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Q + A with Lain Henlsey – Part II

We have a few meetings weekly, and so far none are really productive, resulting in a huge emotional response from several folks. How can we change the emotional memory so that these meetings become productive?

Research has shown that physiology is critical to our state of mind and that the complexity of the human condition requires us to address the physical self in addition to the mental state. Some suggestions and things to try — these are very simple and they will work. I have seen this work for 23 years EVERY TIME.

> Do not let people sit in the same seat for each meeting or for more than 30 minutes at one meeting.  They become territorial of their seat and their ideas. Standing is preferred when brainstorming or when you would like to have open dialogue.  Be sure ALL seats feel like they are just as important as the next, and that each person can see and be heard.  If you are going to allow sitting, then every 15 minutes have people move to a new seat. I am not joking… this will work, and they will smile, move, engage, and feel better without you even trying. They might resist this the first time, but then they will begin to prepare for the switch and move past the resistance.

> Never promise to have the meeting over in “X” amount of time so that we can all get back to work. WHAT?! I have seen so many meetings start this way. Start each meeting with a STAND. Make a strong stand for what you expect the value from the meeting will be and why you need them engaged.  Example: “Thanks for being here team. I am thrilled we have this time together and hope we have enough time to fully understand the value of this presentation to our success. We will be going over the financial today and you all know how important this information is to our ability to project the next business move and make our life easier. I value each of your input and perspective and I invited you to be here because I am convinced we can grow our business if each of us fully understand this data.” You get the idea.  Make it sound good to be at the meeting and make a big promise and then deliver. If the leader is not passionate about the meeting then the team will follow.

> Listen very carefully to the “Beliefs of your team.”  When you hear a negative belief, you need to identify the belief in a non-threatening way and then go to work to change it.  Example: I am… People are… Life is… This meeting is…  This team is…  My boss is… This project is… and so on. Beliefs influence focus, and that creates reality for people. If people say, “My boss is great,” then they will see things that support that belief.  If I love the rain, then when I hear it raining in the morning, I am already happy and my mood is up. If people believe this meeting is a waste of time, then they will be very slow to see anything else.

> The huge emotional response is actually a good thing. Change your belief about it. They have emotion because they still care and they want it to be better. If you get to a point that you no longer see emotion, then people are becoming apathetic and they will not work to improve the situation.

-Lain Hensley

Q + A with Lain Hensley

How does Odyssey incorporate meaningful activities prior to the build in particular? I struggle with people just wanting to build a bike for hours and then are underwhelmed by donation numbers.

Do not let them know anything about the building element going into the event. The philanthropic impact should be a surprise and the cherry on top. If the session is only seen as a CSR give back program, then the focus is on giving, and they will measure the value based on how much they gave. That seems normal to me. If the session is focused on learning outcomes and value to the participants, then they will be looking for the value to themselves and their team. The value that is given to the greater community is only a wonderful addition to an already valuable training session.

We start with the intellectual part of the session, incorporating simple activities or interactions simply to build on the concepts. The focus is not on activity. The activities build in complexity, and the concepts also build.  We make EVERY action have a purpose to help the participants see how the entire program is connected and relevant to their everyday life. The culmination with a CSR element or climactic activity should be when the participants are fully engaged in the learning and understand the connections between the two.  They should be seeing the learnings for themselves, and need very little spoon-feeding of the lessons at this point.

-Lain Hensley

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

3 Tactics to Get Naysayers to Engage in Team Building

When notifying employees of the next team building event, the typical response is, “What? Do they really think I have time for this?”

Cynics come out from everywhere when the email is sent that the next team-building event is mandatory.

The most difficult task in producing a successful team building event or seminar is getting those naysayers to understand that team building leads to a more positive and productive working environment with less stress.

Here are three ways to get naysayers to engage in successful team building.


1. Create meaningful projects

Many companies that specialize in team building are finding success by adding meaningful activities for employees.

Philanthropic challenges can have impact and personal value. For example, employees can build prosthetic hands and learn that they’ll be donated to people who need them and can’t afford them.

Anytime you can add an emotional impact with the employee, the more helpful and fulfilling it will be.

It also helps to move the event somewhere offsite if available. Being outside at a park or in a rented meeting place like a hotel can be more exciting.

2. Reprogram employee behavior

We can assume that when the culture is suffering or when the culture is thriving, people can feel the difference. Results improve when culture is healthy. A healthy culture produces a happy (and productive!) employee.

They can do certain tasks for the team building event and relate it to their duties with the company. The key is to move the conversation past the activity and focus more on the productivity that is possible for the process.

Team building can help employees get back to the basics to better understand their role and how it helps the company. Clarity here can go a long way.

This is an excellent chance to find new rewards for employees that recognize their great work.

It will also present clear opportunities for leaders to emerge. If you have a new manager or supervisors on board, or one that has been waiting in the wings to emerge, team building creates opportunities for potential leaders to performa and prove they can be effective.

3. Document results

Many companies forget to keep track of the results from team building. Hiring a freelance photographer or getting someone on staff to take photos is essential for documentation.

Often times, team building motivates employees to give back more to the community in the future. If team building inspires employees to form a team to run in a local charity’s 5K, participate in a park or river cleanup or even plant a new tree in the company parking lot, make it known that you’re participating in a community aspect.

When you can document and publicize these instances, whether within the company or to the community, it can create a great sense of pride with the employee and garner a great reputation for the company.

Invite your social media coordinator to participate and encourage him or her to think of positive ways to showcase your team building event in the social space.

 

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Facing My Worst Fear

It is said that more people are afraid of public speaking than dying, probably because you only die once. But public speaking is something you must face any time you are in public. More accurately it’s not the “public” that drives you nuts, it’s the private time you spend with your little voice — those minutes, hours or months prior to ‘public’ speaking. It can be terrifying or flat-out life limiting. It was for me.

In my five and a half years of college, I knew I would have to face speech class. It was a requirement for my degree. When I learned this, all hell broke loose in my mind and I began the art of denial-avoidance. I avoided singing up for speech class for the first, second, third, and fourth years of college. I met with an advisor to review my needs for graduation and she pointed out the missing class just prior to my final year. I was at a crossroads. I went back to my apartment and tried to figure out how I could possibly get around this and I thought, “perhaps graduation isn’t that important.” But I had too many years already invested and decided that IF I were to take speech, I would take it during summer school 400 miles away from the college I attended to be sure I didn’t know a soul.

And so I went — with pounding heart. The first speech in class was to describe something…anything. I spent hours practicing, trying to memorize what I was going to say. And I did. All five minutes of it. It was my turn and my throat felt like I was being choked and I was on the verge of a heart attack. After starting, my lack of presence created a gap of consciousness where I forgot all memorization. I stood there for what felt like thirty minutes of being naked with nothing to say. But I stayed standing and I was somehow still alive.

So I started talking in this out-of-body moment and then began to re-enter my body as I heard myself saying things that actually made some sense. I didn’t know quite where it was coming from and I felt as if I was listening to myself. I kept at it and realized I wasn’t dying and that people weren’t laughing at my nakedness. By the time I finished my five minutes I felt like I had recovered at least a loincloth. I got an “A” on that presentation and it was the last time I relied on a script or memorization. A lot happened for me during that class but I NEVER overcame any fear. I can’t say it got one bit easier. But I realized that even as ridiculously nervous as I was it was possible to be nervous and good at the same time.

Don’t let ‘em see you sweat

If you are old enough, you might remember a commercial by Ban Extra Dry antiperspirant, which said with an imposing voice: “NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, DON’T LET ‘EM SEE YOU SWEAT.” This slogan fits beautifully into the cultural illusion that not sweating is the key to success. But going outside the comfort zone, risking anything, riding a bike for the first time, investing, confronting a work situation or person, being honest, or giving a public speech requires a venture into the territory of sweat. Our bodies are designed to respond to this territory with increased heartbeat, quicker breathing and of course the lovely secretion of sweat in our armpits.

So what does this powerful advertisement-command mean? One: Do not go outside of your comfort zone. Or, two: if you do, don’t let ‘em see you sweat. It is an easy cultural myth that proclaims that nervousness is a sign of weakness.

Much of my job today involves being on stage, presenting team and leadership development programs to high-level executives. Most of them come in with a cynical eye waiting to validate their doubts that the program is relevant or worth their time. So I take another deliberate step outside of my comfort zone. I know the sweaty armpits are a natural part of the process but I hear that Ban Extra Dry mantra screaming in my ears, and as I try to stop sweating it creates more sweat and what feels like the Nile River pours down my sides. Ban’s slogan was brilliant. They were creating the sweat they wanted people to try to cover up with their deodorant.

When I realized this, I decided to test the hypothesis by doing the exact opposite of their slogan, the opposite of this macho illusion of NO FEAR. If the pressure to not let them see me sweat created more sweat, then why not let them see me sweat and see if I produced less sweat? Because this theory applied to successful risk-taking, creating a supportive team, producing results, I used this theory with the audience. I would get to the point of telling them that I was all-in, sweaty-armpits-and-all, to bring them my best. Then I’d raise both hands up revealing my sweaty, wet, armpits. Most of the crowd was shocked, some got dumb chills for me, others applauded the authentic possibility of it actually working. But for me, it would be THE moment the sweating would begin to stop. My shirt would dry out and I had the audience because in that moment I had myself.

Fight or Flight

What you resist persists. Antiresistance is 100 times more effective than antiperspirant.

The worst nervousness NOW comes when I am not nervous. There have been a few programs I have delivered where I was not nervous and I can tell you that they were emphatically not my best. My best seems to come from that feeling that feels like nervousness. Or, when there is a lot at stake. Like when a client flies me to Timbuktu and spends a fortune to have all of their people in one room, giving up so many other things at the possibility that I might bring them something more valuable than all the other things they could be doing. Nerves are our primordial fight of flight mechanism, and if you don’t flee – run off stage – then you’ll fight for the best result you can produce. The audience loves that.

The illusion is that it requires a fight or flight response to survive but it is not your life that is at stake; it’s your ego. All you need to do is separate the two and you quickly realize that it requires no fight at all. The easiest way through for you is the hardest way out for your ego. I am still not a master of this but I can say for certain that my very best results in speaking to large groups all over the world and several benchmark moments in Odyssey success have come at those times of surrendering to the absolute truth of the moment. Nothing to hide. Sweat or no sweat.

 

~ Bill John is the president, CEO and co-founder of Odyssey Teams, a philanthropic team building organization that works with leading global corporations like American Express, Wells Fargo, Google and General Electric.

 

Cirrus SR 20 landing Oakland at night

Flying through clouds.

When I learned to fly an airplane there were two licenses I knew I had to acquire, VFR and IFR.

VFR means you are free to fly the skies except through certain airspaces and sky conditions. The most significant limitation, put simply, is to NEVER fly through a cloud, hence Visual Flight Rules (VFR). If you have ever driven into Tule fog in California’s San Joaquin Valley in the winter you can imagine the lack of visual references when flying. Nothing. No lane lines or a trucker’s tail lights to guide you along. If either of those ARE seen while flying, you will understand why many instructors tell VFR students “there are rocks in those clouds.” Add in some turbulence due to a change in temperature/condition and your mind/body begins throwing all kinds of inaccurate information where a climb feels like a descent, a right turn feels left and flying right-side-up feels downright upside-down.

VFR pilots are taught a few cursory hours of instrument flying in the event – which seems very difficult to avoid in a lifetime of VFR piloting – where you may have to rely on your instruments at some point. JFK Jr. found himself in perfectly legal VFR conditions but with absolutely no visual references due to a black, moonless night, over a black body of water with no lights on the horizon as a reference to keep him from spiraling down into Davey Jones locker. IFR certification and training is paramount in those times when VFR conditions begin to lose the visual flight references required for visual flight.

Learning to fly in IMC (instrument meteorologic conditions [clouds]) opens up a whole new sense of freedom and safety — especially because I live and fly in the San Francisco Bay Area — with its four months per year shrouded in the ubiquitous morning and afternoon marine layer.

In addition to flying to deliver Odyssey’s leadership and teambuilding programs and visit our Chico, CA office, flying has also been a powerful teacher and metaphor.

And so I offer:

Odyssey was almost grounded this past December after we lost two of four good employees who covered all things logistics. We have since been in a crash-course to bring our business into the future using the cloud in order to navigate our increasingly virtual reliance on logistics and planning.

We’ve been in the cloud a bit using CRM (Customer Relations Management System) for several years, but it’s taken a long time. We’ve had some frustrating failures of relying on the old-school techniques of paper files and logistical information held by individuals and stored in their own unique methods and locations which rapidly became inaccessible related to the extent we needed that information in virtual, separate geographical locations when those two people left in December.

Like flying under Visual Flight Rules where we could see the ground, it was easy to navigate the logistical process of managing hundreds of events we conducted all over the world every year because, for the most part, we were all connected “well-enough.” Because we had not been trained to enter the virtual cloud, it placed a significant strain on our processes – and relationships when two employees bailed out of the plane.

We have always trained companies on the three pillars of success: results, relationships and processes. So, it became glaringly obvious that an upgrade and training of new processes was long overdue and the strain we were feeling in the relationship pillar was in some parts due to living in a virtual world with non-virtual systems.

Thankfully, our clients didn’t realize that we had crash-landed a few times in pulling off the logistics for their events. They exclaimed that it felt perfectly glorious from their seat with the accolades they delivered upon a smooth touch-down. However, in the cockpit, we were a mess pulling out charts and paper flying around from literally all over the place to find the runway and land the thing.

Entering and embracing cloud technology was as important as the first time we bought laptops for Odyssey employees in the early 90’s. This was the beginning of a more transient way of getting work done. There are drawbacks to being so plugged in, so connected, so remote from each other in a physical sense. But so it must be — like the first time flying through clouds with my newly minted IFR rating — that we must trust the system and each other to use it so we can have a better time in the cockpit flying this plane called Odyssey all over the world.

Lain Railroad

Life is an Odyssey.

Today I delivered our Life Cycles program to a really great client. The CEO of their business, Barry, is perhaps the best leader I’ve seen in years. This makes them a great client because it’s so easy to bring his concepts to life because they are not complicated.

Barry’s approach is to develop his leaders by having them deliver the leadership modules. Usually, companies bring in subject matter experts, authors of the five traits, or 7 habits. Barry simply asks his leaders to talk about x,y,z, principles of leadership by having them share a personal story of how these show up.

I was humbled by the power and effectiveness of each of their stories as they brought up the concepts. Each of them had their Odyssey to share.

I felt over-classed by these genuine people, sharing their stories. I did not plan to talk about Lain when I started but it just came out – it’s one of the most personal things in my life right now.

If you’ve not been following Odyssey on Facebook, Lain, my business partner and best friend is a Cancer Survivor – cancer free we hope, as of two days ago after a radical removal of tumor, glands, lymph nodes and tonsils in his neck.

Sharing my story, and relating it to the leadership concept of ‘Being There’  (by the authors of FISH) engaged me on a whole new level.  The building of bicycles and having the children come in the room to the surprise of the participants was as powerful as I’ve ever seen – and delivered.

Barry’s ability to compel others to bring themselves fully to what they are doing got me. It got all of us. And I think it will make a difference for Lain, battling heroically to recover from his surgery.

Thank you Barry for inspiring us all.

Bill John