There Is No I in Team, But There IS an ROI In Corporate Team Building

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.

Barn Raising Follow up

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.

Barn Raising, Songwriting, Team Building

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 Much Going On

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.

Good Day Sunshine, Working with a Different Kind of Artist

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.

So I Was Thinking

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.

Helping Others Can Be Fun – What's Not to Like?

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 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.

Meanwhile, Wolfhaven is in studio working on their album with our students at the Institute manning the board for their final project! It’s sounding GREAT so far.

Thanks and peace from Dark Horse.


Playing In the Creek

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.

A GREAT Team at Indiana University, KNOWS How to Get Things Done

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.