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June 2011
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Teamwork and the Jam Session -- leadership lessons learned from playing the banjo

While attending college at Virginia Tech I discovered old time music.  I quickly realized I absolutely HAD to learn how to play clawhammer banjo which is the style of banjo played in old time music.  I was lucky to find Mac Traynham (also a student at VT at the time) who would become my banjo teacher. 

I was not an easy student to work with but Mac was patient and always positive and encouraging. The banjo was my first instrument and I knew almost nothing about music.  It took me forever to learn how to tune my banjo (I had to train my ear).  Daily practice for six months is what it took for me to learn my first tune.

I was challenged learning how to play the banjo all by myself.  After learning my first tune ("June Apple") I was excited to play it with other musicians.  This is when I went to a deeper level of learning about my instrument and the music.

When I first started playing with other people I regularly rushed the tempo due to my excitement.  It seemed like an impossible task to play in time with a metronome. I so focused on me that I had trouble paying attention to others.  Playing in time with others required a new level of sensitivity.  I had to listen to my own playing while listening to how everyone else was playing.  I began to realize that I needed the same skill in everyday life.  I was too self-centered and always thinking about what I was going to say when someone else was done talking.  Playing music helped me be patient and listen. 

Old Time Music is dance music.  A long time ago (before iPods even) fiddle's and banjos provided the sound track to life in the Southern Appalachians Mountains.  Old Time Music  is the predecessor to bluegrass music.  Bluegrass musicians will "take a break" during a song much like jazz musicians do - - featuring a particular musician.  Old Time Music is different.  Old Time musicians don't take "breaks".  The goal is to create a driving, danceable sound.  The experience, for many musicians, is like a meditation.  The meditative nature of the music requires me to address (experientially) my feeling "separate" but realizing the greater truth that I am part of the "whole".  This experience has helped me become a better team player in other areas of my life.

One of the things I love most about playing this music is the opportunity to meet wonderful people and make music with them.  I've made music with people from all walks of life.  Our love of the music is what brings us together.

On July 11, 2011 I had the opportunity to play music with my friends John Engle (fiddle) and Amy Hobbs (guitar) at a camp that serves autistic kids and adults.  Luckily, one of the camp staff took some video while we were playing.  The tune is called "Soldiers Joy" and is sometimes called "Love Somebody" (a tune in the key of D).

I hope you enjoy it!


Documentary "I Am" by Tom Shadyac Shares Teamwork Truth: WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

My wife and I recently watched the new documentary I AM by Tom Shadyac.  It was WONDERFUL!

The movie is a probing exploration of our world, what's wrong with it, and what we can do to make it better.

Shadyac is best known for his movies "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar," and "Bruce Almighty" among others. I AM recounts what happened to the filmmaker after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged a changed man.

The movie shares the powerful and important message that we are all connected. What happens to one of us impacts all of us.

Through our work as teamwork facilitators we can help people celebrate the connection we have with each other and learn how to leverage this connection to create a prosperous win-win outcome.

From the movie:

"The truth of who we are is that we are because we belong."

-- Reverend Desmond Tutu


Visit the movie's website HERE.

Watch the movie preview here:


Watch Director Tom Shadyac interviewed by Thom Hartmann here:


The World Peace Game -- How elementary school teacher John Hunter prepares 4th graders to be world leaders and big-time team players

Have you ever worked with a teacher who was so good at what he did that your life was forever changed for the positive? John Hunter is that kind of teacher.

John Hunter is an elementary school teacher from the Charlottesville, Virginia area where he's been helping students learn important life lessons for 30 years.

John achieved noteriety outside of Charlottesville because of a TED tealk he did in 2011 (video below).  In this presentation John explains how his "World Peace Game" helps 4th grade students learn how to solve complex world problems experientially.  The amazing experiential game he developed allows students to experience life changing lessons spantaneiously (and sometimes surprisingly).  The experience the students have always go further than a classroom lecture can.

John_hunter_sm I had the opportunity to meet John recently (photo of John Hunter and Tom Heck to the left) when a documentary about his work was shown (documentary trailer below).  John is an amazing person and the kind of teacher I wish my kids could spend hours with.

John understands the power of experiential learning.  Through the game he's developed John is able to touch the heart of the student (not just the mind of the student) and thus, the learning experience is deeper and more profound for the student.

To what degree are you using games in your training events?  If you're not using games then you're probably not touching the heart of your participants.

Learn more about the World Peace Game HERE.


How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World

Douglas LaBier, a psychologist and psychotherapist, writes a nice article on the rise of "the common good" and how it will transform our world.

From the article:

By the "common good" I'm referring to a broad evolution beyond values and actions that serve narrow self-interest, and towards those guided by inclusiveness -- supporting well-being, economic success, security, human rights and stewardship of resources for the benefit of all, rather than just for some.

The rise of the common good reflects a sense of global citizenship and an obligation to be a good ancestor to future generations who inhabit this planet. In fact, it embodies behavior and policies that fit the needs for effective functioning -- both personal and political -- in our post-9/11, post-economic meltdown world.

Through our work in the arena of team and leadership development, we our part of this movement to transform the world and enhance the common good.

Read the full article HERE.

"Thank You" Goes a Long Way -- A basic leadership tool that Nancy Lublin argues is all too often underused

FastCompany, one of my favorite magazines, has a wonderful article on the power and importance of saying "Thank you."

From the article:

Thanking people isn't simply a matter of common courtesy. A 10-year study by leadership experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton of 200,000 managers and employees showed that saying "thank you" correlates with bigger profits.

Read the full article HERE.

Here's a 3 minute video from TED on the power of saying "Thank you":


How to Use Ancient Chinese Wisdom to Grow Inspired Teams with special guest Steven Simpson

Many who work in the field of team and leadership development are searching for ways to introduce a spiritual element in their work.  (I'm being purposeful in my use of the word "spiritual" and not "religious".)

We are, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, spiritual beings immersed in a human experience. 

By thoughtfully including a spiritual component in our work with teams and leaders we begin to touch a part of the soul (the individual's and the team's).  This is where the Tao comes in...

Do you know what the Tao has to teach you when it comes to team and leadership development?

Yin_yangTao (pronounced "dow") is a Chinese word meaning 'way' or 'path'.

When you understand the Tao, you understand the primordial essence or fundamental nature of the universe.

The workings of the Tao are described in the Tao Te Ching.

Taoist philosophy can have deep meaning for experiential educators because of its focus on natural spontaneity and unself-conscious learning and teaching.

The Tao in Teambuilding...

The_leader_who_is_hardly_known_steve_simpsonIn his 2003 book The Leader Who is Hardly Known, Dr. Steve Simpson compiled a series of essays that begin with a brief story focusing on the experiences and lessons of a teacher called the Leader Who is Hardly Known. Following the story, the essay shares Taoist quotes and the Steve's thoughts that relate back to the story. This book serves as an effective way to understand the Tao as it applies to our work with teams and leaders.

Steveweb Dr. Steve Simpson will be my special guest at the IATF monthly VIsiting Faculty Member call and he will share how you can incorporate teachings from the Tao into your training programs.

Steve is professor of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.  He is the former editor of the Journal of Experiential Education and has written over 50 articles on experiential education, outdoor recreation, and environmental ethics.  In addition to authoring Leader Who Is Hardly Known, Steve has written "The Processing Pinnacle: An Educator’s Guide to Better Processing"

This TeleSeminar will be interactive - - you'll be able to talk with Steve and ask him your questions directly (or send them in as text).  It's "just in time" training and development! 

Call Details


The Leader Who Is Hardly Known -- Self-less Teaching From the Chinese Tradition


Thursday   July 14, 2011


Starts at 1 pm  Eastern (NY City time zone)
runs for 60- 70 minutes


Dr. Steven Simpson, author of "The Leader Who Is Hardly Known"

Tom Heck, President & Founder of the IATF


CLICK HERE to register. It's FREE. Registration is closed.


Come to the call ready to participate in small group discussions, share ideas and resources, ask questions, answer quick polls, and be fully engaged as we put the newest distance learning telephone conferencing technology to use!


Get the recording HERE for a limited time.

This call was recorded and is available in the IATF Members Only Area. Not yet an IATF member?  Join HERE.

Tao_te_ching Tao Te Ching

Read the entire Tao Te Ching  HERE.