(Photo Credit: Anthony Dunn Photography)

Our main office is located in Chico, California; its beauty in the fall rivals that of the New England coast. Chico is also home to Bidwell park; over 3000 acres of +100 year old trees, creek, and trails that goes right through the heart of town. Over 18 years ago, the office was the birthplace of the original Build-a-Bike program that we call Life Cycles. The park is a continual lesson in life and an industry touchstone.

Many of the Odyssey crew take to the park for solitude, recollections of loved ones, exercise and rejuvenation. The park is alive currently, though leaves are dropping off of the majestic oaks and sycamore trees. Each particular leaf, falls at its own special time.

They fall quietly with grace, rather than drama or hoopla. They provide a soft path for those around to stroll on. Their absence lets in precious sunlight during winter for the life in the woods, and creates space for new growth and possibility in the Spring. New growth in their beloved trees and in the new soil they helped fortify.

Change is always in the mix…and in Odyssey’s life-changing philanthropic team building events. Like the change of the seasons, we encourage leaders to explore what patterns, thoughts, and actions they can let drop. So they too can have space to do new amazing things for themselves and those around them.

Our world renowned programs are custom designed to match the goals/themes of the group. A charitable component is always in the mix. And often times during the leadership team building sessions  ‘change’ is in the mix too.

With gratitude,

Todd Demorest

By: Todd Demorest, Odyssey Teams Chief Facilitation Officer

Pop your ears lately? A short and sweet lesson on slowing down for more effective leadership

We lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and our house was down on the beach – sea level. The closest town (Waimea – of Parker Ranch fame) was a 15-20 minute drive up the slopes of the Kohala mountains at 2,500 feet above sea level. My wife, family, and I made this drive frequently.

One morning as I was driving up the hill with the sun rising over Mauna Kea for a meeting with leaders from the community, I noticed the need to pop/clear my ears. This was not new, though this time I realized something…I shouldn’t be popping my ears.

Why, because I’m not supposed to be ascending the hill so fast. I’m supposed to be walking or maybe on a horse or mule at best. Going up the hill more SLOWLY. That is how my body (this gift) is/was designed to go up hills. At a pace that is gradual enough that my body can adapt to the pressure changes in a smooth efficient manner.

Where else am I moving/ascending unnaturally too fast that it is causing enough stress that I have to intervene? How do I intervene and deal with the stress? Sure, I can do it, survive, crunch down and ‘git ‘er done’ and maybe instead of popping my ears, I could:

– Take ibuprofen every day for my 1 pm headache

– See a chiropractor 3 times a week

– Wear a tooth guard at night

– Take something to help me sleep

– Get edgy towards my internal/external customers and/or the people I say I care most about

-or… you fill in the blank

Regardless, I have to do something to cope with the velocity and capacity that I am attempting to deal with. Some choices…


  • 1. Reduce the speed – speed kills.
  • 2. Reduce the capacity- I don’t have to, nor can I do it all.
  • 3. Pause for 30 seconds, take a breath, notice my shoulders are raised to my ears or that my jaw is tense or that I’m excessively gripping the steering wheel, etc. etc. and then release the noticeable tension with an exhale.

But, as Grammy Award winner James Taylor says:

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it….” Take a moment and listen to the whole song.

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

P.S. Step 3 above works best. Do it first, at least 3 times a day.

Todd’s lesson in slowing down is a part of every Odyssey Teams program he facilitates.  Leaders need to slow down to be effective and Todd offers humble reminders of this fact into his program messaging.  It’s easy for him to do this because living life with an intentional pace is how Todd rolls.

For more information on Odyssey Teams’ effective leadership programs, you can reach us at learn@odysseyteams.com or 800 – 342-1650.

Proper Workplace Training Ensures A Successful Team

Workplace training is vitally important for the success of any company. Sometimes it is difficult to admit that there could be flaws in your training program. One of the best ways to ensure uniform training is to implement a train the trainer class. These classes are for supervisors, trainers, and upper management. They are designed with the company’s values and philosophies in mind. They get everyone on the same page so that the company is moving forward in a positive direction.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons your company should hold a train the trainer class:

1. Expert Knowledge – A train the trainer class, performed by an outside facilitator, makes sure that everyone is an expert in what they are training. Trainers, by default, are perceived as experts and they should be.

2. Expert Training – Knowing your information is the first step, and learning how to convey it is the next. A train the trainers class makes sure that trainers know how to hold strong training sessions. Trainers learn to not only present knowledge but make sure people retain it.

3. Recognize and Evaluate Employee Performances – Experienced trainers will know if employees are using new skills effectively. They will be able to address different types of challenges or special needs that employees may have. After identifying obstacles, trainers will be able to provide your company and employees with solutions to overcome these challenges.

4. Consistency in Work Performances – Once trainers have all attended a train the trainers class they should be training high-quality employees, to further boost productivity and increase retention rates.

5. Improve Employee Retention – Trained trainers will instill a stronger sense of confidence in the employees. They make sure that work does not overwhelm employees because employees are trained properly. These stress reductions lead to long lasting employees and avoid organizational dysfunctions within the company.

After undergoing a very large corporate restructure, Schneider Electric, a global leader in energy management, needed a way to bring its upper management team together. The CEO was introduced to Odyssey Teams and our corporate values that we represent. There was an immediate connection as the CEO was looking for the same corporate values to permeate through his company.

Inspirational Team Building Step By Step

Our Helping Hands give back activity challenges participants to construct the LN-4 prosthetic hand. Team building challenges prove to be difficult enough with communication and collaboration. Our facilitators like to make sure no two events are the same -for this build’s challenge Bill John, Odyssey Teams co-founder, had everyone put a Koozie over their dominant hand after ten minutes of building. Teams overcame this obstacle by working together. Some would hold the parts while others would turn the screwdriver.

Team Building Testimonial of Helping Hands Live

Don Wingate, Vice President of Sales of Schneider Electric’s Utility Segment said, “There was a lot of joy in making those hands for people, but it made so much more that it was about teamwork and it was about integrity and the teamwork is getting groups of people together to do something good for someone else. That really made me think about myself and the people I’m working with on a day to day basis do something good for our customers, doing something good for the business, and doing something good for yourself.”

Once all of the hands had been assembled and the carry bags decorated, the group reassembled for the debriefing. Everyone was told before the activity that the hands would be donated to land mine victims around the world. As the participants sat down for the debriefing they really began to connect with what they just did. In order to implement good team building skills, you have to have a positive attitude about what you’re doing and the direction you are going. Everyone involved felt that their actions were going to be of benefit, and our goal was to take that momentum back to their day to day jobs.

A sense of purpose and drive for accomplishment is what makes a good team. Tim Baker, a Chicago Branch Manager with Schneider Electric, was moved by the team building event. His child was born without fingers on one hand, “Because I knew what this [hand] can do. I had this sense of purpose. This sense of compassion. This sense of empathy in what we’re doing during the project and it just changed the whole sense of work. I was never frustrated. There was a sense of joy in the work at the table.”

Good team management skills build trust and retain employees. There is a distinct difference between a leader and a manager, though the two titles do overlap. Warren G Bennis defined the two terms as such, “Leaders are people who do the right things; managers are people who do things right.”

If a manager is to do things right, then they must first work on trust. Building trust is essential for a team to perform productively. Whether you’re building a new team or inheriting an already existing one, as a manager, you want to build trust quickly. Here are a few team management skills to help build trust quickly.

Explain Roles and Goals Clearly and Definitively

Stray away from any misunderstandings between you and your team when it comes to work performance. Each role should be clearly defined with time tables so that people have a rough idea of how long a task should take. Clearly define your role as well – your team needs to know what they can expect of you. Laying all your workplace cards on the table in the beginning helps with quickly building trust between you and your team.

Match the Right People with the Right Task

Matching an individual with a job that they either like or are confident in shows that you understand them as a person, their limitations, and their strengths. Employees trust and respond in a positive manner if they know that their manager has a clear perspective of who they are in the work place.

Develop Your Team

Developing your team will be what dictates your long-term success in the company. Some employees need a lot of managerial feedback while others are a little more self-guided and simply look to expand their knowledge. It’s imperative that you understand your team and help them become better at what they do. As a leader, you want to aspire to be a manager that your team can trust and will want to work for.

Actively Listen

Problems are easy to contain as they arise if you actively listen to your team instead of predicting what they are going to say next. This trust building skill is probably the most important. If you are not actively listening to your employees, they won’t feel that they are being heard correctly which can result in resentment and lack of trust.

Ensure Group Discussion Participation

Be sure to invite suggestions from each member of the team during group discussion. Each person needs to feel that their input is valued towards the team’s end goals. When giving each team member a chance to speak you will build trust amongst the group and they’ll feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Exude Confidence

Confidence is a learned trait like any other – it comes from knowing yourself and your team management skills. Knowing your strengths helps your team reach success. Knowing and accepting your weaknesses creates a transparency with your team which results in more trust.

Once you have established trust among your team, maintain cohesion with a philanthropic activity or other kind of team building event. This will further open the lines of communication.

Virtual team building is a task with its own set of hurdles and triumphs. Defining goals, roles, and a good rhythm is hard enough when you interact face-to-face. However, virtual teams have even bigger hurdles to jump with a difference of time zones, countries, and oceans between members.

If you are leading a virtual team or are planning to, here are four tips to help make your communication smoother and more effective during your virtual team building process.

1. Set the virtual team tone

As the leader for your virtual team, the tone you use in meetings and emails sets the tone for the rest of the team. Make sure that you use a warm, approachable tone. Julia Young, Vice President of Facilitate.com says that being “well prepared for team meetings will result in a positive, calm demeanor and a good demonstration of active listening — all of which will have a lasting positive impact on your team.” Undermining the team with short, snippy remarks serves only to defeat the productivity you are trying to increase.

2.Inclusion is vital

In order to feel a part of a team, people need to feel included. Maintaining company-wide meetings as well as one-on-one meetings with your team members is the first step in making everyone feel included. Other ways to build cohesion into a team is to celebrate individual member achievements, or group accomplishments, by announcing them in team meetings.  You can also thank them profusely on any open forum boards the team is using to communicate.

3.Informal conversation is necessary

Naturally, we are social creatures. Informal conversation is a way for us to get to know each other beyond the roles defined by work. Virtual team building can include simple things. There should be a virtual water cooler for your team to gather around where they are free to discuss matters beyond the topic of work. You can encourage the team to post by typing out questions for the team to answer like “Who is the best super hero?” or “What important event happened today?” or “What goals do you want to have accomplished in ten years?” Make sure the conversations aren’t all business all the time.

4.Be available

It is your job to be there for your team. According to Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School, Sebastian Reiche, this is the most important tip. Virtual team members can sometimes feel isolated – sometimes spending up to ten hours a day by themselves. Stay in regular contact with your team and don’t make it all about work. Try to ask them about their day, mood, or even social life. Make sure you can be contacted through multiple channels. If you do get left a message, try to respond as quickly as possible. You should never show absence to your team.

There are a number of virtual team building activities you can take advantage of as team lead. You can host a webinar where each member of your team is given one of Odyssey Teams Helping Hands Team Building ProgramOdyssey Team’s Helping Hands. They will be able to give advice to one another during the construction of the LN-4 prosthetic hand. You can also team build with Bingo. Mail everyone a bingo card and call out number throughout the day. Team members can then email everyone else “Bingo” in the headline when they win. A final way to bring teams together is to mail them each a gift, or card, and have them all open them at the same time on a video conference.

Virtual team building is becoming more and more common. Learning how to interact with them on a positive, personal level will make sure they continue working towards the common goal of a better company.

Facilitating a team building event is a difficult juggling act. Especially if you are the one here to train the trainer. You want to keep everyone’s energy excited as they move towards the goal of communication, but your presence can’t overwhelm the process. Then you’d be just another lecture.

Finding that balance can be a difficult task, but establishing a concrete goal from the beginning of the planning process will make this a much easier process. This goal is usually established with a sit down meeting between you and the management team or the direct supervisor. In this meeting, you should have a great number of questions answered.

Below you will find a list of tips for facilitators to help you bring together the perfect event.

The two most important questions to have answered are 1. What are the larger issues as work? i.e. communication, motivation, or production, and 2. What specific outcomes would they like to see? If you are the supervisor in charge then you need to analyze your team’s characteristics and formulate a plan on how you would like to train the trainer and mitigate them.

As you continue to plan out the activities it’s important to receive feedback from the members of the team that will be included in the team building event.  As a facilitator, you don’t want the games to be considered trite or pointless by your team. Asking your team’s opinion shows you value their input. Newer teams may have to be shown a list of options.

Center the activity, and icebreakers, around a theme that reinforces the goals and values of the company. Themes like giving back, community awareness/involvement, innovative problem solving are some good themes to use. Activities like Odyssey Teams Helping Hands, and the Board Meeting help to bring teams together through philanthropic give-back activities and promote social awareness.

Present and practice the team building activity before the event. As a facilitator, you should be proficient about the rules, instructions, and applications of the games, or main activity. Having a dry run with just a few people can help foresee any complications that could arise when you are trying to facilitate an event with fifty for more participants.

After you have clearly presented the goals, and began the activity, it is time to use the most successful tip for facilitators, become invisible. Ask poignant questions and let the participants engage one another. This is their team after all, and they should be the ones to form the bonds that will ultimately lead to a more motivated workplace.

De-briefing is the single most important moment in the events facilitation. It is here where all the dots are connected for you and your employees. During this time is when the participants process their actions, feelings, and responses to the entire team building event. After you’ve presented your end goals it is time to hear from the team.

Group activities for adults getting teams built.

In theory, any corporate entity is a team working harmoniously towards a common goal, but team building challenges and problems will always arise. If you’ve ever been a manager, or are one now, you know that often times keeping people on track requires more work than it took to put the team together.

Team Building Challenges Managers Have To Face

There is a myriad of team building challenges that a manager has to overcome in order to keep their team’s productivity going. Here are just a few of the problems a corporate team encounters on a daily basis and a couple of tips on how to overcome them.

The first problem that many teams face is being fragmented. The team is no longer cohesive. They have taken sides on various issues. This polarization is a direct result of a lack of leadership, or someone is trying to take over the leadership position. As the manager, the first step you would want to take is to reaffirm your position in the group and remain involved. You should also talk to the new subgroups separately to identify their feelings and needs.

Another team building challenge that many managers face is having an unmotivated team or a team that is not producing. Both of these problems stem from a lack of human relations skills and communications. As a manager, you will want to explicit detail out the expectations of each of your members. Remind the group of their collective nature and tasks. You can also remind of them of the rewards associated with the work. Remember to give rewards to the whole group and not individuals. This could fragment the group again.

A third problem that can be detrimental to team building is having one person dominate the entire team or one person who won’t say anything. Generally, if you have one person dominating the group then it is an experienced individual working with less experienced ones. They feel their voice to be more important. This person deserves their accolades and should be praised lightly. As a manager, you would want to suggest they put any extra ideas into writing so as not to imbalance team meetings. If you’re having the reverse effect than you would want to praise the shy individual until they felt comfortable enough to talk in meetings.

One of the larger team building challenges is over dependency on the team leader. This is a direct result of a manager not empowering their team and being too involved in the process. You should take the time to reaffirm the team’s goals and what your position is within the team. Encourage your team to come up with solutions without relying on your involvement.

Communication and Team Building Challenges

Many of these team building challenges can be resolved by taking the time to answer a few questions about goals, roles, and relationships. For example, What is the team’s mission or purpose? How will team members be helped and held accountable for their tasks? How will relationships be formed and maintained within the team. There is a list of questions to answer.

Once you’ve taken the time to collect this information it is your job to communicate. Make sure that you don’t just orate well. Make sure the team hears, understands, and is empowered by the values and messages you are trying to communicate.

There are several organizations to help you define these values and communicate them to your team through a series of volunteering give back activities.

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

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

James Terry - Sr. Leadership Team - Honeywell

Odyssey Teams

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

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

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

Richard Cracraft - UCLA Executive MBA program

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