Team building is not an optional activity for companies and organizations anymore. Much as change management is an ongoing and necessary philosophy these days, so is hiring the right employees, finding ways to maximize their unique talents, and figuring out how to retain them as key members of your team. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines always said… that rather than letting employees go who weren’t “working out”, he always preferred to find a better fit for their talents and personalities. Team building is really an essential piece of what should be ongoing development programs to increase the productivity and overall effectiveness of your organization.
If you have work to be done on your teeth, please take note. The following describes a situation that might make you LOVE going to the Dentist. This is not your typical open up and say “ah” experience.
Building a great team is not easy. Developing that team once in place so that it performs consistently at championship level, may be even more challenging. However, Dr. James Munro and his amazing cast at Belle Forest Dental in Bellevue, just a few minutes west of Nashville proper…. are Oscar-worthy in the quality, scripting and demeanor of their service. From the moment you walk into their office “living room” with its West Elm sense of modern, open décor you are swept into feeling as though you are in a spa. Complimentary beverages of a very wide variety await you in their help yourself, guest fridge. Watch the program of your choice on their huge flat screen TV, or assuming it’s not being utilized at the time, take a seat in their highly effective, full body massage chair, isolated in it’s own “Zen” room complete with waterfall sounds, and soft lighting to set the mood. This part of your experience really helps reduce your stress level before entering the inner sanctum.
None of this even begins to touch upon how genuinely friendly, extremely knowledgeable, or efficient the cogs turn here. Susan and Connie in the front desk area are amazing. “What flavor smoothie would you like when you’re finished?
“What’s that,” you say?
“Yes, with fresh fruit, we make a smoothie for you to take with you when done with your procedure! “
Brilliant. This clinic not only goes above and beyond in every aspect of your clinical experience with them, before, during and post-procedure….BUT they also stand by their work. If there is an issue with something that has been done, and you’re not happy with a result, they will take care of it. (Disclaimer – within reason. If you go and bash your teeth on a microphone or with a baseball bat…I wouldn’t expect any help here.)
The staff at Belle Forest Dental truly illustrates the winning definition of TEAM to me. Together Everyone Achieves More.
In talking about what makes a team of songwriters successful, or a team at your organization successful, it’s instructive to view the example of the hugely influential collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein. This unit changed Broadway into a worldwide word and destination and idea.
In this entry we’re specifically discussing the hit musical Oklahoma!
What made Rodgers and Hammerstein stand out were the risks they took together to write a play that they believed was truly meaningful. It was unheard of at the time to have an opening number without colorful costumes, celebratory dancing, magnificent music, and of course chorus girls. Yet Oklahoma! opened with a single baritone singer and a woman churning butter (and the chorus girls didn’t even enter until half way through the first act).
INNOVATION - Their willingness to risk altering long-standing traditions was a testimony to their cohesion and defined their extraordinary friendship. Rodgers recalled his relationship with Hammerstein right from this opening piece, saying:
The paramount thing is what we gave each other creatively. The very first lyric that Oscar finished was ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,’ and when he handed it to me and I read it for the first time I was a little sick with joy because it was so lovely and so right. When you’re given lines like ‘The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,’ you get something to say musically.
And the rest as they say…is history.
Recently, Scott and I worked with a small group of Dental Health Professionals on TEAM in the work-place. Here are some kind words the Event Organizer shared with us.
“Jeff, Thank you SO much for the session on Monday! I have heard from everyone that it was a great meeting. I played the song along with the worksheets/lyrics for a couple of our doctors – they loved it.” Lynda D.
It’s always nice to get positive feedback, and feel as though we touched the clay of those in attendance at an event. Thanks for your support Lynda!
Blessings for 2013.
“The Song Team.”
This past weekend, my significant other and I met up with 5 total strangers from an “outdoor meetup” group we had found online. The mission? To take a rather challenging (for me) hike and camping trip (in tents…in December). A gorge called “Walls of Jericho” on the Alabama/TN. line was the destination.
I was the oldest in the group likely by 10 years, and the least experienced at this type of activity (by far more than is measurable). I was excited, but also a bit anxious. Would I be able to keep up while transporting a 35 pound pack on my back? What would it be like to NOT have a restroom to use late at night, in the dark and cold, while a pack of Coyotes howl in the distance? (They were loud and all too happy sounding by the way.)
I didn’t have all the proper gear, though my companion did. Also, though I love meeting new people, one never knows how those transactions will go,and I was going to be spending the next 48 hours with these folks in rather intimate and extreme situations.
One of the first things I realized rather quickly was that my fears about the rest of the members of our “expedition” were unfounded. There was no judgement passed on my less than professional collection of gear. Advice was given in mentoring fashion, rather than in superior fashion. Questions I asked were answered with grace. Amazing! We had no cell or internet signals out there on the trail. That was refreshing and a bit nerve-wracking simultaneously.
Upon reaching our destination in the gorge on day 1, we pitched camp as our first order of business to take advantage of our limited daylight hours. My partner and I had forgotten one key element of our tent set-up…support poles. Ahh..the jokes were rolling around in my head, and I was waiting for our new friends in arms to make some humorous comments at our expense. However, they were supportive of our efforts to use all the extra rope I had packed (I always pack rope in my car…never know when it will come in handy) to rig the tent between two trees. Then, one of our more experienced colleagues suggested we find a flexible branch or two in the scrub to take the place of our MIA support poles. It was brilliant and resourceful…and guess what? It worked!
I learned a few lessons on this trip.
1) Yoga has helped put me in better shaped than I’ve been in many years as far as strength and flexibility…BUT, I am out of shape as far as my cardio goes
2) People at their core, love to share their experiences with each other, and even lend a hand when at all possible. The desire to help each other, be communal…be a team is bred into us through the generations. Sadly, it’s been bludgeoned out of many of us in the world of business.
3) The supplies, pieces, or resources you need to succeed in your role in life..and at work are all around. We just need to have open eyes, open heart, and the ability to accept it when an olive branch….or a “tent” branch is extended our way as a gift.
MastersinLeadership.org has just published a list of 100 Exemplary Sites for Future Leaders, and Write a Song, Build a Team has been included! The full list is available here: http://www.
The sites on the list are all great resources for people already in leadership positions, or those that are seeking a leadership role at a business.
We strive to provide our readers with useful information on leadership education and career opportunities, and this list is a further extension of that mission.
I hope you enjoy this excellent blog from my colleague Bill Stainton. www.billstainton.com for more information.
Typically when organizations hire me it’s because they want to produce results—more results; better results. (Although occasionally it’s because they really like the Beatles, and in that arena, I’m “the guy.”) One of the first questions I’ll ask them is, “What’s your Single Shared Vision?” The responses vary:
“To be the best.”
“To make money.”
“Umm…errr…duh…. What was the question again?”
Every now and then they’ll say, “You mean like a vision statement? Yeah, we got one of those. It’s hanging up somewhere in the lunchroom.” Then they take me to view the precious document. It’s printed on ancient parchment, in Olde English type (hand lettered, I believe, by Benedictine monks). Once the dust is wiped from the glass, I see that the paragraphs-long vision statement contains phrases like:
“To be recognized as a leader in quality and value where ingenuity and commitment will lead to superior financial and operation results….”
“To enhance the long-term value of the investment dollars entrusted to us by our shareholders….”
“To consistently strive to improve efficiency and productivity through implementing best practices….”
Folks, this is not a vision statement! It’s more of a sleep aid.
It certainly isn’t a Single Shared Vision. Let’s break that down. A Single Shared Vision is:
Single. This doesn’t mean unmarried. (Well, it does, but not in this context.) It means one. One overriding idea that drives all others. Some examples:
Microsoft: “A computer on every desk.”
NASA (in the 60s): “A man on the moon by the end of the decade.”
The Beatles: “Bigger than Elvis.”
Shared. As in “Everybody knows it; everybody owns it.” Posting something in the lunchroom doesn’t mean it’s been shared. That just means it’s been posted. A vision is truly shared when every employee knows it by heart, and truly believes in it.
A Vision. A vision is not a goal. Goals are what you accomplish in order to achieve your vision. A goal is something you do; a vision is something that excites you. You do a goal; you live a vision. You can see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, touch it. It’s what gets you up in the morning. Now, with that said, here’s a quick multiple choice quiz. Which of these would be more likely to excite you and get you up in the morning?
“To enhance the long-term value of the investment dollars entrusted to us by our shareholders….”
“To be bigger than Elvis!”
In an upcoming article, I’ll take you through my 7-Step System for discovering and clarifying your own Single Shared Vision. But for now I’ll leave you with two simple tests you can use to see if your Single Shared Vision is on the right track.
Test #1: The Bumper Sticker Test. This one’s easy. If your Single Shared Vision won’t fit on a bumper sticker, it’s too long.
Test #2: The “Cool” Test. What does this mean? It means that when you share your vision with your team (or even better, co-create it with your team), their reaction should be, “Cool!” Ideally, you want a vision that is so compelling that your team thinks, “Wow! We get to come to work and do that!”
A compelling, emotionally-rich Single Shared Vision is one of the best tools you can have if you really want to produce results—in your business and in your life!
We’re packing up the van, and all 8 of us heading down to a large team-building event for a Federal Credit Union down south of here.
The amount and diversity of talent on this team is incredible. Our writer/facilitators for this trip include writers of hit country songs, hit pop songs, songs that have appeared in countless TV and Radio shows, writers who have written songs for the terminally ill, a former major label recording artist and so..so much more! I am humbled to be a part of this “A-Team!” Guitars tuned, armed with songs, stories and of course KEY TAKEAWAYS! All aboard.
This past weekend, the European Golf team overcame a large deficit against a star-studded American side to win the Ryder Cup. They did it with passion, purpose and intention. They did it methodically, and as the underdog they did it as a unit, rather than as a collection of individual stars.
Tonight is the last night of regular season baseball in the major leagues. My hometown Baltimore Orioles are in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. They still have an outside chance to win their division away from the vaunted NY Yankees. Either way, this team has defied all expectations this year. Predicted by most experts to be a last place team “again,” they have won with a collection of “spare parts” masterfully assembled and coached. They have done so by playing to the strengths of each player, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Good coaches and managers in sports….much like good leaders in business, know that playing to the strengths of their team is the way to succeed….rather than the traditional western way of doing business which often focuses on yearly evaluations geared towards focusing on improving employee weaknesses. Instead, these leaders focus on putting their employees, their players in the optimum position to succeed. The Oakland A’s have done the same thing this year as well. Won as a team, largely devoid of stars.
Team-building….team improvement…team fostering….team leading…creating a culture of listening and collaboration where the team comes before individual glory. Oldest cliche in the book…but it’s still true, and still real.
Our team is looking forward to jumping on the van this weekend and heading down to Alabama for a huge team-building event with Listerhill Credit Union. Have a great day all.
Upon driving the many winding, hilly roads on the way to “A Place to Bark” in Portland, TN last Sunday, I realized how tough it must be for Bernie Berlin and her team, to attract volunteers. After all, Nashville is about an hour and 15 minutes away, and there are many volunteer opportunities much closer to town. We’re all so busy, and time-pressed you see.
Therefore, to see all that Bernie does with minimal help for anywhere from 40-120 dogs at a time is truly a sight to behold. Not only do these dogs live in spacious quarters, on lots of land and get their basic needs met….but they receive all the love and play-time one could hope for. This mission has been on Bernie’s plate for a long time now, and she is a tireless, motivated woman whose has found a way to save and adopt out many, many dogs over the years. Her numbers for such a small operation are staggering. Thousands of animals lives saved, and in some ways you could say that means she has enriched the lives of countless “dog guardians” as well with her work. If you’re curious to see what her place is about, please visit www.aplacetobark.com
Good Monday morning from Nashville.
Recently, I’ve read a half-dozen articles or so regarding the work place in terms of real estate or “work space” allocation. In a recent NY Times piece for example, the author talked at length about how Law firms are moving in the direction finally… of less excess with their internal real estate layouts. Long one of the last, great…traditional business models where landing that swank, corner office with a view…large desk and dark wood all around has been a perk to top law recruits, law firms are starting….slowly but surely to reduce the sizes of their offices for partners and top associates. More employees are office sharing, and dark-solid walls are starting to come down in favor of more open spaces geared towards collaboration.
There are many reasons for this set of occurrences. One is quite practical. Law Firms, even the most profitable of them are not immune to the economic times, and so therefore are looking for ways to cut costs.
Another really good reason for this shift however, is the general feeling that senior attorneys in law offices can do a much better job mentoring their up and coming attorneys and other legal staff, by utilizing more common space. Face to face. Along this same line of thought, the overall satisfaction level of employees regardless of field, increases when they are able to see each other more often, and collaborate more readily with their peers. Not only does this encourage faster, and better creative problem solving, it simply fosters more of a sense of belonging, rather then one of isolation.
As our little business grows a bit, we’re adding some highly talented members to our “Facilitators Corps” as I call them. Our latest team members include songwriters whose songs have been cut by many artists including Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire and Sherrie Austin (who by the way is herself joining us!) to name just a few.
We add this quality of talent in a continual effort to better serve the needs of our clients. We’re aiming to just get better, and better “Tuned In” to the needs of each event…on an individual basis. This is our pledge to you if you’re putting on a meeting and you come to us for help.
Nelson Mandela personified the word Ubuntu. This is an African word for ‘humanity’. Sadly, times of suffering or hardship are often what make us recognize the value of this philosophy…rather than living this way as our daily “default” setting.
Ubuntu, is actually derived from the saying ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu.’ Translated from Zulu, it means: ‘I am because you are, and you are because we are.’ In other words, I can only exist through you. And, as long as there are people who suffer, I suffer too. It is only when each person is free, are we free.
This is especially relevant to building powerful, high performance organizations. Organizations that do not invest in consistent professional development made available to all levels of their employees, have a short-term view of their value to the company. Not keeping an eye on how costly and time-consuming it is to re-hire, retrain…etc.
The importance of each person’s contribution to the team is often lost on those at the top. Yet this crucial missing link causes long term problems. Effective team building programs can be a key ingredient in developing our workplaces to be more efficient, healthier, happier, and more profitable. That is a good thing wouldn’t you say…considering how much time we spend at work?
So let me ask you this. Do you take your car for an oil change every 3-4 thousand miles? Get the tires rotated..change the spark plugs? You protect the lifespan of your investment by maintaining it’s crucial parts. Why then, would any organization invest so much in the interviewing process, reference checks, background checks and the training period by doing exactly nothing…. to keep their new found “investment” shiny, engaged, mentally fit, in tune?
Team-building can help organizations AND the individuals which make up those teams, hit a “re-set” button. Periodically it is so important to shake out the cob-webs and make sure the parts are all sound, AND that they are all working cohesively together. THIS is why it is so important to oil the hinges once in awhile. Develop your teams with ongoing programming in both industry related, and general topic matter. I recently ran across a well-run regional chain of banks in the Southeast, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that their CEO requests that as many employees as possible participate in a company-wide book club. On a regular basis, they read the same book, break up into many smaller teams and discuss the ramifications of what they have read. How can it relate to their every day lives at home and at work? Imagine that, book-stores are closing, fewer and fewer people are reading, and yet this CEO….of a successful company is making this stand. There must be a reason yes?
Tune up your team…It’s time.
There are some great thoughts in here and really Allen St. John is always an enjoyable columnist to read. A few items on team-building as well that I found interesting. Here you go!
“Give Them the Unexpected: A few songs into his first ever concert at the Prudential Center, Springsteen sauntered to the mic: ”This is a good building,” he said. “Real noisy. So in honor of [our] first time here, we’re going to do something for the first time! Never been played outside this building except one other time when I was a baby child.”
He then left the audience speechless by launching into the most obscure of Springsteen obscurities, a 1972 demo called “Bishop Danced” that he hadn’t performed live since March 2, 1973, one of only three known live performances.
The thing to remember is that Springsteen fans routinely go to multiple shows, with the most ardent fans having been to hundreds, even thousands of performances. A tour premiere for a rarity like the B-side ”Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” makes big news, made even bigger by the fact that Springsteen set-lists are posted on Backstreets.com hours after the show and archived setlists from 30-year old shows are available in seconds on the Internet. A full-blown obscurity like Bishop Danced, is a full-fledged event. A lot of us could have gone home happy after that song. We’re glad we didn’t.
Give Them the Expected: Through the rest of the set, Bruce trotted out selections from his greatest hits, lean-mean, fuel-injected versions songs like Born to Run, Rosalita, The Rising, and Dancing in the Dark. He resurrected a few forgotten favorites like She’s The One and Candy’s Room. If this was your first Springsteen concert and your familiarity with his music went as far as an iTunes collection, you’d still leave with a smile on your face.
Trust Your Customers: During the so-called Apollo Medley of soul favorites, Springsteen trekked out to an auxiliary stage in the middle of the crowd. And then he crowd surfed back to the stage. Talk about a team-building trust exercise. Springsteen put himself into the middle of a mob of thousands of fans of varying sizes, strengths, sobriety’s, and intentions, completely beyond the help of his many burly security guards. He showed more than a little faith, and it was repaid a thousand times over as he was deposited gently back onto the stage five minutes later. Later in the show, a couple of die hards popped up onto the stage half-invited. Springsteen just laughed, put his arm around them, let them sing into the mic for a second, and then trusted that they’d do the right thing and climb back off the stage. The security guards just watched with their arms folded.
Be Open to Opportunities: A poor guy in the audience held up a sign for two solid hours “Play one for Levon Helm: Atlantic City, Cripple Creek, The Weight. At the end of the set when it seemed like he was done with requests, Springsteen finally acknowledged the sign, and the death of the great drummer from The Band. Bruce mispronounced Helm’s first name, but he completely nailed the song: his solo version of The Weight, a song about community and loss, revealed one simple truth: of all the colors in Springsteen’s musical palette, there are few as powerful as 18,000 people singing harmony.
Respect Your Colleagues: A night like this is a team effort, from John Cooper’s stellar sound to the welcome addition of the E-Street Horns. Midway through the set, Bruce shouted for Kevin Buell, his long-time guitar tech to come to the stage. It wasn’t because he broke a string or found that a pickup was broken. He called the unsung Buell out to the mic simply for a shout out, and to acknowledge that this was show number 1,002 for his long-time guitar tech. Buell counted in a song, and responded with a touchdown catch when Springsteen tossed his Telecaster across the stage.
But the biggest moment of E-Street Band unity came during the show’s very last song, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Again wading out into the middle of the crowd, Springsteen sang the line “The change was made uptown when the Big Man joined the band.” Then Bruce and the band stopped dead. The video screens showed silent, reverent images of The Big Man, the late Clarence Clemons, while the crowd cheered, and more than a few tears were shed.
For almost two solid minutes, Bruce and The Band stepped aside, acknowledging the void that Clemons’ death left in their music and in all of our hearts, (Although his nephew Jake Clemons was an ideal replacement to the degree to which such a thing is possible) It was a pitch-perfect moment of catharsis and communion. And when the band started up again, we all knew where this song and this night had to go: up and out. At the end of even the longest and best Bruce shows, there was always a little part of me that hoped for one more encore, maybe the Detroit Medley or Quarter to Three. Not tonight. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out left me sad and happy and perfectly satisfied.”
When one delivery service…a quite well-known I may add which ends in the letters Ex…blows a delivery that just truly had to be there on time; a much lesser known parcel delivery service stepped up for me and saved the day. Their name also ends in EX…they are Naparex and recently when packages containing hundreds of books for a book-signing in Las Vegas were delivered a day late by Fed Ex – I discovered NAPAREX and found a true “team” player FULL of team players that made everything ok for me.
The books had to be delivered for a Robin Crow book-signing to Caesar’s Palace by March 6th…but Fed Ex dropped the ball and didn’t get them to their terminal outside of Vegas until the evening of the 6th…which meant they would never in a million years make it to the post-keynote book-signing at Caesar’s the following morning by 9am.
Faced with an incredible dilemma some quick online research and phone calls turned up Naparex! And in this instance….they may as well have been a superhero in tights and a cape. They certainly saved the day. After being on the phone with them dozens of times in a 12 hour period coordinating not 1 but 2 couriers to hand pick up and deliver door to book-signing table – I came away SO impressed with Danielle…Tara and their entire team. They were calm…confident and secure in the fact that their couriers would get the job done. They were thorough in the questions they asked me. Had excellent systems in place and when it became apparent that my one shipment of 3 boxes had somehow been turned into two shipments of 1 and 2 boxes each….we all agreed promptly the morning of the event to send a second courier to the Fed Ex terminal get the later boxes to the site on time.
We only made it by the skin of our teeth. No more than 5 minutes separated success from failure in this instance. BUT we did make it. I am a fan…and will spread the word. NAPAREX rocked my world last week and if you’re in a bind give them a call. They are a TRUE team.
When I facilitate corporate team-building workshops; I try so hard to impart the value of amplifying our colleagues strengths. On the phone with Danielle and Tara at NAPAREX I could hear them working TOGETHER to achieve success. I could almost hear the strategy wheels turning between the cogs of their well-oiled machine working towards a common goal. Kudos…Kudos. Oh yes…and thank you.
I’ve just finished one of the most enthralling and educational books I’ve read in a long time. I’m almost sad to put down the biography of the late, great Steve Jobs. How many times can we sing kudos to this fellow, who in many ways, people loved and hated at the same time? By many accounts, he was often a very unpleasant person to be around. He didn’t seem to possess the “empathy gene” that I believe is 100% necessary to be a truly happy human being, and in most cases, a successful leader. However, he was obviously a visionary, marketing genius and the king of detail.
A few things stand out to me about the word “team”, when thinking about what I’ve read these past several days.
1 – Many times throughout his career Jobs was quoted as saying that Apple believes in, and stands for, the intersection of Science/Technology and The Humanities. Even in his dying days, he reiterated to his biographer that this one thought, perhaps more than anything else, was inherent in the DNA at Apple. This collaboration between two often disparate fields guided Jobs’ focus, drive and vision that led to the creation of highly innovative products –products that changed the world. Jobs specifically sought to build teams consisting of only the best employees in both these areas of expertise. Jobs realized that at the end of the day, it is nearly always about teamwork and collaboration and only the best of the best would suffice. Hence, my next point.
2 – Steve Jobs, in designing the headquarters for both PIXAR and later APPLE, was emphatic in his belief that the more technology driven we become (even at Apple!), the more important it is to NOT rely on the phone, email, texts etc. as our main means of communication when trying to GET SOMETHING DONE or to CREATE something new. He said, “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and ichat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings and random discussions. You run into someone, ask them what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow’, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” Therefore, the driving sentiment behind the design of these two complexes was the creation of a layout which not only encouraged collaboration, but made it nearly impossible to NOT run into employees from other areas of the company-employees you wouldn’t ordinarily see because they worked for a different part of the company. The campuses were designed around a central atrium specifically designed to encourage random encounters.
3 – Along the same lines, unlike the vast majority of large companies that exist in a structure with multiple entities under a corporate umbrella-all with their own leadership and P & L, APPLE operates without divisions. All employees work with one P & L, which makes it easier to interact with, and pass ideas back and forth among what would otherwise be separate departments or divisions. This feature also helps keep all parties focused on the same goals and deadlines, rather than competing ones. The engineering departments work hand in hand with the design departments at Apple. This integrated approach is key to the success of all the company’s products and operating systems. Jobs’ team approach is representative of the way the people behind the products work to make this the most valuable Tech Company in the world.
I highly recommend this book.
What do Rocking Chairs and Wolf Packs have in common? A well constructed rocking chair, such as the handmade, one-armed “pickin” chairs we have at Dark Horse are made in such a way that each piece of wood is carefully fitted together with a different piece of wood to support one another. Each piece has different strengths, one is meant to support, one is made to connect, another is made to rock and so on. These pieces all come together to form a superior product. The chairs we have are sold exclusively at Gypsies in Liepers Fork, TN.
A Wolf pack acts as a unit for the benefit of all. A truly Kibbutz like affair in which each member of the pack are charged with quite specific roles. One wolf is a scout, one is a decoy, certain ones act as nannies to young wolf-cubs, of course there are the “King” and “Queen” or the “Alphas” of each pack. All of the parts put together combine to form what resembles a well-oiled machine, where all the parts together work together very much for the greater good. They achieve much more overall success and happiness as a pack, then lone wolves do. They also reflect many attributes that humans cherish, but don’t always find. Loyalty to family, great communication skills, working within the units means etc..etc..
I’ve watched in horror AND amazement both with the mid-west flooding earlier this summer, and the terrible flooding left in Irene’s aftermath…groups of volunteers, inmates, government workers etc..working together as teams to build walls of earth filled sandbags recently. Can you imagine, the sense of urgency and mission these people worked with? This was team building at it’s most impressive, even if it’s purpose was something other than fostering good working relationships between people of many different backgrounds.
Protecting towns, homes, businesses was such a calling, that the levels of productivity and efficiency these many people were able to display must make us wonder…how can team building help us tap into that with our organizations or companies on a daily basis? What can install that sense of understanding, empathy, common goals and turn it into a deliberate, cohesive and collaborative effort towards a goal? Does it have to be a tragedy in order that it should pull us all together?
In Indianapolis to collaborate on a songwriting and team building session with the Board of Directors for Outrun The Sun, Inc. This is a non-profit with a really worthy message, which you should check out. www.outrunthesun.org. Staying here at the fabulous Marriott Complex in the heart of downtown…which includes a Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites, and the high end JW Marriott, I see signs of team work and collaboration all around me. Marriott has obviously planned and executed the building of a compound here which fully maxmizes it’s name, profile and resources all in one footprint across from two lovely museums and surrounded by some great green-spaces. The City Planners of Indianapolis on all levels, must have come together…put politics and individual interests aside years ago when they entirely re-invented downtown Indy. It is now among the most walkable, visually pleasing, well-planned out downtown cores for a city of this size that I have seen in years. I live in Nashville, and believe me…my hometown has a lot of catching up to do. All of the small little pocket parks, fountains, wide walk ways, museums, well thought out restaurant and retail frontage designed without encroaching too much on the actual make up of the environment and archictecture..all of this create an experience which is equally pleasing for locals and tourists alike. Hello…right next to the football stadium of the Indianapolis Colts, is a beautiful world class ball park for the city’s AAA minor league baseball team. Nashville has been clamoring for years to have their own AAA club move down town to provide an affordable, family friendly community hub and activity that catored more to locals than to tourists. The city has been talking about this since I moved to town in the late 90′s. But politics or special interests always seem to get in the way. The Sounds downtown would be a great addition to the city for locals. Anyway, off to lunch…but keep in mind..ONLY when working as a team, can we achieve the biggest, longest vision goals which we aspire to.
It occurs to me as I watch all that is going on with America’s two favorite sports these days, that there are two distinctive parts to building a healthy, happy and successful team. Generally speaking, assembling what is deemed to be the best team available “on paper,” is section or part #1. The second half of this equation would be the nurturing, training, engagement and retention of those very important “parts” that we tried so hard to obtain in the first place. This is an area where many organizations need a assist in. In professional sports right now, Major League Baseball is right up against its annual trade deadline. This is the time of year when those teams still in the “hunt” for a pennant or spot in the playoffs often make trades of long-term prospects for more established, bigger name players who fill a specific, short term need for the team in question. Some people call this “renting a player” as often the players sign one year deals and will be re-dealt elsewhere in the off-season.
Meanwhile, over in the National Football League, after a 4 month strike by players/lockout by the owners of this tremendously successful sport, the two sides have come together just in time to save the season. A few days ago the Players Association came to an agreement with the league’s team owners on all kinds of monetary compensation and benefits issues. That’s great news for the fans especially. Now, over the next week or 10 days teams will sign players, cut players, and trade players in a bonanza which usually takes places over several months. This roller-coaster, “speed-dating” type of process is all in a furious effort to QUICKLY assemble the best parts possible for each team to make a run at THIS year’s championship. It’s all about win-now, right? Well, if we dig deeper we see that the teams in this league, and for that matter in Baseball that have the most consistent levels of success are nearly always able to look long term AND short-term when addressing their talent needs. In baseball year after year teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and a few others stay at or near the top of their game. The same can be said for the Steelers, Patriots and Colts of The National Football League. They foster young talent and do their best to hold onto their own best players, BEFORE they try to bring in any outside talent to supplement the pieces already in place. Otherwise, they might sign 3-4 great new players, but lose the same number off of their already existing, and strong rosters. That’s not progress! Rather, that is standing in place.
Think about this. We often see apartment complexes offering all types of incentives to lure new tenants, yet rarely are those same incentives offered to retain tenants. So many organizations these days are budget challenged, and sadly one of the first things many choose to cut back on is ongoing development, training, employee engagement, team-building etc. These are such important areas of focus. As the economy slowly recovers, and more jobs become available, organizations that don’t properly engage their employees, and find ways to maximize their talents will lose some of their best assets to other job opportunities. Remember, team building is a double pronged action. Sign and retain. We retain by making sure our employees know they are appreciated, and giving them every opportunity to succeed both as individuals and as part of the team!
Look at it this way. All the parts in an automobile engine must work together, in impeccable synchronized fashion. They are assembled with their own particular strengths and functions in mind. THEN, they are maintained on a regular basis with check-ups, oil changes, new tires, balancing, tuning etc..Your workforce is no different then the parts of an automobile engine, or the engine in that plane you’re sitting in flying to the next conference. The oil changes and tune-ups could be compared favorably with team-building activities. These type of re-focusing opportunities enable us to see the team for what it is, in all of it’s glory, and with all of it’s warts. It’s often times difficult to do this from afar, being that so many of us exist in somewhat of an email and text induced coma 18 hours a day. We may be more “linked in” to people these days, but sadly there is a bigger disconnect in real life, face to face interactions than ever before due largely to technology.
Sometimes our workforce so stagnantly exists in each individual department silo, that we forget how to work WITH each other in the most efficient and productive ways possible. Having fun is imperative, but this is NOT all unicorns and popcorn. There is a direct correlation between how well-oiled your teams’ machinery is, and how profitable and/or effective your outfit truly is. THIS is where the ROI comes into team building. Sooner or later a car or lawn mower engine will seize up and stop working altogether if not oiled and maintained. Sharing each other’s common goals and frustrations, recognizing each others strengths, and figuring out how to increase everyone else’s odds for success on the team will reap long-term organizational benefits for everyone involved. Isn’t this the goal? Let’s dig deeper…
With budget constraints and nearly all team members doing more with less, and this trend growing exponentially on a quarterly basis in far too many instances, it becomes even more important to figure out how teams can work together to maximize our resources. Problem solving in an open, encouraging and fun training exercise is just the medicine the doctor ordered.
So, while we can’t truly live our lives in exactly the same fashion as the Amish, we CAN all aspire to work with our family, business colleagues and those in the community at large in the same efficient, resourceful, empathetic ways which are a hallmark of the Amish way of life. This is what makes the example of their barn-raising so compelling I believe. It’s an ideal.
We can also look at a wolf-pack and the way a pack’s “organizational sociology” works to make it a successful team out there in nature. One of the things we talk a great deal about in my workshops is how we can amplify our teammates strengths. In a wolf-pack, this is common practice. Next time…stay tuned.
So I’m wondering how many of you remember how great a movie Witness is? You know, the movie with a much younger Harrison Ford, who as a cop from Philly gets caught up in some corrupt chaos which sends the crooked police chief and his “team” out to get Harrison…who finds himself hiding among the Amish and then falling in love with the one and only Kelly McGillis? I’m sure some will disagree, but I guess it’s one of my old favorites. In particular, I always get the warm fuzzies when thinking about the sense of community and team that the Amish show, both in the movie and in real life. When I talk about writing a song for the purpose of team building, this is really what I’m talking about. Check out the video below for a refresher on the barn raising scene.
Could your office team raise a barn, without modern tools and machines in say a…week? A month? Maybe this is not a fair question as the Amish we always think of doing these activities are already skilled in these trades once they get to a certain spot in their lives. Okay, so to be more fair and make this more to scale. Do you think that in 2 days, without modern machinery, you and your office team could build a 10-14 tool shed in say….my back yard? Think of the sense of rhythm we must acquire, the empathy we must have for one another, the knowledge of who does what the best in any given team situation, and then how are we able to amplify each others strengths? Next time you wonder if your team is working well…efficiently…contentedly, ask yourself if they could “raise a barn..” together. Whatever that barn may truly be.
So, two weeks ago today, I checked riding in an ambulance off of my bucket list. Working at home that day, around 3pm I had trouble breathing and after the profuse sweats began… I thought I was having a heart attack. Luckily for me, it was simply a kidney stone, coupled with a panic attack. But, at the time 911 sent that sweet ride over to my house within 5 minutes. Oh by the way, the fire truck was there first as is standard practice I suppose. They were all very nice, and worked well as a team together. I could tell these guys had been there before. We took the short road over to St. Thomas Hospital where I was handed off, IV, nose tubes and all to the cracker jack crew in their ER. The nurses and doctors were all so nice and efficient. Although, a few times I felt alone for too long in my room, mostly they were great. Two of the tech’s were in Nursing school, and they were doing a fantastic job helping me out, and calmly conversing with me – I could see they were going to be successful. One was a former mechanic, but he (Jeff was his name too) had apparently decided he’d rather help patch up broken people, rather than broken cars. The hand off’s between the nurses, attending doctor, and the various techs’ and specialists were done like a fine trapeze act. They had practiced and practiced, and understood each other, as well as what their clients (patients) needs were. Phew, in the meantime out at Dark Horse we have our first ever baby horse, a colt named NOAH who arrived in the middle of the night in a Thunderstorm about two weeks ago. We are all very excited. I’m also thrilled to be heading back to Indianapolis to work on two special events, one in August and another in late October or early November. The Musical Team-building sessions we’ll be working on are going to be a blast! Indy is becoming my home away from home! The album is moving a bit slower now, as all the studios are in full action with actual paying customers including one very high profile act who will be with us all summer working on their new album. But, as it turns out, this is a good thing because I realize I’m probably 2 songs short on the album and I’m trying to write 2, quality pieces that make sense thematically with with I’m trying to accomplish. Thrilled to have learned a new jazz progression from Scott Barrier the other day…hopefully that will help in the creative process. Wishing you all a fun and productive summer.
Here at Dark Horse early on a Saturday. Not to do my usual job of booking speaking dates and working on outreach for USA TODAY Best-Selling author and speaker Robin Crow, but to work with Head Engineer at Dark Horse, Colin Heldt. Colin, who typically is not at “the horse” on a weekend except for when big name session are going on, is helping me out for 2 or 3 full day sessions, to clean up my songs November Again, Strong Like Abraham, and With Open Doors. These 3 songs in many ways are the meat and potatoes (sorry vegetarians) of my upcoming CD, 7 Days.
Watching Colin work his magic on all of this high-tech gear, in the confident, concise way of an artist who knows what tools and colors he has at his/her disposal – AND how to use them, is really a joy. A few of our audio interns are flanking Colin on the left and right, watching him do his thing and learning as they go, soaking up the knowledge and that is always great to watch. We’ve got donuts, coffee and cough drops…staples in the studio. Dogs are tired after running around all morning and we’re getting stuff done. Love it.
Last Friday, with about 10 minutes notice I had to step in for my boss and friend Robin Crow to address 3 consecutive classes of High School Junior and Senior Guitar and Media students regarding their careers and Dark Horse Institute. Of course, when he came up to me in the kitchen, and said “Jeff, Jeff, Jeff…buddy ole’ pal”, I knew I was in trouble. I was also sporting a weeks worth of beard, and not such nice clothes. But, luckily I keep extra clothes here at Dark Horse and was able to spruce up and get out the door in about 15 minutes. These type of situations always make you wonder…who am I speaking to today? Are they going to be receptive? Are they going to ask questions? Each class had anywhere from 30-60 people in it, and I knew the best I could hope for was a few, truly engaged, sharp students. But WHO…WHICH ones?
Anyway, in the front row of the second class, was a guy who was a bit short in height, but a bit long in the wisecrack department. We developed a nice relationship though once he told me what his knick-name was in front of the class, and I made sure to use it each and every time he made a crack. But here’s the interesting part.
A few days later I was showing some folks around the honky tonks in downtown Nashville, doing the tourist thing….when a few blocks away, up walks this wise-crack from the guitar class several days before. Guitar slung over his back. The school at which I had spoken in front of him, was an hour outside of town so I was a little surprised. I was even more surprised when I poked my head into Tootsies, the MOST famous of all the bars on Lower Broad to see who was just shredding, playing amazing guitar leads with this band. Since there is so much good music in Nashville, it takes a lot to get my attention, but this music sounded so good!
Up on stage….there he was. The wisecrack from the front row. Tearing it up and making the much older guys on stage with him a bit envious I would venture. He was doing what you are supposed to in this town of dreams. He was going for it, rather than goofing off at the mall with his buddies. He found his voice, and that takes courage. Peace.
This Saturday, Robin Crow’s Dark Horse Institute will host an Open House from noon to 3pm. We’ve been planning this for awhile, and there will be BBQ,hotdogs, Hamburgers, refreshments etc. It should be fun as always, and you can tour the place, ask any questions etc. BUT, this Saturday we all get to help out a worthy cause as well, and THAT’s what makes me truly tick. We’re super happy to be teaming up with Souls4soles.org in collecting gently used, and new shoes for the victims of the Japanese Tsunami/Earthquake disaster. Covering ones feet is nearly always a pressing need for those in disaster recovery areas. It helps cut down on injuries and prevents diseases and infection from spreading. Souls4soles does this (providing footwear) better than anyone out there, and we’ll be a drop off point from March 19-29 kicking off AT our Open House this Saturday. Please dig around in your closets for those 1 or 2 pairs that you rarely wear, and bring them along.
Thanks and peace from Dark Horse.
Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!
Well, after a week full of rain and storms, the small gully meandering through the back part of Dark Horse Campus became a really nice, healthy creek for the better part of a week. Robin being out of town for several days, I had my dog “pack” on-site helping me watch over the place, and I’ve got to tell you, that creek may as well have been Space Mountain at Disney World as far as the dogs were concerned. How many times they turned into a game, the process of trying to jump over the creek, only to land 2/3′s of the way through it with a big, muddy splash…well I lost count. Tongues hanging out, smiles on their faces…you could see that they achieved their desired results of not quite making it to the other side. That sheer joy is something dogs understand how to acquire. Pick something simple to revel in, the now.
Robin Crow is immersed currently in a string of dates that has him speaking in various parts of the country approximately 20 x over the next 6 weeks. In the past, we’ve always tried to book his travel as tight and close to the vest as possible. Robin likes to use time wisely and waiting around for that next flight, or spending a lot of time at the event site after he has spoken, doesn’t always make sense. BUT, in recent times he has enjoyed spending a bit more time with the clients, getting to know their conference attendees so that he can hear their concerns, get a feel for what ALL of them are going through and let them know that here at Crow Company and Dark Horse, we’re going through it too.
More than ever, We have to work as a team. With a only half-dozen of us on staff, we’re a mom and pop operation, wearing the hats of 25…or so it seems. We have to support each other, argue with each other, stretch each others ideas, thoughts, goals and dreams into practical and actionable items. Constant Empathy is what I like to call it…every time we pass through the doorway, that portal needs to be our trigger device to being ultra-aware of the NOW..especially what that means to our teammates. They may have had a bad night last night, worse perhaps than ours. And conversely, the opposite may be true as well. If we take the time to celebrate the good times with each other, and be intensely empathetic of the tough times, we will all be amazed at how much more productive and enjoyable our workplaces and homes will become. Remember, here at Dark Horse and Crow Company we really and truly believe in the concept of a Triple Bottom Line Business Philosophy. Robin talks on this subject a great deal in the 2nd half of his book “Evolve or Die.” Step 6 of this portion of the book is all about Triple Bottom Line People, Planet, Profit. In that order…People..People..People…is what I’m talking about today. Have a great weekend.
After watching the Public Affairs Department at I.U. run this conference, all that comes to mind is the phrase “well-oiled machine.” From the way they took care of Robin Crow during his brilliantly received keynote yesterday, to the way they accomplished all of my quirky needs and requests for my team-building workshops…it all ran without a hitch. The team-building workshops were intimate, so much fun, and productive that I can’t wait to do it again. We’ll be editing the video footage soon and putting up a website. A few notes about I.U. They were such gracious hosts and I now consider myself an honorary Hoosier. Had a GREAT steak dinner of Filet Mignon and Merlot with Nancy and Kelly at historic St. Elmos Steak House last night AND I.U. served Dunkin Donut’s coffee all conference long! Also, to quote Steven S. Little.. I had a Milkshake Moment at the hotel bar at the IUPUI Conference Center hotel two nights ago. Incredible Chocolate shake. If you’d actually like to know what a “milkshake moment” is, I suggest you read Steven S. Little’s book of the same name. Meanwhile, Robin Crow’s book, “Evolve or Die” continues to be ULTRA popular as a keynote topic and conversation focal point at many, many conferences and we’re just trying to keep the ball rolling. The audio book is slated to release late spring. Now that I’ve thrown in these team-building workshops I’m hoping we can collaborate on more events from time to time with a wider variety of clients. Looking forward to seeing more snow in Nashville tonight. Miss the dogs.
Without this, we’re up a creek, a tree what have you without a paddle. We won’t succeed as a business, as an organization, as a family, a couple etc..etc.. The other person has nearly always got similar dreams and challenges at home and at work as we do. So why do we so often not think of the other person when we enter through the front door at work, or at home? Early on in the relationships that Paul McCartney shared with John Lennon, and Mick Jagger shared with Keith Richards they all agreed that no matter who wrote what, or how much or when they would split the credit for ALL the songs they wrote 50/50. They figured this was best for the team,and for that matter would all come out in the wash at the “end of the day..” Can you imagine how much better our work and personal relationships if we did things without any expectation of credit, but just because we wanted to do good, and do what was right? Now don’t get me wrong, just because there is no expectation of credit does NOT mean that we should not give credit where credit is due. Most of us need that sense of appreciation, it’s healthy and necessary to give it as much as possible, and to receive it. And that will all come, if we work and live in a state of CONSTANT Empathy.
Joy to me last night was sitting on the couch, after having worked on a new arrangement of a song for nearly 3 hours. On the left with his head on my lap was my dog Bernie, on my right with his head in my lap was my dog Ringo, to his left… butt to butt with him was Tzippy the Beagle. It was quite cozy, quiet and calm. I almost felt as though I were in a meditation chamber or some such thing. Meanwhile, back here at “The Horse…” Robin Crow is hard at work on the manuscript for the new book with Lee Iacocca, and we’re working on some exciting non-profit alliances that would really be beneficial to all parties, and the best part would be the impact we could possibly have on some communities here and abroad. More to come on that. Dark Horse Institute kicks off it’s first session here at the complex on January 10th, with additional sessions starting approx. every 4 weeks after that. The first fully electric car rolled off the assembly line here in TN. this week, The Leaf. While this type car, which does not use a drop of gas, and gets approx. 90-100 miles a charge may not yet be a perfect solution or alternative to our energy/resources problem, it is a good start….Here is my shared thought of the day from the USA TODAY Best-Seller “Evolve or Die” by Robin Crow. ”Taking the Long View…” There seems to be a direct connection between societies and cultures that take the long view and those who enjoy long-term survival. The Japanese are an old society with roots that go back thousands of years. Compared to other modern nations, they tend to take a long view of economic problems. The British are long-view people as well, with an “Empire” that is nearly 1,000 years old. The Jewish people are another ancient culture- with more than 5,000 years of cultural heritage…all of them survivors who tend to think in the long term. Americans, on the other hand, are the people of NOW. We are the instant gratification population who thrive on fast-food, and we work for companies whose idea of the future is the “quarter after next.” The British may have invented microwaves, but we invented the microwave oven. U.S. consumers tend to buy products based on “what will it do for me now” rather than “how long will it last.” If long-view cultures survive and instant gratification cultures perish, the United States is in for a hard future.
From the book “Evolve or Die” By Robin Crow…..Throughout recorded human history some 3, 825 societies(that we know of) have collapsed. In many cases, those societies had found ways to exploit every conceivable natural resource and then feed off the local ecology, thriving only while they grew. Once they were no longer able to expand, they became victims of their own success. The Roman Empire for example, continued expanding until the very breadth of it’s borders proved impossible to defend…..
Well, I’ve had a cup of coffee, fed and exercised the dogs, fed the horses and now am back in bed at 9:30 in the morning. This happens LESS then never these days. It’s pretty outside with a coating of snow over the mud and brown grass. Despite no clouds showing up on the local radar, it’s snowing a bit again. Some of these flakes are big. Being out here in the country on site of a typically busy recording studio and the newly formed Dark Horse Institute, when all is quiet and dark is always a pleasant feeling. One of the best things for me, a Jew on Christmas is the feeling of nearly everything being shut down…as things typically are supposed to be if you happen to be someone of any faith who subscribes to the concept of keeping the Sabbath. It is largely like this in much of Israel on the Sabbath…A time to pause, be one with nature, reflect quietly…Peace to all. jeff
The Horses are fed, the coffee is brewing fresh yet again, even though the studio is basically dark… and I sit here on my lunch hour working on organizing emails into make sense mailboxes. All so that when “Everyone” returns to work a bit next week and especially the week after I can begin the journey again, of spreading the work about one of the best business and sustainability speakers in the country Robin Crow. His USA TODAY best-seller, “Evolve or Die” is getting the highlighter treatment from me this second time around the reading-go-round. Meanwhile, the dogs are curled up around my feet dreaming of squirrels and rabbits. Snow forecast for tonight and tomorrow, the first time in nearly two decades that Nashville may have a “White Christmas.” Looking forward to seeing “Country Strong” tomorrow. My step-daughter is an extra in the film…for all of 5 seconds probably, but exciting nonetheless. Here is my thought for the day from the book “Evolve or Die”, by Robin Crow : As we kick into gear to start off 2011, the world continues to be in an ever more precarious spot as far as economy, global warming, healthcare, poverty, terrorism. “Globally, we bicker endlessly and fight wars over ideology and oil. In the United States. we focus on trivia and drama. If we can’t find a way to focus on the “big picture,” we aren’t going to have anything to fight over anymore. It’s as if we are rearranging the chairs on the deck of The Titantic, even though the ship is clearly sinking…”