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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

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.

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.

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.

Charisma and Things

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Updates from your favorite Leadership, CSR, Teambuilding company that offers Life Cycles (build-a-bike), Helping Hands, Playhouse Challenge and so much more.
Wow, it’s been over 8 weeks since I posted a blog here. Did you miss me? I’m still unsure who reads these. Though as they say, “the gift is in the giving”. The gift is also a bit selfish on my part as the task creates a reason for me to pause and reflect on things, which is always good.
Lots of things have been going on the past 2 months in the world of Odyssey Teams. We facilitated over 26 programs all over the USA, China, Netherlands, Greece, and Czech Republic. We also designed and delivered a Helping Hands program for 4,300 people! …our largest audience at one time, so far.

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