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.

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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.