A Personal Odyssey From CEO, Bill John:

Before we left, I suspected it was going to be life changing but I really had no idea. It was my wife, Amy’s, suggestion, and with copious amounts of butt-time on airplanes, I had accumulated enough miles to take our family to Africa.

It was our first time on the continent and we chose South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park as our safari destination. Upon arrival into the low veld, the manager of Umlani Bush Camp, David Hollingworth, took aside our boys and said: “The hyenas WILL target YOU. Stay near your parents and absolutely NO RUNNING in camp.”

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Liam and Luke, 12 and 14 respectively, were listening. This was BIG 5 country, (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Cape buffalo), not to mention
the deadly things that crawl and slither. I knew we were not in Kansas (or Alameda), anymore. What followed were 20 days immersed in the African bush with all the animals that, until then, were memories of childhood visits to zoos and nature channels on television.

I have been fortunate to travel the world with  Odyssey Teams but nothing has remotely come close to the feeling of being in this kind of wild – this kind of connected – to nature and to my family. It is raw and not arrogant. It is re-affirming that nature-made is supremely more impressive than man-made. Unless of course, it is our nature to make such impressive things as those we have.

How could I have imagined the rosettes on a leopard moving through dry, blonde grass? Or, the horns of a kudu in perfectly twisted symmetry; or, the smell of potato bush while tracking lions? I couldn’t. And that was fine. But after experiencing it, it would not be okay if the experience faded as merely “a trip-of-a-lifetime”, or a bucket list item to check. There had to be more. Much more.

My Camera Unleashed An Obsession

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Amy suggested I buy a nice camera for the trip. I knew this would be my only chance to save some of these experiences and minimize the void that we would experience after the trip was finished. I didn’t know that a camera would unleash such an obsession – to convey the beauty of these animals, their habitat, and our experience with them.

My shutter has opened and closed over 30,000 times during more than a thousand hours of game drives spanning eight trips since our first. Some of these images I am really lucky to have captured and some that required a lot of preparation. But they are not perfect. Not one out of 30,000. For me, it is the aim of the ‘perfect shot’ that is eternally haunting and causes Amy to tease me. I know ‘perfect’ does not exist but it is the pursuit that makes it so fun.   Beyond photography, the African bush has been a powerful classroom for all of us. None more so, however, than my son, Liam (now 19).

Liam returned to attend Safari guide school in South Africa and Botswana for the past year and a half. He is now a certified FGASA (Field Guide Association of Southern Africa) Safari guide interning at a lodge in the Thornybush Game Reserve called ‘Jackalberry Ridge’. It is a stunning lodge. His stories and experience are something of which I could not be more proud. And relieved. He has slept with lions surrounding his tent; survived a Mozambique spitting cobra INSIDE his sleeping bag; has been charged by a cape buffalo on foot; watched elephants completely shred a tent next to his; and can identify nearly a hundred African bird species just by their call (chirp). His knowledge of mammals, amphibians, insects, stars, and more is astounding.

How The African Bush Changed Us

We all have changed, individually and together. The African bush has taught us about our nature and the close proximity we have to all things wild, inside and out. I don’t think anyone can see these animals – the big iconic ones, and the lesser-known, without wanting to ensure they remain for others to see. They all belong. And so do we. Our nature must recognize that we have the capacity to eliminate many of them in less than a generation and all of them in just a few if we don’t create more awareness of their struggle. We don’t need to apologize for our own nature, we just need to allow more of it back into us.

This can only come from seeing them, knowing them, and loving them. We need to do the same for each other as well. This is where a slow convergence between my passion for the work we do at Odyssey and Africa have been colliding. There is more to come. Much more. But for now, I leave you with these images, a behind the scene description and some facts that I hope inspire you to make your way to the cradle of mankind where you are still on the menu. Just don’t RUN!


For more on Bill John’s personal odysseys and LIVE programs with Odyssey Teams, please reach out to us at learn@odysseyteams.com

Download High Rez African Safari Photos

Leopard – Panthera Pardus

Behind the scene:  On a drizzly morning, we tracked this female leopard weaving through a Mopani thicket. She decided to have a rest in a bush not ten feet away. To assist her hunting prowess, she. rolled on a scent that might disguise her own and then looked up for this shot. I have been in love ever since. She graces the wall in my office on a three by four foot canvas.

Leopard facts:
1) Primarily solitary except when mating and females with cubs.
2) Able to climb vertically with prey that outweighs them
3) The rosettes (patterns) on a leopard are unique like fingerprints and are used primarily as camouflage.
4) Between 2005-2014, at least 10,191 individual leopards were traded internationally as hunting trophies, with the U.S. as the top importer (accounting for 45 percent of this trade).
5) Sub-Saharan Africa leopard populations have declined by more than 30 percent in the past 25 years. ONE THIRD. GONE.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/200 th , F4.5, off-camera flash, ISO 100, 300mm prime.
Location: Kambaku Safari lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.

African Elephant – Loxodonta Africana

Behind the scene:
We decided to check out ‘Sunset Dam’ for our morning coffee to find it was bath time for the big boys. The sun was in our eyes, still on its morning climb. I knew it would be great light against all the splashing. Not much lifts the mood like watching ellie’s in the water.
Elephant Facts:
1) The big boys tip the scales at 12,000 pounds
2) The trunk has over 40,000 muscles. Some studies suggest 150,000! Compare that to the entire human body with 639.
3) It takes an elephant toddler over a year to gain coordination of all those trunk muscles. That’s a lot of processing to figure out and adorable to watch.
4) Poachers kill an African Elephant every TWENTY SIX minutes
5) Some reports in East Africa suggest populations have been reduced by 50% in the last decade.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/500 th , F5, ISO 500, 300mm prime
Location: Kambaku Safari lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Lion – Panthera Leo

Behind the scene: Our guide, JJ and tracker, Renius, found a big resident male they called ‘Pretty Boy’. He was magnificent. One of the most beautiful males we had ever come across. Amy and I were shocked to learn when we returned a year later that ‘Pretty Boy’ had met his end by a bullet. It took the breath out of us. In processing this photograph, I intentionally de-saturated all the color from ‘Pretty Boy’ except his eyes that are as real as when he stared at us. Without color and life elsewhere, his eyes now look like the fake glass that he wears on the wall of some hunter’s ‘trophy’ room. This should never have happened in a
protected wildlife reserve.

Lion facts and musings:
1) The only social big cat. Prides can exceed 50 individuals

2) The roar of a lion can be heard as far as 5 miles. The loudest of all cats.
3) Males can exceed 500 pounds.
4) NEVER be enticed to ‘Pet a lion cub’. The insatiable cuteness of these cubs draw tourist who want to pet them. Operators need a constant supply of cubs. As they age-out of cute, pet-ability, they are sold to farms, ‘released’ and shot by ‘hunters’.
5) 200,000 lions roamed Africa a century ago. Now 26 countries across the continent have lost all of them. A staggering 43 percent has been lost in the last two decades.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/320 th , F5, ISO 1000, 200mm (70-200mm)
Location: Kambaku Safari lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Cape Buffalo – Syncerus Caffer

Behind the scene: My son, Liam, and I went out for a morning self-drive. We crested a hill to find a small herd of about 30 Cape buffalo lying in the dry grass chewing their cud. Golden light was hitting this gentleman with a very unique blonde coloring to his goatee. It was hard not to include his onyx eyes, floppy ears and horns in the shot. But it just seemed to lose the focal point of this unique gift to his face.

Cape Buffalo facts and musings:
1) The cape buffalo put Kruger National Park on the safari map with the infamous ‘Battle at Kruger’, one of the first viral videos on the internet. That battle showed the durability and protective nature of this iconic bovine.
2) When bulls start losing mating battles as they age, they elect to strike out on their own as ‘dagga boys’. Without the protection of the herd, they become less  obvious and more dangerous to those who might encounter them on foot – like we did one dark morning walking from our rondavel (hut) to the boma m. (Reed/Stick shelter w/fire). Nearly had a heart attack.
3) Part of the Big 5, a term given to the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.
4) Like a Boss! The thick part of the horn that covers the forehead is called the ‘Boss’. Big bulls can weigh 2,000 pounds. No wonder the name.
5) Drought affects bovines hard. As the wet season shifts to dry, grasses lose their nutrition and the daily water required by the buffalo begins to dry up. This compounding affect saw a 50% mortality rate in parts of Kruger National Park in 2016-2017

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/320 th , F5, ISO 1000, 200mm (70-200mm)
Location: Wisani Lodge, Olifants West Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Hippopotamus – Hippopotamus Amphibious

Behind the scene: I didn’t go for the iconic shot of his mouth open to 150 degrees and nearly four feet between the lips. Rather, this shot showcases how goofy and ominous they look at the same time. During the evening’s golden hour, this brute was waking up. Lain Hensley and family were with us on this trip and sighting. Sightings with good friends are always better.

Hippopotamus facts and musings:
1) The Greek name means ‘River Horse’. In Afrikaans ‘Seekoi’ translates to ‘Sea Cow’.
2) The closest living relatives are whales and dolphins.
3) A hippos pink skin is attributed to a natural sunscreen it secretes.
4) *The Hippo wins Africa’s deadliest animal in most studies.
5) A hippos bedroom is the water, or nearby bank, as it sleeps most of the day. Nighttime is grazing time. As far as 10 kilometers of it. If you are between a hippo and his bedroom, see #4.
* The mosquito would take the number one position, however, it’s only a vector of the protozoa which does all the deadly work in Malaria.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/1600 th , F4, ISO 800, 300mm Prime + 1.4 teleconverter
Location: Kambaku Safari lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Greater Kudu – Tragelaphus strepsiceros

Behind the scene: Lain, his daughter Taylor and I went on a self-drive on the “tar-road” in Timbavati to hunt and shoot Lilac-Breasted Rollers, one of the most breath-taking birds of Africa. Instead, we came across one of the most breathtaking antelope in Africa, the Greater Kudu. With the foreground of an impala to give scale of how big this bull was and the winter leaves of the Mopani bushes as a backdrop, the scene was ripe for a shot.

Kudu facts and musings:

1) The Kudu horns are the iconic symbol of Kruger National Park’s
2) The horns begin to grow between six and twelve months of age and make a turn approximately every two years. An old bull may attain three turns.
3) Unfortunately for Kudu, they are delicious. Only 118,000 remain in the wild and are on the ‘near threatened conservation status’
4) Tragelaphus strepsiceros was NOT easy (for me) to memorize when studying mammals of Africa with Liam.
5) Those ears! The bush is usually full of sounds. Hundreds at a time – with birds, insects, other animals walking and more. How it can
decipher a human foot, like mine softly touching down 200 meters away, trying to get closer for a photograph is nuts.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/800 th , F4, ISO 800, 300mm Prime + 1.4 teleconverter
Location: Kambaku Safari lodge, Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger. National Park, South Africa.

Rhinoceros – Diceros bicornis (Black Rhino) and Ceratotherium simum (White Rhino)

Behind the scene: I am including two photos of Rhino, one of each species.

The Black Rhino: To give you an idea of how endangered and rare these souls are, we invited our favorite guide and friend, JJ Oosthuizen, to join us in the Balule Nature Reserve at the chance to spot a black rhino. He is a full time guide in the Timbavati Nature Reserve and does morning and evening safari drives with guests every day for six weeks in a row before a two-week break. He has done this for the past twelve years and has NEVER seen a black rhino. After two days in our reserve, with me as guide-in-training and JJ as guest, he spotted two large boulders off in the distance. He looked twice, three, four times with his binos and proclaimed ‘Rhino’! We bounced along for nearly a kilometer. As we got closer, JJ’s confidence grew that not only were they rhino but they were BLACK rhino. And not only was it TWO black Rhino but it was a mother and calf. As we approached even closer with JJ jumping up and down, a third black rhino came out of the bushes – the presumed, Father! We were all just about in tears as we sat with them for about 20 minutes. Zooming in to photos we noticed blood dripping down below the males back horn. Looking even closer revealed the ghastly mark of a poacher’s saw that somehow got stopped short of its grisly mission. This glorious beast survived odds that have been stacking against him for a long time.

White Rhino in blue: JJ found this white rhino in the Timbavati Nature reserve when he was driving us. In post-processing, I dropped the temperature into the blue spectrum to bring the color of sadness that surrounds the plight of this ancient warrior. The light was stunning, highlighting the scimitar-shape of his massive horn. It was golden light, possibly a more fitting color with it’s value exceeding that of gold itself. Not a true value, a mythical, man-made perversion of it.

Rhino facts and musings:

1) The most telling difference between the too species is the shape of the lips/mouth. The white rhino has a ‘wide’ mouth, perfect for grazing. Some say ‘white’ comes from the Dutch word wijde which means wide. The black rhino has a narrower jawline and lips designed for browsing.
2) A staggering 98% of black Rhinos were killed by us in the last century.
3) Small progress was made. In 2007, 26 rhino were killed in South Africa. However, each year since 2013 over 1,000 rhinos were poached every year and continuing today. Three every day in a population that is already critically endangered.
4) Not like rabbits. The gestation period is between 419 and 478 days, with an average interval of 2.5-3.5 years between calves.
5) An enormous amount of dedication, risk, energy, money and love is the only thing to save them.

For the photo geeks: Rhino in Blue – 1/1000 th , F4, ISO 800 300mm prime w/1.4 teleconverter. Black Rhino – 1/2000 th , F4, ISO 400 300mm prime w/1.4 teleconverter.
Location: Rhino in Blue – Timbavati Nature Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Black Rhino – Balule Nature Reserve.

Burchell’s Zebra – Equus quagga burchellii

Behind the scene: There are several ‘gates’ (entry points) into Kruger National Park. One. of our favorites is ‘Orpen’. Within the first 10 kilometers it is just magic. Loaded with plains game due to the sweet grass that occurs there. It is a bonanza of photographic opportunities and since it’s usually our first point of entry after missing the bush for months on end I am just trigger-happy. One of the most photogenic of them all is the zebra with it’s black and white lines that take your eyes all over the place. It’s hard to pick a favorite zebra shot but I always smile when seeing this one with three red-billed oxpeckers living up to their reputation.

Zebra facts and musings:

1) Zebras and rhinos share an interesting characteristic of being the only three toed (perissodactyla) ungulates on the continent. The rhino retains all three toes, while the zebra lost the majority of it’s two outer toes over time. Only little vestigial toes exist. That middle toe is what we call the hoof!
2) Those dizzying lines bring enough confusion to predators allowing them to escape. Most of the time.
3) Ever noticed that not many cowboys ride zebras? That has never worked out well. Kicking, biting and not sticking around when predators, including the bipedal ones with forward facing eyes are near (us). So cool to be wild.
4) Zebras are hind-gut fermenters. Big farters, just like their horse cousins. Their plains cousins, however, the antelope and giraffe all ruminate and chew their cud. Not nearly as funny when they take off for a run!
5) Two of the tree species of zebra are in trouble with declining populations. Grevy’s zebra is endangered. Mountain zebras are vulnerable. The plains (Burchell’s) zebra is doing okay but are trending for trouble as well.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/1600 th , F4, ISO 800, 70-200mm + 1.4 teleconverter
Location: Orpen Gate, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Nile Crocodile – Crocodylus niloticus

Behind the scene: One of the most magnificent bird-hides in Kruger Park is Lake Panic. I could sit there for days and days shooting birds and other critters that come to drink. I am not sure how it got its name but a few years ago, there was a real PANIC when a croc took a poor lad “looking for golf balls”. The croc in this shot performed a territorial display I had not seen before that ended in a pose with his tail curved and absolutely still for 4-5 seconds before it disappeared without a ripple.

Croc facts and musings:
1) The bigs exceed 16 feet!
2) Millions of years without the need to evolve its form
3) The incubation temperature of the eggs determines male and females.
4) ‘Grip it and rip it’ isn’t just a golf phrase but a culinary necessity for crocs. It does not chew. Sadly the golfer mentioned above both delivered and received this cruel phrase.

5) Crocs are the only animal in this blog with a conservation status of ‘least concern’. Not a good mindset though when retrieving golfballs.

For the photo geeks: Canon 5diii 1/100 th , F4, ISO 1600, 300mm prime + 1.4 teleconverter
Location: Lake Panic, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

(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

People vote around the world at Odyssey’s philanthropic team building programs. In the past year we have delivered programs in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Mexico, India, Portugal, Italy, Singapore, and Spain. Add our DIY team building kits and we are truly global. 

The participants in these team-building programs were the opposite of silent and apathetic. They listened (maybe initially biased or jaded) to what was presented, opened up to new possibilities, took up calls for new action, and created goodwill by doing good works.

During these corporate give-back events, they shared different perspectives and respected the valuable differences and strengths in their midst. By using their voices and actions they voted for how they want their ‘world’ to be at work, home, and beyond.

It is an undeniably important and remarkable time for people to express themselves and to declare and/or shape what they care about; precious things such as family, community, country, and the future. Vote by how you listen, reflect, and express yourself through your thoughts, words, and actions.

Midterm elections are coming up here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. The polls will open,  people will make their choices and be heard. I hope you put an X on the spot and vote. And in the broader sense, I hope you continue to vote beyond our team building programs and the polling centers.

Todd Demorest

Sometimes you get the satisfaction of being able to bring pure happiness to people, and earlier this year we got to do so with Kindergartners from nine different schools in San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas Corridor in Mexico. We teamed up with Scotiabank for the Playhouse Challenge.

Corporate Team Building that Creates Opportunity

Not all children have the opportunity to live a lifestyle where they get to simply be a child and play—this is why we build and donate playhouses through our Odyssey Playhouse Challenge. We donate these playhouses to nonprofit youth programs, children’s hospitals, or low-income housing in various communities.


Scotiabank wanted to have an award recognition program for their tellers and other customer-facing employees, so they reached out to Odyssey Teams. We helped conduct two different Playhouse Challange groups—each with 250 people—to further their values of respect, integrity, passion and accountability.

Collectively, the two groups built, donated and delivered 20 playhouses to these nine different schools in Mexico.

A “Neighborhood Stroll”

The unique aspect in this specific program was that we had children from one of the schools come to see the playhouses, where they were able to pick out their three favorite houses. All participants took a “neighborhood stroll” at the end to see the houses their colleagues had built before ending with a final debrief that connected the experiences back to the values and purpose of Scotiabank.

Philanthropic Team Building at Its Finest

So far, with the help of you and your companies, we have made 678 playhouses and have made a positive addition to more than 2,500 lives. The lessons your team takes away from this corporate give back activity are as significant as the playhouses they’ll leave behind. You can learn more about our Playhouse Challenge and other give back events.


playhouse challenge odyssey

odyssey playhouse challenge

odyssey playhouse challenge

odyssey team building

odyssey teams  teambuilding

Earlier this year, President, CEO and CO – Founder of Odyssey Teams, Inc., Bill John, took a trip to Da-Nang, Vietnam for a fitting of prosthetic hands and his trip was “transformational.”

Lending A Hand through Team Building

Twenty-one amputees from Vietnam—people who have lost limbs from various reasons—received prosthetic hands that have been assembled by all the amazing companies and organizations who have participated in our Helping Hands program.

As of today, we’ve put 29,000 prosthetic hands on people from all around the world. Without you, without companies like you, none of this would have been possible. This is a business simulation, and we wield this simulation in classrooms, trainings, conferences, and sales kick-offs very powerfully. The experience is a metaphor for how (and why) we work, but it’s much more than just another metaphor. To say that building these hands has an impact is an understatement.

Shire Pharmaceuticals Experiences Helping Hands ‘Live’, Sponsors Hands

Shire Pharmaceuticals APAC (Asia-Pacific) Leaders converged in Ho Chi Minh City and went through Odyssey Teams’ Helping Hands ‘Live’ teambuilding program facilitated by Bill. The attendees assembled eight hands—the cognition of knowing that their giveback team-building program was going to produce an immediate effect the very next day to those individuals in Vietnam created an even more special team activity. With these eight hands being built by Shire, along with other hands that were built by people in the Helping Hands program in Australia, Bill set off to Vietnam with 21 hands.

Sometimes you don’t understand the impact you make in one’s life until you actually see it physically. During Bill’s fitting in Vietnam he was able to see these individuals write for the first time, ride a bike, put their arms around each other – he got to see a “sparkle in their eye.”

Nothing but Joy

Many of the recipients were landmine related amputees, others were farming or work related and a few were congenital birth defects. They were thrilled to receive their new prosthetics and the mood was pure joy as they learned to use the hands. They ended up teaching each other many of the functions of the LN-4 hand. There were several charities, clinics and genuinely gracious people who found the recipients, transported, housed and fed them.

Kahn, a 58-year-old man who lost his arm at 13-years-old was one of the prosthetic hand recipients. When he was 13, he was using a shovel in the fields to dig out copper, iron and pieces of metal that were left over from the Vietnam War. His shovel hit a landmine and when the bomb went off, it took off the bottom half of his left arm.

What Will Your Story Be?

His story is just one of the 6 to 7 million below-elbow amputees in the World. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of helping these individuals, but with the help of you and your company, you can make a big difference in the lives of many. Learn more about the Helping Hands program and our other giveback programs.


vietnam helping hands

vietnam helping hands

vietnam helping hands

When it’s time to plan out your corporate team building program there is one important question you have to ask yourself: “Do you run the meeting or do you bring in an outside facilitator?” To help you with this decision, here are some benefits of using an outside facilitator.

Outside Facilitators know the most effective programs

Many companies think that inspiring passion among their employees is achieved through competitive group games.  This pits employee against employee.  This often backfires bringing out the worst in the participants. Instead of inspiring the teams to work together it further divides them. Many people walk away feeling like the event was a waste of time.

They are unbiased

Another hindrance to team building with and in-house facilitator is there might be some underlying suspicion of bias towards certain employees. The team members might believe there is an unannounced, pre-determined plan. This can cause resentment and hinder the genuine participation and input from the attendees. Your result will be a lack of team buy-in and weak implementation. According to David Wade and Ron Recardo in their book Corporate Performance Management, the best reason to invest in an outside facilitator is to achieve an “unbiased objectivity”.

Corporate facilitators coordinate a group activity for adults without bias to bring out the full potential of the group and the possibilities of their mission. They keep the discussion focused, the team building on track, and encourage team members to act as equals in the process.

They have the experience

Their experience will bring outside of the industry vision. They will ask valuable questions beyond the traditional and normal questions that insiders can’t see or are too afraid to ask. The chances of the group activity for adults’ objective being completed will also be higher. The facilitator is less likely to be distracted by people’s stigma or feelings about the event.

They will organize everything

The event will also be finished in a timely manner. The facilitator will not allow themselves to be distracted from the overarching goals of the team building event.

They will get everyone to participate

The best reason to use an outside facilitator for a group activity for adults is that everyone will get to participate. Each person’s opinion and thoughts will have the chance to be discussed and evaluated equally. From the CEO to the secretary all will be treated equally.As the facilitator creates a non-threatening environment for the event to take place they will also bring up many of issues that the president or fellow employees have been trying to avoid. They will bring the benefit of a dispassionate perspective. They will be able to effectively diffuse arguments and channel intense moments into problem-solving moments.

If you would like to learn more about these Give Back Activities and the impact they can have on your team check out the Helping Hands Project with the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Giving Back To The Community And Their Team Members Is An Important Part Of AbbVie Pharmaceuticals’ Philosophy

The Research and AbbVie Pharmaceuticals development facility, located in Gurnee, Illinois has been hosting an annual event that recognizes the outstanding members of that facility. This year’s theme was to give back to the community.

Elan Savitt, the Finance Manager for AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, did his part to make sure that this team building event was a success. “Our work in pharmaceuticals is so important,” he says, “It is so dedicated to the people. We wanted an opportunity to give back to the community just as we do with our pharmaceutical drugs.”

When the 180 members of the facility got together they knew it was for an awards ceremony. They had no idea that Savitt had called on Odyssey Teams and the Helping Hands Live program to host a corporate give back activity. The group was divided into teams and each group was told they would be building a prosthetic hand for a landmine victim in a third world country.

Bill John, co-founder of Odyssey Teams, had the pleasure of being the facilitator for the team building event. After the initial introduction, Bill John explained the give back activity the team would participate in. He told them that in order to achieve their goals they would need to communicate, collaborate, and focus on working as a team. His message of ‘deliberate action’ is one that continues to resonate with many participants of this and other give back activities after they have ended.

AbbVie Is Building A Better World

Savitt stated, “It’s about building a better world and finding purpose in everything we do. How do we see past just the individual task and recognize the impact of what we do? Whether it’s to patients, or other companies, or more importantly to indigent people that really need help that we may not recognize.”

After ten minutes of the teams building the LN-4 hands, they were challenged with continuing to build with a koozie on their dominant hand. Teamwork became mandatory. At the end of the team building event, 60 prosthetic hands were assembled and placed inside the carrying cases the teams had designed for them. “I think they are learning to work together as a team,” says Savitt. “How to overcome obstacles, but most importantly, how to be excellent as a group and not as an individual.”

Total Hand Distribution Plus AbbVie’s Contribution

With the conclusion of this corporate team building event, Odyssey Teams has now assembled and distributed over 23,000 hands in over 80 countries. The feeling of giving back to the world community is a feeling that Savitt will call on again in the future. “For anyone who is looking for an event that demonstrates how we matter as individuals. I think this fits the bill one hundred percent.”

Odyssey Teams has several other team building programs they facilitate in their ‘Live’ programs, or if you would like to facilitate your own team building event there are also several do-it-yourself kits like Build-A-Hand, Life Cycles, Or The Playhouse Challenge.

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.

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.

In the beginning, you started with a small team, and you had a clear vision.

Every day, you were able to speak with your team and find out everything you needed to know to boost productivity. Since the team was small, it didn’t take much to keep everyone’s energy levels running high. But, success comes with many challenges. As you became more successful, your team grew with it. When it did you had to hand the torch off to others and let them keep your team engaged and enthusiastic. It wasn’t long before the team’s productivity came to a screeching halt. Now, you’re wondering what you need to do to boost productivity again.

Any of this sound familiar?

If so, you can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. It’s tough keeping larger teams motivated and in the groove. But getting things turned around may be a lot easier than you anticipated.

Is Your Team Focused On Solutions and Outcomes?

When you have a massive team, getting everybody on the same page can be very stressful. With smaller groups, it’s easier to notice when the equilibrium of the group starts to go south. Which makes it easy to do something to boost productivity.

As your business grows, your team will also continue to expand. Since it’s unavoidable, you will need to grow your ability to manage the group right alongside it. One strategy you can put in place is to work on developing outcomes with your team. This is a simple strategy and easy to put in place once you commit to it.

To get started you just start working with your team to focus on providing solutions to problems. We told you it was simple.

Someone named this type of activity “developing outcomes”. But, regardless of what you call it, it has the power to increase the effectiveness of your team. By starting their tasks with the end goal in mind, your team will be more likely to avoid risks which will increase productivity. Not only that, they’ll move much faster towards correct solutions to problems.

Understanding Goals and Outcomes

If you already have a large team, it’s crucial for you to set goals and outcomes for them. While goals are always about targets and results, outcomes are different. An outcome is more about the impact of the results from completing goals. One way to do that is through building something.

How to Boost Productivity the Right Way

Building a great team can be difficult. Many team leaders set up outcomes wrong, which leads to a major drop in productivity. It’s important to remember that individuals be responsible for creating their own outcomes. But they need to be created in ways that mean something to them and to the goals you set for them.

It’s best your team create their outcomes in the first person as if they have already happened. On a subconscious level, setting an outcome in this manner allows it to serve as a GPS. The outcome helps the subconscious mind find ways to fulfill the outcome. Make sure to do your best to avoid being too restrictive when it comes to the outcomes put forth by your team members.

The Details of Every Outcome

There are important components that need to be within every outcome. Each outcome should contain the achievement of goals and difference made and shared values. Outcomes should also contain how each individual contributed to each success. They should also include the impact they made on key stakeholders or customers. Every outcome has to be measurable and then measured.

Why Setting Outcomes Just Makes Sense

Your business will enjoy outcome-based objectives in a variety of ways. For starters, they’ll help to harness the imagination of every member of your team. Not only that they will also further encourage their productive thinking. Setting outcomes also helps everyone involved think about the true impact of their contributions. They can even help to describe the future of your business in successful ways.

The End Result

It won’t take long to realize that the effort you put forth setting outcomes is worth it. If your team isn’t already using it, we encourage you to consider looking more into it. Here’s some more tips that will help get your team produce bigger and better results than they currently are. If you think we have forgotten a tip or two that we should have included in the graphic please let us know by posting below in the comment section.

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.

corporate team building event - helping handsSurprise 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.”

The proven benefits of team building are numerous. Whether you are inspiring a team of twenty or a group of a 120 team building will have them communicating more effectively and collaborating fluidly as they come to understand the big picture and their place within it. Volunteering has been cited as the number one way to achieve this goal.

Working with professional team building facilitators can help ensure the success of the program by making it relevant to business objectives, corporate and team culture. When combined with activities that give back to the community the results can be profound. There are many give back activities like Odyssey Teams Helping Hands live program,that offer such expert facilitation. Conversely, sometimes companies just want to give back and can’t afford the facilitated approach in which case the “do-it-yourself-kit” option of the Build-A-Hand program may be just what is needed.

The first step in any team building event planning is to establish the when and where. If there are more than a hundred participants for your team building activities then an offsite event might be needed. If there are less than fifty then hosting your event at the office, during working hours, makes for a rewarding experience. Other than the obvious cost saving perk here are a few more benefits of hosting your team building activities at the office.

People’s Time:

People’s time is important to them. Most are not willing to give up their nights and weekends in the pursuit of work events. Planning one of your team building activities during the work day is the best way to get maximum impact for the minimum dollar. Not only is almost everyone in the office, but they all know they are being paid to be there. This sense of compensation gets a much higher participation rate.


Every team has someone who will say team building activities won’t work. Potential skeptics will be less likely to get on board if you schedule the event during the weekend or evening. A few hours on a Friday morning is better than a daylong event on a Saturday for this group.

Team Building Activities Bring Teams Together

Application to Work:

When employees are away from their work they still want to feel like they are being productive. The lessons they learn during the team building activities should be applicable to their jobs. At the end of the event, you want everyone to walk away feeling empowered, or invigorated, about working for the company. Hosting the event at work will help reinforce the connection that the team building event is creating.

Event Etiquette:

Hosting your event off site can be fun, but it also ushers in a different social protocol. Personalities can be very different once you get some people outside of the office. The best way to avoid a negative team building activity is to keep the rule of thumb that you don’t want anything to happen you can’t do at work. Hosting it at work makes sure that doesn’t happen.

Participant Comfort:

Many co-workers feel uncomfortable when they are thrust together in an offsite situation. This discomfort is generally counterproductive to your overall goal. The workplace is comfortable. Most people spend at least forty hours a week of their life in that office or building. They are familiar with the layout of the building and the expectations of professionalism. Their car is also only fifteen yards away.

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.”

Life Cycles is a Team Building Event to Increase Collaboration

Life Cycles is the original bike building team building program that changed an industry. This team building event creates the potential to change the way we look at the world and ourselves. Team bonds are formed, collaboration increases and communication lines are wide open.

It is no secret that in order to provide great customer service you need a great team. You may have the most solid mission statement in the world. However, if your team loses sight of that mission then meeting your company goals becomes very difficult and team building becomes very important.

A give back activity is one of the best ways to inspire your team, and promote a positive brand image. Whether you choose to use the facilitators at Odyssey Teams or use the DIY Life Cycles kit, this team building activity will reinvigorate your team.

A give back activity is one of the best ways to inspire your team, and promote a positive brand image. Whether you choose to use the facilitators at Odyssey Teams or use the DIY Life Cycles kit, this team building activity will reinvigorate your team.

Each Life Cycles program is unique and tailored to the specific values and organizational goals of your company. An Event Organizer or Odyssey Teams facilitator plans out our team building event in advance.

Each facilitated team building event begins with Odyssey Teams’ trademark interviews. During this process, teams get to know each other’s definitions of collaboration, trust, and information exchange. This gives many of the team members benchmarks for the rest of the activity.

The “Life Cycles” are separated up by the different steps in building the Diamondback Bikes. This is where many of the personalities come out. Is there someone who grabs for the instructions and reads them first? Does someone push everybody out of the way claiming to have just recently built a bike? These people might get the job done, but how well are they prepared for the next challenge?

The biggest team growth comes when participants put into action the concepts they’ve learned. There is no transition without application. After assembly, we bring in the real critics to practice customer service – the children.

Children from the local Boys & Girls Clubs of America come in and the teams get to give their bike to a child. The teams interact with the children for fifteen minutes and during that time is when many of the participants become aware of their interactions. Their focus shifts from their own selves, to a little boy or girl. The team members gain a renewed desire to do for others in a way they had not known possible.

Charlie Shaver, Axalta Chairman and CEO said, “Odyssey has provided a great opportunity to partner with the non-profit sector and the community during our global leadership meeting. Axalta benefits from the team building that goes into putting the bicycles together. The kids get to keep the bicycles we’ve built. Everyone wins.”

Co-Founder and COO of Odyssey Teams, Lain Hensley, explains, “We use bike building to provide global executives with a hands-on opportunity to improve their teamwork. The exercise transcends culture and language as well as the day to day roles that participants have in their organizations. The surprise donation at the end of the session then converts a company exercise into a gift for the community and a memory that participants keep for years to come.” Some of our other programs like Helping Hands and The Playhouse Challenge can also harness the same growth within your team.

Steve Sorensen, CEO of The Select Family of Staffing Companies said, “Perhaps our staff was expecting to fall backward into their co-workers’ arms, but we were tasked with assembling bicycles, just like the night before Christmas. We were delighted to learn that the Life Cycles program bikes were going to kids from the Boys & Girls Club who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one.”

Service-Based Team Building Helps Your Company’s Image

Whether you’re a supervisor, manager, or company owner, Odyssey Teams knows you are always on the look-out for new ways to open up the lines of communication and build a better team. There are a multitude of team building games, activities, and seminars to take advantage of, but if you want to inspire your team to greatness then there is nothing better than a community service-based team building experience. Philanthropic activities partner with non-profit organizations to make a difference in the community surrounding your business.

The list of benefits is endless for a community service-based team building experience.

  • Bridge the gap between business and communities
  • Address real community needs — make an impact!
  • Socially responsible contribution to the local community
  • Enhance your company’s image as a good corporate citizen
  • Elevate employee or client pride
  • Provide employees with a fun and rewarding experience
  • Enhance communication skills, teamwork, and problem-solving through real-life situations
  • Provide real-life experiences that motivate employees
  • Provide the most rewarding and unifying tasks a team can undertake

According to Bhaskar Thyagarajan, co-founder of BlueSky Learning, “The END GOAL of a GREATER GOOD of a larger audience has the power to make us think less about personal gains & motivations.” The act of giving back helps people forget their own desire to rise to the top and pull together for a common goal.

If this the direction you would like to take your team building event then here are a few options that you can take advantage of.

Life Cycles- Building Bicycles For Boys and Girls Club

Life Cycles is a philanthropic activity that brings together groups of three or four to assemble bicycles for children in need. Communication is enhanced as team members get to know one another in a different situation. We bring in the children from the local Boys and Girls club and the teams get to meet and interact with the child that will receive the bike they just assembled.

The Playhouse Challenge – Constructing Playhouses for Individuals and Organizations

The Playhouse Challenge brings together a group of ten to fifteen to construct and decorate a five-foot tall playhouse. The teams are assigned task roles such as safety inspector, designer, and, engineer. After building, recipients of the playhouses are brought in and they get to enjoy the playhouse your team assembled.

Helping Hands – Assemble a Prosthetic Hand to Be Donated To An Amputee

Helping Hands is a team building activity with a far-reaching effect. Teams are broken into groups of four and then each member has a hand bound behind their back. They then must work in teams to assemble an LN-4 prosthetic hand. The hands will then be donated to amputees in third world countries who would not otherwise be able to afford this costly medical device.

There are many other community-based service team building activities like volunteering at a soup kitchen, helping at a veterans establishment, or a pet shelter. View some of our DIY team building kits.

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.

If you’ve never hosted a team building process you may be asking yourself, “Is this even worth it? Will a team building activity solve any of my problems?” The answer is, “yes.” Many feel that the term “team building” is just a buzz word tossed around to encourage employees. When in actuality team building is the backbone of a productive team.

The main goal of any team building event is to improve productivity and motivation among employees. By taking your employees out of the office you are promoting the elimination of political and personal barriers. This also eliminates distractions and encourages a fun atmosphere.

There are several benefits associated with team building activities. They include the improvement of morale and leadership skills. Company goals and objectives become clearly defined while processes, procedures, and organizational productivity are all improved. A team’s strengths and weaknesses are more clearly defined. People identify the barriers to creativity and problem solving is improved. As the event planner, you can take advantage of all of these benefits or only a few of them.

Define your goals clearly for benefits to be effective

It’s important to clearly define the goals of your team building activity. Lindsay Olson from U.S. News and World Report has these considerations to offer when helping establish an event’s overall goals.

  • What is the team climate? Is it hostile? Indifferent?
  • How much will management be involved? (Support from them encourages the team building)
  • How long will the event take?
  • Where will it take place?
  • Outside consultants can help identify which team problems need addressing.
Benefits of team building: the statistics

It’s easy to read about the benefits of team building on paper or imagine the outcome of the event in your head. Team building is known to foster better communication between employees as well as improving employees motivation and trust.

Alex “Sandy” Pentland, the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, decided to quantify these metrics to establish what it takes to create a productive team. Her team utilized lapel buttons that collect data, over six weeks, for more than a hundred points. Data included voice inflection, body language, who they talked to, and for how long.

These experiments proved that good communication is crucial to maintaining a good team. Alex states “we found that the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings.”

Alex’s team was asked to help a bank’s call center. The manager wanted to know why some teams succeed when similar teams could not. After the six weeks, Alex and her team recommended that the manager schedule everyone’s coffee breaks at the same time. It would allow people more time to socialize away from their workstations. Once this mass coffee break began the manager began to see a 20% decrease in average handling time (AHT the industry standard for call centers) among poorly performing teams and an overall drop of 8%. The manager has now changed the coffee break schedule at all of the call centers.

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.

Staff Introduction Ideas Breakdown Communication Barriers

Staff Introduction ideas cover a wide array of games, activities, and team building events. Each one is geared towards a different objective. Many staff introduction ideas are designed towards new staff members getting to know each other, or getting to know current staff members, but they can also be used for staff to reintroduce themselves.

Build Stronger Teams Sith Staff Introduction Ideas

A company’s staff can change over time in more than one way. Even if they have been with the company for quite awhile an employee’s likes, dislikes, and dreams change as they live out their lives. That’s why it’s a good idea to use these staff introduction ideas on a regular basis. (Every six months) So, the staff can get reacquainted with itself and new members can be introduced.

Another staff introduction idea to consider is introducing senior management. It can be new employees meeting senior management, or a newly installed senior management meeting an existing company. Either way, it’s a good idea to have an introduction activity on hand.

Better employee interaction is the direct result of your staff collaborating. They are making sure to get to know one another and staying in touch with each other. This promotes a positive work place where individuals are more apt to ask for help or offer help when it’s needed.

Groups Work Harder If Everyone Knows Each Other

These staff introduction events are good for the management to stay in touch with their team. This helps to break down the ‘boss wall’ that keeps so many individuals from approaching their superiors in times of need.

Below you will find a list of some great staff introduction ideas that can handle all of these introduction events.

Scavenger Hunt

This staff introduction idea works within all levels of a company. It centers around information about individuals without getting too personal. Break the staff up, including senior management if available, into groups of three of four. Then hand out the scavenge sheet. The object of the game is to mark off as many of the descriptions as the group can. These descriptions can be anything like: find someone who has been Africa, find someone who has a cat and a dog, find someone who has never been the beach. The list is endless, but try to choose descriptions that people don’t mind sharing about themselves. Be sure to have members of the group move around the room so groups interact with one another.

Two Lies And A Truth

This is a particularly fun staff introduction idea for senior management to play when introducing themselves to their staff. A person writes down two lies and a truth. They then stand up and present this to the group. It is then the group’s job to determine which one is the lie. You can also have the presenter say why the lie was a lie.


Tell Me Something Good Kick Off

This is one of the best staff introduction ideas for new management that wants to get to know the staff better. Hand out a piece of paper to everyone in the room. Have each person write something good about another person’s profession or job performance that’s in the room. Then fold up the notes and redistribute them. As each person takes turns reading the notes the group must try and figure out who the note is about. This does a good job of highlighting people’s abilities so a manager knows each person’s strengths.

Want to know more about the best ways to build better teams? Contact team building industry experts at Odyssey Teams by email or phone: 800 – 342-1650

Classroom Teamwork Activities Bring Students Together

Classroom teamwork activities can overcome the stale feeling school can create as students make their way through the semester. But more importantly, it can help students learn to relate and support one another to achieve a common goal.

Things like peer interaction, applied concepts, and team building are pushed to the way side for the more traditional power point guided “chalk and talk” style of teaching. This educational style is still vital for the school experience, but teachers need to make sure that students are engaging with one another in meaningful ways and not necessarily just with their friends.

Classroom teamwork activities is the best way to build interpersonal communication

Breaking students up into groups and having them work together towards a common goal gives each student a chance to be heard. Without teacher involvement they solve the challenge by discussing various strategies, communicating their ideas, and putting their plans into action. This kind of team work is where students come to understand each other better and communicate interpersonally.

Classroom teamwork activities get students working together to make decisions based on creative thinking, communication, and collaboration. Here are three of these activities to get your classroom working together towards the common goal of teamwork.

  1. Teams That Build Together Stay Together

    If you build it…..

This is the most flexible of the classroom teamwork activities. After you have broken the students into groups you give each one the same set of materials such as blocks, pipe cleaner, marshmallows, dried spaghetti, glue or tape. The goal is to work together in order to build. The end goal and parameters are both variables. Teachers can have everyone build a sturdy building or castle. See which team can replicate a famous statue, or build the tallest, most stable, structure. A variation on this game would be to have a community pile of materials for all the teams to use. There are several kits to use for this activity such as Odyssey Teams Helping Hands, or Life Cycles Program. This game encourages communication and problem-solving.

  1. Minefield

Classrooms are generally smaller than your average corporate give back activity. So, you can employ games that require quiet and concentration. This game works in pairs. Teachers place various obstacles across an open area. (You may have to move some desks.) Then blindfold one student and the other student guides the blindfolded student through the minefield using just their voice. Don’t maintain time. The objective is cooperation and not competition. This activity incorporates communication and trust building.

  1. It’s A Mystery

This is one of the most enjoyable classroom teamwork activities for all ages. Teachers create a mystery and a set of numbered mystery clues. Give each student a set of clues that they can’t let each other read. They must present and then discuss their clues to one another. You can either imagine your own mystery or use these examples >Murder Mystery or Bank Robbery Mystery. This team building activity builds problem solving and communication.

Each one of these classroom teamwork activities requires no timer and one shouldn’t be used. Nor should you give out any prizes for fastest or strongest. Instead, the focus of the discussion should be on HOW the teams solved each problem. Take the time to highlight how each team went about its creative process in order to accomplish the goal. By pointing out these positive ideas students begin to flourish from the inside out.

Large Group Team Building Events Open Up Communication

A company’s productivity and success is built on its ability to effectively build trust, communicate, and laugh together. However, if your company is larger than 75 people getting them all laugh to at the same time can be a difficult task.

Planning a philanthropic give back activity is the perfect way to promote exciting communication that ultimately leads to the productivity a company is seeking. These activities bring large groups of people together and allow them to give back to the community.

When bringing together a large group of people for such an event here are a few tips to help you get prepared so that everyone will receive the maximum impact of the give back activity.

There is more to consider with a large group team building event

One of the first things to consider is the current “team climate”? Are there any hostile interactions between team members? Or perhaps indifferent? These considerations should be thought about early in the planning stage. It will guide you to decide which give back activity is right for your team.

As you continue planning your event you might want to think about having the give back activity at your company’s location. Getting a group of 75 or larger to gather in any other sight will be difficult. Especially, since it is not a mandated activity like a day at work is.

One Of The Smiles From A Large Group Team Building Activity

Hiring a facilitator, or a group like Odyssey Teams, to help with your large group team building event would be ideal. As one person within a company, you may not know everyone at the event. Those you do know might be attentive, but those you don’t might be put off by the distance between the two of you. With a facilitator, everyone is equally distanced from him or her.

Frequent short breaks will also have to be considered throughout the team building event. With such a large group everyone will have different needs at different times. Instead of trying to address them all its better to just give people the open option multiple times.

Schedules that are easy to read and everywhere are a must for these large group team building events. The best way to keep everyone interactive is by letting them know what is coming up. People don’t like to just wait and see what happens during these things. They want to know what’s happening every minute of the day.

One of the most effective ways to build teams within a large group is to have mini team activities. You will want to assign people to teams so as to work out problems of communication within their unit. There are a multitude of activities such as treasure map, have a scavenger hunt, host A Board Meeting, build prosthetic hands as a group, or even assemble bicycles with The Life Cycles program. Each of these activities require the participation of all the team members. By pooling their resources they will have to communicate effectively to get the goal accomplished.

As your large group team building event comes to an end one of the best ways to energize a large group is by introducing them to the recipients of their hard work. With programs like The Life Cycles, or The Playhouse Challenge your team is given the chance to interact with the children who will receive either the bike or the playhouse.

This memory of personal interaction is the most impactful and it gives large groups of 100+ a common footing to open up dialogues between each other. They all have a memory that gets them to smile and laugh with one another.

Good Team Building Means Good Communication

Tips for Team Building in the work-place in order to keep the lines of communication open.

Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial for a team to maintain its energy and its efficiency. Though many employees may roll their eyes at the idea of a team building activity they have been shown to increase communication among co-workers, creating a more relaxing work atmosphere that ultimately leads to more efficient work production.

Many companies implore corporate give back activities, but due to the size of their company, many CEOs will hold an annual team building event. This helps to establish lines of communications, but it does little to maintain them throughout the rest of the year.

First Tip for Team Building: Work on it every day

Without even trying to we build friendships and relationships in the work place. You will often see the same people go to lunch together. Friendships aren’t always good for the workplace. They can cause resentment or even riffs between other co-workers.

The point of team building activities is not to eliminate these relationships, but to try and get them to form between all of your co-workers. Team building activities are the perfect way to help others form these trusted lines of communication and keep them open. Team building does not always have to happen in a large setting. You can build your team in a one to one setting.

So, each day you will want to take a moment to either hold a small team building event or interact with each one of your co-workers. Give them a chance to say something about themselves and be sure to listen to what they are saying. Even the most mundane of conversations can turn into trusted advice.

Team Building Gets The Pieces To Fit

Second Tip for Team Building: Don’t call it a team building event

Maybe once a week, without any warning, call your team into a meeting and hand each one a memo outlining the team building activity they are about to engage in. This will get them all onto the same page of communication without giving them a chance to roll their eyes.

They can ask questions after the initial paper briefing, but you want to jump right into the program. Once they are involved you want to keep them involved especially because the activity should only be for fifteen minutes. They still need to get back to work.

These small group activities give your co-workers an opportunity to build shared memories that they can later recall and laugh about on break, or around the water cooler. By giving them a solid mutual memory you are enabling them to begin building lasting relationships.

Final Tip for Team building: Make it fifteen minutes of fun

There are a multitude of games that you can play in fifteen minutes. You will want to find games that encourage collaboration, not competition, and are accessible by all. Such as “Heads Up”, which is an interactive game where one member of the team holds a cellphone to their head with a word or phrase on it and the rest of the team gets them to try to guess it without saying the word or phrase. Or “Two Truths And A Lie” is a game where one participant writes down to correct statements and one false one. It is the job of the group to try and guess which one is the false one.

Innovative Trust Activities Help More Than Just The Company

In today’s business world trust is a crucial component. Trust between client and businesses are important, but even more important is the trust between employer and employee. In a recent study, Watson Wyatt found that only two out of five employees have trust in the executives in an organization.

One of the largest problems that managers have faced is that they can’t just instill trust among their team. Even when all of the individuals know what to do and how to do it trust still doesn’t form itself. Research has shown trust is the foundation for creating a healthy work environment.

Trust building activities can be the foundation for successful employer/employee relations

The Helping Hands Project Presentation

Trust building activities and team building strategies have become a common place as many employers have tried their best to solve this issue of mistrust among their associates. Several trust building activities have come about in the pursuit of employer-employee trust.

Circle of friends, or Willow in the Wind, is a variation on the trust fall. Participants stand in a circle around a single person. This person falls back only to be caught by the circle. They are then passed from side to side in the circle.

Touch the can wants to build trust by breaking personal boundaries. This game has ten different people touch a coffee can with a different part of their body. Minefield blindfolds one participant while another one tries to walk them through a designated area without touching any of the “mines.”

While these games do use the imagination many participants are left feeling awkward and wondering why they are participating. Others want to know how these trust building activities relate to work. They can trust someone not to drop them during the team building event, but what about in the rest of the business world.

An LN-4 Prosthetic Hand

Odyssey Teams has taken a new approach to trust building activities and innovated a way to bring associates together. Helping Hands Project and The Playhouse Challenge both help to build trust among your employees while bringing them together for a common goal they can all agree upon.

Helping Hands Project is a trust building activity where groups of four or five build an LN-4 prosthetic hand. The challenge to this give-back activity is each participant has to bind one of their hands so they can’t use it anymore. Participants learn to work together for such scenarios as turning a screw, or installing the fingers. One person has to be trusted to hold the hand securely while the other person is trusted to turn the screwdriver.

A Completed Playhouse

The Playhouse Challenge is a give back activity for groups of ten to twelve. Your team assembles a five-foot tall four-foot wide playhouse. Before the build begins each person is assigned a task i.e. safety officer, design manager, etc. You then trust that your teammates will take their job serious enough to pass the final inspection.

Each of these trust building activities builds trust through interpersonal relationships. The team members begin to trust one another because they are doing more than catching each other. They are taking responsibility for their actions and accepting the outcome good or bad.

It is the wrap up that makes these give-back activities so innovative. Both of these stretch the limits of the imagination, break personal boundaries, and bring teams together because of the shared experience they have in giving away the product they just built.

The prosthetic hands are given to landmine victims, or amputees, in third world countries. These people would not otherwise be able to receive this life changing device. The playhouses are given to children’s organizations and individuals who would not be able to afford one otherwise. This emotional connection of philanthropy is what cements the foundation of trust for so many participants. They take it back to their offices and remember what they did for a lifetime.

Start The Day With A Few Tips For Team Building

Clear communication is a crucial element for effective corporate team building. The first tip for team building to better communication is to accurately define the word team. A team is not just a group of people each fulfilling their duties. An efficient and productive team is the result of feeling a part of something larger than themselves. The bigger picture drives a team members actions. A team members actions are to serve the bigger picture. These are all principles that are brought about in give-back activities like Helping Hands, or The Board Meeting.

Below are a 5 tips for team building to better communication

1. Be aware how you work: David Grossman Communication Expert says, “Since we communicate whether we want to or not, it’s in our best interest to get good at it”. As the team leader you should not only make team course corrects, but self-course corrections as well. Be critical as you evaluate yourself. Are you being as effective as you think? How well is the team accepting your attempts?

Effective Communication Starts With Leadership

2. Understand your employees and clearly define their roles: Get to know your team and their talents. Make sure each team member has a role that is best suited to their abilities. Establishing a common goal is an important key to good team building for communication. According to a survey on Inc.com 48% of management does not effectively communicate business strategies to employees in a way in which they could ‘live it in their daily lives.’ Be sure each member of the team knows there specific role and what is expected of them. You should also make sure the team knows why it exists. This will help the team members understand their importance in the overall company vision. Odyssesy Teams The Playhouse Challenge focuses specifically on this point.

3. Build trust through face time communication: One on one time in an atmosphere of openness and honesty is the next step to building a team based on communication. Many companies employ technological interactions, but the value of a face to face interaction leaves a lasting impression on team members. You should also allow employees to build trust with one another through open communication in a group atmosphere. Friday lunches are an ideal way for employees to talk freely looking for new ways to connect with one another.

4. Encourage sharing and open communication through online tools: Once trust has been established with personal interactions work related information should flow between team members through online tools and message boards. This avoids unnecessary meetings and gives the team member a chance to respond in a time that suits their schedule. For many this tip for team building is the most important.

The Results Of Teamwork Are Amazing

5. Feedback is simply the art of great communication. If your team building for communication then you team has a clear idea of their roles, they trust one another, and they are sharing openly. Feedback is the result of team members feeling comfortable to praise one another and help each other make improvements. As a leader feedback should become part of your natural dialogue. Be able to give out formal and informal feedback. If it becomes too stiff it will lose the authenticity and its impact.

Since you are the example and it falls on you to communicate what should be proper team building etiquette be ready to receive feedback from your team. A good leader builds trust by being able to receive positive and negative feedback like anybody else. These tips for team building and techniques have a 20% more likelihood to have less employee turnover than those companies that don’t effectively communicate.

Corporate team building events benefit everyone.


The way society views charity and donations have changed drastically over the last six decades. Once upon a time we would just throw a few pennies into a UNICEF box, or purchase a few Girl Scout cookies and know good was happening. Even companies just had to give a small portion of their profits.

Now, corporate donations have given way to corporate give back activities. These philanthropic corporate team building seminars have taken center stage with a bright light and a script of data to follow.

More and more Fortune 500 companies have begun to embrace these engaging events for a variety of reasons.

Here are the top three reasons Fortune 500 companies are paying for corporate team building

  1. Boosting Brand and Name Recognition– According to a May 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.
    Many corporate team building activities like Odyssey Team’s Helping Hands, or Life Cycles bring a corporate group together, but in the end, the product they build like the LN-4 prosthetic hand is donated to someone in need. Once these donations have been advertised 88%, nearly nine in ten, consumers feel a responsibility to purchase products they think are socially and environmentally responsible.
  2. Improving Quality of Life– By getting involved in corporate team building activities like Odyssey Team’s The Playhouse Challenge, or The Board Meeting your company gives back to the surrounding area. The company can give in the form of playhouses for under privileged kids, or a group of skateboards to the local Boys and Girls club. Either way this improves the quality of life in the community around the corporate headquarters or where a business sells its goods. This improves the way of life for consumes and the company’s workforce present and future.
    By giving back to the local community local government will take note of these good deeds and might become more lenient with future zoning regulations and laws. Diana Blankman, the senior director for U.S. corporate giving and social impact said, “Novo Nordisk’s commitment to social responsibility and to serving people and communities in need is at the heart of everything we do.”

    A corporate team building event for The Board Meeting

  3. Driving Recruitment and Retention– A Net Impact survey found that 45% of students would be willing to take a 15% pay cut in order to work for companies that make a social or environmental impact. Corporate team building activities give back to the areas of the community that people feel most passionate about. This passion translates into an employees work as many of them are proud to say they work for a company whose beliefs are in line with their personal beliefs and values.
    This alignment is what retains many of a company’s employees. Jonathan Copulsky, principal at Deloitte Consulting, explains that employees are “tremendously passionate about giving back” at an organization with a “long legacy of making an impact.”

91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause given comparable price and quality. Corporate team building is no longer an optional activity for companies looking to increase their return on investment. It is a necessity for companies looking to stay on the Fortune 500 list.

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.

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.”

Icebreakers start with a single person.

Icebreaker games make a great introduction for corporate team building activities such as Odyssey Teams Life Cycles. Before picking out the icebreaker game you should have already clearly defined the objective of the icebreaker session. Make sure you know what kind of ice you are breaking such as status, perception, or introduction. After you’ve worked out the logistics now it’s time to pick out an icebreaker or two. Here are five of the most popular icebreakers to help get your corporate team building underway.

Our Top 5 Icebreaker Games

  1. All Together Now. This icebreaker fosters communication by finding a common ground amongst the participants. Start by dividing the participants into groups of three or four. Then have each participant talk about their likes, dislikes, and their life for ten minutes. The goal is to have each group to find three things in common amongst everyone in the group. Things like enjoying the same movie, or eating particular styles of food turn out to be very common.
  2. The Human Web. This game focuses on the interdependencies that a team has and how we relate to one another. The facilitator holds the end of the yarn and passes the rest of the ball to the first person. That person says their name and their role within the organization. Then they hand the ball of yarn to the next person. That person introduces themselves and then says how they relate to other person (or expects to relate to them). When the facilitator pulls on the yarn at the end everyone’s hands will move.
  3. 2 Truths and a Lie. Depending on the size of your team you can do this icebreaker as a whole, or break up into smaller groups. This icebreaker focuses on getting to know everyone else on a personal level. Each person takes turns saying two truths and one lie about themselves. It is up to the rest of the group to figure out which one is the lie.
  4. One Word. This icebreaker brings a group together over a common issue they all face at work. Have the participants break up into groups. Then ask them to think for a minute to come up with one word that describes “X”. “X” being whatever the team building event is centered around. In a team building event you could ask participants to come up with one word to describe the overall team dynamic of the company. After the minute the groups would then discuss their one word and why they chose it.
  5. Three Shining Moments. This game focuses on participants coming to appreciate each other’s strengths. Have the group break up into teams of four. Everyone is then given ten minutes to jot down three shining moments in their career where they felt accomplished. They then share these moments with the groups. Each participant should then share one of three with everyone.


Icebreakers start great events like Life Cycles

Debrief any of these icebreaker by asking what everyone thought of the icebreaker and their reactions to each other’s stories or words. Go on to ask if anyone saw any themes or commonalities in what everyone shared.

There are certainly many more icebreaker games and activities. These are just the five we have seen to be the most effective in our corporate team building give back activities.

Brings teams together with the Playhouse Challenge

You may think the real challenge of The Playhouse Challenge comes from swinging a hammer or painting a mural. That’s not the challenge of this corporate give back activity. This challenge is learning how to effectively communicate with co-workers to achieve a common goal. The philanthropic goal of giving a one of a kind playhouse to children in need of some fun in their lives.

How does The Playhouse Challenge Work?

Satisfaction is found from building from the ground up. When you’re creating something from concept to design, and through execution, you are exercising your mind in a left-right-left motion towards completion. In Odyssey Teams’ Playhouse Challenge your group will work cooperatively to imagine, design, and build a custom playhouse. It will then be donated, in your name, to a non-profit youth program, children’s hospital, or low-income community.

We begin The Playhouse Challenge long before the lumber arrives at your destination. In a preprogram interview we want to identify your company’s specific values and business goals that this philanthropic team building exercise can deliver upon.

This give-back activity begins by an Odyssey Teams facilitator setting a strong context. It is set for participation, engagement, and applications related to your company’s values and individual behaviors as identified. After the initial launch, there are several icebreaker activities where the participants get to know one another.

Let The Playhouse Challenge Begin

Now, it’s time to dive into design and build. The teams break up into groups of ten to fifteen and then jobs are randomly assigned. The roles include Chief Marketing Officer, Quality Assurance Manager, Building Manager, Architecture/Design Manager, Procurement Manager. Now, it’s all about managing time, teamwork, and results.

The chaos of The Playhouse Challenge is one of the most enjoyable aspects. People are running around, collecting materials, and creativity is blossoming. Each group starts with the same pile of lumber. Each group imagines and designs a playhouse completely unique from one another. Some popular builds have been the beach house, candy shack, or superhero hideout.

Cooperation is key to The Playhouse Challenge
After each group has realized the commitment of communication and cooperation there is a surprise guest that makes an appearance. Odyssey Teams hosts a surprise field trip for the youth who will be receiving the playhouses. The children light up when they are told that the playhouses will be going to their organization. For many volunteering participants, it is the smiles on these young faces as they begin to explore the new playhouses that has a lasting effect.

After attending The Playhouse Challenge Sibylle Coe, director of proposals and planning for Launch Incentives said, “The Playhouse Challenge was an inspiring and motivating team-building project that provided real-life results. The challenge was extremely well organized and creative. Our attendees were exceptionally proud of their playhouses and very excited that they were going to children in need.”

After the challenge hosted by Axcess Financial Inc. held in Cincinnati Tara Westberg, district director of Check ’n Go in California said, “It just really makes you feel good as a person and for the company, you’re working for. While we’re learning and training, we’re doing something to give back, too.”

If you would like to host an Odyssey Team philanthropic give-back activity like The Playhouse Challenge Helping Hands, or Life Cycles.

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.


Skateboard dreams come true in a Board Meeting

Whether you have children, or not, the idea of working with other people’s kids is a daunting one. This is one of the unique differences to hosting a Board Meeting. Participants have to work with children no matter what. Not only are they working with youth, but they are going to be giving the skateboard to this youth. So, team members have to learn to listen, communicate, and teach someone less than half their age.


“The basic challenge,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D, co-author of Raising Cain, “is that [adults] very often speak without understanding how children receive the message.” Adults often make the assumption that children understand, but then are left wondering ‘Why didn’t the kid do what I asked?’

Many childless adults throw their hands into the air saying “What do you say to kids? How do you even talk to them?” The answer is very simple. Treat them like a regular person. So, no dumbing down the vocabulary, or using baby talk.


Getting children to relax is the first step in the team building process. Take a moment to get to know them. Ask open-ended questions about their interests or something they know about. Ask about video games or electronics. Be sure to get down on their level. You can do this by bending down or sitting in a seat next to them.

Make sure not to talk loud or fast. Keep your hands to yourself. If you are working with older kids don’t ask about their girlfriend/boyfriend. If a difficult question does come up refer back to a Board Meeting chaperone, or simply say ‘I don’t know.’ Above all don’t discipline them. Refer to a chaperone. Always maintain empathy. Try to see things from the youth’s point of view. And if you still don’t have any idea how to open up you can Sports cast. Just start saying everything as they are doing it. ‘Look. You got the screwdriver. Hey, you found the orange marker you were looking for.’

Strap in for the best Board Meeting ever.
Once the children have relaxed and you’ve gotten to know them. Then you want to dive into the Board Meeting kit. The biggest challenge your team might face is how to incorporate the youth into the process. One of the easiest things is to let them read the instructions as you assemble the skateboard. You could set them to decorating their helmet while your team assembles the skateboard. But that’s not why you’re having a Board Meeting.

The best idea would be to put the youth in charge. It is going to be their skateboard. Let them divide up the work. Obviously, the rest of the team would help lay out the jobs to be delegated. But, let the youth decide who is going to do what.

The Board Meeting Teambuilding kit

As you’re working with the child be sure to ask specific questions along the way. Repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you and the youth understand what’s been agreed upon. Be sure to let them try each part of the skateboard assembly and decoration. They need to feel like a true part of the team and not just a puppet figure head awaiting their prize. It’s always a good idea to offer help as many older children will be hesitant to ask for it.

Once you’ve reached the end of the Board Meeting thank the child for their leadership. Ask them what they plan to do with the skateboard now that they own it. See if they can test ride it for you. Watching them light up with the excitement of a life changing event will be a memory you cherish forever. You might even become a superhero is someone’s eyes.

Corporate give back activities such as Helping Hands, Life Cycles, or The Board Meeting is one way to bring a team together, but so is a ropes course. If you’ve never been on a corporate team building Ropes Course then you are not alone. Thousands of people have never had their feet leave the ground. So, it’s understandable that you might be a little apprehensive and maybe even doubting your teammates, and your own, physical prowess.

Ropes Course builds stronger teams

Alleviate those Ropes Course concerns with a little preparation.

Most ropes courses are not thrust upon a group of people at the last minute. Usually, there is a little time for you to gear yourself up both mentally and physically. Here are a few tips to help you get started. So, you can be a superhero.

  1. Dress the part:

    Wear something that is comfortable, but not loose fitting. Avoid dangling strings, or anything that might snag on something. Leave behind any accessories that might hinder movement. Opt for tennis shoes, or comfortable walking shoes

  1. Bug Repellent:

    Many ropes courses occur in wooded areas while others happen in the desert or urban areas. Outdoor ropes courses mean you are going to want something to keep those pesky flies away. Nothing is more frustrating than having to shoo away insects while climbing thirty feet in the air.

  1. Rest the night Before:

    Don’t let your worries keep you up. Be sure to relax and enjoy the evening prior to the event.The course is a full body workout that requires a lot of energy.

  1. Physical Fitness:

    Ropes Course takes trust to finish.

    Fortunately, a ropes course isn’t a race. You can enjoy the team building process at your own pace. Some of the lighter exercises you might want to consider are standing on leg to increase your balance. The yogic tree pose is recommended. Some light cardio, walking and jogging, would be good as you will be spending most of the day on your feet moving around. Squats would be a final light exercise. There is climbing involved. Any seasoned climber will tell you that climbing is all in your legs.

Mental Readiness:

Preparing your mind for the unknown is a difficult task by any measure. No one is really sure how they will react when confronted with the fear of heights or the fear of letting go. It is precisely this fear, or one’s like them, that the Ropes Course is trying to help someone to conquer by having them step outside of their comfort zone. Overcoming your mind, not your body, is the real challenge of this course.

  1. Don’t take it too seriously:

    Again, Ropes Course is not a race. This is meant to be a challenge that gets people to step outside their comfort zones. More importantly it’s a fun team building exercise. Everyone will be making mistakes, but everyone in the group will also be given the chance to coach each other through fears and pitfalls.

A little preparation can go a long way in getting ready for anything. Ropes Course is no different. So, now that you know what to do, gear up for one of the best day’s you’ll ever have in an office meeting.

Corporate Give back activities, such as The Helping Hands Project, Life Cycles, The Playhouse Challenge, or The Board Meeting, have become the latest trend in corporate team building exercises.

Long gone are the days of team golf retreats that don’t necessarily give individuals a chance to shine. Instead corporations have begun to turn to non-profits for a chance to give back to the community, rejuvenate employees, and increase brand loyalty.

Here are the top 5 reasons employers choose corporate give back activities.


Employees are given the opportunity to interact with one another in a relaxed atmosphere structured by a common goal.  This tension-free work meeting gives employees a chance to connect with one another on a personal level. Generally, the teams are interdepartmental. This mix of professionals will achieve results in an accurate, and often faster, time. They will also build interpersonal relationships. Positives like these will be carried back to the corporate team long after the workshop is over

Promote brand within community:

Corporate give back activities elevate a brand’s status within the community. Since there is a final product to be delivered a company can make a big show of the final delivery. If your skateboards, or bicycles, are being delivered locally, like with Life Cycles and The Board Meeting, you have greater potential impact in the community. You can make a big show with a large picnic, or another catered event. This gives your recipients the chance to enjoy the bicycle, or skateboard. It also gives the people that built the product a chance to see them being used.

Attract qualified applicants:

Today’s youth are more passionate than ever about giving back to the community. Many qualified potential employees have spent time during their college career giving back in some capacity. Whether it has been donating time, money, or both. A Net Impact survey found that 45% of students would be willing to take a 15% pay cut in order to work for companies that make a social or environmental impact.  Corporate give back activities attracts potential candidates with a desire to go good in the world. Providing them with this opportunity is the incentive they’ve been looking for.

Promote health and welfare of employees:

Grow your employees’ hearts, literally. Giving back has been shown, by a Washington D.C. based company, to increase the size one’s heart. Individuals who engage in volunteer work, regularly, have shown a reduction in despair. In turn they have had less chance of heart disease. This increase in blood flow has also been shown to elevate the mood of an employee throughout their day.

Promote production:

Happier employees make for a more productive workplace. If an employer has taken the time to strengthen relationships not only within a department, but inter-departmentally then they have taken the first step to creating a stronger bond with the company as a whole. It is this stronger bond that will focus everyone’s efforts towards a common goal of customer satisfaction.Happier employees will also create a positive mental image of a company that is allowing them to give back on company time because of corporate give back activities. This state of elation is what maintains a company’s brand image and positive return on investment.

Life Cycles is proud to promote volunteering by distributing bicycles to those in need of transportation. Often times children receive the bikes, but many are given to adults. They rely on the bike for getting around town and to their jobs. Whether you’re young or old, Life Cycles has a few maintenance tips to keep your new bike rolling down the road.

Cleaning the Life Cycles bicycle is crucial

Keeping a clean bike is the number one way to keep it operational. Dirt can get lodged into the drivetrain, and gears, causing skipping. Be sure to wash with water and either a specialty bike cleaner or mild dish detergent.

Life Cycles gives back while building teams

Cleaning the bike will also keep the brake, and shift, cables clean and operating smoothly. Life Cycles recommends to wash your bicycle after every use, but if you don’t have time once a year is the bare minimum.

Listen to your Life Cycles bike

Maintaining a well-lubed drive train is the most essential part of a bike. Without the gears and chain, the bike would never move forward. Lube the drivetrain by dropping a dab of chain lube on each link pin as you pedal backward. This will work the lube into the chain. Lube your chain after each cleaning, or if the chain has become dry.

Gritty scraping sounds are an indicator of worn brake pads. Changing them out is recommended. However, a mushy feeling in your brakes is a simple maintenance issue. Remedy this by adjusting the barrel adjusters counter clockwise on the levers, or at the brake arms until the mushy feeling is gone.

Finally, you will want to tighten all the nuts and bolts on your bike. This is a quick process, but make sure you are using the right tools and the right measurements. Not all bikes have standard nuts and bolts as metric components have been instituted.

Not all of these maintenance tips need be applied at the same time, nor do they need to be used every ride. Here’s a schedule to help you remember which parts to check and how often.

Maintenance Schedule

Once a month:

  • Check the shifting by cycling through all the gears while on a small bike ride.
  • Check the brakes by squeezing them both on flat ground and going down hill.
  • Lube the brake and shift cables, wheels’ axle, and fork sliders (suspension)

Every 3 Months:

  • Check brake pads for wear. Make sure grooves are still present.
  • Inspect the chain ring and the cogs for any wear.
  • Tighten all nuts and bolts
  • Grease the seat post.

Every 6 Months:

  • Deep clean the drive train
  • Replace, and lube, the chain


Life Cycles help others peddle on with life

This schedule coupled with regular cleaning will keep your bicycle in top performance mode. You should have no problem getting where you want to go if you follow the guidelines set out here.

Access the potential of your organization’s heart by giving employees an opportunity for volunteering in a team building meeting. This solution to corporate team building is a radical one compared to many of the mainstream exercises available.

What is Helping Hands?

The Helping Hands program brings teams together within an organization to promote collaboration. The program also focuses on commitment, and quality while deepening a sense of community.

One Washington D.C. based company showed improvements to the human heart during give back activities. Individuals who engage in volunteer work regularly have shown a reduction in despair and in turn have had less chance of heart disease.

Helping Hands uses the LN-4 prosthetic hand.

Helping Hands is an opportunity for your organization to boost production, and loyalty, while giving to those in need. The process begins with a pre-program interview. It is designed to establish your company’s specific business goals, organizational values, and individual behaviors. The program itself begins by emphasizing collaboration, purpose-driven work, and customer awareness.

Awareness Reflexive Tendencies (A.R.T.) begins phase two as the participants are challenged to identify reflexive strengths and areas for improvement. This has been proven to be a more deliberate approach to balance, results, relationship, and process.

Helping Hands Surprise

The LN-4 is cost effective and easy to use.

Up until this point none of the participants are aware that they will be building Helping Hands. For the participants, this has been just another team building exercise. So, watch them light up when they realize they will be assembling, and donating, a prosthetic hand to someone in need. The build is simple enough for children to follow as noted in the Baltimore Jewish Times. Yet, its complexities increase confidence within any team of any organization. By the end of the build the participants understand the value of the project. More importantly, they understand the value of their time, and the value of your commitment to do something really good in the name of volunteering.

Participants work in teams of three to five assembling the hand. They will also be decorating the bag that the hand will travel in. There are detailed instructions for the build. Each part must be installed correctly for the hand to function. Upon completion, a picture of the team is then taken. It is put into the bag so the recipient knows exactly who gave it to them.

Helping Hands ends the program with a video containing all the people the program has aided. This creates a powerful emotional connection between the participants and their work. Some even walk away feeling like a superhero.

GE has implemented this program to great success.The end of their first session created a buzz as many corporate leaders recommended the program to their GE Canada affiliates and other offices. GE was first drawn to the kit because it is flexible enough to be offered during any meeting.

Who receives the Helping Hands?

Hundreds of hands are being given out every month.

17,000 hands have been distributed to 75 different countries around the world. People who could not turn on a faucet without help are now enjoying the thrill of running water that they started themselves.

Around America countless corporate lives have been rejuvenated and re-inspired after doing their part to help those who needed a Helping Hand.


Helping Hands are going around the world. Shivkumar is a young boy from the Phillipines who lost his hand after being electrocuted while flying his kite. Emine Yuzay, a Turkish woman born without arms, would watch as her nine brothers and sisters were allowed to go to school. She would yearn for an education she was not allowed to pursue. Mutham, from the Philippines, lost his right arm in a landmine explosion while serving in the military in 1972. Each is a tragic story in a never ending procession with still more to come.

Helping Hands works for everyone involved.

There has been some 110 million landmines spread throughout the world since 1941. There are still many active today after their respective countries cease-fires. The primary victims are civilian women and children.

Helping Hands can help

250,000 amputees are registered worldwide with the United Nations. Tens of thousands of these people live with limited mobility, discrimination, and in some cases shame. Helping Hands is a program that has become the difference between amputees living a life in hiding and being productive members of society.

Helping Hands provides prosthetic hands to amputees at no cost to them while encouraging the corporate team building process through the hand’s assembly. At a minimal cost the hand is used in a large corporate team building meeting and then donated. Participants in Helping Hands team building exercises tie one hand behind their backs. Then working in teams they must assemble the hand. Emphasis is placed on collaboration, communication, purpose-driven work, and customer mindfulness through volunteering.

Once assembled, the Helping Hands are delivered to qualified applicants. After an application process, the arm is then measured to make sure it is of adequate length. The recipient is then taught how to attach the prosthetic hand and shown how it functions. The design is very simple with three fixed fingers and two ratcheting fingers that are released at the touch of a button.

Who is receiving the Helping hands?

Helping hands recipients must have 14mm of a limb.

When asked what they miss most about life before their tragedy many amputees say just being normal. They are unable to be as productive as they know they can. Helping Hands is helping many of these people to find that sense of pride once again.

Shivkumar no longer missed flying kites, but he did miss being able to write. “Love” was the first word he wrote only seconds after being fitted and shown how to hold the pen. Emine now gets to attend school as she can hold the books, papers, and write out her homework. Mutham says he “feels like a whole person again.” He is now feeding himself and brushing his own hair in the morning.

Many others are happy to be able to provide for their families by hoeing in the garden, or cleaning around the house. Over 17,000 helping Hands have been distributed in over 75 different countries including China, South Africa, Bolivia, Afghanistan, and Egypt.

Helping Hands starts by changing lives inside the corporate team building exercises. Then finishes by completing the life of someone in need.

In a string of radical new give back activities the Board Meeting has taken volunteering to a whole new halfpipe. This is a revolutionary hands-on approach to volunteering that invigorates the soul as you bring happiness to a child.

What is a Board Meeting?

This program encourages corporate teamwork to build, and design, skateboards for youth. Not only that, but participants will be mentoring children as they work side by side with them. Working directly with the youth recipient during the build and design phase is what makes this give-back activity so unique.

Board Meetings are a blast for everyone.

Volunteering has plenty of benefits for those involved. The act of volunteering has been shown to increase self-confidence, provide a sense of purpose, combat depression, and helps people stay physically healthy. When an employer offers the opportunity to give back in a meeting during working hours it shows that employee well-being is at the top of their boss’ list.

Working with children presents its own set of rewards and obstacles to overcome with this give-back activity. Helping the child build the skateboard and learn maintenance tips is only the half of this project. Participants have to learn a different style of honest communication in order to get a point across. Teams will also have to move at a faster pace while channeling the child’s enthusiasm into constructive pathways.

The biggest delight comes from the youth’s understanding of a process due to participant guidance. This simple process becomes cherished memories. At the end, the teams get to watch the children strap on their helmet and pads. Then the kids try their hand at riding their skateboards for the first time.

Who is hosting a Board Meeting?

Board Meetings bring everyone together

Vice President of Marketing of KAO Salon Division commented “Building the boards together was a great bonding activity, but the real reward was seeing the children’s excitement as they received their skateboards. Looking around at fellow members of our team, some with smiles and other with tears of happiness, made us realize how powerful it is to come together as a group.”

This desire to give back is not only a short term gain of employee happiness but a long term gain of potential qualified employees. Many qualified students actively seek out employers that give back to the community. 45% of students in a Net Impact survey said that they would take up to a 15% pay cut in order to work for companies that actively give back to their community.

Each Board Meeting DIY Kit is unique to the company that wishes to donate. The business goals and organizational values reinforced by the program are agreed upon before the show ever begins.

Time is not a factor as most Board Meeting Kits can be assembled in the time it takes to conduct an actual board meeting in the office. (At most three hours) These lightweight self-contained kits include the pieces to construct the skateboard. Knee, elbow, and wrist pads as well as a helmet. are included. Plus the markers needed to design everything.

Teams are three members to a skateboard including youth. Small teams make this ideal for an indoor or outdoor event as very little room is required and clean up is minimal.

Strap in for the best Board Meeting ever.

Hearts grow larger figuratively, and literally, at the end of a Board Meeting. They feel like a superhero. Participants walk away recommending the experience to other members of the community. Those that have participated in the Board Meeting program have built lasting corporate team building strategies based upon collaboration and ingenuity. The teams continue keeping the customer in mind with every step they take in the workplace.

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

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

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

We have a few meetings weekly, and so far none are really productive, resulting in a huge emotional response from several folks. How can we change the emotional memory so that these meetings become productive?

Research has shown that physiology is critical to our state of mind and that the complexity of the human condition requires us to address the physical self in addition to the mental state. Some suggestions and things to try — these are very simple and they will work. I have seen this work for 23 years EVERY TIME.

> Do not let people sit in the same seat for each meeting or for more than 30 minutes at one meeting.  They become territorial of their seat and their ideas. Standing is preferred when brainstorming or when you would like to have open dialogue.  Be sure ALL seats feel like they are just as important as the next, and that each person can see and be heard.  If you are going to allow sitting, then every 15 minutes have people move to a new seat. I am not joking… this will work, and they will smile, move, engage, and feel better without you even trying. They might resist this the first time, but then they will begin to prepare for the switch and move past the resistance.

> Never promise to have the meeting over in “X” amount of time so that we can all get back to work. WHAT?! I have seen so many meetings start this way. Start each meeting with a STAND. Make a strong stand for what you expect the value from the meeting will be and why you need them engaged.  Example: “Thanks for being here team. I am thrilled we have this time together and hope we have enough time to fully understand the value of this presentation to our success. We will be going over the financial today and you all know how important this information is to our ability to project the next business move and make our life easier. I value each of your input and perspective and I invited you to be here because I am convinced we can grow our business if each of us fully understood this data.” You get the idea.  Make it sound good to be at the meeting and make a big promise and then deliver. If the leader is not passionate about the meeting then the team will follow.

> Listen very carefully to the “Beliefs of your team.”  When you hear a negative belief, you need to identify the belief in a non-threatening way and then go to work to change it.  Example: I am… People are… Life is… This meeting is…  This team is…  My boss is… This project is… and so on. Beliefs influence focus, and that creates reality for people. If people say, “My boss is great,” then they will see things that support that belief.  If I love the rain, then when I hear it raining in the morning, I am already happy and my mood is up. If people believe this meeting is a waste of time, then they will be very slow to see anything else.

> The huge emotional response is actually a good thing. Change your belief about it. They have emotion because they still care and they want it to be better. If you get to a point that you no longer see emotion, then people are becoming apathetic and they will not work to improve the situation.

-Lain Hensley

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

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

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

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

Three Ways to Foster a Disruptive Mindset That Breeds Innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


-Lain Hensley

How does Odyssey incorporate meaningful activities prior to the build in particular? I struggle with people just wanting to build a bike for hours and then are underwhelmed by donation numbers.

Do not let them know anything about the building element going into the event. The philanthropic impact should be a surprise and the cherry on top. If the session is only seen as a CSR give back program, then the focus is on giving, and they will measure the value based on how much they gave. That seems normal to me. If the session is focused on learning outcomes and value to the participants, then they will be looking for the value to themselves and their team. The value that is given to the greater community is only a wonderful addition to an already valuable training session.

We start with the intellectual part of the session, incorporating simple activities or interactions simply to build on the concepts. The focus is not on activity. The activities build in complexity, and the concepts also build.  We make EVERY action have a purpose to help the participants see how the entire program is connected and relevant to their everyday life. The culmination with a CSR element or climactic activity should be when the participants are fully engaged in the learning and understand the connections between the two.  They should be seeing the learnings for themselves, and need very little spoon-feeding of the lessons at this point.

We have a few meetings weekly, and so far none are really productive, resulting in a huge emotional response from several folks. How can we change the emotional memory so that these meetings become productive?

Research has shown that physiology is critical to our state of mind and that the complexity of the human condition requires us to address the physical self in addition to the mental state. Some suggestions and things to try — these are very simple and they will work. I have seen this work for 23 years EVERY TIME.

Do not let people sit in the same seat for each meeting or for more than 30 minutes at one meeting.  They become territorial of their seat and their ideas. Standing is preferred when brainstorming or when you would like to have open dialogue.  Be sure ALL seats feel like they are just as important as the next, and that each person can see and be heard.  If you are going to allow sitting, then every 15 minutes have people move to a new seat. I am not joking… this will work, and they will smile, move, engage, and feel better without you even trying. They might resist this the first time, but then they will begin to prepare for the switch and move past the resistance.

Never promise to have the meeting over in “X” amount of time so that we can all get back to work. WHAT?! I have seen so many meetings start this way. Start each meeting with a STAND. Make a strong stand for what you expect the value from the meeting will be and why you need them engaged.  Example: “Thanks for being here team. I am thrilled we have this time together and hope we have enough time to fully understand the value of this presentation to our success. We will be going over the financial today and you all know how important this information is to our ability to project the next business move and make our life easier. I value each of your input and perspective and I invited you to be here because I am convinced we can grow our business if each of us fully understand this data.” You get the idea.  Make it sound good to be at the meeting and make a big promise and then deliver. If the leader is not passionate about the meeting then the team will follow.

Listen very carefully to the “Beliefs of your team.”  When you hear a negative belief, you need to identify the belief in a non-threatening way and then go to work to change it.  Example: I am… People are… Life is… This meeting is…  This team is…  My boss is… This project is… and so on. Beliefs influence focus, and that creates reality for people. If people say, “My boss is great,” then they will see things that support that belief.  If I love the rain, then when I hear it raining in the morning, I am already happy and my mood is up. If people believe this meeting is a waste of time, then they will be very slow to see anything else.

The huge emotional response is actually a good thing. Change your belief about it. They have emotion because they still care and they want it to be better. If you get to a point that you no longer see emotion, then people are becoming apathetic and they will not work to improve the situation.

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

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

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

-Lain Hensley

Effective teamwork is powerful. We have all seen great sports teams and organizations rise above – not because of their individual skills, but their ability to align those skills in a direction that is superior to their opponent. However, effective teamwork does not come from ‘team building.’

In studying the essentials of producing great teams, we have found that great teams do not focus on team building. They focus on individual building — together. There is a difference. A focus on team building usually results in a temporary “feel good,” but lacks the individual accountability necessary for synergistic results. A commitment to individual building — together creates longer, more sustainable results.

What does this mean? It means that the Golden State Warriors and Chelsea F.C. do not do ‘team building’. They practice the skills that are required for them to be successful — together. That is, each person has a motivation to be their best AND to leverage the best from each other. Team building is a by-product of ‘practicing’ on and off the field.

So what do we need to practice? Achieving great results collectively requires each individual to assess critical skills and then practice like mad. Shoot penalty kicks on repeat, tune up your own listening skills, or intensively train self-confidence, trust, and respect. It is about bringing the whole player to the field.

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

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

When notifying employees of the next team building event, the typical response is, “What? Do they really think I have time for this?”

Cynics come out from everywhere when the email is sent that the next team-building event is mandatory.

The most difficult task in producing a successful team building event or seminar is getting those naysayers to understand that team building leads to a more positive and productive working environment with less stress.

Here are three ways to get naysayers to engage in successful team building.

1. Create meaningful projects

Many companies that specialize in team building are finding success by adding meaningful activities for employees.

Philanthropic challenges can have impact and personal value. For example, employees can build prosthetic hands and learn that they’ll be donated to people who need them and can’t afford them.

Anytime you can add an emotional impact with the employee, the more helpful and fulfilling it will be.

It also helps to move the event somewhere offsite if available. Being outside at a park or in a rented meeting place like a hotel can be more exciting.

2. Reprogram employee behavior

We can assume that when the culture is suffering or when the culture is thriving, people can feel the difference. Results improve when culture is healthy. A healthy culture produces a happy (and productive!) employee.

They can do certain tasks for the team building event and relate it to their duties with the company. The key is to move the conversation past the activity and focus more on the productivity that is possible for the process.

Team building can help employees get back to the basics to better understand their role and how it helps the company. Clarity here can go a long way.

This is an excellent chance to find new rewards for employees that recognize their great work.

It will also present clear opportunities for leaders to emerge. If you have a new manager or supervisors on board, or one that has been waiting in the wings to emerge, team building creates opportunities for potential leaders to perform and prove they can be effective.

3. Document results

Many companies forget to keep track of the results from team building. Hiring a freelance photographer or getting someone on staff to take photos is essential for documentation.

Often times, team building motivates employees to give back more to the community in the future. If team building inspires employees to form a team to run in a local charity’s 5K, participate in a park or river cleanup or even plant a new tree in the company parking lot, make it known that you’re participating in a community aspect.

When you can document and publicize these instances, whether within the company or to the community, it can create a great sense of pride with the employee and garner a great reputation for the company.

Invite your social media coordinator to participate and encourage him or her to think of positive ways to showcase your team building event in the social space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lain Henlsey, Chief Operating Officer of Odyssey Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

-Bill John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In more than fifteen years around the globe, we have not met a group yet where the individuals were not able to articulate the values and behaviors that create great teams, great leaders and great organizations.

The last time I checked Amazon.com, it listed a staggering 224,196 books on the subject of leadership. It seems that anyone can write the book. Everyone knows how to say or speak the words.

In spite of this, common sense seems to be decreasingly common as the pressures of business and life increase.
Emotion – that most basic of human experiences – is hard to measure, and culture depends on it. So, we try to explain it scientifically. A lot of time and money is spent attempting to understand the science behind corporate culture, effective teams and successful leaders. And the results? They consistently point toward the obvious answer, the one we already know: Common sense is the best guide to harness the energy of emotion and to channel it into positive results, strong teams and innovation.

“It is unwise to try quantifying things that don’t lend themselves well to proper quantification.”
-Norman Glojck

Is it possible that the process that makes building teams, leaders and powerful cultures is this simple? Or, does it need to be more complex? If we charged per hour to ‘fix’ you, we certainly would gain by making it more complex. However, we are motivated by something much more human.


Safe – Employers AND employees MUST cultivate a safe culture for risk-taking. Does the culture smell like low tide? Are people hesitant, resistant or detached? Don’t worry about extensive or expensive ‘low-tide’ measuring devices. Just get out there and get a ‘sense’ of your environment – look, listen, feel. Is it safe for people to bring and to be their best?

Intentions – You must clarify your intentions…together. Corporate goals and visions by themselves are passé. The standard ‘kick-off’ or ‘goal-setting event’ offsite will not inspire the average employee beyond a few days or deals. Read this: It’s not their fault! A plaque on the wall or a banner listing professional goals might be motivation for you personally if you created it. But if it’s a hand-me-down from your boss, forget it. You’ve got to get their heads and hearts around it. See ‘Love’ below to turn great intentions into great results. Are you willing and capable of doing this?

Morph-readiness – Employees need to adapt, change hats, and do what’s necessary to WIN. People are people. We cannot adapt our biology nearly as fast as our sociology and technology. A passive look at morph-readiness is discussed in Chapter 11 by your 5th circuit judge. The awareness of this bio-socio-techno gap is something you may want to consider. Do you think you can just tell them to adapt? Or that they have to?…wha, wha, wha, wha, wha!

Perspectives – Creativity is born out of seeing old problems in new ways. Massive improvements only come from massive changes to how we see ourselves, each other and the problems and challenges we face. Paradigms – Pair-a-dimes – that’s only twenty cents, but you’ll spend a fortune on your current paradigm if it’s not buying you what you want or what your company needs.

A coach’s job is to see what the players cannot. You’ve got to help your ‘players’ see what they have forgotten in themselves. The challenge with matrixed and cross-functional teams is they’ve got to be able to coach each other. To do this requires ‘perspective,’ one that encourages a strong commitment to and awareness of the other five principles: S-Safe, I-Intention, M-morph-Readiness, L-love and E-energy.

Love – When the pressure is on, the honeymoon is over. People forget why they were so excited when they first got ‘the job’. We are married to our work, and the ‘professional’ divorce rate is making it easier to have ten or more jobs. Find/Choose love again. Don’t throw in the towel just because your ‘default’ response to pressure is not getting you the results you seek. There is no better way to change your default settings than to ‘change your default settings.’ Hard? Probably! Can you do it? Choose one, YES or NO. Whatever choice you made, you’re right!

Love comes from a sense of purpose and relation to the things that matter to us…together. Work should matter to us because we spend so much time there. Further, it gives us the ultimate human responsibility to our social existence and the natural law of commerce. That is, to help others…and profit. We forget that if we don’t help others, we don’t profit. The farther we are removed from the satisfied/grateful customer experience, the less chance we have of feeling their gratitude and our own sense of external purpose.

If you manage a product or service and you want to see growth, you have to continually figure out how your product or service benefits the consumer. This conversation is not just about external customers; it is also about the people you manage or lead. Help them help others, and you all profit. Neglect that, and people will lose the love that initially led them to their job. Seemingly trivial complaints (the cap left off the toothpaste, for example) then become enough to trigger a ‘divorce’ when people lose their connection to collective purpose and their ‘love’ of contribution.

Energy/Endurance – Synergy comes from energy that is aligned, and endurance comes from deep-rooted purpose. Burnout, rust-out and the “I’m-out-of-here” attitude result from a lack of focused energy and endurance. To find energy and create endurance, see the preceding SIMPL principles above.

If you need help in any of these areas, everything under the sun is available to you. Just be sure not to hire copycats of well-thought-out programs or processes. They don’t have it in their bones. And don’t confuse drinking at a Red Sox game with team building. If you’ve got a culture that smells like low tide going into this approach, you’ll come out with even more stench than when you started. A dissatisfied culture with alcohol only emerges as a more dissatisfied culture with a hangover.

It’s fascinating how EVERYONE knows the ingredients to effective teamwork, but when we throw them into simulations and turn up the pressure, the usual suspects emerge and talk becomes cheap. The basics are discarded, and we find our less-than-great selves emerging. Are we just not getting it? You can probably think of ten people right now that you know need help getting back on the cutting edge of common sense. But you? Of course not!

Bill John
Odyssey Teams, Inc.
The S.I.M.P.L.E. name and process are protected under copyright law. All rights reserved.

By the Spring of 2000, I was losing my passion for the experiential medium that was tremendously successful for the previous decade. Ropes Courses started became synonymous with “teambuilding” and “teambuilding” was losing it’s value through poor facilitators, knock-offs and companies who were seeking it just to check the box. Ropes courses were a dime a dozen and it became more ubiquitous as a challenge course and thrown into the same category as paint ball, a scavenger hunt or karaoke – where strong facilitation, or the metaphoric value were not required by industry standards or a deceived public. It was sad to watch the original brand and intent of true team development slip out of control. Odyssey was still doing it’s work effectively but we were being shopped by companies looking to just check the ‘teambuilding’ box – not looking for the true development of their team. We held the belief in our value and charged for that value and let the box checkers go to knock-off competitors with the knowledge that they would further dilute the brand of our medium.

I looked back to the good old days  – where no one had ever heard of a “ropes course”, or even “team building” – when neither label existed and we used the activities to talk powerfully about leadership, teamwork and business. I was entering this ‘funk’ more frequently by the Spring of 2000 that my colleagues (and wife) would have to endure my lust for doing something different. I talked of a new career altogether. I explored the ideas of being a fireman, even medical school, something where I could still feel like I was helping people. There were countless Odyssey meetings where my team would have to endure my funk and my non-stop push for value – not to succumb to chasing price down as our industry slipped further into the diluted “teambuilding” craze.

One day in the Spring of 2000, we got a call from Lucent Technologies who had heard of our work in building teams. They had brought a new leader to run their global procurement division – a big job. Jose Mejia was holding his first meeting for all his new direct reports from around the world. Lain took the call and listened to the challenges and objectives that Jose faced. Lain came to me with an idea of giving them a different experience and riffed for awhile on building something. He said “how about building dog houses”. I smirked, not knowing where he/that might go or how to leverage it as a training experience, a simulation, or a metaphor. Well, Lain sold the idea to the client before he really sold it to me. Nice one, Lain. ;-).  He went about his logistical, metaphoric and optimistic ways and I half-heartedly went along with it. The question that was still unanswered was: “what are we going to do with all these dog houses when they are finished?”

The event took place in Orlando, Florida for 250 participants. We decided to break them into teams of ten, give them a bunch of lumber, plywood, hammers, nails, saws, paint, brushes and two hours to see what they would come up with. Prior to the two hours of building, we spent two hours setting the context and giving them experiences and discussions to get them prepared to WORK. That is, to sharpen their creativity, leverage the strengths and diversity of the team; manage time, resources and energy, and be more deliberate about processes, relationships and results.

Well, we must have nailed these elements because what everyone in the room saw was utterly amazing. On time, 25 of the most creative, fantastic dog-houses were built. Some on stilts, some with draw bridges, Tahitian dog-huts, modern architecture, Victorian. At the conclusion, we all paraded down the ‘streets’ of this dog-house neighborhood in complete awe of what was accomplished. Lain made prizes for ‘best teamwork’, ‘best creativity’, and I think one was even for ‘best engineering’ (since most of the group were engineers). As with ALL Odyssey programs, the experience itself was not our aim. The discussion or debrief was.  It is there we have the chance to attach words – powerful words and behaviors to galvanize the experience. The words and experience are thus connected with who they are, what they do and where they are going – individually and organizationally.

Jose announced that the houses were going to an auction sponsored by Lucent technologies and that the proceeds were going to be given to the local (Orlando) Habitat for Humanity. A win for people, a win for dogs, and a huge WIN for Jose and his new team. At dinner, Jose and I talked about the event. He knew, that as he went around the world, meeting his other teams and leaders, that THIS was exactly the medium which would point towards what he wanted his people to value. His next big meeting was to be in Atlantic City in October, 2000.

Ever creative, Lain suggested an idea to build on the ‘building’ idea – bicycles – for Joses next meeting. Again, I was half-sold on the metaphoric value but Lain proceeded and started pointing towards some things that I thought could work. As I was on the plane flying from California to Newark, I dug in deeper to the metaphor of building bikes and I realized that the bike could be analogous to ‘product’ and since this was a procurement team, I would make them procure the supplies. The tools would be available but only if they leveraged each other into sharing them. No individual team would have everything they needed which would require them to move beyond their silos to access the potential of all the parts and pieces that lay in front of them. There was still something missing for me. I didn’t know what it was until we were somewhere over Nebraska. We had already pre-determined that the bikes would be donated to the local YMCA but this did not contain the metaphoric power I was looking for. We needed the kids to burst through the doors to represent the face of the customer – to give more importance to the product itself, and of course the process, relationships – and people that produced it.

As soon as I landed, I got on the phone with our contact at the YMCA and asked him if he could bring the kids – all 50 of them!

He did. They came to the hotel while the participants were frantically building and managing the short time I gave them for this business ‘simulation’. The kids were just outside the doors as the time clicked to mark the end of the assembly of the bikes and the beginning of the post build debrief. While the participants talked about sharing tools, or not, who finished first, or not, they made some good connections and lessons. Meanwhile, quietly, the kids were escorted through a backstage door behind the curtains and given a number that matched one of the 50 bikes in the room. The kids were curious. They knew they were going to be given a surprise but had yet to learn it was a brand new bike, helmet and lock.

I asked the participants to look at their ‘product’ – the bike and tell me what it had. “Wheels” they shouted, “handlebars”, “peddles”, “tires”, “spokes”. Then I asked them to think back to their first bike, to think of it’s color, how old they were, and then asked them to tell me what a bike IS. They shouted:  “transportation”, “self-esteem”, “ownership”, “friendship”, “FREEDOM”. The mood changed in the room in thinking about what it IS versus what it HAS and I asked them to think about the Life Cycle of this “Product” – that it was still not complete in what it was intended to become…until now. “It’s time for you to meet your customers”, I announced.

The curtains swung open and there was a brief moment of disbelief, a moment of ‘Oh shit’ followed by thunderous applause and smiles, and tears. Every participant was on their feet. The kids, looking out, starting to realize that all those shiny bicycles, balanced upside-down, just might be the surprise that their YMCA coordinator and Odyssey talked about right before they came in the room. I confirmed this for them and the kids shout out their approval and joined all the adults in this special surprise that went both ways.

I was a mess. I thanked the kids for coming – for being brave enough to walk into this mystery and for the good things that they had done that led them to be invited/chosen by their coordinator to get to take a brand new bicycle home. I told them to hold up their numbered sign and for one of the participants in that group, representing that same numbered bicycle to come up and find their customer, go back, and get to know each other and to adjust the seat to the proper height and the handlebars to the right position.

Almost every team dove into their tools and started fixing brake cables, adding air to tires, double-checking every bolt and nut. I asked them to pause for a moment and got everyone’s attention. I asked them what they were feeling that led to all this additional work on the bike as a rhetorical question. I asked them to really feel the answer to that question. Then, I announced that “we have brought expert bike technicians to put a wrench on every part of the bike to be sure they are perfect when they leave this building”. “Your job then is to build relationship with your customer. Find out where they are going to ride their new bike, who they are going to tell when they get home”.

After about 20 minutes with each other it was time to say goodbye and escort the kids and bikes out of the room with bikes to the technicians and kids back with Odyssey’s youth coordinator.

Back in the room with the Lucent participants, I introduced the YMCA coordinator who talked about how/why he chose these kids, what a bike means to them and more about the purpose of the YMCA and it’s importance in the community/world. Standing ovation.

Then I asked the group to get into their build teams (five) and talk about what they were feeling and how that feeling connects with who they are, what they do and where they are going.

Facilitation gets it’s origins from the Latin equivalent ‘to make easy’. My job was to make it easier for them to see all the connections between this activity and their business, their role, their leadership, their values, their products and their customers. Well, this activity made that easier than just about any experience I had ever given a group. When we opened up the conversation to the entire group – getting people to report out their observations, lessons, insights and take-aways, I was just blown away. Everyone in the room was. It was absolutely inspired and inspiring. They made connections that we could never have made for them. That’s the beauty of facilitating. They know far more about what they do than we do. Our job is to aim them in the right direction and listen and learn right alongside.

There are thousands of transformational observations and connections that people have made over the last 14 years of delivering this program to more than 80,000 participants around the world, delivering more than 16, 000 bicycles to underprivileged children. The main ones tend to revolve around:

— The power of purpose
— Knowing the Why of your actions and endeavors
— Putting quality into something the first time and committing to it
— Keeping the customer/end-user in mind more often – if not always
— Collaborate more, share knowledge, information and tools instead of being hyper-competitive
— Be less silo-minded, have an eye on the bigger picture
— Your actions MATTER
— Do more things that benefit the community!
— Demonstrate our/these values in all things and everywhere we go

For Jose Mejia and Lucent Technologies this was a catalyst – a starting point and tipping point in what would be over a billion dollars of savings to the organization through streamlined processes, shorter inventory turns, and more.

So now you know the secret. If you’ve not participated in Odyssey’s Life Cycles™ program, the original bicycle building program with the children bursting through the doors, the surprise element in advance for you is now gone. I use to worry about this and it brought us a great marketing conundrum. We are not so worried anymore. In the hundreds if not thousands of times we’ve delivered Life Cycles, we invariably have participants, VP’s, event planners and others that bring us in to work with other groups. These people know the surprise element and still find the emotional component and frequently say that it was better the second time through -that this time they were able to focus more on watching the dynamics of their team and connecting the Odyssey concepts more deeply. We, at Odyssey can relate. It still chokes me up one or more times during every program.

Prior to Life Cycles there was nothing that made a deliberate connection between training, teambuilding, philanthropy and community service. Especially in only four hours and all contained in the simple logistics of a conference or meeting room.

The word of mouth was rampant. The press loved it. It was an industry-changer for at least one industry, and it was a creator, or tipping point of an industry or it least phrase not yet born at the time. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The industry we changed with Life Cycles was the “Teambuilding” industry. Anyone who was providing anything under this umbrella started to hear about ‘the bike building program’. As they heard about the power of this experience from our raving participants, they heard about the most descriptive parts – the building of bicycles and donating them to underprivileged kids. Unfortunately, and shame on Odyssey, we didn’t send them off with an easy way to describe the process and context that gave so much life and relevance to the building of bikes and then giving them to children. So, the hapless “teambuilding” companies that diluted the power of the ropes course and other experiential mediums, began the easy task of offering their own ‘bike building’ program where you can build a bike for children.

While we are proud of the bar we have raised in the industry, we are sad to say that some of our colleagues have even tried to claim being the inventors of this program/process.

We realized early on that we were going to be copied. To heed this off, we looked at copyrighting the program and discussed with attorneys, who suggested wholeheartedly we do this. One good attorney and friend said that copyrighting it might not be too hard but the burden and cost of enforcing it is where the real issue was. We also realized that it would be out of our character to try to control or prevent companies and people from building bikes for children. So, we did the next best thing (in our minds and hearts), we put a note/invitation at the bottom of our website that we would train other teambuilding companies to run Life Cycles. A few of our closest allies did this, but dozens of other companies never even called. They just ran off to Wal-Mart, bought bikes and advertised their build-a-bike program and some made false claims to it’s origin.

Our fears were confirmed that the powerful process that came from years and years of our own experience, steeped in our bones, was being diluted into just an activity. Yes, probably better than any other ‘activity’ they offered or their participants had ever experienced – even without our process – but, really? Do the participants have to race the bikes? Is there no context or concepts to drive throughout, no debrief or deliberate transference? I suppose it was inevitable that Rolex and Odyssey would get knocked off. The broken law of morale commerce. So that’s my bitterness.

The sweet is still really sweet. Life Cycles changed the industry. The tens of thousands of people who have gone through this program have expected more of ‘team-building’. They now desire that the event coupled with their business meeting is not in vain, not just a decadent waste of money, a boondoggle or simply self-indulgent. They realized in the Life Cycles program what a massive difference that could be made with their heads, hands and hearts. Yes, the teambuilding industry changed. It responded with all kinds of new options, some really good, some really questionable. But it’s trying and mostly it is coming from a good place and good people.

The second industry that was created or at least hit its tipping point through Life Cycles was not even an industry when we started Life Cycles. As the wildfire spread about good deeds being done that make a difference in the community and for teams and organizations, a word was coined to describe it: CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Now, it’s a massive objective, recognized and adopted by most organizations and contributes billions of dollars to communities and projects around the world.

There is a problem though. I fear that it is not going to reach it’s potential for what good it can do. It has become a fad because too often the deeper value to the participants, the employees, is not there. They will donate and give their time but only up to the point where they see the connection to who they are, what they do and where they are going.

Already, we have organizations that are calling us that are just box-checkers. “We just want to do a CSR program”. “No, we don’t have time or need the other parts of the program. Can we just build the bikes and give them to kids? Can we just build the prosthetic hands, show the videos and be done? We only have one hour.”

The same companies that just wanted a “teambuilding activity” a decade ago are now calling us for this ‘activity’ so they can get their CSR event done.  The box checkers are going to kill the deeper value of CSR because they forget the shelf life of doing something for others is short-lived unless you can connect what it does for the success of those you are asking (or even requiring) to do CSR.

So here is Odyssey Teams, at that point of re-invention, again, pushing the envelope to create meaningful experiences for people that transform the way people show up for work. As long as there are genuine companies interested in this pursuit, we’ll keep inventing and challenging our industry to be better.


Bill John

Founder, President/CEO

Odyssey Teams, Inc.

Today I delivered our Life Cycles program to a really great client. The CEO of their business, Barry, is perhaps the best leader I’ve seen in years. This makes them a great client because it’s so easy to bring his concepts to life because they are not complicated.

Barry’s approach is to develop his leaders by having them deliver the leadership modules. Usually, companies bring in subject matter experts, authors of the five traits, or 7 habits. Barry simply asks his leaders to talk about x,y,z, principles of leadership by having them share a personal story of how these show up.

I was humbled by the power and effectiveness of each of their stories as they brought up the concepts. Each of them had their Odyssey to share.

I felt over-classed by these genuine people, sharing their stories. I did not plan to talk about Lain when I started but it just came out – it’s one of the most personal things in my life right now.

If you’ve not been following Odyssey on Facebook, Lain, my business partner and best friend is a Cancer Survivor – cancer free we hope, as of two days ago after a radical removal of tumor, glands, lymph nodes and tonsils in his neck.

Sharing my story, and relating it to the leadership concept of ‘Being There’  (by the authors of FISH) engaged me on a whole new level.  The building of bicycles and having the children come in the room to the surprise of the participants was as powerful as I’ve ever seen – and delivered.

Barry’s ability to compel others to bring themselves fully to what they are doing got me. It got all of us. And I think it will make a difference for Lain, battling heroically to recover from his surgery.

Thank you Barry for inspiring us all.

Bill John

What do bikes have to do with real business? Why build bikes for children? Why the big surprise? These are some of the common questions that we are asked during the planning phase of our Life Cycles (TM) bike and teambuilding program. The question is easily answered with one word…emotion. People learn when emotion is present. They are more receptive to feedback, open to self-examination, and willing to talk openly with co-workers.

Everyone remembers their first bike, so there is an instant connection to the value of the product being built. Due to the intrinsic value of the product, participants can easily assimilate the emotional connection of their everyday job to the value that this new product will bring to their “customer”. Like no other product, a bike creates a viable link to the real work that people do. When the children enter the room the product-to-market experience is complete – and the learning is abundant.

After the participants have built, customized and delivered the bikes to the children, the experience becomes less about the bikes and more about the lessons of the process. With their hearts open and endorphins pumping participants reflect on their communication, collaboration, and effectiveness with teammates. They are more willing to assess their level of commitment and attention to detail. They develop a deeper appreciation for their team and company and find new connections to the work they do and the customers they serve. This is not smoke and mirrors. It is a real-life experience that transforms a team building program into a profound and lasting encounter. Unlike any other “team building” experience, the Life Cycles program delivers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is now, for the moment. At Odyssey Teams, Inc. we strive to bring emotion and insight in our programs so people get at a visceral level what it means to Plan, Support, Align, Create etc. together. Two of our goals during our Philanthropic Corporate Team Building sessions are to create an emotional connection to the ‘why’ of people’s work and strengthen the connections to the people they work with on the job/projects.

It is a busy time of year for us. In the past 24 days we’ve been in 2 countries, 5 states, delivering 4 types of philanthropic and team building programs to 19 different groups. Needless to say we are a bit road weary though proud of the results we’ve co-created with our partners and participants.

At the start of this ‘run’ I was at UCLA Medical Center and watched a friend (45 years young, wife, 2 kids 6yrs & 3yrs) just four feet away take his last breath. My wife had her hand on his heart, while his wife held his hand as he went to the next place. From that moment on it has been a special kind of Team Building and Charitable event. His family and friends mobilized to plan and align on all of the many known and unknown next steps. Support, brainstorming, creativity and care were all on hyper aware mode. The results made the best (and beautiful) of very challenging times for all involved.

It seems more and more people are being ‘Teflon Business Nice’ to each other — Being pleasant, saying just enough, following protocol, a bit of ‘game face’ on, keeping it surface level. While this may work on a typical/average day, the risk is that a crisis, critical choice point, or other breakdown may occur and these people have no depth of connection/relationship to reach out to those who need help or the ability to extend to those who may help them with their issue.

Things are easier with others by our sides. Share a bit more of yourself- Life is now.
So, connect. Connect now.

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!
Odyssey Teams!

Odyssey client, NetApp was just given the honor of “Third Best Multinational Work Place” according to greatplacetowork.com. We are extremely proud, yet not surprised. Over the years they have been enthusiastic participants in our Life Cycles and Helping Hands programs. Throughout our partnership we have helped them deepen the individual and organizational ‘Why’ of their work. This has provided a more powerful perspective and context for answering the ‘How’ questions they strive towards:
How can we be more collaborative?
How can we be more innovative?
How can we improve quality?
How can we be more customer-centric?
How can we give more to the community?
They worked on the answer to each of these, and the by-products have been incredible amounts of bicycles built for (and given to) under privileged children and hundreds of prosthetic hands funded and built for amputees in developing countries. While other companies might do a charity event to check the box, NetApp understands the connective element to character, culture, contribution and customer. These Four C’s are the building blocks of innovation, quality, customer-centricity, and community – and NetApp is not afraid to talk about it. Odyssey Teams has provided the structure and process for them to do this powerfully.
Not surprisingly, NetApp is now where people want to work and where they want to do business.
Well done, NetApp. The world is watching. Way to use your heads, hands and hearts!

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.

I can’t take it anymore!!! What is team building?
After 20 years of traveling all over the world and working with the top of fortune 100 companies and the bottom of lots of others, I have hit my breaking point. I’ve been doing leadership development, communication seminars and “teambuilding” and many of my own clients are still wondering… What is teambuilding? I’m wondering what they really want from me. I’m not sure anybody really knows. I might not even know. But at this point, I’m as big an expert as I can find, so I am going to try and help define this beast for all of us. The definition has become so broad, so overused that some people are beginning to confuse “team hazing” as teambuilding and I don’t really want to be a part of that. Do you…?

In 2000, we at Odyssey Teams confused the situation even more by introducing the concept of philanthropy into the teambuilding world with the first ever bike building program, (Life Cycles). The amazing success of this program, and its duplication by all our competition, forced us to innovate again and we followed up with the Helping Hands and Playhouse Challenge offerings. They have been very successful, but now our training process is confused with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teambuilding events with no actual teambuilding result that impacts the performance of the team beyond the activity itself. We are also mixed in with rafting, paint ball, food fights, bike building programs with a focus on building the bikes and racing them around for prizes and a day pulling weeds by the freeway. What have we done? How do I stop it?
Ok let’s start with the definition… Teambuilding. Is it one word or two? For argument sake, can we just agree it is one word? Somebody get on the phone with the people who create words and my computer dictionary and say we have made a decision. It is one word.
Now… what does it mean? . Definition – ‘Teambuilding’ – the act of building a team as a result of each person on that team doing individual building…together. This is accomplished most often through the combination of information, demonstration, experience and application. For those of you who love acronym’s – how’s that for an IDEA?
Now, lets look even closer. If you search teambuilding on Google alone you get 1,730,000 options. WOW!!! That is a lot of teambuilding. They can’t all be the same or equal value to you, can they? How do you decide what to do for your group and will it build your team at all?
I say we break it into three parts. Whatever programs you are considering or you have participated in was or will be a combination of these: the activity itself, the quality of the training content, and the skill of the facilitator. When you are considering your options out of the 1.7 million possibilities you should start by giving each of these a value. I like a 1 to 10 scale.
1. The activity itself: Some activities have a certain amount of natural or intrinsic value. Building one of our playhouses and giving it to a children’s group will be fun, creative, require teamwork, physically active, and participants will need to interact with each other to get the job done. They will also feel a sense of purpose when they give the Playhouse away and meet the children recipients. I would give this activity a 9 on a 1 to 10 scale of natural value for the team from this activity without training content or facilitation. Pulling weeds along the freeway with your group scattered over a one-mile stretch of road, I would give a 2. The drinking that is sure to take place after the weed pulling work, I would give a 4.
Before you make a choice, consider how active you want the group to be, logistics of your site, and how distracted you want them to be with the actual project. If training content is an 8 on your scale the Playhouse Challenge would not be a good option. I would consider, Helping Hands, Life Cycles or another indoor, moderately active option. This will keep the group engaged and focus on the training purpose of the activity and not just the activity.
2. The quality of the training content: We have been working for years to blend the right experience with the training curriculum of our clients. In some cases this has meant months of meetings and in depth dialogue about how the activity is going to bring to life the behavioral virtues necessary to fill any gaps related to results, processes and relationships. Some teams need to use the teambuilding opportunity to purposely move the dial on a specific measurable in the groups performance. In some cases we have eliminated the activity portion from our delivery altogether, so we can focus on our training process exclusively.
Other groups have had no interest in pull-through and ROI from the event. Fun was king and activity was the joker. What is your priority here? If you have a group that has a new leader, has been going through a merger, or has been struggling through hard times over the last quarter, you might consider this as the key element to your selection criteria. Activity itself is not enough for them. They want to see the activity as an opportunity to connect with the purpose and values of the organization or the new leader. Don’t miss this transformational moment and just give them some busy work. Be sure the teambuilding company you select has the facilitation skills and the ability to blend the right activity with the current state of the team. If you do this, the entire process can become a natural extension of your training curriculum with lasting and powerful results.
We know that memory is linked to emotion. If you want them to remember your training message as more than just an intellectual concept, select an activity that will have them feel and experience the information at a level below their shoulders. This can be transformational to human behavior and team performance. If this is not a priority for this meeting, then set your training content score at a 1 to 5. But know what you are looking for and hire for it.
3. Skill of the facilitator: We have all sat in the back of a training or teambuilding session and had the chill go down our spine as the facilitator vacillated between boring and cheesy. A quick glance in the back of the training room can reveal the person who decided to book them as the most uncomfortable person in the room. Ouch… that’s a bummer.
If you have given the activity itself a high value (7 to 10) for your meeting and the training content is low on your scale (1 to 5), then when the ten uncomfortable minutes are over the activity will begin and by the end of the session the participants are happy and everybody walks out better for it.
The Build a Hand Kit is our Helping Hands program in a box without our live facilitation. If the group is easy or small and not going to eat the facilitator alive, why pay to have the experts come in? If you are looking for a powerful activity with the training content your in-house facilitators already know then this kind of do-it-yourself process is a great option.
Sometimes, people respond better to an outside facilitator. Other times, you may have complicated logistical challenges with a group from 10 to 1,000. In either case it may be best to bring in the facilitation pros and let them do their thing. If you have a high score on your training content and your group needs a transformational teambuilding session – and you have already paid a lot of money to get them in the room together – then hire the best facilitator you can find who will deliver the program you want and enjoy the recognition you are sure to get afterwards.
The Lifecycles bike-building program has been delivered by everyone from beach Olympics companies to motivational speakers and top-level executive coaches. Be sure you are getting what your group needs for the outcomes you have identified. If the facilitation is not appropriate for your group it can distract from the process and you miss out on the possible return on your investment. Caution, pay peanuts and you might get monkeys.
I hope this has been helpful. Next time you have 10 or 10,000 people flying in from all over the country and you decide to do a teambuilding program, keep this in mind. Start your planning with a conversation about these three areas and agree on your score for each. If you need help, great, but at least this gets you asking yourself and your team the right questions before you start looking for the event. If you end up working with Odyssey Teams, we’ll be able to deliver the ideal balance, hit all your expectations and make us all look good. This formula should lead to an easy decision for your planning team and a relevant experience that actually does build your team.
Good luck! Oh and please don’t introduce me as the games guy, or bike-building guy to your executive team. Thanks!

I thought you would all get great pleasure out of this news – October 2010, which is not quite yet over, represents our biggest month ever in terms of sending out hands –
By the end of this month we will have sent the following LN-4’s out (actually, there are more that have been sent out as samples, but these numbers are for actual fittings);
Nepal: 20
India: 300
Equador: 200
Dominican Republic: 80
Total: 600
As I have mentioned before about inventory, once these things start to happen, this inventory can be depleted rather quickly. Also, Odyssey Teams has ordered another 2,000 kits to be assembled and paid for as a result of the Helping Hands program. This is truly amazing news on all fronts everyone.

More than a philanthropic deed. More than a team building process. More than just good corporate social responsibility.
Odyssey Teams’ Build-a-Hand teambuilding program is a radical re-examination of what work is and why we do it. Tried and tested by some of the world’s largest corporations, this philanthropic corporate training program is now available to companies of any size. It is a teambuilding idea whose time has come.
Build a prosthetic limb that will change the life of a land mine victim. Build a team that injects efficiency, innovation and spirit into the workplace. Build a more collaborative, caring and connected company.

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.”

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

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

Team building doesn’t always have to be focused solely on your team. That’s the philosophy we follow when it comes to our Helping Hands project, one of our many Give Back Activities.

During our helping hands program, you and your team will work on building an actual prosthetic hand, like the one show below from a variety of parts. Don’t worry, we will be there to help you along the way, and the kit even comes with instructions. We combine curriculum, activities and key note addresses with the cooperative problem-solving exercise of assembling these hands. You will have to work together to figure out build it most efficiently and effectively. And trust me, you’ll want to put in your best effort because this hand is going to be given to someone in a developing country who has lost their hand. Together, we can change the world.

"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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