Knowing You

When facilitating day-long group meetings, I build in a couple of ‘energizers’ to break the ice and help team members get to know each other. These are my ‘go to’ favorites:

2 Down, 1 to Go – Each person shares two things they’ve experienced and one they would like to do, and other members try to guess the one still to come. To set it up, I give my own example: “I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen in concert 13 times, visited the 48 contiguous states, and made 15 visits to Walt Disney World Resort.”

Common and Unique – In smaller groups of three or four, members list as many items possible in five minutes that they share, then in round two, something only one of them has. During large group debriefings over the years, there have been some interesting examples: “Each of us has jumped out of an airplane.” “Only one person was a professional belly dancer.”

Celebrity Close Calls – With a tip of the hat to David Letterman’s ‘Brushes with Greatness,’ each member shares a story about an interesting experience with a famous person. Mine? “At age 27, I met my boyhood hero… and was unable to speak.”

Preparing for my next facilitation this morning, a new energizer popped into my head, and I’m going to use it:

What I Learned – The past 12 months were a journey for everyone. What one thing did you discover about yourself that surprised you the most? For me: I enjoy morning walks around our neighborhood. After years of cycling, running and swimming, I didn’t see myself ever doing that simplest form of exercising.

Try these and you might discover some things about your team you never knew.


Fresh Start

There is something special in the air.

Is it spring? [Checks calendar] This is the first day; however, I don’t think that’s it.

Maybe the NCAA Tournament? [Moves second TV to family room] I will be engorging all day amidst the sports world’s best weekend of the year; yet that’s not it.

Perhaps Kathy is cooking pancakes? [Sniffs several times] Alas, unfortunately no.

[Ponders for several minutes]

I’ve got it.

That something special in the air?

We’re thisclose to being out of the ‘Covid Times.’ So many people have had at least the first vaccine. In a few weeks anyone who wants to get ‘jabbed’ should be able to do so.

This nightmare was long. We’re all ready to get back to pre-pandemic life. It’s natural to be ‘over it.’ Yet, we can’t rush to the end. Stay diligent. Stay respectful. Stay patient.

For. Just. A. Little. Longer.

Soon you’ll be able to smell the roses… without wearing a mask..


Madness Resumes

After 710 days and a lot of self-discipline by all, one of the nation’s best sporting events returned today. While fan attendance is limited in the Indiana bubble, turning on the TV this morning and seeing hoops is a reminder we’re thisclose to a new tomorrow.

In March 2004, I wrote these ’11 Things You Can Learn From The NCAA Tournament’ and thought it appropriate to share them again:

  1. There’s Room For Everyone – Goliath typically wins (UCLA and Kentucky have the most trophies), but every so often David conquers (UNLV, Villanova and Syracuse have claimed titles in the past 20 years). Even if you’re not the biggest, you can still perform the best.
  2. Little Things Count – This year, 21 of 63 games were decided by four points or less. Missed free throws and blown lay-ups are often the difference between victory and defeat. Stay focused on the big picture, but don’t forget to keep a close eye on the details.
  3. Everyone Watches The Coach – Just like a coach’s demeanor affects the attitude of his players, employees pick up on the mindset of their boss. It’s not ‘Do they notice what I’m doing?’ It’s ‘They notice everything I’m doing.”
  4. You Gotta Believe – Twenty times in the past 21 seasons a team seeded 10th or lower advanced to the Sweet 16. No matter how difficult things get or how tremendous the odds appear, remain positive and keep working hard every day.
  5. Experts Are Often Incorrect – Four #1 seeds have never made it to the Final Four. Listening to those supposedly in the know is important, yet remember it’s just someone’s opinion. The real proof is how things play out on the court .
  6. It’s A Team Concept – While St. Joe’s had two outstanding players, its impressive run among the nation’s elite was the result of outstanding team play. Like a coach, your job is to give employees the best chance for success by placing them in roles that capitalize on their strengths and complement one another.
  7. Competition Sneaks Up On You – Stanford entered the tournament with a 29-1 record. Alabama barely made the field with 13 losses. They met in the second round: Alabama 70, Stanford 67. It’s easy to keep an eye on big competitors, but the ones who aren’t on the radar can swoop in unexpectedly and take away your customers.
  8. Give A Second Chance – Seven of the top nine players on Oklahoma State’s Final Four team started their college careers elsewhere. Make sure your employees understand that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as lessons are learned and shared.
  9. It’s A 40-Minute Game – In the first round against Richmond, Wisconsin trailed by 13 midway through the second half. After scoring on 20 straight possessions, the Badgers won going away. Quick fixes aren’t always the best choices. Stick to your game plan, adjust and remain committed to executing what you do best.
  10. Fans Make A Difference – All those screaming folks with painted faces decked out in their school colors really can affect the outcome of a game. Identify the raving fans among your customers and ask them to sing your praises loud and often.
  11. Celebrate Success – CBS signs off each championship game telecast with a moving video showcasing the tournament’s best highlights. It’s important to take time to “cut down the nets” and give employees their “One Shining Moment.”

Good Samaritan

There are a few essential, ‘big things’ when it comes to nurturing children into adults. Teach them to love. Help them to learn. Keep them safe. Make them self-sufficient. Accomplish those and you’ll glide joyfully into the empty-nester phase of life.

When the ‘Big Freeze’ hit the Austin area earlier than expected two weeks ago, our youngest – a first-year high school English teacher in a nearby district – texted to let us know she was leaving school early and making the typical 20-minute drive to her apartment. This would be her initial experience navigating icy roads.

About 45-minutes later, she texted to say she came upon a single-car accident near her complex and the young driver and his passenger were sitting in her car – masked-up – to have heat in the 25-degree weather. While police eventually arrived, with so many cars on the road as everyone left work early, an ambulance couldn’t get to them.

One of the occupants had a serious injury, so Kirsten took it upon herself to drive them to a hospital. After some treacherous road navigation, she dropped them off, texted us she was heading back to her apartment and eventually made it home, just as darkness set in – more than two-and-a-half hours after departing the school.

Since a parent’s work is never complete – even when all the kids are grown – I admit to having anxious thoughts during all this of ‘hope she doesn’t get Covid’ and ‘two young men in a car with a young woman.’ Yet, everything turned out fine.

My lasting thought? We raised her well.


Helping Hand

It’s amazing how – during the most trying times – the love people typically bury deep in their hearts shines through brightly.

Politics? Head to opposite corners and argue for 18 months why one candidate is a buffoon and the other is the perfect choice to lead us out of this malaise we’ve endured since the last guy took office.

Religion? One side: ‘The Bible is a bunch of made-up stories; why is there no historical evidence… oh, and what about evolution?’ The other: ‘It’s about having faith to believe in something you can’t see and is bigger than the brain can comprehend.’

Sports? “You’re blind, ref.” “Hey, quarterback: you stink.” “You won today’s game, but when you wake up tomorrow, you’ll still be a graduate of [insert university], and that will always suck.”

When there’s a disaster, though, people set aside these petty differences and graciously help those in need.

The first Farm Aid, with Willie Nelson and friends, raised $9 million in 1985 – and it’s still going strong. People contributed more than $200 million while watching America: A Tribute to Heroes, broadcast in 210 countries just 10 days after 9/11. A Houston Texans football star asked his Twitter followers to send money for Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017 and $37 million poured in to the JJ Watt Foundation.

A lot of vitriol spewed forth from many sides during the past year: mask or no mask… science vs politics… legitimate or fraudulent election. Then last week, the state of Texas endured its coldest temperatures in 30 years – and the power grid froze as solid as the ice that covered our freeways, leading to widespread blackouts.

Our house had no electricity for 43 hours and no running water for five days. Yet two miles away, some neighborhoods never had any issues. Once the roads cleared, friends in those areas offered to bring us food, provided drinking water and filled gallon jugs so we could flush toilets. People around the country called, texted or emailed to make sure we were safe. Clients reached out to see how we were doing.

My hope is one day it won’t take a monumental moment for humans to care deeply for others. Love is built into our DNA. We need to let it out more often.