Odyssey Teams started off September in Los Angeles, running a high ropes course program for over 300 UCLA MBA candidates. Our partnership with the UCLA MBA program has spanned two decades – and we can mark significant moments of Odyssey Teams history by the annual programs. There’s the year that Odyssey Teams’ COO Lain Hensley won it big on the Price is Right the day prior to the start of the event. The year our staff had to drive instead of fly because the September 11th terrorist attacks grounded planes nationally. And two years back, the one that Lain had to sit out, as he underwent chemo in his battle with cancer.

Twenty years worth of programs – that’s a lot of ropes knotted, harnesses tightened, and individuals impacted. We are proud of the longevity of the program – it is evidence that someone believes strongly in the power and value of what we do. But more than that, we are proud of the thousand of individuals represented by the years. The emerging business leaders who are shaping the world in which we live, travel, and work, carry a little bit of Odyssey with them. As they make critical decisions, broker deals, and interact with teammates, employers, and employees, we so hope that they draw upon lessons learned high above the ground that one day in September.

We’d love to partner with your team to impart similar lessons to your students, faculty, employees, or partners. Whether it is through walking a wire tens of feet off the ground, building a bike for a child in need, or assembling a prosthetic hand for an amputee halfway around the world, our programs are designed to be applicable and transformative. It just might be that an Odyssey Teams program is exactly what your team needs as we head into the fall.

We ardently seek moments that allow us to engage in something bigger than ourselves. Surrounded by people working towards one common goal, there is a certain amount of awe and belonging that emerges from the tangible sense of community. We experienced a bit of that a few weeks ago. In late July, Odyssey Teams spent several days in humid Florida, delivering one of our largest annual Life Cycles programs – 1,100 participants building 183 bikes for children in the surrounding area. The resulting impact was impressive – as kids flooded the room in expectant anticipation and participants met their recipient face to face. But the community that had formed and flourished in the hours prior was of equal note and celebration.

Community within the workplace is an oft-discussed buzzword, as organizations attempt to create a foundation of cooperation, communication, and friendship between cubicles and across pay grades. Regrettably, faltered community is often seen as the expected growing pain of expansion, or the unfortunate opportunity cost of an increasingly technological world. But here at Odyssey Teams, we keenly believe that does not have to be the case.

We stand firm that it is of utmost importance to put people in a room together and connect them as a team and as people – leading to the creation of a positive emotional memory of the company, team, or leadership. It might not be cost or time efficient because frankly, relationships are never going to be primarily economic in their formation. But it is of immeasurable value. We will only be at our very best when our hands and hearts are connected and engaged with our community, and we are reminded that we are a valuable part of it all. Our programs are designed to foster that community – addressing both the individual and the greater team that they represent. Teams consistently leave from an Odyssey Teams event with a powerful memory of a shared experience, and with the tools and resources to effectively build upon that foundation.

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 understood 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

Odyssey Teams Inc. has been on quite the journey throughout the last few decades. Our programs have evolved, our team has shifted, our workspace has adapted, and our expertise has grown. We’ve experienced a number of notable occurrences on our way – and we are thrilled to announce the latest developments!

At the start of the year, we created Odyssey for Youth – a division of Odyssey Teams dedicated fully to the development of the students, athletes, teachers, and administrators of our communities. In the past few months alone, we have had the privilege of coaching, training, and encouraging hundreds of teenagers – before sending them home to have an impact on their neighborhoods.

June heralded the launch ofGive Back Activities. This offshoot of Odyssey Teams is devoted fully to our programs that provide teams the opportunity to give their best back into their organization, community, and world. They create space for collaboration on a project that gives back – not just to deserving recipients and communities in need of support, but also to the cohesion and productivity of teams and workplaces. Give Back Activities combine training and philanthropy, world-class facilitation and now, DIY Give Back experiences in a box.

Our goal is for these new divisions to provide any and every team the opportunity to grow, learn, and give their best.Odyssey Teams Inc. will continue in the work we are so passionate about – equipping organizations to be their strongest, most productive, best version of themselves. We look forward to meeting your team at the intersection of real life and real work, and giving you and your organization the tools, patterns, and renewed vision for living and working at your best. We hope to be the next notable occurrence on your journey.

Three Ways to Foster a Disruptive Mindset That Breeds Innovation

I recently hosted a TEDx talk in my hometown of Chico, Calif. on the topic of disruption — a subject I hold close to my heart. Disruption is the key to success in many aspects of our lives. Sometimes our best business decisions, insights, and innovations comes when we are thrown out of our normal routine, forced to question the status quo or dealt nearly insurmountable challenges. When confronted with the right mindset, these disruptions are not roadblocks, they are the catalyst for creativity and a pathway for growth.

By embracing disruption, we are able to live up to our full potential and materialize our dreams. Here are three takeaways from my TEDx talk on the matter…

1. Put Your Hand in the Air
In kindergarten, we’re wide-eyed and excited to learn. With that also comes a young, fresh energy that encourages us to participate — to shoot our hand in the air and be part of the discussion. To share our thoughts and show-off our knowledge, right or wrong, because we have the support of our peers who are just as eager and uncritical. To be supported by our teachers that just want to see us grow.

But as we get older, a funny thing happens. Next time we raise our hand and get the answer wrong we get laughed at, we get criticized and our courage diminishes. The next time the opportunity to disrupt arises, an alarm goes off and says don’t do that — a past result has been auto saved. The opportunity for disruption came and we put it in the wrong category, as something negative. But really it’s a gift and as we get older that gift is offering an escape from the status quo. Embrace it — put your hand back up in the air and reclaim your confidence, replace the alarm with excitement. This is the chance to change your life!

2. Everything You Do Matters
Don’t mistake a chance for life changing disruption because on the surface it’s not grand enough. Small changes can pave the way for major changes in your future. So don’t ever settle.

Having a positive outlook on a disruptive situation that initially seems like a black abyss can also make all difference. It’s in the most difficult events and struggles that we live to our greatest potential. We can come back from them and be better than we were before. It’s not about being comfortable — it’s about being terrified and being ok with it.

3. Tomorrow, We Are all Beginners
It’s exciting if you stop to think about it. Every day is a new day we are approaching for the first time, so we should wake-up with fresh eyes open to new perspectives.

Expectations and past experiences can predict what will happen but pause in the moment and dream of what could be, who you want to be. Don’t be afraid to disrupt your routine because something can happen tomorrow that can change the world — yours or mine.

 

-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.

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.

How do you advocate for one of these types of programs where we’re receiving feedback from attendees that they are already over-programmed during the meeting, and that what they would really like is free time?

They want free time because they do not see the value of the team building session over the other sessions. We need to do an amazing job of aligning our program with the entire meeting so that it does not feel like a disconnected session that is unrelated to business. It should feel like an interactive session that complements the existing message and builds on the overall dialogue. I do not believe that the solution is to cut the “team building” or “connection time” from the meeting.

NOTE – I am currently conducting a survey to determine the top 10 desired outcomes from company meetings. My assumption lines up with the early data, which shows that people attend meetings with the goals of connecting with co-workers, getting a personal sense of the leadership, and developing their network. Most of the presenters talking about financial stuff, company strategy, future products, and other nuts and bolts items, end up just reading from their PowerPoint. These elements can be delivered in an informational email or webinar previous to the face-to-face time. The biggest value of the face-to-face meetings is not the sharing of data and details, but making an emotional connection to the data and one another.

-Lain Hensley

Odyssey Teams, Inc. is excited to announce that we are looking for the right person or organization in England to be our exclusive distributor of the Helping Hands – Build-a-Hand Teambuilding kits in that region. To date, this program has resulted in over 17,000 hands built for people who have lost a limb in developing countries while simultaneously providing a profound experience of team and leadership development to over 1,000 companies in developed countries. The program has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, Fox Business news, and numerous TV/Media publications/outlets. It is making a dramatic difference inside and out of companies around the world.

If you, or someone you know, has an established training/facilitation practice in England that might be interested in leveraging their training/facilitation services through the use of the Helping Hands – Build-a-Hand project, please have them contact Bill John — bill@odysseyteams.com or 530-342-1650 (US). We will be making our selection in April, 2015. For information on the program including press/media/videos, et. al. please go to www.build-a-hand.com, or to our main site www.odysseyteams.com.

Entrepreneurs are famous for being self-taught business minds who relentlessly learn new skills. We read business books and attend conferences. We seek out mentors and develop new skills. But sometimes earth-shattering lessons — ones we could never learn from a book or a fellow entrepreneur —upend our world. They feel more like catastrophes than education. But they teach us the deepest lessons of our lives.

Over the last 23 years, my business partner Bill John and I have built a teambuilding company called Odyssey Teams, and developed a well-recognized brand in our industry. We differentiated ourselves by incorporating service projects into the classroom. We called it philanthropic teambuilding and the term stuck. To date we have given away about 20,000 bikes and about 13,000 prosthetic hands that had been distributed in more than 74 countries.

This success meant a lot of travel, flying across the country to deliver corporate training events. Last year, I was off on another business trip, driving to the airport to catch a 7 a.m. flight to Milwaukee to deliver a keynote speech to 1,000 Northwestern Mutual employees. I was living my dream and, frankly, at the top of my game. A slight hint of arrogance had developed in me as I experienced a level of financial and personal success I had only dreamed about as a kid.

I was still drowsy from the early hour, and I rubbed my face to keep awake. Then, while running my hands over my neck, I felt a strange lump on the right side of my throat. I immediately flashed back to years earlier when a friend of mine described the day he discovered a lump in his neck and it turned out to be cancer. It was almost totally silent as I sped along at 65 mph. It was just me and my imagination wondering about my fate and calculating how soon I could call my wife.

During the drive, somehow I knew in my gut that something was wrong and a battle I had felt looming since I was a teenager was upon me.

Fighting was not new to me. As a dyslexic kid I fought my way through high school and then through six years of college. I fought my way through collegiate tennis matches, and I fought my way though the early years of my business. My father taught me the value of work and that fighting for something you really wanted is just part of the deal.

My wife is a registered nurse and I called her from my layover in Denver. She was anxious to assess me when I returned from the trip and we agreed to just watch the lump until we got back home from our vacation cabin.

When the lump in my throat did not go away, we followed through with a doctor’s appointment. They ordered a biopsy and days passed as we waited for the results. I had my phone with me and my family and friends knew I was waiting for the test results. When the phone finally rang, my doctor told me it was cancer. I wrote the word “CANCER” on the sheet of paper and told her to call my wife. I hung up the phone and the emotion overwhelmed me. Cancer, cancer, cancer. I wept with disbelief. The time had come, and although millions of people have fought the same fight, I felt alone.

I went home to be with my family. I walked into the house and could hear my 13-year-old and 10-year-old daughters crying in their room. After a long embrace with my wife I peeked in to see my girls. We clung to each other in a way I will never forget. My 8-year-old son emerged from his room to give me his brand of love. I had cancer, but they would all need to go through cancer with me. It scared us all.

The next few weeks were a medical blur — test after test and some hard decisions. I had my tonsils removed and a radical neck dissection. They removed 23 glands and a bunch of neck tissue. The cancer had spread to one of my lymph nodes, and I realized that I was a speaker who might not speak again if things did not go well. I began six weeks of radiation.

Work was put on hold. I was a mess and I leaned hard on my team to make it through. The business was growing, but it would need to go on without my leadership. I had to step back and let go of control. Any gaps in the system, any areas I was holding up would need to stand on their own. It was not going to be easy, but we really had no options, and I was ready to see if they could do it. No matter how much I loved my work I did not have the strength to do anything more than fight for my life.

My wife was my rock. When I could not go on she and the kids carried me. The ego and arrogance from my success? Gone. It was just me, 2,500 calories a day and another 24 hours of fighting. I was stopped. The man who always had enough energy and was always ready to take the lead was being carried.

This defining moment has led to some big changes in my life and in my company. I realized that I had way too much of the company on my back, and I was not creating independence or accountability within my team. Many hard conversations came my way following my treatment and I can now see the gaps in my leadership that had been exposed in my absence. Today, my business partner and I are creating independent yet interdependent employees driven by the mission and values of Odyssey Teams, and not just by me. For things to grow bigger than me I needed to learn how to get out of the way more and empower people.

I could tell you about radiation and the after effects of the treatments and issues I am still dealing with today, but honestly, who cares. I am 47 years old, six months post-radiation, and 15 pounds under my normal weight, but I am alive. To really get started, I had to be stopped. I am cancer free and I am a better man, husband, father, employer, speaker and friend. It is not about me anymore or what I can accomplish or whom I can impress or what I can get done. I am temporary. But I can create and contribute to things that can’t be stopped by cancer, things that will live well beyond me.

-Lain Henlsey, Chief Operating Officer of Odyssey Teams

I was leading a ropes course program for a youth-at-risk high school group. One of the first things I asked kids to do was put on a nametag. Partway through the morning, I noticed a kid dressed in all black, looking disinterested and detached from the rest of the group. I walked over to greet him and noticed that instead of a name, his nametag said ‘Nobody.’ It was a perfect name to describe what he must have felt like in his life. I asked him a few questions about it, but mostly encouraged him to take a few steps beyond himself during the day.

I kept my eye on him throughout the morning and he remained around the perimeter. Not in, but not really out. As we progressed through the process of building conversations, increasing the level of heights and trust, Nobody kept choosing out. We applauded his choice not to climb or fall, and kept right on going with the next activity. In the afternoon, we got to the High V’s.

The High V’s event is built 30 feet up in the trees – strung between massive, beautiful, California redwood trees. There is a cable that wraps around one tree and runs horizontally to two other trees – forming a giant V-shape parallel to the ground. Attached to two separate belay systems, two participants climb side-by-side up the tree that stands at the apex of the V. Each climber steps out onto their respective cable – each of which heads off to a separate tree. As they move onto the cables, facing each other, they are only about two feet apart. The next step is to put their hands across onto each other’s shoulders, letting go of the tree that they just climbed. A tree that at one point looked intimidating now seems incredibly sturdy compared to the cables that they are currently balancing on.

Leaning against, and looking at one another, the two take their next step out onto the diverging cables. With each step, their feet get further and further apart, requiring one of two things: (1) they lean against each other – accomplished by standing up tall, not bending over the waist, and ‘falling’ inward towards each other – like an A-frame house where the base keeps getting wider. This inward lean gives the other person something to lean against – a source of stability in an otherwise, stable-less situation. It is the physical embodiment of synergy. Or, (2) they let their more self-protective instinct take-over and instead of leaning, they bend over at the waist. This begins the unraveling of relationship – entropy. Instead of standing straight and bringing the center of their own gravity out and toward their partner, they try to protect the little balance they have on their own cable by bringing the center of their gravity backward. With each successive step in this manner it gets worse. In order to maintain contact with their partner’s shoulders as they step, the only option in this ‘holding back’ position is to bend over at the waist, thus bringing their center of gravity further apart from each other which begs for more bending over at the waist which now restricts the ability to even look in each others eyes for strength.

Communication is lost. The only way to stay up, or take another step, is to pull against the other person. In relationships, and on the V’s, this is a mess that inevitably ends in falling. Not that the opposite keeps them up there forever, but it certainly enables them to go farther along the cables and in relationship. The energy is fueled by connection – synergy vs. separateness and entropy. We can choose either, whenever we want. However, the further apart we get on the V’s and in life, the more risk it takes to lean in.

As kids went up the V’s with their partners, Nobody made his way to the belay lines to join the seven others holding the climber above them on the cables. It was a small step towards others. We sent pair after pair up the V’s and were nearing the end. All of the kids had gone or were in harnesses getting ready to go. I kept my eye on Nobody, wondering how he would play this out. Nobody had declined requests from partners to do the High V’s, and every one had already partnered up.

A few years prior to this group, I was delivering a program to another group of youth-at-risk and was really burnt out at the end of the day. I felt like it did not matter – any of the work, all of my energy, all of my desire. I saw ‘trout faces’ everywhere – where ‘lips move, but I can’t hear what you say,’ where eyes don’t blink to let you know life is present – just dull, disinterested affect from all these kids. An extraordinary opportunity – not taken by them – yet again, I presumed.

There was a probation officer at the program and I let my frustration known to him and he said, “Remember the law of 82: These kids need to hear the lesson 82 times before they decide to make a change. For some, today is the 1st time they’ve really heard it. For one, or perhaps a few, if we are lucky, it’s the 82nd.  Too many people give up on them because they don’t know if 82 will ever come. Don’t be one of those people that gives up on them because you never know if your message, your caring is the 82nd.”

Number 82 arrived. He was a boy that was really afraid to do the High V’s with his partner – and then did it. He came down from the event with so much energy and approached Nobody, knowing that he had declined others requests, but he asked again. Nobody said ‘okay’ – a genuinely reluctant okay. It was an ‘okay’ that included his guarded nature and his curiosity. Kids gathered around to help him get the harness on and soon Nobody was on his way.

As the last team on the last event of the day, these two boys embodied what it was all about. It was not about getting to a place of having ‘no fear’ or even getting over fear. Fear is just part of the landscape of greatness. It is impossible to have a life without it and this day was about creating energy for what is more important than fear.

They got to the High V’s and stepped out. And they just kept stepping. Kids on the ground went wild. With every step they leaned further against each other – one holding the other up only by the act of being willing to be held by the other. The V’s are built so that there is no finish line, no place to get to, no other side. Every pair eventually falls. Nobody and his partner kept going and the energy on the ground was converted into yet another step until they were practically horizontal, flat-out, pushing for each other. Their feet could not get any further apart, and they slipped from the cables on the next step and the belayers lowered them to the ground, holding onto each other. When they got to the ground, the others were all over them with every kind of high five and hand-shake and fist pump – genuine congratulations.

 

Tom Lutes, one of the people who taught me so much of this work, explained a simple circular model. Around the circle were the words vulnerability, inspiration, support and trust. You could start with any word in the circle and it would begin to spin like a wheel with the energy you put onto that word – presumably moving in the direction of “success”. If you jumped into embody/demonstrate any one of these words, it would have an impact on the next word. Vulnerability, therefore would lead to inspiration, inspiration would lead to support, support would lead to trust and trust would lead to more vulnerability.

Some people need to have more trust before they are willing to be vulnerable (again). I say ‘again’ because we are all born this way – vulnerable. And ALL of us have been dropped, let down, cheated, ripped off – and some far too many times for one life. Nobody was among them. The boy who asked Nobody to do the V’s with him was number 82 and was the embodiment of support on the wheel that began to spin in Nobody’s favor. Nobody decided to risk again – to be vulnerable, to bring all of himself. Those of us on the ground were genuinely inspired, which led us to ceaselessly support Nobody and his partner. As a result, trust grew throughout, and in turn, Nobody allowed himself to be increasingly vulnerable, and finally he saw that he could do this. And it was working out for him.

As we debriefed the day, each of the kids talked about their experience – what happened for them, how they made it happen, how would they make it happen again. As we got around to Nobody, he got up, walked over to the bag that held the name tags and sharpies and simply changed his name to Somebody. He patted it over his heart and onto his t-shirt, threw his old nametag away and simply sat down. He smiled cautiously. We all smiled back and moved to the next person.

-Bill John

We are sad to report that Margie Meadows passed away this past week. She is the wife of Ernie Meadow, the creator of the LN-4 prosthetic hand we build in our Helping Hands program.


If the Helping Hands program and the LN-4 hand has touched your life, please leave a comment here and we will pass your words along to Ernie during his grieving process.


She has been reunited with Ellen Meadows in that great beyond. Ellen was killed many years ago in an automobile accident and inspired her parents Ernie and Margie to create service projects in her honor. The LN-4 is a result of that inspiration. We at Odyssey share in that call to action and will be working double hard to put hands on people around the world in their honor. After more than 50 years of marriage, we pause today to remember a great person, an amazing wife and mother, and a friend to people across the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ernie and their children as they process their loss.


Our gratitude to all of you and our clients who have supported the Helping Hands program and the work of this quiet and humble man and his wife.

Life Cycles, the original bike building program, allows participants to create something valuable and pass it on to the end user. As they build a bike and pass it along to a child, the result is a firsthand experience of the value of collaboration, customer-centricity, and teamwork. Metaphors like these are rich and relevant to teams and leaders. However, there are less obvious metaphors that also emerge during the course of the program:

Tires need air. Everyone knows how to use a bicycle pump, right? Simple. You secure the nozzle over the tire valve and inflate. But in the past twenty years, the way to secure the pump to the valve has done a complete 180-degree change.

It is amazing to see people IGNORE the detailed description and pictures of HOW TO USE THE TIRE PUMP. The result is frustration, rework, and often a broken piece of equipment. Not good if you are building bikes for kids. Not good if you are aiming to build your team and be a world-class business.

For me, breaking the tube for a child’s bike was a lesson in humility. I learned that the next time – even if I think “I KNOW” – I must be humble enough (and not so much in a hurry) to pause and check to see if the ‘game’ has changed.

As fast as the world and business are changing, can you afford not to pause, confirm what is truly needed, and THEN act? So in business, when building a bike…bikes for kids…at least look at the pictures carefully.

Earlier this month I delivered Helping Hands (One of Odyssey Teams CSR Leadership programs, i.e. Life Cycles where you get to build a bike for a child, the Playhouse Challenge etc.), in Singapore for 65 people from APAC & Japan. In the mix, High Potential leaders from one of the worlds largest firms, representing over 14 countries.
The work went extremely well. Our style of delivery and content brought the group together and they left our session feeling more open, connected, and proud of their team and the huge difference their relatively short time spent will make in other people’s lives.
It was quite fun for me to be back in Singapore. It had been over 15 years since my last trip. Further back in 1987, Singapore and Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands is where I really began building my craft as a trainer and facilitator. I was immersed in these countries for 3 months, surrounded by masters in our arena and delivering content that was extraordinary. Our charge was to create miracles for AT&T’s consumer products division via a rollout for hundreds of their leaders. In short, we did.

There are the numbers and a case study etc. that show we hit the mark. However, what I find outstanding is that participants and fans from Project Miracles (as the 4.5 day offsite and coaching beyond was called) still have reunions to keep the value, stories, content and connections alive.
I had dinner with one of my Project Miracles co-trainers who has long since relocated to Singapore. We hadn’t seen each other in over 12 years. While I enjoyed the walk through Little India and the fabulous dinner, the most refreshing thing was that we were still good friends. A little more wise and gray at the temples, though just as good of buddies as we were back in the day. I believe that our work together, along with the call to be open, forthright, and supportive as we collaborated to make a difference, is what keeps our bond alive.
Hopefully, you have friends such as this too and I believe the seeds of such friendships and business alliances are planted in the programs we deliver around the world as people slow down and connect to see what’s possible for themselves and for business.

I recently led our Bridge the Gap program to 117 Senior Leaders from Shell Oil. This was our fifth engagement with the group as they have been embarking on changing their individual leadership tendencies as well as the culture of their extended teams.
While in the past, the group participated in our CSR philanthropic team-building programs such as Playhouse Challenge, Helping Hands, Life Cycles, this time the goal was to have each person contribute in a unique way to the overarching goal.
…and in the midst of it all practice new behaviors, step into the unknown/uncomfortable, and collaborate while putting their influence on their one of 117 pieces of the outcome.
With only a hint of the final product and thumbnails of what to emulate as a leader they realized afterwards that…each piece matters. Leadership is an art. Tasks had varying degrees of difficulty. Natural strengths/talents had to be set aside for new actions. Positive moods and collaboration were vital to execution and success of going from current reality to their target. They were anxious to see the picture.

The bridge shown here is near the famous Donner Pass in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, where at one time insurmountable early snowfall and treacherous trails and conditions held people back from their dreams, and for many their future. This bridge now makes it possible for people to get to where they are going in an efficient and safe manner.
It is our hope that as people continue to increase connections within their team, share their goals, ask for support, celebrate their achievements and communicate more clearly, they will bridge the gaps between their current reality and what is possible.

I haven’t spent two nights in the same bed for over 11 nights. No moss on this stone. A mix of leadership training and cultural development programs in Ft. Lauderdale, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas and a couple of family adventures too. That changes tonight with 4 nights at home, the travel was worth it for sure.
Last week we delivered our highly requested Life Cycles where teams build a bike for children in this leadership session for 280 participants from SafeNet. They chose Life Cycles over our other philanthropic team-building programs; Playhouse Challenge, and Helping Hands, because they wanted to make a big difference in the local area – Atlantic City.
This was my first trip to Atlantic City. I arrived after midnight. The cab ride from the airport was quick and took me through empty, lonely looking streets with neon lights above. The Trump Taj Mahal hotel had a similar look and feel as I checked in at the front desk and walked through the quiet casino floor and hallways.

The next morning I went for a run along the beach. With grey skies above, the winter waves were pounding at the shoreline and structures that were pummeled by Hurricane Sandy a couple months back. My overall impression was this place needed some light, new energy, and lots of care and work.
We delivered all of that with a helping of hope as well. Our team shed it’s light on the good people at the hotel who supported us behind the scenes. We shed our light on SafeNet’s 280 people from around the world as they aligned on their future. They shed their light on 56 youth from a tired, worn out, and challenged community trying to pull themselves up by the boot strap. The highlight however was how these 56 vibrant, positive, resilient youth and their chaperones shed their light on us all!
We are ever grateful and inspired that SafeNet chose to have their meeting where they would make a positive difference in a local economy, community, and people that could really benefit from their investment and commitment. Shed a little light.

iDisorder – Unplugged, Live – it’s Odyssey Teams!

“iDisorder: Understanding our obsession with Technology and overcoming its hold on us” is a new book by Ph.D.’s Larry Rosen with N.A. Cheever and L.M. Carrier. It is a fascinating subject that supports the basis of Odyssey Teams world-renowned Philanthropic Team Building Programs. Life Cycles, Helping Hands and our other Corporate Social Responsible offerings I’m sure would be a welcomed breath of fresh air to the above co-authors.

I encourage you to go to Amazon.com search the book title and click on the ‘read inside’ button. Read the first few pages of Chapter 1. It lays out so many often seen and experienced examples of how technology gets in the way of effective relationships, family, and teams. The authors state early on that they believe in, use, and appreciate the technological advances that come before us at an unprecedented speed. However, they believe there is a time and place for these items, as most any ‘tool’ can be used to build or destroy…intentionally or unintentionally.

During our programs people connect. They connect to each other, to what they care about, to their small and larger teams, to their community and to the ‘Why’ of their work. They connect with their Head, Heart, and Gut. A virtual “3-D” connection that is face-to-face, in the moment and powerful beyond reproach.

On the dark side… iDisorder can lead to and/or accentuate the hidden behaviors in people such as ADHD, Narcissism, Anti-Social, and Obsessive Compulsive etc.
To shine some light on the dark; unplug a bit each day, have technology free meals & meetings, and call Odyssey Teams.

Todd

When teams build bikes for kids, teams are brought together. Click here for more information on the original Life Cycles bicycle building teambuilding. Kids and bikes… bikes and kids, is there a better match than kids and bikes? Odyssey’s bike building, teambuilding program called Life Cycles is a great event to promote teamwork. Building bikes are a great way to build teams and work as a team. Walking into a room with kids and seeing the kids look at all the bikes in the room that are for each kid is a wonderful teambuilding experience. Kid’s light up when they see bikes. Teambuilding is great for the participants, especially when they are donating a bike to a kid. Building bikes takes teamwork. When building a bike that will be donated to a kid the teamwork is more effective and memorable. When kids walk in and see bikes and the groups that built the bike see the kids, smiles and tears are on every face. Build bikes for kids for better teamwork today.

Something unique happens when a person builds something; a model airplane, a garden, a scrapbook, or woodworking project etc. Time and moods seem to shift and a sense of pride and accomplishment shows up when the builder steps back and looks at their tangible creation.
Team building is important. Teams nowadays have new members joining on and other members moving on. Change is in the mix at many levels. Teams can always use ‘time out’ to practice fundamentals, to get back on track, and realign. Often models, theories, and powerpoint presentations are the design of choice for these issues. We say, mix it up. Build something.
Build something real! Build a bike for a surprised tyke. Build a helping ‘Hand’ for a disabled youth. Build a playhouse for a youth center. Build a team in the process, and something ‘real’. Feel the difference.
Communication, networking, strategy, decision making, leadership skills and development all happen naturally as people and teams build things together. We’ve seen this happen time and again for all sizes and types of groups in our Life Cycles, Helping Hands, and Playhouse Project programs. The bonus is that the learning is anchored with an emotional/visceral feeling of pride, camaraderie, and the sense of making a difference.
So when teambuilding is in order for a sales meeting, a launch, a boost, an acknowledgment, or a quick realignment to what really is important for self, team, and business. Mix it up. Build something real!

"This is the most powerful customer service program I have ever attended."

James Terry - Sr. Leadership Team - Honeywell

Odyssey Teams
2018-09-19T17:08:10+00:00

James Terry - Sr. Leadership Team - Honeywell

"This is the most powerful customer service program I have ever attended."

"Absolutely one of the best "training" events I have had in my career. I have already related the experience and lessons learned to numerous people, both internal and external at Qualcomm."

Ty Stewart - Qualcomm

Odyssey Teams
2018-09-19T17:05:46+00:00

Ty Stewart - Qualcomm

"Absolutely one of the best "training" events I have had in my career. I have already related the experience and lessons learned to numerous people, both internal and external at Qualcomm."

"The entire room, including me, was in tears. It was just an awesome experience and all of the managers involved just loved it. I know it did a great thing for our company and the kids."

William Stanley - Neuroscience District Manager - Solvey Pharmaceuticals

Odyssey Teams
2018-09-19T17:02:43+00:00

William Stanley - Neuroscience District Manager - Solvey Pharmaceuticals

"The entire room, including me, was in tears. It was just an awesome experience and all of the managers involved just loved it. I know it did a great thing for our company and the kids."

"The last couple of days were unforgettable, inspiring, and truly thought provoking."

Richard Cracraft - UCLA Executive MBA program

Odyssey Teams
2018-09-11T23:54:23+00:00

Richard Cracraft - UCLA Executive MBA program

"The last couple of days were unforgettable, inspiring, and truly thought provoking."
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