Previous month:
May 2005
Next month:
July 2005

Connecting the Dots

There is a theory about the evolution of teams that says teams go through stages: 
1. FORM - the team forms / is created. People are polite, impersonal, guarded
2. STORM - difficulties arise, confrontations, feeling stuck, opting out
3. NORM - getting organized, developing skills, confronting issues, establishing procedures
4. PERFORM - the team is open, effective, flexible, supportive, synergistic

Many people believe the STORMing stage is "bad".  Some teams get stuck in this stage and suffer for a long time.

The reality is that ALL of life (all of teamwork) is important.  Our job is to learn and grow from the experiences we attract into our lives.

One of my core beliefs is that EVERTHING in my life serves me in some way.

AppleSteve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer, gave the commencement address at Stanford Univeristy this year.  Read his address and learn about "connecting the dots" and remember everything your team is experiencing is there to serve you in some way.  Your job is to be open to the lessons and grow from them (before your competition kicks your butt!).

And Steve, if you read this post, I love your message and I love your computers.  :-)

Father's Day - teaching team skills

Fathersday3Here in the US we celebrated Father's Day on Sunday June 19.  To celebrate, our family traveled to the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in North Carolina to camp and rock climb.  My friend Thomas and his son Indigo joined us on our adventure.

Rock climbing offers a great metaphor for teaching team skills, commitment, reliance and focus and I have to say it's a complete joy to experience this with my six year old son Joseph and his school buddy Indigo and his dad. 


Location, location, location

I recently received this email:
"My major concern in planning and delivering teambuilding is the location. You may find this a bit trivial, but this is the main problem."

My reply: 
Location is anything but trivial.  Locatioin is very important to the success of the program.  Here are some requirements for my IDEAL training location:
- Easy, free and secure parking on premises.
- Clean (esp. the bathrooms)
- Super helpful staff (of the facility)
- Nutritious food on grounds or close by.  Must be vegetarian options (a salad bar doesn't count).  Food is organic.  Great food improves the program.
- Quiet location that also allows the group to get really loud (see story below).
- High ceilings in training room.
- Carpeted floors.
- Round tables with a large space at the back of the room for activities.
- Filtered water for participants.
- Easy access to outside grassy location for possible activities.
- Easy access to the training room from a loading area.
- Superb sound system.
- High speed wireless in all rooms.

Now that is my IDEAL.  The reality is that I train in locations that might have only one or two of the points above.  In this situation what I look for is facility staff that are very helpful and curteous.  When the facility staff have a positive attitude I can make almost anything work.

Now for a true story about location...

A couple of years ago the State of North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice contracted with me to design and deliver a series of one day training events in different cities.  There were about 100-150 people  at each event, all of whom worked with court involved kids.  The training was designed to help staff learn and lead teambuilding activities that promote life skills (communication, trust, leadership, conflict resolution, etc.).  It was high energy and fun.   

In one city, I delivered the training at a resort run by the Holiday Inn.  They had me on a wing of the facility that housed all of the training rooms - - there were 6 large rooms with tall ceilings and accordian doors to make rooms bigger.  I had rooms 1 and 2 and in room 6 there was a  small grief counseling conference - they were discussing deep and important topics and were very quiet.  On the other end of the wing, seperated by at least 3 large accordian walls was our group.  Our event was loud (at times) and lots of fun.  Talk about two ends of the spectrum!

After lunch I led the "Different Drum" activity with our group and people were laughing and having a big time.  We got too loud and the leader of the grief group complained to the hotel.  We were told to keep it quiet or else. 

I sent out for flowers for the grief group and the hotel leader and also wrote an apology.

Now I know to tell the hotel or conference facility to put our group in the "it's OK to be loud" area.

Locationlocation2I liked this comic on the "location, location, location" subject from (I'm a Mac user).

The Fourth Turning and Your Place In History

Have you ever stopped to wonder why you have a desire to teach team skills?  After reading the book "The Fourth Turning" by Neil Howe and William Strauss, I realized why I teach teams skills.  I now clearly understand my place in history as a teacher of team and leadership skills.

FourthturningbookThe Fourth Turning outlines a profound theory that suggests history moves in cycles (history is NOT a linear progression), much like the cycles of the seasons.  Each season lasts approximately 20-25 years with a full cycle of the seasons lasting 80-100 years. 

Moving through these seasons are (large) groups of people or generations - - a generation is composed of people whose common location in history lends them a collective persona. Recent generations are Baby Boomers (born 1943-60), Generation-X (born 1961-81), and Millennial Generation (born 1982-2005).  You might know the Millennial Generation as "Generation Y", but Millennials don't like the "Y" designation because they don't like being seen as an extension of the "X" generation (the generation Millennials have the least respect for).

Why is this important to those of us teaching team and leadership skills?  Read on...

Howe and Strauss say that we are at the end of fall and about to start the winter cycle of history (if we haven't already).  Winter is always a time of huge change.  To put this in perspective, take a look at the past three winters we experienced here in the USA:  The Great Depression & World War II, and the winter before that was the Civil War, and the winter before that was the Revolutionary War.

The generation that "comes of age" during the winter (the crisis) is referred to as the "hero" generation.  The "G.I. generation" is the last generation to fall into this hero archetype. 

What does this mean?

1. We (the US and likely the world community) are about to experience the winter season, a time of great challenge (a period of approximately 20 years).
2. The generation that will come of age during this crisis is the Millennial Generation - - our next Hero generation.  The lion's share of Millennials are in school - - elementary, middle, and high schools as well as colleges and universities.  The oldest of the Millennials are now 23 (just out of college)
3. One of the most important skills for any hero generation to master is that of teamwork. ALL hero generations must master team skills because the challenges they face will be so demanding (remember WWII?).
4. The book describes how individuals and society should prepare for the Fourth Turning.  As you might imagine, team skills are absolutely critical in a Fourth Turning - the challenges are so great that they can only be solved through a massive amount of teamwork.
5. Therefore, your desire to teach team skills (esp. to the Millennial Generation) is in PERFECT harmony with the cycles of history. 

Neilhowe_1Listen to my interivew with Neil Howe (co-author of The Fourth Turning).  I suspect you'll gain some real clarity about why you feel compelled to teach team skills. 
Download 01_neil_howe_mp3.mp3


Teams In Trouble # 1: The Shift to Possibility Thinking

MrpotatoHere's a true story about a team in trouble...

I was contacted by the owner of a restaurant who said his staff was about to mutiny.  The wait staff and the kitchen staff were not on talking terms.  Each group said the others were idiots.  People were quitting.  Revenue was falling like a rock.

What would YOU do in this situation?

How would YOU facilitate and lead this group?

(Yes, there is a reason the Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head is pictured.  Read on...)

To answer this question I've teamed up with my colleague Michael Goldman, president of

I'm sharing a teambuilding game that I led with this group that created the opening to allow the group to shift from being angry and closed minded to being open to possibility. 

Michael is sharing an amazingly simple and powerful facilitation process that he has used with hundreds of clients to help teams create the shift to possibility thinking with ease.

This is an exciting collaboration between myself and Michael as we bring you the best of both worlds:  teambuilding games and facilitation skills.

Michael and I plan to lead several of these live teleclasses (teleforums) where we share real life stories of teams in trouble and how we've helped them.  Today we had 120 people on the call with us from all over the world.

Access to the free recording of the teleclass and the written material has expired. 

A Whole New Mind -- Audio Interview With Dan Pink

Quiz Time:  Which college degree is more valuable?  An MBA or an MFA (that's Masters of Fine Arts).

DanpinkDan Pink says the answer is clearly an MFA - - at least it will BECOME more valuable over the next ten years.

Dan Pink is the author of A Whole New Mind -- Moving From The Information Age To The Conceptual Age. In this amazing book Dan describes why many of the "left brain" jobs are moving to India and Asia (outsourced) and why "right brain" jobs (jobs requiring creativity, non-linear thinking, etc.) are going to soon become more valuable here in the USA. 

This book may change the way you look at the world.  It did for me.

"One of those rare books that marks a turning point."
-- Seth Godin
"I was moved and disturbed and exhiliarated all at once."
-- Tom Peters

After reading the book I contacted Dan to setup an interview because I wanted to Awholenewmind_1get his take on how this coming shift will effect teams.  We had a great conversation and I recorded it for your listening pleasure.

Listen to the 34 minute audio interview - click the link below (mp3 file)
Download danpink_mp3_sm.mp3

NOTE:  When you become a member of the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators you receive access to the growing online archive of recorded training events (like this one with Dan Pink).  CLICK HERE to learn more about IATF member benefits.


Dan changed the title of his book to: "A Whole New Mind -- Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future"

Oprah LOVES this book and when she gave the commencement speech at Stanford to the 4,500 students in the graduating class, she gave each a copy of Dan's book.  CLICK HERE to view Dan interviewed by Oprah.  Dan says it's his favorite interview ever (I'm hoping the one we did is a close second).

Behind the curtain: Tom Heck interviewed by Anita Law

Today I was interviewed by Anita Law of  Anita is an author and coach who has put together a series of live audio interviews entitled "Five Who Thrive: Getting the Life And Business You Want"

Anita has been a subscriber to my e-newsletter (now e-updates) for a long time and has been following my online career.  She asked me to speak about how I made the shift from leading live in-person team and leadership development workshops to what I'm doing now at - - using technology to train thousands of people around the world AND having a great life in the process. 

I offer a "behind the curtain" look at my life and business. 

Download tomheck_mp3_sm.mp3