Philanthropic Deed Four Times Over

Philanthropic Team Building.jpgPhilanthropic deed four times over.
The Odyssey Team divided and conquered last week in Texas, North Carolina, Michigan and Washington with one committed company. This company’s non-profit foundation is the largest in the world and today they leveraged both good deed AND developed their organizational culture. They were psyched with the approach and outcome of the Helping Hands Program, as well as the combination of business simulation and Charity. Conducting concurrent sessions in these states with their employees was a way to get them all on the same page without having to fly them all in to the same place. They found it easier to fly four of us to four different locations than to send 200 of them to one location. Collectively, we built about 60 LN-4 prosthetic hands and built a more committed team who is better focused on Customer Service through excellent delivery.
A company as big as this needs lots of small nudges to make a turn. The participants felt that nudge and are in turn pushing a little harder themselves. Look for great things from this ‘Ship’ in the near future. Any guesses who it is? Hint: Don’t let the nautical metaphor fool you. This ‘ship’ holds about 94,000 employees as of June 2012. A thousand new ones went through Odyssey’s Life Cycles program in July.

Team Building – Connect to the “Why” at work

Team Building- Connect to the “Why” at work
Life is now, for the moment. At Odyssey Teams, Inc. we strive to bring emotion and insight in our programs so people get at a visceral level what it means to Plan, Support, Align, Create etc. together. Two of our goals during our Philanthropic Corporate Team Building sessions are to create an emotional connection to the ‘why’ of people’s work and strengthen the connections to the people they work with on the job/projects.
It is a busy time of year for us. In the past 24 days we’ve been in 2 countries, 5 states, delivering 4 types of philanthropic and team building programs to 19 different groups. Needless to say we are a bit road weary though proud of the results we’ve co-created with our partners and participants.
At the start of this ‘run’ I was at UCLA Medical Center and watched a friend (45 years young, wife, 2 kids 6yrs & 3yrs) just four feet away take his last breath. My wife had her hand on his heart, while his wife held his hand as he went to the next place. From that moment on it has been a special kind of Team Building and Charitable event. His family and friends mobilized to plan and align on all of the many known and unknown next steps. Support, brainstorming, creativity and care were all on hyper aware mode. The results made the best (and beautiful) of very challenging times for all involved.
It seems more and more people are being ‘Teflon Business Nice’ to each other — Being pleasant, saying just enough, following protocol, a bit of ‘game face’ on, keeping it surface level. While this may work on a typical/average day, the risk is that a crisis, critical choice point, or other breakdown may occur and these people have no depth of connection/relationship to reach out to those who need help or the ability to extend to those who may help them with their issue.
Things are easier with others by our sides. Share a bit more of yourself- Life is now.
So, connect. Connect now.

Philanthropic Team Building is good for your head, hands and heart

Philanthropic Team Building is good for your head, hands and heartPhilanthropy Teambuilding
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 is the building prosthetic hands for amputees in developing countries (over 10,000 delivered to 63 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.

Finding time to connect

Waiting. Plugged into one of the few, coveted outlets at Gate 12. Ready to pierce the night sky at 560 mph, 40,000 feet and 60 below zero – in a coke-bottle-shaped tube with wings. As the earth’s most collaborative species, together, we have made this kind of technologically advanced transportation possible. So many shoulders on which we have stood.
Our world is becoming smaller and smaller, faster and faster every day. But with each breakthrough in technology we also galvanize a new level of expectation where we feel justified in complaining that our flight is delayed an hour – or a day, or that “this” airline doesn’t have TVs in the back of EVERY seat or that our phone can’t make toast.

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What is Teambuilding?

I can’t take it anymore!!! What is teambuilding?
After 20 years of traveling all over the world and working with the top of fortune 100 companies and the bottom of lots of others, I have hit my breaking point. I’ve been doing leadership development, communication seminars and “teambuilding” and many of my own clients are still wondering… What is teambuilding? I’m wondering what they really want from me. I’m not sure anybody really knows. I might not even know. But at this point, I’m as big an expert as I can find, so I am going to try and help define this beast for all of us. The definition has become so broad, so overused that some people are beginning to confuse “team hazing” as teambuilding and I don’t really want to be a part of that. Do you…?

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Helping Hands, prosthetics delivered around the world

I thought you would all get great pleasure out of this news – October 2010, which is not quite yet over, represents our biggest month ever in terms of sending out hands –
By the end of this month we will have sent the following LN-4’s out (actually, there are more that have been sent out as samples, but these numbers are for actual fittings);
Nepal: 20
India: 300
Equador: 200
Dominican Republic: 80
Total: 600
As I have mentioned before about inventory, once these things start to happen, this inventory can be depleted rather quickly. Also, Odyssey Teams has ordered another 2,000 kits to be assembled and paid for as a result of the Helping Hands program. This is truly amazing news on all fronts everyone.
More than a philanthropic deed. More than a teambuilding process. More than just good corporate social responsibility.
Odyssey Teams’ Build-a-Hand teambuilding program is a radical re-examination of what work is and why we do it. Tried and tested by some of the world’s largest corporations, this philanthropic corporate training program is now available to companies of any size. It is a teambuilding idea whose time has come.
Build a prosthetic limb that will change the life of a land mine victim. Build a team that injects efficiency, innovation and spirit into the workplace. Build a more collaborative, caring and connected company.

Lowering the barriers to work/life balance

One of the business simulations incorporated in our programs is called ‘Pressure Points’. Unwittingly, a barrier is created (raised) by participants in the simulation that negatively impacts communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. The challenge is to lower the barrier to these and the ‘Pressure Points’ bar will follow. Like life, what seems simple, is at times quite trying. In ‘business as usual’ the barrier often goes up rather than down.
Participants often describe the need for better work/life balance. And it seems one of the current infringements on this alluring ‘balance’ is the technology that was suppose to help us achieve it – EMAIL
Aside from too many emails being ‘cc’d’ to people who don’t really need to know (nor care to know) there is another significant problem – Checking and responding to emails on the weekends and after hours.
What was once a fun thing to check on the new ‘mobile device’ has now turned in to an addiction that is hard to kick. Yes, it’s a global economy, but does it have to be a 24/7 economy? Who is making that rule? If you are checking and responding to emails after hours and/or on weekends then you could be-unintentionally. By doing so, you help raise the barrier to work/life balance because whomever you emailed may have felt (out of duty, guilt, fear, brown nose etc.) compelled to reply on the weekend… and so on and so on and the multiplier effect ensues and now people are checking their devices on ‘date nights’, children’s sports events, dinner tables, on the couch.
Perhaps you just wake up early or stay up late while others are sleeping. Might you need a good nights sleep too? Will the caffeinated ‘energy drink’ pull you through and make you present during the rest of your sleepy day?
The costs? You know them – less time to exercise, less energy, less quality time with those you care most about, less time for you and more distractions and stress.
Are there exceptions and benefits? Of course, such as, closing a deal; use of ‘jet lag’ time in hotel rooms. Working with a client in India or the Czech Republic requires some odd hours. We know that anything taken to excess has the potential to become our weakness. Thus, it’s not all or none, rather, whether out of duty, joy, ambition, or fear we must remain aware of the line to know when we’ve crossed it.
Trust the process (a work week etc.) and people on your teams. The barrier will lower. Things will get handled in a timely, professional, manner. Customers and business will carry on quite well…and you will too.
So who is going to go first – and with their seemingly insignificant amount of influence on the barrier of work/life balance in their firm – and NOT do emails on the weekends and such? Will it be you or will you wait to see who goes first? If the later, we’ll all be waiting and doing emails ferociously in the meantime. And the priceless non-renewable resource of time for self and those we love is gone. Be aware of the pattern (and what’s important to you) and make a choice.

Odyssey Youth Division

In case you weren’t aware…in addition to the engaging, corporate sector of Odyssey, our company boasts a vibrant and valuable youth division! And we are alive and kicking, having worked with more than 15,000 young adults. Our programs are typically half- and full-day events where youth from schools, clubs and other organizations have the opportunity to push their limits. Guided by our philosophy of “Building Confidence and Growing Individuals,” we invite our young participants to take positive risks with the support and encouragement of their peers. Our goal is to bring both a physical and mental approach to learning; and our programs serve as a perfect tool! Whether you visit one of our local courses, or our team comes to your campus, the programs will challenge, engage and connect the members of your group.

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VCU students help children maimed by land mines

By Karin Kapsidelis
Published: March 3, 2009
The bags of plastic parts and shiny screws might have been many things: something you wear on your head, one student guessed. A pen holder, said another.
But the sum of the parts was more than a classroom puzzle for Virginia Commonwealth University graduate students.
“You’re going to build eight hands that will go on eight different people and change their families,” said Todd Demorest, who oversaw a recent team-building lesson for students in the VCU School of Business’ fast-track executive program for a master’s in information systems.
vametro0303.jpg photo by JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH
Kimion Walker (left) and Scott Lints participate in a team-building exercise at the VCU School of Business, where they built prosthetic hands for children.
The prosthetic hands will help children maimed by land mines — about 2,000 accidents occur each month from the estimated 100 million devices planted in 60 countries.
The idea to help children who have lost hands to land mines came from industrial engineer Ernie Meadows and his wife, Marj, whose daughter Ellen was killed in a car accident. Meadows designed the prosthetic hand as a memorial for his daughter and has turned the project over to Rotary International.
Rotary works with Odyssey Teams Inc., a California-based company that offers philanthropic team-building exercises for businesses.
Demorest, a facilitator with Odyssey, said that by creating value for others, these workshops develop teamwork and leadership skills in a way that the typical ropes courses and beach volleyball games can’t.
“This is real,” he said. “It’s not like a metaphor anymore.”
The Helping Hands workshop showed the business students that their goals should be “something bigger than just building a product and making a buck,” said John Testement, whose Glen Allen-based RoadMaps Consulting helped coordinate the VCU event.
He said the workshop also illustrated the need to avoid what can happen within a company when employees get “siloed” working on their own projects and “never look over the cubicle wall to see if they can help others.”
That was a focus of the workshop. Students were divided into teams, but it wasn’t a race to see which one could assemble the hand first. Team members were encouraged to stop and help other groups.
“Were we not able to collaborate with others, we would not have been able to put it together correctly,” said student Kimion Walker, whose team discovered it was missing a piece.
At the start of the event, the teams didn’t know their goal, although one student did guess they were building a mechanical hand.
When their work was done, the students saw of video of children receiving prosthetic hands. An artificial limb would cost about $3,000, according to Odyssey, but these hands are given to the children for free.
The VCU students decorated wooden boxes that will hold the hands they made and posed for pictures that will be given to the children.
It was the first time VCU has offered the Helping Hands workshop, said Jean B. Gasen, an associate professor and faculty adviser in the VCU information-systems department.
Students have told her the exercise put the challenges they face into a much different perspective, she said, and that the world would be a better place “if people could treat one another with the compassion that they felt on that day.”
The workshop was part of the orientation for students in the 14-month master’s program, and its lesson struck a chord with Walker.
“The key to effective leadership is to serve,” she said.
The current economic crisis shows the need for leaders with a strong sense of values, she added, noting that in the Wall Street meltdown, the nation is seeing how “capability without integrity can be dangerous.”
Contact Karin Kapsidelis at (804-) 649-6119 or .

Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s Not Just a Fad

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) seems to be competing with “Green” on the business magazine covers and newspaper headlines. There are many interpretations of CSR, and the intent behind the actions taken and publicized by the organizations─most often either pro or con.
Opportunities abound for CSR events that are positive for all involved. An important consideration is what events will be selected. Often, employees have a very limited view of what their companies do in the CSR arena. They may be aware, for example, of a United Way campaign or a Wells for Water type fundraiser. Unless employees make the time to look on the company’s internal website, they may not really understand the complexity or generosity of the company and the difference it makes around the world — beyond its normal goods and services.
In these tumultuous times, organizations are facing a multitude of challenges, such as keeping the people in the company energized, ambitious, connected to their work, and in a positive mood; in other words, the ideal employee. It is hard to do anything exceptional on top of a lousy mood. The proper choice of CSR events can increase cross-functional networks, decrease communication silos, foster solution-based thinking and raise mood levels, and thus, productivity.
With the challenge (and scrutiny) of being in a “fishbowl” where the decisions of investments and cuts are critical and viewed and felt by many, a one-time tested choice is to allocate funds to the people. This allocation, with a specific ROI in mind, and with a process, tool, and/or service that is highly recommended can be a “brass ring” that is reachable and deemed worthy by all involved.
By investing CSR funds and time in the employees, they will feel included, taken care of, worthwhile and appreciated. They will also learn new skills and/or competencies that are essential to the game of business as their roles evolve. There is a belief that if a company–and the individuals in the company–treat their internal customers as well as their external customers, more often than not everything else will work out, even better than expected at all levels of the business.
Today, more and more companies are turning to a melding of CSR/philanthropy and team building events for their employees. Companies can no longer afford to have team building just for fun or entertainment. Employees will rarely stay on one team. It is imperative that resources spent on building a team will create the capacity for individuals to make powerful choices and blend more easily as they move from team to team.
These hybrid team building events are a fabulous place to bring corporate values and/or targeted points to life. Participants have an opportunity to connect with their co-workers as they participate in altruistic activities (i.e., prosthetic hands for land mine victims, bicycles for less fortunate youth, playhouses for children hospitals, etc.). These programs provide a visceral experience that anchors the learning points with emotion, which lasts longer than a PowerPoint presentation or a team photo. In addition, the employee has a “face” to the people affected by the company’s CSR initiatives and/or the benefits of where the company contributes. And perhaps more important, they, too, will feel as if they are being corporate socially responsible with all the pride, gratitude and humility that comes with it.
The cynicism that often goes along with team building events is diminished in these highly developed and relevant training events. The value is discovered at the outset and continues beyond the classroom walls. Those who are cynics have progressed to becoming skeptics; the skeptics to “on the bus”; the others to full-blown players on the team full of ambition. This ambition is fueled by their connection to who they work with; the work they do; and the impact they make internally and externally in this world that needs a little CSR everywhere.
When in a conversation that is aimed at team building, target a program that can provide a wide ROI for the employees, their teams, and the internal and external aspects of the business; offer them the opportunity to put their thumbprint on something that touches near and far. Philanthropic team building is a sure way to hit the CSR mark at many levels.
About the Author
Todd Demorest is the lead facilitator with Odyssey Teams, Inc, a Chico, California-based firm that helps business leaders keep their eye on the prize by building a stronger organization through processes designed to promote team building, innovation, enhanced customer service and greater profitability. Todd can be reached at

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