"Adventures of a Geek Dad" -- my Ignite Asheville 2013 talk

I'm sharing this post on the IATF website because so many from the IATF community supported me in the following project (thank you all!)...

On February 19, 2013  I spoke at IGNITE Asheville. See my video below.

My talk was entitled "Adventures of a Geek Dad" and I won 1st place! The crazy thing is, I tried to back out of this event a couple of times. I honestly didn't think many people would be interested in what I had to say.

Although I've given many talks, this one was among the most difficult to prepare for and deliver. 

The difficulty stemmed from the format:  5 minutes long and slides auto advance every 15 seconds. 5 minutes is such a short amount of time. Every word counts. You'll see in the video that I got behind / out of sync with my slides - - so easy to do.

Assembling my slides took way longer then expected because I realized I had too much to say in 5 minutes and that meant I had too many slides. I had to eliminate, pair down, refine, etc. Not easy for a guy that likes to talk a lot.

The event organizers (all great people) provided a speaking coach and she was AWESOME. Her name is Angie Flynn-McIver of Executive Repertory. Angie met with me one-on-one and listened to my talk and asked me to make a couple of simple yet important changes. One tip she gave was to "get rid of the light saber". I was going to use a light saber during my talk but Angie said it would be distracting for me and the audience. I'm so glad I followed her advice on that one. 

Here are a few resources that helped a lot:

Scott Berkun -- Why And How To Give An IGNITE Talk

Scott Berkun's blog post on the same subject

IGNITE's tips for beginners

Jason Grigsby's "How To Give a Successful Ignite Presentation"

I bounced some ideas off of Ken Denmead at GeekDad.com (Thank you Ken!).

The biggest realization I had was how vulnerable I felt talking about parenting, my kids, and doing geeky stuff with my kids. The place was sold out with 420 in attendance and I just wasn't used to talking on a subject so personal in front of so many people. 

Towards the end of my talk you'll see me get a little choked up when the slide of my daughter's thank you card is on the screen. That was a surprise. I practiced my talk so many times and not once did I have an emotional reaction to my daughter's card. Sharing that image with hundreds of people really did get me connected with why I do this Geek Dad stuff - - it's a great way to spend time with my kids.


Language of the Leader -- 8 practical language principles for anyone who wants to play a bigger game

Leaders use language differently.  Leaders know the words they speak (or think) become things.  Words are powerful.

Christine Kane's writes a great post at her blog where she shares 8 practical tips for anyone choosing to use language more consciously.  Anyone who wants to be a powerful leader will pay attention.

Here's a couple of Christine's tips:

  1. Eliminate "never" and "always"
  2. Use "and" instead of "but"
  3. Avoid "should"

I left a message at Christine's blog on this post and thought you might benefit from it here:

We (my wife and I) have two children (ages 4 and 8) and all of us work on using language consciously.  Changing things like "I don't know" to "I choose to know".  And here's one I learned from the works of St. Francis of Assisi - - changing "I feel sick" to "My body feels sick".  St. Francis making the distinction that I am not my body.  My body is a temporary vessel for my soul but my body is not me.

About the power of words and what we see in them (experience in them) - - try this one:


How many will see this:  Opportunity Is No Where

Or, perhaps more importantly, how many will see this:  Opportunity is Now Here

It's the same combination of letters.  The all powerful variable is the person viewing the letters.  A subtle all important shift that will decide how you experience your day, your life.

Participants in the my Emerging Leaders Coaching Program become skilled at using language consciously.  It's amazing to see the shifts that can occur in people's lives when they become aware of the link between the language they use and what they experience.

Christine is an awesome singer, songwriter, and musician.  Here's one of my favorite songs entitled "Right Outta Nowhere"

High school graduates receive applause for high grade point averages -- how to fool an entire community

High_school_graduation Last week I witnessed mass hypnosis at a high school graduation.  I wondered how it was that so many people could be fooled.

Here's the scoop...

A neighbor's son was graduating and I wanted to show my support by attending the graduation ceremony.  This young man is an exceptional person - - smart, considerate, friendly and he had a grade point average of 5.0 (grade inflation is for another post).

Early on in the ceremony the principal addressed the 276 students and the parents, relatives, and friends of the graduates (several thousand people!).  The principal went on and on about how this graduating class has the highest grade point average, the highest test scores, the highest number of college applicants, etc, etc. 

The audience applauded.  The audience cheered.

My wife and I rolled our eyes.

How is it that so many people can be in a fog?  Fooled into believing that high grades and high test scores equates to success in real life.

I guess there are very few of us who know the world is flat, otherwise the principal's focus on left brain strengths would fall flat.  Did you know the world is flat?  If not, read Thomas Friedman's NY Times best seller HERE.

Friedman will tell you that India is pumping out Harvard MBA equivalents like there is no tomorrow - - and they'll work for a fraction of the cost.  And because of technology (high speed internet, etc.) you can now hire one of these Harvard MBA equivalents from India for between $5 - $15/hour.  Today's high school graduates are now competing with these Harvard MBA equivalents.

What is the answer?

Focus on building RIGHT BRAIN skills.  That's what Dan Pink says in his powerful book entitled "A Whole New Mind - Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future".  Watch a video of Dan Pink HERE

So here's a question for you...

What would a principal say about a graduating class if the school focused on building right brain strengths among the students?

Some possible answers might be:

  • 100% of our students are able to define their personal mission (life purpose) and they have a clear direction on how to express their mission for the greatest possible good.
  • Each student is connected to and understands their personal values.
  • Our students understand how they learn best through their unique learning style.
  • The creative process has been fully explored by each and every student.  Expressing their creativity comes easily and naturally.

And the audience applauds wildly.

Will this ever happen?  It's unlikely.  Especially with the current fixation on test scores and No Child Left Behind.

I wish all parents were required to read John Taylor Gatto's book entitled "The Underground History of American Education".  Perhaps the cultural hypnosis about the importance of high test scores would vanish.  You can listen to this audio interview I did with Gatto HERE.

What kind of hypnosis is your team operating under?

Post Update:

Dan Pink (mentioned above) just sent me an email after he read this post and said he once interviewed John Taylor Gatto (also mentioned above).  The interview appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company Magazine.  You can read Dan's interview of John HERE. (it's really good)

My father speaks to me about his World War II service and teamwork

My father died of a heart attack at age 60 in 1980.  I was 18 years old.  I'm reminded of him today as it is Memorial Day in the USA. 

Memorial Day is a federal holiday which commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.  My dad served in the US Navy during World War II.  Memorial Day was special to him as he lost many friends in that war.

My father was an officer in the navy and fought in the Pacific.  I don't remember him talking much about the war though I know the events of the war profoundly effected him.

Last summer I took my family to Wilmington, NC where I was to deliver a keynote at a regional conference of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.  We made the trip into a fun beach vacation.  We stayed at a wonderful hotel along the river and right across the river from the hotel was the Battleship North Carolina which was the first battleship to arrive in Pearl Harbor after the attack.

I decided to tour the ship and I took my then 7 year old son with me.  The tour was both amazing and sad.  Amazing in that I could hardly believe so many people could fit on that ship and sad because so many resources (people, money, time, energy, etc.) were focused on death and destruction. 

The tour got me thinking of my dad's service in the US Navy and so I began the search for his military records.  When I told my younger brother about my research project he mentioned he had an audio cassette tape which contained an interview my brother did with my father in 1977.  The subject was his military service and it was a project my brother completed in for a ninth grade world history class.

I could hardly believe it.

My father has been dead for 27 years and now I would be able to hear him.

Hearing my dad's voice was very strange.  I didn't remember him soundling like that.  So many memories and emotions flooded back.

And in the recording, you'll hear my dad mention the importance of teamwork.

Listen to the 22 minute audio interview completed in 1977 with my father at the link below (my brother Brian is the interviewer):

Download john_henry_heck_sr. interview.mp3

Here's a picture of my dad in his uniform (click to enlarge):


During the recording you'll hear my dad mention that he was involved in reconnaissance on various islands.  Here's a photo (click to enlarge) he treasured from that work.  My dad is standing in front of this group photo - - you can see him with his officer's hat on (his white t-shirt is showing).


I miss my dad.  I wish he could have met my wife and kids.  It would have been fun to talk about parenting.

Educators and Politicians get it all wrong with "dropout epidemic"

I read an article in the May 9, 2007 issue  of the Christian Science Monitor entitled "Educators, politicians, and MTV take aim at dropout 'epidemic'".

Seems that 3 in 10 American ninth-graders don't graduate with their class.  If you look at the African-American population then it's 1 in 2 that don't graduate.

There are two bipartisan bills in Congress that would authorize about $3 billion toward reducing dropout rates. 

This is MADNESS.

47% of dropouts reported leaving school because "classes were not interesting".

Spending $3 billion will not make public school classes any more interesting and here's why:  public schools are broken.  Public schools are increasingly more irrelevant to what's going on in the real world and the students know it. 

Did you listen to the audio interview with Dan Pink who authored "A Whole New Mind -- Moving From The Information Age To The Conceptual  Age"?  Dan will tell you public schools are broken and irrelevant because they focus on Left brain skills when they should be focusing on Right brain skills.

Public schools are, essentially, a monopoly.  Unless you're wealthy and can afford sending your child to the school of your choice you are stuck with the public school.  There is always the homeschooling option (we do this) but how many families can work that option?

Before we spend $3 billion on a broken system we need to break the monopoly.  Allow parents to send their child to the school that is best for their child. And yes, that includes private schools.  And don't make test scores a requirement for the school.  There is no direct correlation to high test scores and being successful in life. 

Listen to award winning teacher John Taylor Gatto talk about his book "The Underground History of American Education.  Gatto is the most eloquent person you'll find to talk about what's wrong with American public schools and how to fix them.

Bloggers Needed -- Would you like to be a guest blogger at TeachMeTeamwork.com?

Would you like to be a guest blogger at TeachMeTeamwork.com? 

I'm looking for people who want to write articles on teamwork related issues and then post them at TeachMeTeamwork.com.

Why would you want to be a guest blogger? 

  • You get the credit on the post.
  • The post contains a link that points to your site - - an advertising opportunity.
  • Exposure - - I have 25,087+ subscribers (as of April 12) and writing for my blog can help increase your exposure.
  • Camaraderie - - You get to hang out (virtually) with movers and shakers (people just like you).

Are you interested?  If yes, send me an email with a sample article/post and let's start the discussion.

Throw out your TV and start making room in your life for the important things

Two years ago we got rid of our TV so we could make room in our lives for more important things.  The average person watches approximately 35 hours of TV each week - - that's nearly a full time job just watching TV!

What would you do with an extra 35 hours each week?

Some of the things we do with all the extra time:

  • Read books.
  • Listen to books on tape.
  • I built a Floating Arm Trebuchet with my son.  You can watch a video of us HERE launching golf balls 100 yards in a field.
  • Look at stuff in a microscope.
  • Read magazines.
  • Play Bocce Ball in our yard.
  • Create things.

I still rent a DVD now and then and watch it on my computer.  I love documentaries (have you seen "Riding Giants"?!).  And my son will watch a DVD once every week - - currently he's enjoying Johnny Quest and Bill Nye The Science Guy. 

A friend called a couple of days ago and he wants to make big changes in his life.  And yet, his life is so full that he doesn't have the bandwidth to create (or allow) those changes.  I suggested he get rid of his TV to create more room in his life for things that really matter and he said "What?!  I'm not going that far!"

Who and what you surround yourself with begins to define you.  Most TV is the equivalent of junk food.  Do yourself a favor and throw out your TV.  And if you have to get your TV fix then watch amazing and empowering stuff like the TED presentations

BYOBW Race Down Lombard Street in SF

While reading BoingBoing I discovered the BYOBW race that is held each April in San Francisco. 

In case you were wondering, BYOBW stands for Bring Your Own Big Wheel.

The race takes place on that crazy curvey road called Lombard Street. 

One of my favorite toys growing up was a Big Wheel so this means I'm going to HAVE to participate in BYOBW some day.

CLICK HERE to view pictures and video of the 2007 BYOBW race.


A Lesson About Teamwork from Bruce Hornsby

I've been listening to a lot of music by Bruce Hornsby lately.  He's one of my favorite musicians and song writers.

Summer of 2006 I had the great pleasure of attending a live outdoor concert at the famous Biltmore Estate.  Three thousand people attended and my wife and I were very close to the front having a great time.

Brucehornsby2 During one of the slow thoughtful tunes, some guy up front in the standing room / dancing area was yelling and being obnoxious.  Bruce stopped playing and told the guy to be considerate.  It was awesome.

It was awesome because Bruce could do that with 3,000 people looking on.  Think about the pressure to do nothing.  To keep on playing or to just ignore the inconsiderate concert goer.  Imagine if we were all so clear about our boundaries.  Imagine your team members being that clear about their boundaries and being comfortable, regardless of the situation, in letting everyone know when a line has been crossed.

Bruce had his "Noise Makers" band with him which amounted to six other people (one of whom was his son on electric guitar).  I noticed that everyone in the band keyed off of Bruce.  They were so tight (as musicians say).  When Bruce stopped playing because of the obnoxious guy the rest of the band stopped instantly.  It was like someone hit a stop button.  Everyone in the band was so in touch with Bruce and each other.

How does a team (a band) develop this one mind?

Practice.  Lots of practice.

So, what does your team practice?

Are you not practicing?  Then how can you expect to perform well under pressure (or any other condition)?

PS  The 2005 concert of the year as voted on by die hard Hornsby fans took place in Asheville, NC (where I live) and you can purchase the live recording HERE.

What are you going for in 2007?

2007 is here.  Have you decided what you (your team) is going for?

What would you go for if you knew you could not fail?

Yes, there are (or will be) obstacles but they are not your concern.  Your job is to dream big and then go for it.

Take a lesson from this eastern black bear who wants the bird food in the feeder...





Lying team member stays on the team?

Randy Cohen has a column in the NY Times Magazine called "The Ethicist".  Readers of the magazine write in and ask Randy for his opinion on real life ethical dilemmas they are facing.

The December 24, 2006 issue has the following story:

When a co-worker of my husband's found out she had breast cancer, many of her duties were distributed to her peers to allow her time for treatment.  In September, it was revealed that she'd been faking the illness, but she continues on the job as usual.  My husband and many of his colleagues feel betrayed and angry by her deception and management's inaction.  What should be done?

There are two transgressors in this situation: the co-worker AND management.

To go through with such a lie as this, the co-worker is guilty of moral and/or mental problems and, like Randy, I can't imagine management knew of the lie in advance or condoned it.

In a situation like this Management has an amazing opportunity.  They can pull together and ask themselves what they did to create (or attract) this situation.

Yes, the leadership of the team (managers, ceo, etc.) is responsible for attracting people who will lie and hurt their fellow team members.  It's leadership that sets the tone, creates the rules, hires the staff, etc.

There are no victims in this story. 

No victims.

Not even the team members that feel betrayed and angry from the deception.  They aren't victims because they chose to join the team.

What type of people and situations is your team attracting?  Are you enjoying what you are attracted as a team?

What you experience as a team is a result of the collective level of consciousness of your team.

Though Randy Cohen doesn't address the concept of who created this situation in the first place, you can read his response to the "Cancer Chicanery" ethical dilemma HERE

Accused of Bragging and Being Annoying

I received an email from one of my newsletter subscribers accusing me of bragging and being annoying.  It was kind of hard to take.  Rather than deleting the email and allowing this person to continue on their path without interuption from me, I decided to respond. 

The exchange that occurred is worth sharing (he granted me permission to share the exchange).  So here goes...

I don't know if you'll even get this, because when you send stuff,  it's obviously in HUGE BULK.

You're regular e-mails have been quite repetitive; to the point of being annoying.  When you constantly speak of the money you have made, and the 'strategies' YOU use to build YOUR subscriber lists, bank accounts, etc...  it becomes BRAGGING, and eventually becomes VERY annoying.

You are being removed from my e-mail list.  I have been working as a teambuilder professionally for 2 years.  Honestly, if your programs work, they speak for themselves.

To Heck with the bragging!

(Name Withheld By Request)


Hi (Name) --

I read every email sent to me and I'd like to respond to yours...

The "Build a List" teleseminar you refer to was offered one (1)  time.  It is the only time I've shared how much money I made by  selling the multimedia CDs I've created.

Why did I share the dollar amount ($10,000 in 5 days)?

Many who subscribe to my newsletter are small business owners / entrepreneurs (independent trainers, facilitators, coaches, etc.) and dollar figures tend to grab their attention.

I offered the "Build A List" teleseminar to help other small business owners / entrepreneurs realize their dream quicker.  I want to help others who are choosing to play big and help people on a global level while also living a life in harmony.

I've been self-employed for the last 10 years and I've invested tens of thousands of dollars in my business and was, at one time, in serious debt all because I didn't know how to live my dream of helping people on a global level AND make money.

How many people have a big dream but go broke (spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially) doing it?

I've gone through some very scary times in the last ten years and had many a heart-to-heart conversation with my wife to discuss giving up on my dream.  I thought many times about giving up because of my concern for my two young kids (ages 2 and 7). You can relate to my fear if you've ever been unable to pay for health insurance for your kids or wondered how you would put clothes on your kids if it wasn't for hand-me-downs from friends and relatives.

I didn't give up.  I stuck with it.  And the "Build A List" teleseminar represented a way for me to share strategies I've learned (the hard way) that have helped me grow my business and reach more people all while being present in the lives of my children.

You said: "Honestly, if your programs work, they speak for themselves."

My business is working for me and I'm excited about it.  I now serve 25,600+ people in 101 countries!  There are some who would like to know how I've been able to experience this success (I receive regular email inquiries on this).  If I operated from fear, I would say "Figure it out yourself".  But that's not my way.

I recognize you didn't like the idea of the teleseminar.  But what about the people who attended?  What did they have to say?  You can read some comments from participants of the teleseminar HERE

Two people who attended my teleseminar own and run a teambuilding business out of their home.  They want to grow their business so they can reach more people.  If you were to talk with them, they would tell you they are called to do this work.  And they have two children.  What strategies would you offer them to combine their passion for building their business (to create positive change in the world) with their passion to be great parents?  What if my teleseminar helped them do just that? Would it have been worth sounding like I was "bragging"?

I apologize to for coming across as "bragging" and "annoying".  I hope you can forgive me.

You've raised a great point.  One I don't want to get lost in our exchange. I would like to post your email and my response on my website which will allow others to comment on the same.  I won't share your name or contact info (unless you tell me to).  Why am I doing this?  I've learned that the more transparent I am, the faster I will grow - - in my business and spiritually.


Tom Heck


Tom - Let me apologize for my attitude.  I honestly didn't think you would even read my e-mail!  Thanks for your honest reply, and feel free to use my e-mail for your site, without naming. 

Yes, I can relate to your 'scary times;' although I don't have children, I currently work in the health industry as a teambuilding professional, using experiential education.  My 13.80/hr. hardly pays
the bills!  I only do this because I love it.  My heated e-mail stemmed partly from jealousy, and partly from frustration at work.

I am currently the owner of a teambuilding business that never got off the ground.  I had (and still have on standby) a website, framework, business plan and employees ready to go.  Then, it was shot down before it ever got off the ground, due to a supposed 'conflict of interest.'  I work for a non-profit agency, but was told if I went ahead with my business, I would lose my current job!  I've been looking for another job ever since, but there is nothing in my area.  Needless to say, I'm very frustrated!

Rest assured that I am now a devoted subscriber!

Thank you for your response, and again- I apologize for my attitude.


(Name Withheld By Request)


Hi (Name) --

I accept your apology.  :-)

I relate to the frustration you're experiencing over not being able to fully express your genius in your current job.

Know this:  everything you've gone through is perfect.  AND it's also perfect that you have a strong desire for something more/better.

When I stepped out into the unknown world of entrepreneurship ten years ago I was totally unprepared.  The only thing I had was an intense desire to help lots of people.  I was told by many people that most businesses fail within the first couple of years (the odds were against me) and that it would be "safer" to get a job.

But I don't believe we were put here to live a "safe" life.

The questions that helped guide me then (and still do today) are:

What is the legacy I am leaving?

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?  If I knew I would be supported every step of the way?



Four States of Consciousness And How It Affects Your Ability To Lead a Team

There are 4 states of consciousness as described by my good friend Barbara Waterhouse

1. To Me
2. By Me
3. Through Me
4. As Me

Icon_audio_9Listen to this 22 minute "recorded live" version of Barbara as she explains the four states of consciousness in detail (click the link below).
Download to_by_through_me_mp3_sm.mp3

The choices we make (individually, as a team, as a nation, as a planet) can only be made from the current state of consciousness that were in.  We can't make choices from a state of consciousness that we're not in.

For example...

If a team leader operates out of the "To Me" state of consciousness you will hear them say such things as:  "They did that to me."  or  "This happened to me."

Consciousness"To Me" consciousness is equivalent to powerlessness.  You'll notice people who operate at this state of consciousness will blame everything (people, government, weather, finances, etc.) for what they experience in their life.

A team leader operating at the "To Me" state of consciousness will experience great difficulty creating a high performing team, much less leading one.

Contrast this with the "By Me" state of consciousness.  This is what my dad taught me growing up.  This state of consciousness says that success is only possible with lots of hard work.  It's the "If it is to be, it's up to me" way of thinking.  If you stop working hard than nothing will happen.  The ego is very much in control at this state of consciousness.  Very little trust exists.  This is a great way to become exhausted.  This is how I've led most of my life.

Now I choose to operate in the "Through Me" state of consciousness.  I confess that it does require my attention to live in this state.  When I'm lazy I move back to the "By Me" state.

Shift your state of consciousness and you'll automatically shift whats possible for you and your team.

The Mirage of Team Building

A mirage is an optical illusion.  Think of a guy crawling across the desert, slowly dieing of thirst.  He  sees an oasis with a beautiful cool source of water.  The mirage gives him hope and makes him feel good - temporarily.  And then reality hits when the oasis turns out to be a mirage.  The struggle continues.

Oasis1Many teams are like the guy crawling through the sand, struggling (unnecessarily).  Then, in an effort to ease the pain, someone says "let's do some teambuilding" and the mirage is created.  A day of teambuilding is offered up and team members become hopeful and then... poof!  The day of teambuilding is over (the mirage disappears) and everyone is back at the office crawling along.

A reader of this blog offered up this excerpt from the Harvard Business Review (March-April 1993) called the Discipline of Teams: "But people use the word team so loosely that it gets in the way of learning and applying the discipline that leads to good performance. Groups do not become teams simply because that is what someone calls them.  The entire work force of any large and complex organization is never a team, but think about how often that platitude is offered up."

A group of people does not become a high functioning team simply because they've participated in a team building activity (or a day of activities).  The activities are part of a "disciplined" approach to building a high performing team. 

A high performing team starts with the organization's mission and vision and core values - - and I'm not talking about just the words they have on paper... I'm talking about how these are experienced and lived every day within the organization.  And it starts with the leadership acting as the role model.  Every system within the organization must support high performing (win-win) team consciousness - - these systems include but are not limited to: the training system, the planning system, the communication system, the budgeting system, the information system, and the compensation system. 

Here's a metaphor:   
-- Karen eats a salad at lunch and believes it will help her live a "healthy" life.  But she eats at McDonalds 5x/week, doesn't exercise, hates her job, has no friends and watches 40 hours of TV a week (a national average).  Karen is chasing a mirage.

-- Sally has committed to living a healthy life.  She eats a diet based on the advise of a wise nutritionist (who has completed several in-depth surveys of Sally's health), she has many deep and loving relationships with quality people, she laughs a lot, she loves her work, exercises regularly (and has fun doing it), read books that inspire her and enjoys nature.  Sally is living a healthy lifestyle through discipline.

I see a lot of companies that act like Karen.  I'd like to see more companies like Sally but it takes an enormous amount of discipline to follow that path (which, by the way, provides HUGE pay-offs).

Are you a team leader who is ready to become the example for your team to follow?  Are you ready to learn how to lead your team in a disciplined and conscious way?  If yes, then I urge you to consider membership in the IATF where you'll join a community of like-minded Teamwork Facilitators intent on building strong and vibrant teams.  CLICK HERE to read the benefits of IATF membership and join today!

Justifying Teamwork?

A recent email... "I am writing a report on teambuilding to the top management of my organization. The managers want to know  how many companies have got the benefits from teambuilding, especially, the famous ones." 

Is this an amazing question or what?!

I'm trying to imagine a group of top managers in a company sitting around a table saying "Do you think we would be a better company of we invested in building a better team?"

It's hard to believe  managers would actually sit around wondering if high performing teams (i.e. teams that generate more profits with greater speed and ease) are more or less valuable than a group of people who argue, don't share (resources, ideas, etc.) and generally operate from "lack mentality" (win-lose or lose-lose thinking).

This is like asking a fish to do research about the value of gills.  (To discover the value of gills, simply remove gills from a sample of fish and see what happens)

QuizAnd what about the "...especially , the famous ones" part of the above question?  Do the managers assume that famous teams (famous organizations) have some kind of inside knowledge about the value of teambuilding?  Enron was a famous team.  United Airlines is famous (about to go bankrupt though).  I'm reminded of the kid in high school who cheats by looking on the paper of the kid next to him - - the assumption being that kid is a reliable source of information.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote a book published in 2005 entitled "The World Is Flat".  Friedman describes how, through technological advances and the lowering of trade and politcal barriers, how it's now possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. What does this mean for organizations?  The short answer is you better find every conceivable advantage or someone somewhere is going to take your business right out from under your feet.  Your organization better be investing in creating high performing teams because someone somewhere is investing in teaching their group team skills right now (while you sit and wonder if it's a good investment).

It used to be an organization could "buy" their competitive edge (i.e. purchasing the latest and greatest computer, phone system, pda, fax machine, etc.).  Now technology is so cheap it alone can't provide the edge.  Developing people is the last frontier - - and as far as this blog is concerned it's about training people to work as a high performing team. It's HOW you get your people to work together that will produce the greatest competitive edge.

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. 


Program Design

I’m sitting in my Best Western hotel room in New Jersey reviewing my program design for tomorrow. 

When I create a program design I first get clear on the messages (lessons) that I choose to teach or reinforce.  This process starts through conversations with my client.  I put on my detective hat and begin asking questions that reveal what the group “really” needs - - it’s not uncommon for the group representative contacting me to be less than crystal clear on what’s really going on with their group.  “We need teambuilding training” they say.  Why?  What will the training help your team do that it can’t do now?  How will you measure success?  What will the training look like?  On a scale of 1-10 how is your team performing now?  What are the demographics of the team?  Who is the team leader?  What are the leader’s (organization’s) values and beliefs? 

Here’s how I prepare for a program: I map out the beginning/opening sequence of activities, which allows me to get a feel for the group.  This sequence of activities may last 15 – 90 minutes.  After watching the group interact during this introductory session I know which exercise to lead next.  I’ll select an activity from a “menu” of activities that I’m prepared to lead.  This means I come prepared to lead more activities than I can possibly lead during the program.  The menu is made up of two categories of activities that I label “long” and “short” (the long activities require more time and are more involved, more intense).  I also have a category called “fun” and I intersperse activities from this category to help bring levity to the program and key points. 

This approach to working with a group is much like “performance art” - - I create the program as I go.  I’m constantly asking myself this question:  How may I serve?  I listen to my intuition and I pick the next activity.

There are some situations where I map out the entire program and don’t make any changes from my plan.  I’m able to design a program like this if I’m able gather enough detailed information about the group in advance.   

Missing my family already

I’m waiting in the Asheville airport for my first flight.   There is free high-speed wireless and I love that.  My plane starts boarding in a few minutes.  Traveling became much more difficult for me now Lizathat I have children.  When I left home Anne (my wife) and Liza (my 18 month old daughter - - that's here in the photo) gave me kisses goodbye.  My son Joseph (age 6) gave me a big hug as he left for kindergarten.  I already miss them.  At the same time I love traveling to lead workshops I also love being home with my wife and children.  My dad was absent for most of my childhood and I remember missing him a great deal. Working for myself allows me a freedom when it comes to spending time with my family.  I get to drop my son off at school and pick him up and I’m usually home when Liza takes a nap which allows Anne to go for a bike Anneonparkwayride on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is a half mile from our home. 

The one day (or one hour) team skills workshop

The sub-title of this post?  "When NOT to invest in a team skills workshop". 

I'm prompted to write this post because a friend called and asked me to lead a teambuilding program for the 40 staff of his growing physical therapy business. After a brief conversation I advised him to save his money and NOT hire me.

Here's the situation:  The group is to have a staff retreat (the last one was 3 years ago) which will take place after they work for half a day (attending to patients).  This retreat will last all of four hours and I was asked to deliver "some kind of teamwork training" that will improve communication - - the staff is experiencing some real communication challenges that are adversely affecting the bottom line.  My portion of the retreat is to last no more than 60 minutes.  There is no budget (or time) for an analysis of the current situation which will help reveal the root cause of the communication problems the group is experiencing.  There is no plan or budget for follow up / follow-through.

I explained that a quick-fix is not going to solve the problem and attempting to apply a quick-fix is likely to make things worse.

Quick-fixes don't work.  Imagine someone walking into a fitness center to announce they are willing to invest just 60 minutes to get fit.  The next time they are willing to invest in their fitness is in another 3 years.  Though 60 minutes at a fitness center is better than nothing, it is only a start.  The place to start is to determine the current level of fitness and then develop a fitness plan and then begin the plan and evaluate continuously.  Going to the finess center once every three years for 60 minutes will produce a short term "feel good" experience (maybe) but that's about it.

I shared the above analogy with my friend.  He understood the metaphor but, he said, "I have a business to run!  A business where patients show up everyday all day long.  I can't afford to stop my business to do team skills and leadership training with my staff."

Covey calls it the 7th Habit - - taking time to "sharpen the saw".

My friend couldn't believe I would turn down business.  I suggested his resources would be better invested coming up with clear mission and vision (something I would help with) and then determining how training would support that mission and vision.  He said he didn't have time for that.

Maybe he will call me back when his team (business) is in crisis.  People tend to have the resources (time, money, etc.) when there is a crisis.

Mission and Vision

Mission & Vision of TeachMeTeamwork.com
Who we are, and what we're doing

What we're focused on doing
Our primary mission is to teach team skills that promote win-win consciousness.

What is TeachMeTeamwork.com?
What we provide
We provide dynamic resources that will help you learn how to be a highly effective teacher of team skills. These resources include:

  • Multi-Media CDs containing detailed and easy to follow instructions, video, photos and more to help you learn teambuilding games today and lead them tomorrow.
  • Training Website representing the most accessible easy-to-use one-stop-shop multi-media web-based training resource of adventure-based experiential team building activities.
  • Workshops delivered live via interactive TeleForums - - a super convenient and fun way to learn.
  • Coaching for individuals and teams on the fast track.
  • Onsite Training for intact teams ready to accelerate their learning curve (and reap the benefits).

What is Teamwork?
In our view...

  • Teamwork is a primary life skill, which must be practiced and honed throughout one's life.
  • The foundational goal of developing team skills, and the goal of this website, is to enhance the connection between people.
  • Connection is the key for all enlightened interaction between people.  When people are more connected, the world is a better place.
  • Enlightened teamwork is fun and synergistic and always looks to create win-win opportunities.

What we see as possible

  • A world where the old paradigms of win-lose and lose-lose are more difficult to implement than a win-win approach. 
  • Team skills taught in a fun, engaging and transformative way to everyone.
  • Team skills are considered essential to a healthy life.
  • Trainers of team skills around the world have instant access to the team skill development information they need when and where they need it 24 hours a day.

Why we do what we do

  • I do this work because it’s so much fun! Each day my work provides me with numerous opportunities to practice and apply my love of personal development, teamwork, inventing/product development, relationship/alliance building, coaching, and teaching through technology. My work also provides me daily opportunities to teach my children about “playing a bigger game” in life and being of service to others.

Measures of Success
How we measure our success as an enterprise

  • Our members find our products and services to be exactly what they need, easy and fast to access and use, at the perfect price.
  • Our products and services are sold worldwide and change the lives of thousands of people for the better everyday.
  • We deliver outstanding customer service.
  • The absence of operational delay or technical problems
  • Our company is profitable and our products and services help our customers to experience greater abundance.
  • Our network of clients, affiliates and strategic alliances grows daily and our relationships are Class One all the way (Class One: feels good, good for me, good for others, serves the greater good).

What matters most to us, as an organization

  • Effectiveness:  TeachMeTeamwork.com services products and resources work for our community.
  • Timeliness:  Our members have the resources they need when they need them.
  • Coolness:  TeachMeTeamwork.com delivers information in a cool way.
  • Value:  Members receive incredible value for their investment.

Prevalent Themes
How our members experience TeachMeTeamwork.com

  • As a place where they become inspired.
  • As a place where they accelerate their personal development as a teacher and leader of team skills.
  • As a place where they have access to resources and services in the team skills training arena -- just in time.
  • As a place where they add to their skill sets.

What business are we in?

Primarily, TeachMeTeamwork.com is in the virtual training business.
Secondarily, we are in these businesses:

  • Conferences & workshops
  • Personal & professional development
  • Product development
  • New content development