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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

Community

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.

“How amazing is to be part of a team that’s getting so much larger, yet we’re feeling closer to one another.”

Community within the workplace is an often-discussed buzzword, as organizations attempt to create a foundation of cooperation, communication, and friendship between cubicles and across pay grades. Faltering community is often a logical growing pain of expansion, but here at Odyssey Teams, we firmly believe that does not have to be the case. Key elements of community are shared vision, common values, and collaboration. During an Odyssey Teams philanthropic teambuilding event, these characteristics are expounded upon, practiced, and celebrated. Your team leaves at the end of the event with a powerful memory of a shared experience, and with the tools and resources to effectively build upon that foundation – even as your organization grows and expands.

Hamster Wheel

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.

“Maintain perspective on what is really important – the working together, the mistakes, the learning, the growing. Every step does not need to be forward.”

We live in a world that expects and demands forward motion. And not just any kind of forward motion – but rapid, far-reaching, and immediate progress. In the pursuit of bigger, faster, and better, other values can fall to the wayside and lesser priorities be sidelined until a later date. But full throttle can create a bit of a hamster wheel effect – lots of energy expended with no forward movement. Sometimes the more productive option is to take a step back. To set aside time as a team to rethink and regroup and make necessary adjustments. To work together to find a better solution, learn from mistakes made and their implications, and grow as an organization as the matter at hand is readdressed. It may seem counter productive to opt for a momentary retreat, but in the long run it is far more beneficial. If your team is in need of a back step – to revision, refuel, or escape the wheel – don’t be afraid to make the move.

What Good Looks Like

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 excitement of our youth customer will last a lifetime and be a constant reminder of ‘this is what good looks like.’”

Odyssey Teams’ – The Business of Giving™ programs accomplish a lot of good. As a result of the Life Cycles program, children who have grown up in scarcity receive the unexpected gift of a brand new bicycle. Never before ridden, built especially for them, with no strings attached. The smiles and joy that result are unmatched, and the memory of that day lasts far beyond the shininess of the frame. Because of the Helping Hands project, a Philippine man who lost his left hand while operating a rice-milling machine is given a prosthetic hand free of charge. In that moment, he is handed freedom, accessibility, and improved prospects for work and provision for himself and his family. The gift of the prosthetic extends far beyond just the individual’s life – rippling out to impact his family and community.

These programs allow participants to access the potential of their heads, hands, and hearts to build a better team, a better organization, and a better world. When participants return to actual life and arrive at the office Monday morning they know what ‘good’ looks like. As they interact with coworkers, converse with clients, and add their piece to the puzzle of an end product, they are cognizant of ‘good.’ They have experienced good, felt good, and participated in good – and they are not likely to forget it.

Impressions

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.

“You may get only one chance at a first impression, but you have multiple opportunities for a lasting impression.”

We’ve all been there. An awkward handshake introduction followed by stilted small talk during cocktail hour. The botched sales call with one too many lengthy pauses. That very first email contact with a poorly placed typo. This quote written by a participant at a recent Life Cycles event allows us all to shake off those sticky and less than ideal first moments and move forward. Hallelujah.

At Odyssey Teams, we firmly believe in the power of relationships. During the course of a Life Cycles events, participant teams have the opportunity to build a bike for a customer, and then at the end of the session, a name and face is assigned to the customer when a crush of kids come streaming in from the back of the room. Teams have the opportunity to meet their customer, talk about their favorite color and sports team and ice cream flavor, hear about how they dislike math but love recess. Relationships are forged, and the child’s life is marked by the memory of that afternoon and the lasting impression of that conversation – awkward out of the gate or not

A focus on relationships can transform work. Remembering the end recipient puts a face and name to the daily tasks. Seeking to build relationships creates further meaning and purpose. And aiming to forge a relationship allows for ample opportunities to impress, leaving that typo long forgotten and the weak handshake a thing of the past.

 

Listen Up

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.

“Listen.”

Consider the following situation. Walk into your neighborhood coffee shop. Order the usual. Barista hands the drink across the counter, and says, “Enjoy your latte!” Your response – “You too!”

How often do we speak without out hearing? Give responses before even processing the question posed, or offer an opinion without registering the initial statement? We make assumptions based on our own experiences and habits, and reflexively speak without taking the time to truly listen and process. Which is mildly embarrassing, but totally fine in the case of wishing your waitress a good meal. But not so ideal when the stakes are higher, the relationships more established, and the subject matter a lot more volatile.

Just as problematic is the opposite – speaking after thinking a bit too much. In conversation, our attention is split between what is being said and thinking about how we will respond – and often disproportionately towards the latter. I’m so busy listening to the little voice in my head as it figures my insightful, witty, or definitive next statement that I forget that I’m supposed to be listening to you. Equally dangerous as not thinking at all.

Headed into the next week, may we take notice of our communication patterns, and seek to improve the ways that we listen and speak. May we seek not just to be heard, but also to listen to those with whom we work, play, and live.

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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. 

It's Powerful Stuff.


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