In fact, yes, too much charisma in a leader can make a leader less effective. The results from a series of studies published in the summer of 2018 in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology reveal that too much charisma in a leader is actually a negative trait.
The findings are based on three studies that included 800 business leaders in various managerial roles and 7,500 peers, superiors and subordinates, Charisma, up to a point, is considered an advantage. Highly-charismatic leaders were found to be less effective, and this finding was consistent among peers, superiors and subordinates.
“The power of charisma is to know when and how to use it and with whom,” Lain told the publication.
Lain Hensley’s three tips for overly-charismatic leaders
To compensate for their overly-charismatic personalities, leaders should heed this advise to avoid the pitfalls of their personalities:
People will eventually think your upbeat and positive attitude is not authentic.
So show the other sides of your personality and let others pick you up from time-to-time.
Charismatic people are often in the limelight and that light can quickly become a stage light.
Move over and let others team members share in the successes.
Charisma is like a super power, and “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Use your charisma and your influence wisely. Always make sure you’re looking out for the greater good of the organization.
For more leadership tips and pearls of wisdom from Lain Hensley, read the full article.
If you’d like to know more about the philanthropic team building programs at Odyssey Teams or for more leadership tips, feel free to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800 – 342-1650
I looked out my NYC hotel window over Times Square. I spotted the black Lincoln Town Car Fox Business had sent to pick me up. It was finally time for our bite at the Big Apple.
Odyssey Teams, the company Bill and I started over 20 years ago, was going to be on Fox News to talk about our Helping Hands program and the newly launched www.givebackactivites.com website. The goal for the day was simple: Share with the world the power of combining philanthropy and training to make profound change happen. It was a philosophy I’d lived and breathed for two decades—and I couldn’t wait to talk candidly about the work I so loved.
I was invited to be on the Fox News segment, “Small Business, Big Ideas,” to share how Odyssey Teams had turned traditional corporate training on its ear and started a “give back activities” revolution. This was an unbelievable opportunity for us to share our story with the world. I couldn’t wait to arrive and do just that.
My first stop at Fox News was the Green Room for makeup, and then—a truly exhilarating moment—a peek into the live studio where Fox Business would interview me.
Three to five minutes: that’s how much time I had to articulate what we’d spent 20 years (and months away from our wives and families) developing. My mind raced to find the best words for the moment. I segmented my ideas into three clear headers to help me:
Head: We give people profound lessons
Hands: We give them something to do to test the theory
Heart: We make them feel something to drive their ability to learn and retain.
But, the clearest part of the message had to be this: we’ve created a team-building program called “Helping Hands” where participants build prosthetic hands that are given to amputees. This particular year, Helping Hands was on track to deliver 11,000 hands to 64 countries across the world.
Powerful stuff, I know. How could I screw this up? It was the philosophy I’d lived by for decades: Don’t just tell stories, create one.
“Just Trust Yourself, Lain.” The words of a past mentor were ringing in my ears as I took my place in the studio chair. 5,4,3,2….1. And, just like that, our big moment began. The words started to flow and the interaction between Fox Business and me felt surprisingly natural.
Odyssey Teams, The Helping Hands program and www.givebackactivites.com were having a BIG moment (and I was along for the ride as much as anyone). I did my best to express the power of our program and the passion we bring to the team-building world. And that was it. It was over as fast as it started.
I remember one thing so clearly from that day: wandering back out onto the streets of New York amongst the crowd of dreamers and prisoners and knowing, more than ever, that Odyssey Teams was making things happen. Givebackactivies.com and Helping Hands were making global impact, and our story had now been told on the biggest stage to date. It didn’t feel like the end of something, but, rather, the beginning.
I wonder what each of you are beginning today that will become the “overnight success” we hear about after 15 years of you working to bring your dream to reality.
Take a moment to watch the interview, from the outside in.
This Corporate Team Building Event was Paramount For Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente, a nationwide medical consortium, knows the value of a corporate team building event. They have been working towards bettering their team for more than a decade. Kaiser Permanente has called on the give back activity Helping Hands more than once over the last decade. During their most recent event, they wanted to focus on celebrating the Kaiser Permanente team, but no one had any idea what they were in for.
When 115 of Kaiser’s corporate team came together they thought it was just going to be another corporate team building event where someone would just talk at them in an attempt at inspiration. They expected the lecture but were not informed of the event’s activities. “The surprise element of it created just the right level of tension, just the right level of uncertainty,” says Pat Courneya, executive vice president for quality and chief medical officer for Kaiser Permanente.
Surprise Is An Important Element For Team Building With Helping Hands
This surprise was the building of LN-4 prosthetic hands to be donated to amputees around the world as part of the Helping Hands program and project. Many of the participants were surprised and delighted to find that they were going to be giving back to someone in need. “The need for these hands is enormous,” says Bill John, Odyssey Teams co-founder, and the event facilitator. “There are still six million more people waiting to receive one.” Finding Meaning Is As Simple As Giving Back.
Communication Is Key When You Have Lost A Hand
“Experiences in environments like this are pretty common where somebody stands up like you did, tells a story, helps us get some insights, and helps us think differently about the work that we do. But, you don’t very often get a chance to create something that you know is going to make a difference for somebody else too,” says Courneya
Odyssey Teams has distributed over 23,000 prosthetic hands through its Helping Hands give back activity. “I think it helped me,” says Courneya “and it helped us draw a connection to the meaning of the work that we do and how it touches on our own hearts because of the difference we make.”
Many of the participants echoed the same electric feeling that Pat Courneya experienced. Corporate team building experiences don’t have to be a lecture. They can and should be a celebration of the team and what they can do for the end users, or the company’s clients.
David Furr, a financial analyst for Kaiser, said. “This brought to our attention that we can really affect people in our lives. So, it really makes me think more about what we do on a larger scale.”
An Australian organization has reached a milestone 5,000 prosthetic hands built for victims of land mines, accidents, and violence across Cambodia and India.
And Helping Hands announced on Sunday even higher targets for the next two years – with a pledge to construct 10,000 new prosthetic limbs by the end of 2017.
Since 2012, the organization has been attending corporate events and conferences to run programs where companies construct hands that will be packaged, sent, and fitted to those in need overseas as part of a team-building exercise.
The programs run across every state in Australia, with about 15,000 people contributing to the 5,000 hands that have already been made.
The organization’s founder, Matt Henricks, saw first-hand the impact the work has for the people receiving donations on his most recent trip to Bangalore, India.
“One of the people who had a hand fitted was a 23-year-old woman whose uncle had chopped her hand off in a domestic dispute with her father when she was just three years old,” Henricks told the Huffington Post Australia.
“She burst into tears as soon as she realized she could hold a mug.”
Henricks believes the prosthetic hands aren’t just a physical gift for those who receive them, but help them feel valued too.
“She’d grown up for twenty years with no hope that she would ever get any assistance, feeling that she’s worth so little,” Henricks said.
“We like to think we’ve solved the problem but there’s still people living with the legacy of war after war and unethical conduct,” Henricks told HuffPost Australia.
“There’s still a whole bunch of people in need. Our contribution is small but it makes a difference.”
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.
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.
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.
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 — email@example.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.
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.
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.
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I’ve had the good fortune to visit several times to bring Odyssey Teams’ Helping Hands (building prosthetic hands) and Life Cycles (where you will build a bike for children) teambuilding programs. This time, I wanted to see the city by foot. I started running down the Vltava river through the city and pushed the pace expecting to turn around at four miles to log a total of eight miles. True to my other running experiences while traveling, I ‘stumbled’ upon sights and scenes I never would have otherwise experienced. This was a tempo run – trying to keep a fast, consistent pace of seven minutes per mile. As I neared the four-mile mark I began looking for a bridge to cross to the other side of the Vltava for my return. At about 4.2 miles I found a bridge, crossed over and began running again. My pace was fast and consistent and I was enjoying the view but ready to be done with the 8 miles holding such a pace. At seven miles, I began to realize that I did not recognize any of the same sights I had seen running down the river. I should have. At 8 miles, it became obvious that I was definitely not back where I had started. I was confused. To make it more confusing, for the first time since I crossed over the river, I realized I was still running downstream. I was completely baffled and somewhat concerned with the possibility of being eight miles from where I had started with dinner plans in forty minutes. I pulled out my phone and looked at the GPS map and noticed that I was, in fact on the same side of the river as when I started – 8.2 miles DOWNSTREAM.
Perhaps you are smarter than I was in my anaerobic, oxygen hungry state to know the answer to my being lost on the same side of the river EVEN though I had crossed over “it”. As I zoomed into the map and followed the river downstream, I saw that the river had another river or channel that dumped into the Vltava exactly at 4.2 miles. At this same point the Vltava made a soft seventy-degree turn back the other direction to further deceive me. Imagine a Y-shape. I crossed over at the point where the vertical leg of the Y (the other river/channel) dumped into the ‘V'(Vltalva River). This combination was enough to trick me for another four miles. You’d think that the downstream component would have clued me in. In fact it should have been very recognizably flowing DOWNSTREAM when I saw the world-class Kayak course with great big rapids going the same direction I was running. But I didn’t recognize it because I was simply open to being lost.
Some of the best experiences of cities and countrysides and chapters in my life have come from being lost. I eventually found another bridge half a mile back upstream and then cut across the middle of the horseshoe bend that the river made, then crossed over the river again at the 1 mile mark to follow my same track back to my hotel for a total of 12.2 glorious miles in Prague.
This ‘lost and found’ is the same effect the Helping Hands program had on the participants. They thought this was just another “teambuilding” but when they discovered that this business simulation was going to change the lives of land-mine and other amputees around the world they were thrilled to have been ‘lost’ in their expectation – And then ‘found’ to have such a change of perspective as individuals, as a global team and as an organization.
Such a joy to have been lost and found together in this beautiful city.
It’s springtime! Time to grow. I always flash back to being a kid visiting my grandparents in the central Valley of California. My grandfather owned a Mobil gas station and would always have beautiful bulbs in bloom. He, like so many of the older generation worked so hard – up at 4am and back to fall asleep in his chair as the grandkids buzzed around him at about 7pm. But he always made time to get his hands muddy – tilling the soil, planting bulbs and seeds, pulling weeds and tending to these little islands in the sea of his “work” – at his “service station”.
It’s so important that we find and maintain these islands in our work to grow something beyond work. We need to carve time to get our hands dirty and make something a bit nicer. I’m sure it couldn’t have been measured in terms of the beautiful flowerbeds adding to the bottom-line of his business. But he didn’t do it for that reason anyway.
So much of Odyssey’s work, I think, is with this same spirit. Building bikes for kids in our Life Cycles program, prosthetic hands in the Helping Hands project and others.
My gramps always made things special in places where you wouldn’t expect them to be. He is still doing that at 97 years old, just now it’s in the form of the surprising presence he gives people when in his company, like during my visit yesterday.
Thank you Grandpa. Honoring you in everyway that Odyssey is, and I aim to be.
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.
Odyssey Teams partnered with Rotarians in Bangalore Peenya India for their annual Mega Jaipur Limb Camp, which is going on now. On day two of camp, there have been 586 beneficiaries and the distribution is as follows: 211 Limbs, 227 Calipers, 128 Crutches, and 20 LN-4 Prosthetic Hands. Rotary Bangalore Peenya was chartered in 1983 with a group of 24 dedicated Rotarians as chartered members with an objective of implementing service projects. LN-4 Prosthetic Hands, a joint project of RI Dist 5160 and 5110, have been introduced for the first time this year. This hand can enable beneficiaries to hold a glass, eat with a spoon, and even write with a pen or control a steering wheel. 100 LN-4 Prosthetic Hands were provided for this camp.
The Mission continues…
“Twenty plus years of Odyssey work, our entire teams efforts, millions of air miles, countless presentations to groups around the world and now a two minute shot to tell the story on national news.”
I had two minutes of fame a few weeks ago. As I prepared for my interview on Fox Business, I flew to New York, got a room near Time Square and brought along a good friend and co-facilitator Alex Van Dewark to share the adventure. Alex had never been to NYC, so it was fun to see the city through the eyes of a first time visitor. What an amazing place! We wondered the streets until late in the evening and by chance found ourselves outside the Fox Studio. We snapped photos and hit the street vender for a late night gyro. Some local repair guys said it was the best in the city and the meal satisfied our hunger.
The next morning we got the call that our driver was downstairs and hit the street looking sharp and ready for anything. The driver drove the 5 blocks to the studio as instructed. We could have walked faster, but it seemed more VIP to take the car. Upon entry to the building we checked in and our escort took us to the green room on the 4th floor. The room was bustling with various network stars and special guests preparing to give their perspective of the world and the state of business. Watching the monitors, we enjoyed the show and began to understand the flow of things in TV land. Two employees sat at computers, monitoring giant spreadsheets and busily managing the flow of the green room. They had every second of the show mapped out and kept perfect time. Every second!
I was called to makeup and then harnessed with a microphone. No ear piece for me and at this point I am still flying blind. I had no prep, no idea who would interview me, or the line of questions I would be fielding. We are called to the studio and I take my place in the interview chair. The host makes his way over to me and sits looking over his notes. 30 seconds to air and he looks at me, shakes my hand and says, “I read the entire prep of your interview, I don’t get it?” I reply, “in two minutes you will. ” I smile and give him a 20 second snapshot of what Odyssey does and what prosthetic hands and bike building have to do with real business and long term ROI on these kinds of programs. He smiles and looks relieved. 3, 2, 1… the co-anchor passes the torch and the interview is off and running. He is a real pro and sets me up with a few softballs pitches directly linked to our 20-second pre talk. I then hit into the gap for standup doubles, or even off the fence triples with my answers. Thinking fast and breathing deeply I settle in and do my best to put my life’s work into two 30 second sound bites. With no idea where to look or what camera was actually filming me, I prayed it looked as good as it felt. Twenty plus years of Odyssey work, our entire teams efforts, millions of air miles, countless presentations to groups around the world and now a two minute shot to tell the story on national news. The interview ends and he shakes my hand with an approving look and compliment he says, “I get it now, keep up the good work.”
Back in the greenroom my phone is blowing up with support from the Odyssey Teams network, my wife and all the friends and family who believe in us and what we represent. Gratitude fills me, excitement that it is over and immediately some regret. Darn!!! My mind starts to replay each moment and how I wish I had said more or something different. I have to consciously choose to celebrate with the team and not focus on the things I might have missed. My lesson is the same lesson I have been learning for 20 years and I believe we all face as we strive to become our very best self. Do your best in that moment and be clean with the result. Can our best be better? YES! But don’t let the fear of personal and peer judgments stop you from putting your current best on display for the world to see. I celebrate the opportunity and thank all that trusted me with the task of bringing my best.
The Playhouse Challenge is flat out fun! I just delivered our Playhouse Challenge to a hundred Shell employees in Edmonton Canada. This was the fourth, quarterly leadership development program that we’ve delivered with them and it sure was fun. The first quarter we coupled our Helping Hands program with modules from FISH. The second quarter it was Life Cycles, building bikes for children, the third was the Board Meeting, which yielded 33 skateboards for a local youth agency with a skate park in their back yard. Lastly, it was ten Playhouses that were delivered to ten families with kids who were long time patients of the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. Leadership concepts brought to life through Shell’s commitment to their community. I loved the year-long process and finishing with these super cute Playhouses.
On October 26th Corproem (Corporacion Red de Promatoras Empresariales Microfinancieras), and GE united in Colombia to assemble 30 prosthetic hands from Odyssey’s Build-a-Hand Kits. Through the joining of Corproem, LN-4 Foundation, and Rotary, 30 GM executives got together to build the LN-4 Prosthetic Hands, which were then distributed to recipients in Colombia. Odyssey Teams would like to thank Luis Norberto Lopez G. and
Rotary Colombia for making this event happen.
“It is the first time that this wonderful activity has been developed in Colombia, besides undoubtedly strengthening teamwork, it sensitizes and allows us to dispose of armed prostheses and more volunteers for future campaigns prosthesis delivery. Besides the experience with the GE executives, it was very rewarding for the team Corproem to support the activity because it is the first link of an humanitarian work that returns the autonomy and dignity of so many people in need around the world. Many thanks to GE executives especially to Juliana Prieto and Ana Luisa Perez coordinators of so laudable an initiative for convening us as support in developing this altruistic and transcendental activity.” ~ Luis Norberto
In three sessions of two hours, considering the valuable time of the executives, the activity was implemented in GE facilities starting with a short introduction dedicated to the assembly of the prosthetic hands, through the manuals and tools structured by Odyssey Teams, Inc.
Odyssey Teams was privileged to partner with Corproem, GE, and Rotary Colombia! Thank you for helping us change lives for the better!
Calling what I just did in Brazil with the CEO and his top 45 people just plane old “Team Building is like calling the iPhone just another cell phone. I did a Team Building program for a Brazilian leadership team with 90,000 employees and billions in sales, yet for the past three years they have not achieved their goals. The words for the day from the President and CEO were: “motivation, inspiration, vision, alignment, strategy, values, decision-making, prioritization and culture”. This was a tall order for a 9-hour Team Building program that led into a two-day strategy meeting. I stepped in front of the leadership committee in our pre meeting with a promise that I could and would deliver! I needed their commitment to apply the concepts of the day towards every behavior following the meeting. This was a warning that if they did not follow through, the entire meeting would be a waste. If the Team Building concepts are lost, the team mentality will also be lost.
They agreed to put themselves under the magnifying glass, and hold themselves accountable in the same way they held their team accountable. With instructions to be humble and curious, we started simple, discussing human commonalities around security, identity, belonging and engagement. We moved into an interesting discussion about human reflexive patterns and how good and bad habits are formed and changed. Next we discussed brain chemistry, emotional memory and the mythical “we” that sometimes keeps anyone person from taking accountability for the results “we achieved”.
I was struck by their ability to apply the Odyssey philosophies in the moment. They transferred the training content to specific work challenges with ease; I felt their hunger for the secret formula to world-class performance. They dove into the concepts and experience like a hungry pelican for a fish. They took notes with a feverish desire to grow and learn, asking questions of me and each other to be sure they understood and felt ready to apply. With the aid of an interpreter booth and my headset, English and Portuguese blended into a steady stream of learning and enlightenment. As we closed the session with our Philanthropic Bike-Building module, the impact of the entire experience was palpable. We ended with a sense of accomplishment and celebration.
Specific commitments to sustainable behavior shifts came from all levels of the team. The CEO made some of the most profound breakthroughs- committing to support each team member in his or her development. Each person recognized the role they will need to play to right the massive ship they are navigating through the treacherous economic waters. We met the following morning as a leadership committee to document the key learnings and confirm the new direction. No longer sailing blind into the storm we had a plan to become the eye of the storm- calm and focused on the work of the moment, regardless of the wind and debris around us. The invitation for me to return for the next meeting confirmed that I had delivered the leadership and team elements I had promised. Exceeding their expectations of what I could accomplish, they felt the pressure to continue the new heading. No pressure, only 90,000 team member’s lives and millions of customers experiences are hanging in the balance. Good luck team!
The Rebuilding of a Brand: The Possibilites are Endless
I dropped by the Apple Store in NYC after doing a program for Microsoft. I know… seems strange and almost unethical. It was research. I didn’t buy anything, but I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. As a partner to Microsoft, I asked myself, “What could I do to provide leadership and teambuilding programs for Microsoft that could support the rebirth of the Microsoft brand and the cutting edge culture that was once the norm for them?”
I walked into a store filled with almost 1,000 shoppers acting like it was the closing bell on Wall Street. Over 900 employees keep the store buzzing 24 hours a day, never closing! I was shocked at the brand, the culture and the emotion of the customer. One dominant thought filled my head, “we do judge a book by its cover”. The Apple cover is really cool and has the attention of the world. The vibe, the look, the image and emotional experience are almost overwhelming. Real I.T. geeks compare Apple users to a person that sees “50 shades of gray” as a well-written novel. Most of us don’t use our computers to their potential. The true techno person can tell you all the reasons the Microsoft platform is better, but I think the masses see it for the cover and the emotion, “buying an Apple product will make me cool.”
Kids have taken the gateway drug of the iPod and seem like “Apple” zombies when presented with anything that has an “Apple” on it, or an “I” in front of it. I could feel the branding sinking into my bones. I needed to get out of there fast or one of the roving sales people might convince me that I could be cool with just the swipe of my credit card on their iPhone. I extracted myself out of the store in the circular glass elevator that seemed to teleport me back to reality. They did it again. Not only did they create the tablet, but they also created a customer experience to match the brand. I feel more passionate than ever to support the leadership and training teams that have sunk their teeth into rebuilding the Microsoft brand, the same way the Apple brand came back from the dead in the late 90’s. I know they can do it and I am proud to accept the challenge with them.
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.
Small Team Builds Hands and Changes Lives
When I was asked to do our Helping Hands philanthropic teambuilding program for a group of six people, I reluctantly agreed. My favorite size groups delivering Helping Hands, Life Cycles Build-a-Bike program and our others has been in the hundreds of participants range. I wasn’t sure how the build-up activities and conversations would go before assembling the LN-4 Prosthetic Hands.
This small group was from Cisco – Latin America and they just blew me away. Yes, the Latino culture lives up to its reputation of being a passionate culture.
These six have much to teach the rest of us about teamwork and leadership from a place of thinking deeply AND feeling deeply. They came to the states for a larger meeting with cohorts from North America. They wanted to align on desired outcomes and make a difference for others in the process.
What a difference they made for three people whose lives will be changed by receiving the new LN-4 prosthetic hands they built during the Helping Hands program. Most surprisingly, however, is the difference they made on me. I am digging small programs now just as much as the large ones – with the caveat that they’re ready to think deeply and feel deeply as this group did.
The bags of plastic parts and shiny screws might have been many things: something you wear on your head, one student guessed. A pen holder, said another.
But the sum of the parts was more than a classroom puzzle for Virginia Commonwealth University graduate students.
“You’re going to build eight hands that will go on eight different people and change their families,” said Todd Demorest, who oversaw a recent team-building lesson for students in the VCU School of Business’ fast-track executive program for a master’s in information systems.
The prosthetic hands will help children maimed by land mines — about 2,000 accidents occur each month from the estimated 100 million devices planted in 60 countries.
The idea to help children who have lost hands to land mines came from industrial engineer Ernie Meadows and his wife, Marj, whose daughter Ellen was killed in a car accident. Meadows designed the prosthetic hand as a memorial for his daughter and has turned the project over to Rotary International.
Rotary works with Odyssey Teams Inc., a California-based company that offers philanthropic team-building exercises for businesses.
Demorest, a facilitator with Odyssey, said that by creating value for others, these workshops develop teamwork and leadership skills in a way that the typical ropes courses and beach volleyball games can’t.
“This is real,” he said. “It’s not like a metaphor anymore.”
The Helping Hands workshop showed the business students that their goals should be “something bigger than just building a product and making a buck,” said John Testament, whose Glen Allen-based RoadMaps Consulting helped coordinate the VCU event.
He said the workshop also illustrated the need to avoid what can happen within a company when employees get “siloed” working on their own projects and “never look over the cubicle wall to see if they can help others.”
That was a focus of the workshop. Students were divided into teams, but it wasn’t a race to see which one could assemble the hand first. Team members were encouraged to stop and help other groups.
“Were we not able to collaborate with others, we would not have been able to put it together correctly,” said student Kimion Walker, whose team discovered it was missing a piece.
At the start of the event, the teams didn’t know their goal, although one student did guess they were building a mechanical hand.
When their work was done, the students saw of video of children receiving prosthetic hands. An artificial limb would cost about $3,000, according to Odyssey, but these hands are given to the children for free.
The VCU students decorated wooden boxes that will hold the hands they made and posed for pictures that will be given to the children.
It was the first time VCU has offered the Helping Hands workshop, said Jean B. Gasen, an associate professor and faculty adviser in the VCU information-systems department.
Students have told her the exercise put the challenges they face into a much different perspective, she said, and that the world would be a better place “if people could treat one another with the compassion that they felt on that day.”
The workshop was part of the orientation for students in the 14-month master’s program, and its lesson struck a chord with Walker.
“The key to effective leadership is to serve,” she said.
The current economic crisis shows the need for leaders with a strong sense of values, she added, noting that in the Wall Street meltdown, the nation is seeing how “capability without integrity can be dangerous.”