Go fishing–catch yourself!

In Odyssey’s team building and philanthropic bike building teambuilding programs (Life Cycles), we often mention that if you want something to be different for your self, team or business… the first thing to do is to catch yourself being yourself. This raised level of awareness puts you almost as ‘another person’ in the room watching/noticing your actions. This added awareness gives you more choices in which to move.
You may catch yourself being cynical, taking the lead, acquiescing, not asking for help, going first, going last, playing it safe, taking a risk, making a put-down, holding back a request, etc.
As soon as you notice a particular conditioned tendency creeping in, the gift then is to pause and decide if this action/thought will serve or hinder what you’re up to and where you want to go. You may find a benefit to do more of ‘it’, less of ‘it’ or keep ‘it’ as is… thus, Choice. Now you get to respond and have influence rather than reacting…which can often cause mischief for you and/or those around you.
Our Life Cycles program where teams build a bike for deserving children in their local community, Helping Hands, and Playhouse Project programs all offer new and neutral experiences for people to have fun, connect with others, and to practice catching themselves being themselves.
Added bonus: The culture of your teams and business (just people) will shift for the better when this practice/skill is in the mix with you and your cohorts.
So go fishing. I’m sure you’ll catch something useful.

Does building bikes for kids and other teambuilding programs build more hope, productivity?

I read a scientific study recently that people’s overall success and happiness is determined by the belief that they have some control or influence on their future and the world around them. People that held this belief were far more successful, created more desired results, and had better health.
This fact seems instrumental in what Corporations should be focusing on providing for their people. Currently the economy is tenuous, which can lead to uncertain times and draw people into fear, hesitancy and stagnation. What we have witnessed is that Odyssey programs can reestablish and ignite people’s attitudes that they can impact their world. This is a powerful belief that leads to more hopefulness, productivity, and pure motivation.
Businesses may not be able to give their employees security right now, but they can give them something (especially in this economical climate) priceless and long lasting. The inspired feeling that they do indeed have an impact and influence on the world around them. That what they do does matter significantly.
This is the first attitudinal principle that gets questioned in these kinds of times. Helping Odyssey programs like Life Cycles (bike building teambuilding) will ignite the belief that I can make a difference no matter what the circumstances. This is the key to success because it promotes an ability to transcend the current climate of fear and uncertainty. This fact has been revealed through our own experiences and observation, but also scientifically supported.

Life Cycles program reunites brothers and sisters, connects far more than business goals

The Lifecycles, bike building teambuilding program is hands down one of the most emotional teambuilding experiences. After attending over 50 of these programs, I still find myself overwhelmed by the human aspect this program provides; and every program creates its own unique story.
One of my favorite programs occurred about six months ago when I was in Houston Texas. The recipients of the bikes were children from a foster care agency. We had a total of 9 children; four of them were siblings who had been split up into two different homes; they hadn’t seen or heard from each other in months and had no idea they would all be together. This story is the prime example of how the Life Cycles ripple affect extends beyond anything we can possibly imagine…
I was meeting the kids and their foster parents at a hotel; they were all coming in separate cars and meeting for the first time. One of the fathers and two children had already arrived. He and I chatted a bit until the rest of the parents arrived. As I got up to greet some of the other parents, two little girls who had just walked in started shrieking with joy- they had just spotted their brothers. Immediately they ran and embraced each other; then looking each other up and down started declaring “You look bigger!” “Is that a uniform you’re wearing?!” “You have a band new belt!” Then they started talking excitedly about all the changes in their lives- their new homes, new schools, new parents and new friends. When I was finally able to wrap my head around what I had just witnessed, my eyes started welling up and my heart just swelled. When you witness something of that emotional magnitude; you can’t help but be moved.
It’s crazy to imagine that this family reunion started with a phone call inquiring about a teambuilding session. Someone wanted to bring their employees closer together, and in doing so, brought a family together. It makes you realize everything you do, all your actions-and even inactions affect someone somewhere all the time, and you may not even see it.

Corporate team-building putting focus on good deeds

Corporate team building putting focus on good deeds – Building bikes for kids, prosthetic hands for landmine survivors.
Written by Darrell Smith for the Sacramento Beedvsmith@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 28, 2008
Story appeared in BUSINESS section, Page D1 of the Sacramento Bee
326-5B28WORKING.embedded.prod_affiliate.4.JPG

Xyratex employees assemble a bicycle during a team-building exercise this month at the Le Rivage hotel in Sacramento. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

Chris Sharman did a couple of unexpected things at a team-building workshop with 44 of his co-workers from the data storage firm Xyratex. First, he built a prosthetic hand and placed it in a wooden gift box that he and his teammates decorated.
Then, after he saw a brief slide show about the land mine victims all around the world waiting to receive the device, he brushed away a tear.
Eschewing the rope climbs and trust falls that have long been the traditional exercises at such retreats, Xyratex, based in the United Kingdom, and other companies choose to cement team bonds by giving employees a project with a higher purpose.
“We figured out what it was for fairly early,” said Sharman, a Xyratex vice president, who had safely stowed the prosthesis he helped build under his chair. But that didn’t lessen the impact, he said. “It pales into insignificance, your problems.”
“Philanthropic team building” it’s called, and Xyratex sought out a Chico-based firm that has designed and facilitated team-building experiences like this one for the better part of two decades. Known as Odyssey, it helps employees and managers work better together while helping the larger community in a “mix of inspiration and practical philanthropy.”
The Xyratex employees who came to Sacramento’s Le Rivage hotel from around the world March 4, worked together to build not only prosthetic hands but also bikes that they donated on the spot to nine smiling children from Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento. “We’ve tapped into the humanity of business,” said Lain Hensley, co-founder and chief operating officer of Odyssey. ” … You don’t have to quit your job and join the Peace Corps.”
Utilizing firms like teambonding, with its twin homes in Boston and San Diego, to Oakland’s Team Building Unlimited to Repario of Lake Tahoe, Nev., more companies in California are fusing corporate team building with good works.
“It’s not just the trick du jour anymore,” said Danika Davis, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based Northern California Human Resources Association. ” … Anytime you add meaning, it’s going to have an impact and drive the message home.”
The emphasis on good works may even be part of a larger trend in corporate giving. Harold McGraw III, president and chief executive officer of The McGraw-Hill Cos. and chairman of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, discussed the evolution in the committee’s 2007 review.
McGraw said the New York-based forum of corporate leaders now spearheads “holistic philanthropy” which, in part, “taps into the tremendous desire of employees to participate through their volunteerism.”
Odyssey’s programs are a natural fit for Xyratex, which has focused on charitable giving to children who live near their sites in Malaysia, Europe and the United States throughout its 13-year history.
Todd Gresham, a Xyratex executive vice president, has seen the program’s effects on his people.
“The IT industry has a unique culture. Many came from venture-backed organizations, and this type of (exercise) tears down walls of intellectual prowess or macho success,” Gresham said. “You see people who are very powerful in the industry broken down to their rawest levels of emotion.”
It works on a number of levels, said Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director of the Indianapolis-based Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, a leading center on giving.
Many companies use this approach to increase morale, give employees a greater and clearer sense of purpose and develop a stronger understanding of the company’s mission, Burlingame said.
“Firms are focusing in on how they can use community involvement programs to increase pride within their companies and increase morale,” he said. “To be working for a company where you have that opportunity to build team pride in a business, that can provide another factor in the sense of engagement with the employer.”
Xyratex employees, including about 450 in West Sacramento, produce data storage technology that has been embedded in systems for machinery as diverse as the space shuttle and GE Healthcare’s mammography equipment, Gresham said.
“The person you’re building that for could be your wife or your daughter,” Gresham said. “It brings home that (the customer) is not just buying sheet metal and software.”
Company executives emphasize delivering quality products that meet customer needs, so it was no surprise that Xyratex employees were anxiously awaiting signs of approval when the door swung open for the nine children who had no idea what they’d be receiving.
“Do they look like new bikes?” Odyssey facilitator Todd Demorest asked. “Who’s No. 5? They built you a brand new bike!”
No. 5 was 10-year-old Alondra Tovar.
“I was really in shock,” Tovar said later, standing next to her bicycle. “It was amazing that they gave us (each) a bike.”
That’s the payoff for Odyssey’s Hensley.
“For the 99 percent who are skeptics, there’s the 1 percent who say, ‘I want to enjoy my work,’ ” Hensley said. “We want them to say, ‘When I created this hand, I could probably do that more often, and I can probably change the life of someone two cubicles away.’ They forget. That child, that hand, embodies that purpose.”
288-5B28HELMET.embedded.prod_affiliate.4.JPG


Xyratex employees Ed Prager, left, and Penny Gillhan put together one of the nine bikes destined as gifts for children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

738-5B28HANDLEBARS.standalone.prod_affiliate.4.JPG


Alondra Tovar, 10, gets her new helmet adjusted, which goes along with the bicycle she received from Xyratex. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

Bike to farmers market

On Saturday I rode my bike down to the Farmer’s Market! It was such a great feeling to ride my bike; it had been since summer of 2007! I had to take my Diamondback Bicycle down from the side of the wall in the garage, where it had been hibernating since last August. Dust off some cobwebs, pump up the tires, and take it for a test run before I headed out. Then I had to look for the key that went to my bike lock and can you believe it? I actually found it within seconds, it was hanging with all the keys, right where it was suppose to be. I filled up my water bottle, and set out! Chico is a great place to ride bikes, I live on the far north side of town, but it only took me 20 minutes to get downtown. I rode through my neighborhood, where I ran into my sister-in-law and nephew, stopped and said hi, then continued riding my bike. I rode through some orchards that were in bloom and then through the avenues of Chico! Now that brought back some memories! Then I meet my great friend Nicole on the corner of 5th and the Esplanade. We actually have matching bikes, can you believe it?! If you knew us you would believe it! Then we rode down to the market, locked up our bikes side by side and cruised around town. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

New Mom Appreciating Cycles of Life

I am a new mom; well I guess I have been a mom for almost one year, it’s hard to believe. My son will have his first birthday in April. I can’t believe how fast it has gone by…it seems like just yesterday that I was a little girl and my dad was teaching me how to ride a bike! It will be awhile before my little boy will be riding a bike, but I know that it will come fast. Everyone tells me to enjoy him while he is little, because in a blink of an eye he will be on his way to college. The cycles of life that we go through, I am so excited to watch my little boy grow up, he has already changed so much in the first year of life. Now he is walking and curious about everything! Soon I will be teaching him how to ride his first bike…I think everyone remembers their first bike; mine was purple and it had a banana seat with a rainbow and a unicorn. I loved that bike, it was great because you could have your friend sit on the seat with you and ride doubles. What a great experience for a child, to have their very own special bike. It gives them a sense of freedom, to ride with the wind in their hair…

Fruits of my labor

As Sr. Event Manager for Odyssey I have the pleasure of being on the inside track and planning the Life Cycle’s Programs, as well as other programs within the company. I find it hard to believe sometimes that it is a job. I never thought a job would give me to opportunity to change children’s lives, thousands of children’s lives.
One of my most memorable “life changing” experiences took place last year. We were doing a roll out with a large company. It involved planning programs that were going on simultaneously, stretching from California all the way to Florida. There is no describing the hours and hours of work that went into planning these programs. On the last day in Chicago, exhausted and more emotional then ever, my life changed.
These children were from Southside Chicago. If you have never heard of Southside, it is not surprising. They see things everyday that most people never experience. They come from single parent families, if they have a parent at all. Discipline is not a part of most of their lives.
There was one particular teenage girl that stood out that day. She had attitude. The way that she treated one of the Boys and Girls club directors was inappropriate. Oddly, I was nervous to tell this 11 year old girl that she was out of line. By reprimanding her it made her respect me. She went on to explain how she did not like this director and that she did not have to listen to her. After going back and forth she agreed that she would just not speak to her.
I watched this child’s attitude change right in front of my eyes. The moment the doors opened and she realized she was getting a bike, not just a bike but an opportunity, an experience, a moment to feel special, my life changed. It made truly realize how lucky I am and how to be better with the children I work with. She came up to me with tears in her eyes and gave me this immense hug. She apologized to me, the exchange that we had has pushed me to work so hard for these kids. It is amazing what a bike can do.

Life is a puzzle…continued

Change all your negative thinking about the people who do not fit in. These people on the edges are just that. They are the most important part of our schools and your business, our communities and the world. They are like the edge pieces of a great puzzle. Take time now to think about who is on the edge in your life. Homeless people, bullies, nerds, your crazy uncle and so on. It is our job as leadership teachers and leaders in business to find them and fit them in first. Our reflex is to avoid them and label them as trouble makers or unmotivated dead wood. Think about it. When you are putting a puzzle together, you don’t go right for the middle. The easy part that holds the key image of the picture. No. You look for the edge pieces. The apparently unimportant pieces when the picture is together. You know the people who do not fit in at work or at school. Don’t avoid them. Search them out. Look for the corner pieces. The ones that appear to cause the most trouble or have almost nothing in common with the rest of the work team. These are the most vital points of your puzzle. I know they are not as much fun as the middle and when it is all together they don’t get the focus or the praise. But, they hold it together. You know it and I know it. So make a list and get started. In a subtle way let them know how valuable they are. No matter how small or how big your puzzle is you will always have edges and corners. Even in the smallest family or work team. The middle will fall together as a result. Give them the value they deserve. You can do it!

Life is a puzzle. Are you a corner or middle? Making everybody fit makes the picture complete

Look around your business or school today. You can see the diverse environment our kids are growing up in. Many people are cast out and find themselves lost in a feeling of misfit hopelessness. Kind of like the toys on the classic Rudolph the red nose rain deer movie. Only this time they are real lives. They are lives as important and with as much potential as yours and mine. Sons and daughters, feeling lost and without hope and without a place in the picture. After school they grow up and take this same hopelessness into the workplace. What should leaders do about this reality?

The heart of it all…continued

So often we see teams working on the plays and not the other stuff. They practice play after play before the players are fitting together. Coming up with more and more complex systems and processes and thinking that success is automatic if they can just come up with the next greatest formation. Heart. The pulse of the team is the key. You cannot win if you have no heart of a team and that must be discovered buy each person connecting to the purpose. They can never forget to focus on the reason they are together. The patiently prepare each person for their role and put the right kind of people in the right position. Teamwork or die. All football players must see their role as MVP material and visa versa. They all matter and they all win together or loose together. That is the fact.

It's Powerful Stuff.


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