Going Camping…For the First Time in 20 Years.

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.mastersinleadership.org/exemplary-leadership.html  We appreciate this honor.

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.

Do You Have a Vision, or Do You Have a Sleep Aid?

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!

The Team is Heading to Alabama

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.


Great examples of "team" being the total of sum of the parts…

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.

A Place to Bark

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





Even Law Firms – Are Starting to Move Towards Collaborative Work Space

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.

Our Team Continues to Grow & Improve

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.


Ubuntu – Happy Birthday to One of the Great "Team Players" of All Time – Nelson Mandela

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?