Songwriters for Soldiers – A true team effort!

Recently, a few of us experienced what can only be described as a trans-formative songwriting and team experience.  2 weekends ago, Sherrie Austin, and I joined hit songwriters from throughout Nashville at a rural retreat.  The mission was to collaborate on songs that told the very personal stories of soldiers and their families whom are battling PTSD.  Phew, talk about a passionate, emotional, inspirational and exhausting experience. How about one more superlative? Rewarding.

For a weekend, songwriters who love nothing better than to write, got the opportunity to put away their appointment books, forget about Music Row, not worry about if a song is “ready for radio,” and write from the deepest spaces in the heart.  Primarily, writers acted as conduits for the amazing and personal stories of these men and women heroes.  Our Veterans…Their families and their counselors.

On Saturday night we had a traditional “Song-circle” or “guitar pull.”  When one by one the writers and veterans performed their songs for this intimately sized group, there was not a dry eye in the house. By the end of the 2nd song, a box of tissues had been placed in the center of the circle….for easy access to all. Suffice it to say that all of us have been changed by this experience.

This collaborative retreat was co-sponsored by The Beat of Life and S.A.F.E. (Soldiers and Families Embraced)  These are two tremendously cool non-profits whose focus on healing are synergistic with one another. Without the collaboration of these two start-ups, both very small in stature, but large and bold in mission…this weekend could not have happened.   “Because Music Can Save a Life,” is the motto of The Beat of Life.  We believe it truly can.  And one life at a time, that’s what will happen.  Through team effort, developing more effective programs and partnerships as time goes by, we can save lives.  I’m happy to wear several “volunteer hats” for TBOL.  I hope you’ll check out this worthy team and see what you can do to help. Jeni (The Founder and visionary) Kelly (Our Development Director) and Robin, our newest jack of all trades, sharp-shooter.  When people come together, whether at a Fortune 500 company, a non-profit or a tech start up, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.

Is Your Workplace Environment Stunting Collaboration and Innovation?


Recently, our team participated in a songwriting/team-building program with a Fortune 500, Financial Services Company.  We were very excited to be working with a new group of driven, talented individuals.On this day, we were part of a full-days “technical” training.  We were the “Grand Finale”-Non-industry related part of the program.  We were there to shake things up, and help shift the thought processes of those in the room from their normal, linear thinking norms.

We were challenged to work in a room, where the layout was, well let’s say not ideal so as to encourage collaboration.  A primary goal with our programs!  Set up class-room style with long, thin rectangular tables.  All attendees were facing forward.  Nearly all had laptops in front of them, rather than the round tables we typically prefer.  So, what did we do?

Well, we “re-arranged the chairs on the Titantic!”  We shut down the lap-tops.  We asked those in attendance to move the tables around. Rather than row upon row of faces turned towards  “us” at the “front” of the room, we NOW had 4 “pods” or “Squares” of attendees facing each other.  Eye contact.  Everyone was now able to see lips moving when a colleague was speaking…contributing to the conversation.


NOW, we were set to work together in individual teams, and as a collective whole.  And everyone chipped in.  Beautiful.

 So, what can you do within the “walls” and WITH the walls of your organization to better promote innovation through collaboration? 

  •  Are there actual physical barriers which you as leadership can consider “bringing down?”
    •  Are there systemic barriers, or parameters that might be easier to change than you think?
      •  Conversely, are there systemic barriers or policies, which despite how difficult change may appear to be…STILL need to change? 
        • What can you do right now?  Within 3 months…6 months…12 months to better assure that all voices at the table have a say in creating and/or finding solutions?

        Let’s think about it….Then, let’s do something about it.


Emdeon Team-Building/Songwriting with Karen Taylor-Good!

Recently, we facilitated an intimately sized songwriting/team-building program for Emdeon’s IT department. The VP’s who attended this program are charged with blending personnel and systems from an old company, with parts of a new company, new personnel, and new systems.

With Grammy-Nominated Songwriter, Karen Taylor-Good at my side, we convened in the collaborative workspace that is C3 Consulting just south of downtown Nashville. Tackling both the challenges of A) A company in today’s fast-changing healthcare industry, along with the B) The challenges faced by a company in the process of merging the “old with the new”, is a formidable challenge.

However, as we often find…the steeper the hill, the more opportunities we have to improve… the longer view vision we tend to have, which leads to a big picture focus. This is especially good when dealing with such complex issues. If we “can’t see the forest through the trees”, then being strategic in our implementation of new engagement systems, new professional development goals etc. becomes quite a bit more difficult.

Building a Great Team – A Dentist's Chair View

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.

The Magical Team of Rodgers and Hammerstein

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.

Team-Building One Tooth at a Time!

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.”

Caring for One Another, Especially Those Who Have No Voice

Times are challenging to us in many ways right now. Especially in light of Fridays’ tragic events in Connecticut, we find ourselves struggling with our emotions.

While volunteering with Animal Rescue Corps (ARC) last week I had a bit of a revelation. This organization has mastered many aspects of what it takes to be a successful “team.”

They actively partner with dozens of localized animal rescue groups around the country in order to utilize what local groups are often better positioned to do, than larger more centralized groups. Foster, train and place adoptable animals. With Egos put aside, ARC is able to travel around the country to a large degree as an organizing, galvanizing and specially trained rescue team for large and devastatingly tragic operations. They have fostered a network of volunteers around the country, who typically already are on the ground with local rescues. The volunteers jump to help and organize further volunteer forces when the need arises for a large operation, as is currently happening with the 50 or so dogs rescued from a dog-fighting ring in Middle TN.

It’s been a joy to see this operation in action over the course of a few rescue’s now. Though of course, we all wish it weren’t needed. The team at ARC knows how to cater to the strengths of their team members, as well as to the strengths of team members from local partner groups. Good works are done. Success in this case means animals saved, and hopefully in many cases, forever homes found. ARC’s mantra has long been “compassion in action.” Sounds like good advice for us all at this time. Thank you for reading, and happy holidays.

Sharing Article from My Friend, Dr. Gregg Steinberg. His Column "The Head Coach"

Politicians and pundits alike have called Ronald Reagan the “Great Communicator.” After watching the Spielberg movie last weekend, I firmly believe the first Republican who receives my vote for this moniker is Abraham Lincoln.

In one of the first scenes in the movie, a contentious black soldier questions President Lincoln as to why their race has not been promoted. He says black soldiers are dying for the cause just like white soldiers.

This seems highly irregular and a bit disrespectful, given the time and place. Many leaders would have gone on the defensive, wearing their egos on their sleeves, with a retort like, “How dare you!”

President Lincoln does the opposite: He disarms the soldier with a caring question as to what he plans on doing after the war.

“Lincoln” the movie centers around the passage of the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery. Most of the scenes illustrate how this change in the constitution was a very contentious issue of the day. Not everyone believed all men should be free.

But the movie is so much more. It shows the human side of Lincoln as well as his fatherly and husbandly sides. However, I was mesmerized by the illustration of how wonderful a communicator he really was.

One important lesson in being a great communicator is to not act defensive. It is so easy to protect your ego when someone makes a comment that can impale your fragile self.

Great communicators do not lash out, but rather use empathy to promote a connection. When that bridge is formed, communication will be facilitated. Lincoln demonstrated that time and time again in the movie, and as such, helped to get the 13th amendment passed during a very difficult time.

The second marvelous principle of communication showcased by Lincoln was how he told wondrous tales and used many proverbs to make his points. Many of the tales in the movie were based in fact. The screenplay was adapted from the book “Team of Rivals” by Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The scene I enjoyed the most in this regard was when Lincoln met one of his political rivals, senator Thaddeus Stevens. They shared a concern with bringing an end to slavery, but the difference was the method of change.

To make his point clear to Senator Stevens, as well as to the audience, Lincoln speaks about a compass directing us “True North.” Lincoln says that a compass may point us in the right direction but it does not tell us where the bogs and marshes will be along the way.

The point is clear: The righteous path is never easy and will come with many unforeseen obstacles.

Why do we continue to be so fascinated with Abraham Lincoln?

When you study Lincoln as a politician, communicator, and man, you soon come to realize that he is a sage for all time.