Food Poisoning! And the team that healed me.

The doctor came in for the 2nd time in as many hours. “How are you feeling Jeff?” “Well, I haven’ t felt the urge to dry heave in over an hour Doctor, thanks for asking.” “ I can’t allow you to be discharged until you can keep something down”, she said. “Do you feel up to a little juice?” “Yes please.” I was at Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Ironically, tomorrow I’ll be there again at their conference center for TEDx rehearsal. A more “fun” visit. But, for today’s visit, I had made a grand entrance by hobbling into the ER doubled-over, with a bucket in my hand just in case, and promptly lay down on the floor blocking the entrance as effectively as I could. “Sir, your drivers license please”

A few minutes later in my “room”, Alex, a tall… very cool RN/dude who was my primary ER caretaker, came by with a tiny Apple Juice, and a matching container of Apple Sauce. ( I don’t like apple sauce, but oh well.)

An hour or so earlier, Alex had done a fairly good job of inserting the needle to insert anti-nausea medicine, and then a bag of fluids. (I’ve had better, but I’ve had worse as well.) I was quite in need of these mind you, as I had been throwing up since 2am and was parched and exhausted. Alex was both friendly and efficient..at the same time.

A bit earlier than that even, Zetta my admittance counselor from up front, had come back to see me and ask a few contact questions. Then we talked about her upcoming vacation to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. We had a great talk, and it was so nice to get to know her a little bit. She exuded positive vibes. I needed that smile almost as I needed those fluids.

As I lay in that hospital bed for hours, surrounded with the hustle and pain, the fear and coughing, I became truly aware of all the sounds and smells that permeate the atmosphere in an emergency room. There are people here in much worse shape then I, I told myself. The ER team made me feel cared for. That was a relief. When I facilitate our music team building programs in Florida, Nashville or anywhere for that matter… before I step on stage, I always try to channel a positive experience I’ve personally had with a team somewhere in my past. At a restaurant, a doctors office, a non-profit…

Every time a team works well together, it becomes more than the sum of the individual parts. It becomes the strength and potential of “the collective.” A force that can bend rivers, build dams, and change cultures. That potential, is awesome. So, before speaking at TEDx this weekend, (www.Tedxyoungcirclepark.org)  I want to say thank you to the team at Memorial Hospital for healing me. You have a very tough job, and experiencing your drive help, your collaborative spirit, and your smiles was inspiring. I hope that I don’t see you again for a long, long time! Now, let the music carry you forward.

Assemble that couch! Not what I had in mind for team-building.

Sometimes it all just goes so wrong. Like tonight for example. I was at a casual, family BBQ. After awhile, when everyone had eaten enough to feel compelled to loosen their pants, a friend and I were told (as two of the younger adults there) that we needed to help the hostess move the furniture back into place. Mostly that meant moving pieces of a large, hefty L-shaped couch back where they belonged. This alone would have been fine. Truly. However, the big fun here, was that we had to latch each individual piece of couch, to the one next to it. Blindly, and by somehow lifting bulky components onto the little, proper male/female metal parts at the very bottom of the couch.

Now, he and I were game mind you, to do most of these. We were making good progress. The engine was going up the hill. The nail was almost into that wood. The runners were almost at the finish line! (catch my drift here?) But, a few of the pieces were tricky to latch on to one another. THANKFULLY, there was however, no shortage of supervision from about 9-10 other people standing around. They were pointing, gesturing, making wonderful suggestions, and generally telling us what to do. AND…as a bonus, asking us why we “did it that way?” etc. All of this couch seat driving, was NOT very helpful. But it did remind me of one too many meetings attended over the years, that had felt this way. One too many events over the years…that had gone this way…one to0 many projects, over the years that had crashed and burned this way. TOO many cooks in the kitchen, too many chiefs. Not enough warriors. Not enough doers. Not a culture of let’s all pitch in, you know…like the AMISH do when raising a barn for a neighbor.

So, what am I getting at here? So what about the couch? Identify your mission. Find your crew. Find the 5-6 notes in your chord at work, at church, at the rescue shelter, in your community. Plot the course. Re-focus on your purpose. Assemble your pieces in harmony, and go do good work.  Now if we can only finish getting this recliner to latch on correctly! See you at TEDxyoungcirclepark.org !

At Bernie Berlin’s amazing rescue compound, “A Place 2 Bark.”

 

Break down the silos – What does team building in Florida look like in 2018?

The Song Team brings high energy with the intimacy and engagement of a breakout, to a keynote audience at the Omni in Nashville.

In 2018 what does team building in Florida look like? Well, whether it’s a ropes course, a beach relay race, or writing a song with us here at THE Song Team, With every passing fiscal quarter, and across industries from Technology, to Retail, to Healthcare, knocking down those old,long-existing silos is more necessary than ever! If your team members can’t play nice with others, you have a problem. If it still feels weird for the people in your creative design department to be working on a project with your accounts management team, then Houston, you have a problem! The common thread that connects the modestly successful songwriting team of Lennon & McCartney, with teams such as Gates & Allen, or the Zuckerberg “family band” is….and ALWAYS WILL BE Collaboration!

It’s takes patience, persistence, and an open-mind to create a culture of true collaboration, where previously one didn’t exist. Learning each other’s communication styles, clearly discerning the different (sometimes hidden) talents of various team members, it all takes time. But this process is necessary before we find the success we crave. It is necessary that we can all accept as we sit around the proverbial table and brainstorm new ideas, innovated products, or solutions…that we only get there once we understand that sometimes we all have to agree to a certain level of discomfort being part of the norm, when moving a song, new gadget, or a new set of services from the ideation stage, to the stage of being in millions of homes across the globe. Got that Alexa? Listen to the other, find each individuals strengths, listen for where the passion lays for each person, help someone else bring their concept to fruition…and you as a leader and team player will be amazed at the long-term results.

Why We LOVE the Southwest Team After All These Years

Last week I flew back up to Nashville for Song Team, Team-Building gigs with Bank of America and SCA. The gigs could not have been more different. Tuesday night Scott Barrier, Sherrie Austin and I teamed up with 50 enthusiastic folks from Bank of America in an intimate setting. This was the first face to face meeting ever between these two departments, and we were honored to kick off a new era of collaboration at this forward-looking company. The next day, 11 other writer/facilitators and a full-band were my partners, in giving an interactive keynote for over 400 attendees at SCA where over the past year a merger has occurred, and where after a year of prep work this highly innovative, and creative company is moving forward with ONE vision. We were honored here as well, to be part of a new age of creativity, collaboration and innovation at a Fortune 500 company looking towards the future. What impressed me most about our clients on this trip was that the leadership in both instances, really seemed to “get it.” What did they get?

  • Setting the stage with a unified vision
  • Accentuating the strengths of the team
  • Clearly communicating the goals
  • Bringing everyone to the table

That’s what they got.   And it’s clear, that both companies are on the right path.  Keeping their eyes on the success of both their internal AND their external customers’ needs.  And guess what, because of this strong leadership, the employees for these companies are ALL IN!

On the trip back, Southwest Airlines impressed me, as they’ve done so many times before.  For some reason, I didn’t check in early enough.  Which, since I travel with a big ole’ Gibson guitar, is something I take seriously…usually.  I want to make sure there is always overhead space for the instrument.  When you travel in C group, occasionally, you may be out of luck. Southwest though, flying to and from Nashville, is typically VERY sensitive to the needs of musicians.    Here I was wandering onto the plane late, and the attendant at the front, without prompting from me, had already seen my guitar, and radioed back to her counterpart near the rear of the plane, to “reserve” a spot for my guitar to rest….she knows how many of us pickers feel about checking our babies.  I truly appreciated that.  Small detail, but makes a difference! Near the end of the flight, the crew dimmed the lights, and asked us to close our window blinds.  They they turned on some small emergency lights as “Candles” and sang happy birthday to a surprised passenger.  This is “business as usual” for the Southwest team.  But on a daily basis, their business as usual creates thousands of loyal customers….daily.

A spring blizzard in Denver, brings out the best…and worst in a team

On a recent business trip to nowhere (I’ll explain later) I saw both the best, and the worst in how a team of employees on any given day, for any given organization can rise to the occasion during a crisis…saving the day, or make a bad situation soooo much worse. Even in crisis, especially in crisis sometimes, how your key team members from the front-line… on up respond can either lose you precious customers by the planeload, OR those same people, can become lifelong fans. Warriors extolling the virtues of how your team, turned an awful situation into a pleasurable one.

So, I got on a flight with a back pack and a guitar headed for a seminar in Denver. It was to be a 4 day trip. Days 1 and 4 would be travel, with 2 days of classes in between. A freak blizzard hit Denver that day, one day after 70 degree temperatures filled the air with a touch of spring. Even Denver, used to snow was caught somewhat unprepared for tropical storm force winds and a foot of snow. The airport lost power, while flights were cancelled and diverted left and right. My route, which was supposed to be West Palm Beach, through Newark and then on to Denver changed.

What is tough to swallow was the lack of onsite “Call in” support personnel to handle the influx of delayed and cancelled flights which of course resulted in thousands of travelers being displaced and re-routed. The storm itself was expected, just not the intensity of it.

I won’t name the airline in question in my particular instance, and certainly all carriers flying into the region were affected on this day. However, I can only speak to what my experience was in observing how THIS carrier prepared…or didn’t prepare in advance for the “possibilities.” (this airline was made notorious a few years back by breaking… and even more so, it’s subsequent handling of the breaking, of a traveling songwriters expensive musical instrument. It became a book, and turned this no-name songwriter into an author and well-traveled speaker on the motivational speakers circuit…His topic was of course customer service and the way social media can turn one person into an army.)

Ok, back to regularly scheduled programming. There were not enough customer services representatives at the service desks to handle the travelers who were all in need of routing solutions. Those that were on site, DID manage to for the most part smile and do all they could for the hoards of frustrated travelers. I became one of those travelers upon landing in Newark from Florida when I found out my initial connecting flight to Denver was first delayed and then subsequently cancelled in short order. With some help from my amazing boss, who was pulling the strings behind the scenes, I got re-routed to Houston for a later connecting flight to Denver. The fun started on that flight, as the crew was less than loving and kind. It wasn’t horrible, but it wouldn’t have given an already weary traveler the warm and fuzzies either.

Upon landing in Houston, and all of us turning our mobile devices back on a half-second after touchdown, the word started to spread that Denver airport was closed, and all of our flights were of course, canceled. Welcome to Houston folks, please enjoy your stay.

At the help desk in Houston, the weary, and yes under-manned staff for the airline in question were doing their best, but they were tired, a bit grumpy, under-manned and apparently not “empowered” by their higher ups to do very much to make our unexpected stay in Texas more comfortable. They did give us discount vouchers to local hotels, who on a Wednesday night, were about to get a HUGE boost to their mid-week occupancy rates.

Now, at the hotel the story was entirely different. The staff, though not quite prepared for the surge in business in terms of personnel levels, were entirely ready to smile, accommodate, and inquire as to how they could help to make our unexpected stay wonderful. They succeeded.

That night I found out, I’d never make it to Denver and the entire days’ worth of travel was simply going to take me straight back to Florida the following day. Wow. Who knew what fun that would bring?

As we left the ground the next day, the pilot thankfully warned us of rough weather we’d be flying through, and it sure did get bumpy several times. But the turbulence in the air, bumpy as it was…did not compare to the gruffness of one of the airline attendants who may well have been an Ogre from a Disney movie. People were pissing her off left and right because they needed to “gasp” go to the bathroom. I’ve never in all my years of travel heard an attendant treat guests from all walks of life with such vitriol. “Sir, there is someone in there, you’re going to have to sit down.” “Mam, I will tell you when you can come back to the restroom, it’s currently occupied. There is one up front you can try….if you want.” There is no real way for me to convey here how nasty this woman’s tone and attitude were. Now granted, maybe she was having a horribly off day herself. She is only human. But this is the travel/hospitality industry, and her performance was a solid F.

Eggs, Architecture, Songwriting and teamwork

How are these seemingly different worlds all connected?  Culinary, designing buildings, creating great songs…working as an effective team mate or “co-idea generator?”  I’ve been toying with the idea for some time, and in browsing through an interior design magazine at the book store the other day (looking at kitchen design of course) it came to me.  Teamwork is such a cliche, but think of how a team in the fast-paced, high pressure kitchen of a 5-start restaurant work together on their products and services.  Think of the teamwork involved of building the brand new, World Trade Center on that tragically, historic spot. Think of the fact that the average number of writers to collaborate on a #1 Pop song today is 4.  That’s a lot of teamwork!  So cliche? I don’t know, but I like my eggs well done, scrambled with cheese…any kind of cheese.

1. Opportunity to be influenced by a different process

Each songwriter has their own natural songwriting process. Sometimes these processes work very well, but other times there is much room for improvement.  One writer can get stuck “inside their own head or vision too easily.” Co-writing is a great opportunity for you to improve upon your own process by seeing how another approaches the same song – what works and what doesn’t work – and to adopt some new writing techniques.  This same benefit exists in any organizational or workplace environment.  Being influenced by a new process and/or new ideas often leads to creation of new creative solutions.   Try it today, take your ad campaign concept, architectural design, new recipe for your food truck and throw them out to the team.  See if they improve upon your “masterpiece” through constructive collaboration.  Now, what if your work in progress seems stuck? Well…….

2. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure

Songwriters who have been at their craft awhile have songs they either dislike or can’t finish that a songwriting partner may see something in, therefore turning a potentially “lost idea” into something unique and special.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Every voice at the table has something unique to offer, providing we truly have open forums.  Your “throw away song” could be a hit tomorrow, and your “lost idea/invention/service or product development project” could be the next i-phone or Post-it notes…IF you open up your doors and let someone else in to help shine the light on your creation, look underneath the hood and help you to turn coal into a diamond.  Maybe this process will help you adjust the way you work or view your own methods and…..

3. Open new doors to try new things and create new sounds

Just like your own process, every songwriter develops their own style and sound. Working with another songwriter can help you to see things in a different light, and to possibly try new things that you may not have otherwise even thought of, helping you to achieve a new, different sound. OR, it may teach you (if you are open to learning) a new way to achieve the desired result.  Hit song, new smart-phone app. Etc..etc…

4. Critiques are more effective

An important part of the songwriting process is to critique your work, to find out what may be helping the song to strive, or what may be holding it back from succeeding, and to tweak it’s structure for the better. Doing this yourself is important, but working with a co-writer offers you the opportunity to put a new set of eyes on the song and to actively and openly discuss all parts of the song. Again, this may lead to seeing things differently and help you to open new doors to tweak your song (or not tweak your song) for the better. So, if you’ve come this far, please remember, you stand to gain nothing at this part of the game by saying you’re open to critique, but not actually listening to feedback from the other truly with an open heart and ears.

5. It can be fun, helping your creativity to flow!

While some songwriters prefer to do it themselves because their songs may be deeply personal and/ or introspective, there is no doubt that a collaborative effort can be fun and exciting. Working with another offers the opportunity to piggy-back off each other’s excitement and energy which will show in the music.   The same can be said for grabbing a white-board, some markers and a designated time for brainstorming each day within the confines of your own field/business.  Or for that matter at home! What if while working together in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, you and your better half in this casual setting… brought up one “problem” and focused together on the solution.  What would that look like? Could you have fun with it?  Could the ebb and flow of the cooking and clearing process jog your creative juices? Come on, brewing the coffee, scrambling the eggs….seems perfect environment of “Getting things done” in a non-threatening setting to achieve one solution to at least “Try” for the week ahead right!

 

Okay, go make it happen.  Create one solution this week, improve on one idea or product/service, open your ears to the others around you.  You’ll be amazed at what happens.

The Sum of the Parts

It’s been too long since I’ve written you in this space, and for that I apologize. To be honest, since taking on the role of Director of Operations at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, I’ve been overwhelmed by the undertaking in many ways. 11 months into the process I feel I’m starting to get the hang of it, and the inklings of a work-life balance are creeping back into my existence.

Today I read Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art” speech in book form. It’s a cool concept/graphic design oriented gift book, recounting this well-known speech he made at a University graduation ceremony May 17th, 2012. The gist of the talk is that those who “make good art” make many mistakes, BIG mistakes, and a variety of mistakes…and that the best artists do this often. The concept resonates with me, but truthfully, as I sit here looking at the lake and the seabirds on this Sunday morning…I really latched on to something else, though it was not the author’s intended message.

This book was quite driven by layout. So much so as a matter of fact, that though the entire book was comprised of snippets from Neils’ speech, he and the graphic artist shared billing equally at books end.

What hit me in the face upon reading both what Gaiman had to say, and how he said it was this.

When a painter paints, it’s truly the blending of colors and shades, the contrast between light and dark, and the context of white space vs. occupied space that tell the story of the work. How well the painter accomplishes this teaming of elements, in turn decides how successful the work will be in making a dent in the fragmented impression-span of today’s viewer.

When a dancer dances alone, it’s a sequence of moves, highly choreographed, much practiced…that all work together in creating a seamless stream of movement that is the actual “routine” of a dancer. The story is made of up pieces. Similarly, if the routine involves multiple dancers, rather than a solo act, it’s the joint movements or actions of the collective, which becomes the overall “painting” of this dance.

One of the most prolific songwriting teams in history, husband and wife Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil are featured on Sunday Morning Live on CBS this morning. “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and dozens of other landmark hits, were inked by this dynamic duo. Talk about a collaboration on multiple levels! Their combined talents, Cynthia for the words, and Barry for the music were largely responsible for creating the soundtrack of a generation. See where I’m going here? The sum of the parts is where it’s at.

Who can you team up with today to make progress, improve something, create your personal masterpiece, push one little corner of the world into better shape?

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.