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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

Can building bikes for children bring your sales force to new levels of teamwork? New levels of sales?

I’ve got to admit that I am biased here being one of the co-inventors of  Life Cycles – the original build a bike teambuilding event. Being in the experiential learning industry for 15 years prior to the light bulb going on about the idea of combining philanthropy and experiential training, I had the opportunity to witness the power of experiential learning at it’s outdoor zenith. Through the use of ropes courses, and in particular, high ropes courses, we were able to provide a dramatic and emotional experience for people using heights and events outside of the normal context of work. These were powerful catalysts for learning and when combined with expert facilitation and curriculum were truly life-changing for participants. Yes, teamwork improved and sales often followed.

The trouble was that it often required burdensome logistics that prevented large-scale groups from attending. It was near impossible to bring the program indoors and out of the question for groups larger than 100.

The original bike building teamwork event, (Life Cycles), became the answer. It didn’t take long before we were averaging groups in the 400-700 range with some in excess of 1200 in two to four hour events. Most of these groups have been sales forces looking for new ways to connect their people to each other (teamwork) to their products (pride) and ultimately to their customers (an orientation towards THEIR experience). The quest for this trifecta of connection has been difficult for event planners and senior VP’s to find.

With so much good being done in one room at one time it didn’t take our biased opinion to point towards Life Cycles (the bike building event) as a top tier solution. It was being sold by word of mouth. Some of the descriptions of program value have been better than we could ever say…even with our bias.

Check out what our clients have said of their experience building bikes for kids and how it impacted their teamwork, customer-orientation and sales. Go to www.odysseyteams.com.

Life Cycles – The original teambuilding experience where every five participants build a bike for a child

Building bikes teambuilding is also called [Life Cycles (TM)] and is a trademarked process of combining philanthropy and team skill development. Invented and delivered by Odyssey Teams, Inc. this bicycle-building event has become the ubiquitous program in the industry.

Odyssey invented the process of building bikes as a teambuilding experience where children come into the venue to receive them. Odyssey’s first delivery was to Lucent Technologies, October 10, 2000. “We are very proud to have originated the idea of taking a Habitat for Humanity concept and overlaying a training context to it in a two to four-hour, on-premise event.” It is through the eyes of the children, who burst through the doors to receive their brand new bikes that participants are able to see the gaps in their customer awareness and commitment to quality. Over 10,000 bikes have been built for children around the world while companies have enjoyed increased teamwork, quality, and customer relations.

The program has also been described as the bike-building event for children or bikes for tikes, bikes for tykes, build a bike and the teambuilding bike event. All point towards the original Life Cycles event developed by Odyssey Teams, Inc. in October, 2000.

We invite you to learn more about the original at www.odysseyteams.com.

No Really.

Earlier in my career I spent 5 years consulting with one of the fastest most successful credit card companies in our country. Growth was staggering. They went from 1,800 employees to 20,000 in just over 5 years. Their stock had the same type of growth. Even though all this was going on there was and continues to be a large amount of suffering in their corporate structure. They are not alone.

One of the best leadership, managerial, employee tools to pull out of the toolbox is the ability (and we believe necessity) to say ‘no’. To decline is a powerful move that is often over looked while trying to navigate through a given day or to the next level. What we’ve found is that more often than not people create much of the stress and pressure they are living/working with each day. They do this by saying ‘yes’, ‘sure I can’, ‘I’d be happy to’, ‘you bet, ‘no problem’, and many other forms of…. YES – I will do it just as you asked and in the time you asked…and maybe hint or promise to have it done earlier.

Too often the YES is given out of fear. You see everyone around saying yes. If you’re the first/only one to say no then your job could be in jeopardy, you could lose the promotion, or be thought less than by the person making the request etc. etc. So you say YES and your 45-hour workweek turns to 60 and the stress/pressure shows up in areas only you may know.

If it was safe enough… you’d say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, Negotiate etc. but it’s not deemed safe enough by you and you say YES. While consulting with the credit card company I kept lobbying for the CEO to say “Ok everyone, starting on Monday you are all requested to say ‘no’ to at least one request each day. If not, it will be noted on your performance review.” Their business culture, quality, trust level, mood, and results would improve immensely. So would yours.

Too often when we say YES and then don’t fulfill on the promise, one or more of the following happen.
1. The work is done on time but not to the standards of the company – result = rework, injury, etc.
2. The work isn’t done by the time you promised (because you were in overwhelm from all of the other ‘YES’s” you agreed to) – result= you’re deemed unreliable, trust is lowered
3. The work is done to satisfaction – result= resentment from you towards the other person for them making such an ‘uninformed request’-don’t they know what your world is like?
4. The work is done to satisfaction – result= your mood, health, wellbeing is at risk, again.
5. You have perpetuated and ingrained saying ‘yes’ in your culture.
To say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, or Negotiate can be viewed as powerful.
• It shows that you are considering your other commitments to the company in your decision.
• It may highlight your commitment to safety and quality.
• Internal/external customers will be grateful that you are fulfilling your current promises to them.
• It will model for others a more accountable way of operating in the workplace.

Say yes to possibilities, opportunities, etc…and step outside your comfort zone and say ‘no’ …when you know you should.

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

Pop your ears lately?

We lived down on the beach – sea level. The closest town (Waimea – of Parker Ranch fame) was a 15-20 minute drive up the slopes of the Kohala mountains at 2,500 feet above sea level. My wife, family, and I made this drive frequently. One morning as I was driving up the hill with the sun rising over Mauna Kea for a meeting with leaders from the community, I noticed the need to pop/clear my ears. This was not new, though this time I realized something…I shouldn’t be popping my ears. Why, because I’m not supposed to be ascending the hill so fast. I’m supposed to be walking or maybe on a horse or mule at best. Going up the hill more SLOWLY. That is how my body (this gift) is/was designed to go up hills. At a pace that is gradual enough that my body can adapt to the pressure changes in a smooth efficient manner.

Where else am I moving/ascending unnaturally too fast that it is causing enough stress that I have to intervene? How do I intervene and deal with the stress? Sure, I can do it, survive, crunch down and ‘Git ‘er done’ and maybe instead of popping my ears I…
• Take ibprofen everyday for my 1pm headache
• See a chiropractor 3 times a week
• Wear a tooth guard at night
• Take something to help me sleep
• Get edgy towards my internal/external customers and/or the people I say I care most about.
• or… you fill in the blank

Regardless, I have to do something to cope with the velocity and capacity that I am attempting to deal with. Some choices…
1. Reduce the speed – Speed kills.
2. Reduce the capacity- I don’t have to/ nor can I do it all.
3. Pause for 30 seconds, take a breath, notice my shoulders are raised to my ears or that my jaw is tense or that I’m excessively gripping the steering wheel, etc. etc. and then release the noticable tension with an exhale.

Grammy award winner James Taylor says…
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it….”

Slow down. Pause. You and the people you live and work with are worth it.

PS… Step #3 above works best. Do it first, at least 3 times a day

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

People leave managers, not companies

What makes the workplace “safe?” I’m talking about emotional–not physical–safety here. Think back to your high school days. Can you remember a time when the teacher asked a question and you weren’t sure if you had the right answer? Did you spring out of your seat and throw out your best guess? If you did, you were one of the few. Most of us probably averted our eyes and hid, hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on us. We knew what was at risk if we got it wrong: teasing, ridicule, humiliation. Even if we got it right, we risked being pegged as a “teacher’s pet” or a “know-it-all.” We learn early in life to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Most people are terrified of being made fun of or looking foolish; they just want to fit in.

The same is true in the professional world. Employees yearn for a sense of belonging. They want to feel accepted, appreciated, empowered and acknowledged. They want to take risks, but don’t want to feel bad or stupid when they fail. Even the best managers can make situations feel “unsafe,” and understanding how to avoid this pitfall is an important key to successful management.

How do you respond when a member of your team approaches you with an idea, a comment or feedback? Do you really listen and seek to understand? Does your response change if you disagree? Do you avoid the question and never get back to them? What “price” do they pay for their risk?

“Safe” and “unsafe” environments come in many forms. Are you always in a rush, forcing people to speak at an auctioneer’s pace to get their point across? Do you “spend” three minutes rushing the conversation? Or do you “invest” those same three minutes in your valued co-worker/employee? The time lost in both situations remains the same, but the disparate impacts on your co-worker/employee may be vastly different.

It often comes down to perspective. If you consistently feel the need to refute employees’ ideas or to offer your opinion on the subject, they might not feel safe coming to you.

Distinguishing the need for consensus from the need for resolution is a critical management skill. Consensus requires that more than one person is heard. Resolution can be achieved with the sound of one voice. The key then becomes knowing when that voice should be yours and when it should be theirs.
The next time you are approached by a co-worker or employee, check your reflexes. Your actions may have more impact than you realize.

Jonathan Willen,
Sales/Strategy, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

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Philanthropic 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.

Bill

LainHensley4

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.

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

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

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.

Bill

Live-House

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.

And even though we have Skype to see each other and virtual meetings to conduct online we find that, in many ways, our relationships are getting further and further apart. It is imperative, therefore to create face-to-face opportunities with people on your team to meet and truly connect. Not a modem connection but a connection that science just cannot duplicate through copper wires or fiber optics. Your best shot at building a strong team is to do teambuilding that leverages every sense of your connection…to each other, to your products, to your community and most importantly, to your customers.