Team Building, Rocking Chairs and Wolf Packs

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..

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Building a Dam…Team Building at it's Most Urgent

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?

Team Building in Indianapolis

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.

Team Building is a Double-Pronged Action

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!

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.