, for it truly is an incredible piece of acreage. But as a kid, it looked a lot more like a ton of work. The parcel was utterly unfinished. With only a jeep road running through it, we had nothing but a blank canvas and some real family teambuilding ahead.

Over the course of the next 5 years, my father developed ten miles of roads with his D9 tractor as we spent countless hours following him with a chainsaw. My brother and I stacked brush to burn in the winter as he cut the fence line or developed and manicured cleared areas. One summer, my father decided that we needed a barn to store materials and protect the tractor. I can recall my mother, sister, big brother, and I pulling on a rope as we lifted the beams into position and stood the timbers that would act as the primary supports. To this day, I still do not understand how we managed it. The barn still stands after 40 years, and I remain amazed.

I was reminiscing with my father about all the things I learned through the work. I recalled the way that we came together as a family, a team, and a work crew to bring his vision to reality. I learned so many things as we raised that barn. As I hugged my father goodbye today, I realized that the biggest thing I learned from that barn was that I could do anything I put my mind to.  My father was a great leader and he firmly believed that we could do anything if we were willing to work hard and believed in ourselves. As we raised our barn, I could feel myself being raised right alongside.

We spent many years fishing in the pond that we constructed, innumerable hours working in the barn, and I even asked my wife of 20 years to marry me on the exact place where my parents’ house now stands. I have grown to love that land, that barn, the work. My kids are now fishing in the pond and extending the boundaries of their potential as they explore. Thanks Dad for making me work, for helping me face my childhood with a healthy balance of responsibility and play. But most of all, thanks for building that barn with only your wife and three small children. You showed me I can do anything and that the possibilities are endless with great leadership and enough trust, teamwork, and confidence.

-Lain Hensley

It's Powerful Stuff.


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