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

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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 kkapsidelis@timesdispatch.com .

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 todd@odysseyteams.com.

‘Unrealistic’ pursuit – a personal validation of Odyssey’s work

In 2004 Lain Hensley, co-owner of Odyssey, and I were discussing the notion of blowing out our paradigm of what was possible for us in terms of business success WITH family/health balance. We were playing around with a new training concept that would challenge others to be more ‘unrealistic’ in their pursuits. We called the program/process Unrealistic Leadership™. I decided that if we were going to espouse such ideas that I must be willing to try my/our own medicine…. If we can’t produce tremendous results then how can we claim to know anything about it and/or teach others?
So, I committed to train for and complete an Ironman traithlon. I had been a runner before but never a swimmer or cyclist. I had also been discouraged by Doctors saying that due to chondromalacia (knee disorder) my knees would progressively get worse/weaker and my running days were over.
The question of balance in my life at the time when there was no conceivable way for me to find the time to train for this was a real issue. How could I find the time? And could my knees become stronger, more re-generative?
Two boys, age 4 and 6 needing much father time. My wife, ever supportive of my pursuits though a bit worried about this one. The work vacuum pulling me in without enough hours in the day for what we needed to do as a business. Travel to various countries and time zones to deliver Odyssey programs.
I spent the next two years carving crazy amounts of hours and places to fit in my training. Getting stronger and fitter over that time eased my mind a little bit but it never erased the main fear that I had of not being able to accomplish this goal. It was so beyond me and any evidence that I had produced – even all the way up to the day of my Ironman – that I could get off my bike after riding 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles and begin a marathon. Nothing in my training came even close to providing such evidence of possibility or probability. The only thing that I kept hearing from other Ironman finishers was that (you) will be able to tap into something without ever knowing whether you’ll be able to tap into it. Hmmmm? How does that work?
At the same time of committing to my Ironman, Lain and I had also committed to much bigger financial goals within Odyssey. This multi-pronged ‘unrealistic pursuit’ meant that Odyssey’s global impact needed to have more impact. So while I rode, I thought. While I ran, I thought. While I swam I thought. And there was plenty of time to think with peak training weeks reaching 18 hours. I was learning that some of my greatest breakthroughs for Odyssey came during some of my earliest runs, longest bike rides or hardest training moments. Sometimes really tough trainings were the only way to get out of my head and NOT think about Odyssey. These quiet times of brain and busy times of body were invaluable to freeing up space for something new to arrive in my thinking – later.
The toll of my training time impacted the Odyssey team who compensated enormously for my crazy schedule covering me at different times and events so I could squeeze time.
Notable training moments on Odyssey trips included falling off the treadmill in Singapore when I was too focussed on looking at myself in the mirror and didn’t see that I was running slower than the treadmill. Oops! Falling off an elyptical trainer in Zurich when the handle caught the sleeve of my t-shirt and launched me over the front. Navigating through dozens of kids playing marco polo in an indoor pool in Dublin. Swimming in a roof top pool in Madrid the night the bombs went off in Spain (Al Queada). Long runs in Germany with my Odyssey crew after too much Munich the night before.
May 22nd finally arrived. Friends and families of hundreds of wanna-be Ironmen and women finishers cheered with bagpipes blazing and a gunshot that started the final phase of our Ironman journey and my ‘unrealistic’ pursuit.
Eleven and a half hours later I finished. Many obstacles came up during that time as I covered this last 140 miles of my journey. Perhaps all the fear, trepidation, nervousness and anxiety prepared me to have it be ‘not as bad as I thought’. Trusting more than my little voice may be telling me not to, believing in something beyond the current body of evidence that I have of what is possible, relying on my team (family, co-workers) and others. These lessons still resonate though I often find myself sliding down the slippery path of more ‘realistic’ views that the media, economy, doctors and other influences have that my unconscious uses to manipulate into a perspective that is safer, more ‘real’ and ultimately, less powerful.
Odyssey doubled it’s revenues over the course of my Ironman pursuit. My knees are still stronger than before (Cross training, religious intake of Glucosomine and still the belief in re-generation of these miracle joints) My kids were fine with Dad training so much and will hopefully remember me crossing the finish line with one of them under each arm. My wife, ever supportive, worries about a sequel though I’ve committed that IronDad is more important to me now than another Ironman.

Look, No Ropes

Meetings and Conventions Magazine Article http://www.mcmag.com
JUNE 2008
This page is protected by Copyright laws. Do Not Copy.
Group team-building options get creative
By Hunter R. Slaton
Popular wisdom holds that we are living in the age of the niche. Appropriately enough, team-building companies are now offering some out-there activities that depart from tired-and-true trust falls, paintball games and ropes courses of years past.
One offbeat option is WhirlyBall, which combines lacrosse, hockey and basketball with bumper cars. The WhirlyBall (www.whirlyball.com) company has three Illinois locations, where bumper car team members work together to score baskets using plastic scoops. Visit whirlyball.org to find other places where the sport is played and watch a game in action.
For those who don’t enjoy getting knocked about, Canadian Outback Adventures (www.canadianoutback.com) organizes a barbecue challenge where teams battle, Iron Chef-style, with must-use ingredients in an outdoor cooking competition. After the judges choose the winning team, it’s time to eat.
A do-good way to forge bonds: The Helping Hands program from Odyssey Teams (www.odysseyteams.com) assists groups in building prosthetic hands that are donated to those in need. Since the program began in 2004, a total of 1,200 hands have been assembled, 750 of which have been distributed to amputees in foreign countries including Colombia, India, Jordan and Kenya.

“Our Team is well balanced…we have problems everywhere”

We often add a little Odyssey color/flair to our events with quotes etc. (like the one above from Tommy Protho) placed throughout the training room. This quote usually gets a laugh. It’s true isn’t it? Every team has it’s little blemishes here and there. And on a given day or project it can be anybody’s turn to be the ‘blemish’.
For over 20 years I’ve had the pleasure to see some of the best aspects of humanity in this work. It seems during our programs people are really challenging themselves, and opening up to be ‘good people’ to each other. To include, speak positive, and support each other during the task at hand. Should a dysfunctional ‘blemish’ appear, we all learn from it and move forward without blame, drama, politics etc. In short, people are being socially responsible.
While this has been happening at a foundational level for decades with Odyssey’s team building programs… Seven years ago we wanted to bring it into the spotlight and well beyond the training room walls. Thus, the inception of our Corporate Social Responsibility – Helping Odyssey programs.
Life Cycles, Helping Hands, and Playhouse Project programs give people the opportunity to create tangible results that effect local and global people, families, and communities. It is emotional, and valued by all that are involved.
More than a sound bite heard from a CEO, at Helping Odyssey’s participants get the unique and compelling satisfaction of ‘walking the talk’ and giving back, adding to etc. It feels good to make a difference in some ones life. It also feels good to learn something new and relevant about yourself, team, and business – guaranteed to happen at one of our trainings.

Firm’s team-building exercise helps children

by Nathan Gonzalez – Jun. 4, 2008 05:55 PM
The Arizona Republic
What started as a team-building exercise for a group of Procter & Gamble employees turned into a surprise set of gifts for deserving Valley children.
About 135 Procter & Gamble employees from throughout the country gathered Tuesday at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, where they assembled the bikes as part of a team-building exercise during a corporate training session.
None knew where the bikes would end up, until about 30 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix were led into the ballroom.

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Transformational Teambuilding – A new twist on the traditional

Written By Diana Rowe
in Insurance and Financial Meetings Management Magazine -May/June 2008 issue
full article
Teambuilding with a purpose — corporate sales meeting attendees assemble bicycles for deserving kids. Odyssey Teams’ Life Cycles program has donated more than 10,000 bikes to children worldwide since 2001. Doing good for others enriches not only receiver and giver, but the corporate culture as well.
Photo courtesy of Odyssey Teams
first bike ever — or his first prosthetic hand — assembled by your team. The same objectives of cooperation and communication are achieved but with the added, profoundly powerful component of doing good for others. “Paying it forward” not only enriches giver and receiver, it extends to the company’s bottom line.

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It's Powerful Stuff.


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