Going to the dogs…for real! Building a team from the ground up.

Ok, so it’s been far too long since I’ve updated you on what’s going on with The Song Team.  Partially, that’s been laziness on my part, and partially it’s because there have been vast changes under way.

As of April 1st, (yes April Fools Day) I left Nashville after 18 years to undertake a unique opportunity.  I was offered the position as Director of Operations at Big Dog Ranch Rescue.  This is a large no-kill dog shelter in South Florida. www.bdrr.org The chance to build my own team from scratch, while being charged with the task of saving dogs was too good to pass up.  Having dabbled in Animal Rescue for years as a volunteer, this cause was as near and dear to my heart as songwriting.  Coupled with the professional development angle, it was time for a new adventure.

And phew, what a ride it has been.  As you know, Whenever one takes on a new leadership role within in an organization, change is inevitable to one degree or another.  As we try to implement new policies, procedures and protocols…place new systems in place and tweak old ones, we start to shed staff sometimes just like a snake sheds it’s skin.  We look to mold the team after our vision, and it’s NOT an exact science.

In 2 months’ we’ve turned over approximately 70% of our team, and that hasn’t been easy or fun, but it HAS been necessary in order to tackle the job at hand.  The essence of what we aim to accomplish is to take better care of our dogs,  adopt more dogs out to the right forever homes, assemble a team that cares for each other and our mission, and do this all in a more efficient manner than had previously been the norm.  Creating a new culture…..

The Song Team keeps plugging away though.  As I type this entry, I’m on a plane back from leading interactive keynote for Credit Unions of The Dakota’s Annual Conference.  Scott, Sherrie and I had a really great time with these folks.  The theme to their conference was “Orchestrating Goodness”, and that was a GREAT jumping off point for a large team, songwriting session.  Credit Unions are true bedrocks in their communities and the leadership of these fine institutions TRULY understand the concepts of team and collaboration.

Next week, Sherrie and I will be back up in Nashville leading a small group breakout for a healthcare company sales meeting.  We are still based in Nashville as that’s where most of our team is, so I’ll be up there many times a year….for Team Gigs, AND for songwriting and recording of course!

Well, it looks as though we’re descending now, and our amazing flight crew on American Airlines is getting ready to tell me to put away my laptop, and make sure seat backs and trays are back in their upright positions.   I vow to stay in better touch with you in the coming weeks and months.  If you need a hand of any sort with your organization and would like to touch base with us, please don’t hesitate to call or email.  We’re always here.

Yours in Dog and Song.

Jeff J.

A Lesson from Google on Keeping Your Employees – (Sharing from Adam Vacarro)

Google’s decision to place senior vice president of advertising (and employee No. 16) Susan Wojcicki at the helm of YouTube offers an important lesson about retaining employees.

Re/code reports that Wojciki had recently had some of her responsibilities on Google’s senior executive team split with fellow SVP Sridhar Ramaswamy. Moving on from Google wasn’t out of the question. “Wojcicki had been interested in running her own thing [and] had also been a recruitment target for a venture capital or perhaps a CEO role,” the website reports.

Google’s dilemma–a high-performing worker wanting to give her leadership skills a whirl–can come up at any company. You might not be able to hand your employees the keys to a brand as powerful as YouTube, but you can let them scratch their itch by letting them launch their own projects under your umbrella. In other words, you can retain your top talent by encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship.

I know, I know. The term is one that causes many business owners to roll their eyes. It’s been found in the pages of Inc. since the 1980s, but rarely is it clear exactly how a small business with a distinct focus can realistically expect to let every employee chase her dream.

A few months back though, I was able to interview the leader of an Inc. 5000 company–Kansas-based marketing firm DEG Digital–about the company’s dedication to encouraging intrapreneurial endeavors. Among the feathers in CEO Neal Sharma’s cap: More than half of all DEG employees have a different title than the one they were hired with by the end of their first year at the company.

Sharma related the story of then-DEG web strategist Cara Olson, who years ago told him she wanted to leave the company to launch her own email marketing startup. Sharma listened to her idea, then asked her whether she’d want to stick around and launch the project for DEG. Eight years later, Olson manages 30 employees, and email marketing is one of the company’s biggest business units.

Weigh Your Interests

The obvious and important caveat about Olson is that she didn’t want to start a recipe blog or open a coffee shop. It’s unlikely that Sharma would have let her do so on DEG’s time. She wanted to start something that made sense for DEG to have under its umbrella.

So it’s important to clarify that for small businesses, an intrapreneurial initiative should be judged on its fit with your company. Sharma says he tries to approach every employee-pitched project as a venture capitalist would, thinking about the kinds of returns it could ultimately net DEG. At the same time, it’s necessary to weigh how well you can afford to lose that employee.

In the case of Wojcicki, Google’s brass clearly didn’t want to lose her. She’s been with the company since some of its earliest days; the company even operated out of her garage for a time. Putting her in charge of YouTube keeps everybody happy.

Google’s experience with Wojcicki doesn’t perfectly mirror DEG’s with Olson, but both drive home one obvious, yet easy-to-forget point: One key asset you have in your effort to retain top employees is, when reasonable, to let them do what they want.

 

 

Team Building Nashville Style

The Song Team with Amy & Holly at Delta Airlines Cincinnati Leadership Day.

The Song Team with Amy & Holly at Delta Air Lines Cincinnati Leadership Day.

It occurred to me while Sherrie, Michael and myself were working with Delta Air Lines up in "Cincy", that we were witnessing first-hand... a true, team building Nashville style experience, in real time. It was a bit odd actually, though not in a bad way. I mean, it's not as if we haven't seen this many times before while facilitating a songwriting/team building program. That's what we do. But in this case, there was so much give and take, a fast-paced, honest, transparent and ever evolving collaborative process going on in this beautiful,old library ball room.  We even had to vote once or twice on using one word vs. another in certain lines of our collective song.

The back and forth brainstorming was unfolding on stage between Michael, Sherrie and myself for certain(though in my exuberance at how supremely involved the Delta Cincinnati team was, I couldn't keep myself out of the audience)...but the back and forth dialogue and exchanging of ideas were truly happening at a dizzying pace..with an ever building crescendo... between attendees, as well as between attendees and The Song Team. It was amazing.  It inspired me once again, to realize how this process can lead to such proactive dialogue.  Often, this occurs between team-members who don't readily communicate with one another outside of their "normal work circle." This type of active listening and cross-pollination of ideas is often the place where creative solutions "live." It's how we find the ladder, the path that takes us to where we need to be.

With the entire Delta Team

With the entire Delta Team

 

Amy and Holly (we're first name type of folks here:) run a great ship at this particular department within Delta. It was very apparent to us that they honestly believe in the "listen, care, connect" mantra which they preach at Delta. Their department is typically ranked at or near the top, in customer satisfaction rankings when compared to other "sister" departments with whom they compete company-wide, all in an effort to better serve internal and external customers. This is a testament to the fact that their team is truly empowered, engaged and inspired. It starts at the top.  Thanks for including us in your annual Leadership Day program.  Onward and upward 🙂