2008 - First Quarter

"Are You Listening?"

The TBD team has just completed our sixth annual community service event. This year we lent our time, effort and energy to a great cause, the 2007 Multiple Sclerosis Challenge Walk. The mantra for the weekend was "3 days, 50 miles, closer to a cure". The cure cannot come fast enough for me and, more importantly, for all those who come after me who will be diagnosed with this degenerative disease.

While I trudged along, walking the 50-mile course, over three days, the rest of the TBD team worked tirelessly as Crew. Crew play various roles at the walk, and our team was responsible for creating and executing the two evening programs that took place under the big tent. This included creating the theme for each night, as well as orchestrating and manning the massive set up and breakdown.

It was a grueling three days, both for me as a walker and for the TBD crew, but also rewarding in so many ways. Any of you who have participated in an event like this know that the spirit, emotion and sense of camaraderie that you feel is amazing; being part of a community of people all gathered around a cause that they feel strongly about is really powerful. For those who have not, I suggest you do so, it can have great impact.

One of the most memorable parts of this experience was the awakening and the understanding of how we can allow things in our lives to define us: whether it be Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Cancer, difficult children, aging parents, and the list could go on. The bottom line is that we all have "stuff", and we cannot ignore the "stuff", but, we can choose how we handle it. We cannot allow "our stuff" to define us. You define you — not what is happening around you or even to you. If you allow your stuff to define you, then you are giving up your power to really live.

With that in mind, this issue of the Inquisitor focuses on how you can better handle "your stuff". You will read more about our experience at the MS Walk, as well as learn about a skill to better manage the conflicts in your life. You will also find articles on the power of team retreats and generational management. I am confident you will find valuable ideas and tools that will keep you from allowing "your stuff" to define you.

For all of you — and there are many — who contributed to my fundraising efforts, thanks will never be enough. I am proud to report that I was the highest individual fundraiser, and that would have been an impossible accomplishment without your generosity. My blistered feet have healed, but my heart will forever remember how blessed I am to be connected to all of you.
~ Grace

The 2007 MS Challenge Walk: 3 Days, 50 Miles, Closer to a Cure

The MS Challenge Walk is a 3-day, 50-mile fundraising event, with the goal to bring awareness and funds to the debilitating disease of Multiple Sclerosis. The National MS Society's tag line is "Join the Movement", which is exactly what our team did when we volunteered our time, energy and effort to this worthwhile cause. The MS Challenge Walk is Training By Design's sixth community service project and is one we won't soon forget.

In June, we were introduced to two leaders from the New England Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Todd Krohne and Lori Espino. They came to our office to talk to us about the 3-Day MS Challenge Walk and asked our team to help make this year's Walk the most memorable experience in the event's six year history. Our task: to create, plan and execute the Friday and Saturday night evening programs under the big top tent. Like any non-profit agency, the NE MS Society is working with limited resources, in terms of both people and funds. It was the TBD team's job to bridge that gap in resources and transform the Walk's evening events into programs that walkers, crew and staff alike would be talking about for years to come.

As usual, we were up for the challenge! The team quickly came up with a theme for the weekend: Movement was our theme. Friday night we would "Celebrate the Movement" and Saturday night, we would "Connect the Movement to the Cure". After much pre-event planning and shopping, the team was ready for the weekend. Upon arrival at the Cape, you could feel the energy in the air. We were so excited to be part of something so wonderful and important. We worked with an amazing crew of volunteers for these events; we worked hard and had fun. The results were fantastic. The evening events were uplifting and invigorating.

Friday night's program had a light and fun feel to it with the first annual "Movers and Shakers Awards" show, which was our take on the Oscars. The tent's entrance was dressed in burgundy velvet drapes and the side entrance illuminated with a marquee board sign (see photo). Inside the tent, tables were covered with black linen tablecloths, and in the center of each table was a bottle of sparkling cider that sat in a black top hat. Noisemakers and other party items surrounded the top hat, adding to the party-like atmosphere. During the program, walkers were recognized for having walked in multiple MS Challenge Walks and for hitting top fundraising milestones for this year's walk, as well as those who hit cumulative lifetime fundraising levels of $50 to $75K — what an amazing achievement. There was much to celebrate on Friday and a good time was had by all.

The Saturday night event had a much different feeling and meaning. The tent was transformed into a magical setting with candle luminaries marking the path into the tent and draped twinkle lights strung from the rafters of the tent ceiling and along the stage. The tables were laden with white table cloths and a centerpiece with three tiered candles and glittering stones. Candles and twinkle lights provided the only light in the tent — it was beautiful and fit the feeling of the night just right. In the words of Todd Krohne, Director of the MS Walk, "Saturday night was perfect." A mother and daughter duo, Jeannie and Melody Felton, wrote and sang an original song entitled "A Million Miles" about their thankfulness to the walkers. Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the tent. The emotions continued to run high as three speakers took to the podium to tell their story of life with MS. Our own Grace Andrews spoke about having MS and "coming out";

Melody Felton spoke about being the child of a mother with MS; and finally, a woman spoke about being the spouse of someone with MS. All in the audience could relate to one or more of these speakers. Their stories were heartfelt and full of emotion. There were tears and laughter. To end the evening, each person in the tent slowly and gradually had his or her candle lit. In the end, we all were standing standing tall for a cure. It was a truly magical and moving evening.

To cap off our weekend, the TBD team met up with Grace and the other walkers for the last quarter mile walk to the finish line. We crossed the line as a team, a unified team who chanted loudly: "3 days...50 miles...closer to a cure".

Team Retreats: Valuable Time Together, Not Group Therapy

While sitting around with some friends recently, the conversation drifted to work and I decided to lead a word association exercise. You know the drill, someone says a word and others respond with the first thing that comes to mind. One of the words in my association was Work Retreat. The responses were...touchy-feely, group therapy, too busy and PARTY (the last one coming from a friend who works for a well-known brewing company).

Given a paradigm shift in purpose, including the set-up of "why are we having one" and its execution, retreats can stimulate innovation, perspective, strengthened relationships and results that otherwise get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day "business". For years, our team has been going on an annual, weeklong retreat admittedly longer than most to learn, debate, ponder, strategize and invent. While we take time to re-engage in each other's lives, we also determine how to improve ourselves and the business. We tackle the tough issues such as accountability, productivity and financials. By the end of the retreat, we have managed a lot of "stuff" that we don't have time for during the day-to-day. We also alleviate much of the concern and stress associated with the stuff that tends to linger over time, especially if it went unaddressed. We come away with a heightened commitment to our vision and each other. And folks, that generates results (not group therapy!)

So how do you plan for a meaningful and fun retreat? Begin with the end in mind: What do you want to walk away with, that would create value for this team or organization? Does it concern customers, strategy, service, commitment, creativity, connections or sales? It can be anything you want, but remember that it's not a lecture or a seminar; it's a discussion and an opportunity for engagement.

Once you have a focus, choose a timeframe and establish an agenda. If this is new to you, go for just two days and one night. Pick a location. Do something social as a team, as well as business discussions. Do something different not just dinner: go horseback riding, do a community service project or go sailing.

Next, set the expectations for the retreat with your team. Tell them what you're doing and why you're doing it. Tell them what their piece of the retreat is. Create excitement around the event and be enthused. DO NOT let outside distractions get in the way of your time with your team. Ask others to do the same.

Finally, be sure to leave your retreat with commitments of what you will do differently when you assimilate back to the real world. Don't bite off more than you can chew keep it simple. If there are too many actions, people are overwhelmed and nothing gets accomplished. Nothing is more of a downer than leaving a retreat on a high, with expectations of changes or improvements, and nothing happens or no one follows up.

When done well, retreats are an investment of time that allows individuals and teams to "manage their stuff" and return with clarity, purpose and commitment.

Understanding the Generations and Their "Generational Stuff"

There is no doubt that in our current workplaces, different generations abound. At the request of our clients who work and manage in these multi-generation environments, TBD is launching a new training session this quarter Understanding the Generations.

There are currently six generations alive, but primarily four in the workplace (Veterans, Baby Boomers, Xers (Gen X) and Nexters (also called Gen Y, Millennials or the Net generation). The session will address the best ways to appreciate and manage people in the three main generations in the workplace: Boomers, Xers and Nexters.

This training addresses the values that guide the decisions and behaviors of each generation and also looks at the defining moments that influenced a generation's values at that vulnerable age between 10 and 20:

  • Did you ever hear a radio address by FDR?
  • Do you remember the moment when you heard that JFK was assassinated?
  • Can you recall your impression of the Viet Nam War Protest at the Washington Monument?
  • What is your clearest memory of The Watergate scandal?
  • Do you know where you were when the Challenger disintegrated?
  • Will you ever forget the images at The World Trade Center?

World events help to shape a generation and influence our behaviors. It is essential for today's manager to understand each generation's behaviors and how best to manage for success.

At this training, each generation will be asked, from their perspective, what are the ways to keep them engaged in the workplace; then we will determine management strategies from their responses. So, if you are a Boomer managing a Nexter or an Xer managing a Boomer, there will be profiles and strategies for you to share and implement, so you can handle "this generational stuff" back at your workplace. Because, we have news, "this stuff" isn't going away soon.

TAKE NOTE: This is the first time in American history that we have had four generations working side-by-side in the workplace.

The Power of Assertive Language

Conflicts. We all have 'em. In our home lives and in the workplace, conflicts exist. You have them with your spouse, your sibling, your co-worker and your customers. Over the past several months, TBD has noticed an increase in the requests for training on how staff and managers can more effectively handle the difficult conversations and conflicts that arise in the workplace. "Can you work with one of our teams that is experiencing inter-departmental conflict?" "How can I get my managers to address the difficult conversations that they need to be having with their people?" "Can you help my staff to better respond to angry and upset customers?" All of these questions have one thing in common, the answer: Assertive Language. Most people either avoid difficult conversations (passive approach) or take a two-by-four to the other party and end up yelling to get their point across (aggressive approach). Neither of these strategies handle the conflict; they just make the situation worse.

We have had great success with our "Power of Assertive Language" training. The skill of assertiveness is the same, however, we customize the session to meet each client's specific situation.

So, the real question is, could your people benefit from the Power of Assertive Language to better manage "their stuff"?

How Can Thank You Ever Be Enough?

There are countless individuals who donated their expertise and dollars to help make TBD's role in this year's Multiple Sclerosis Challenge Walk amazing, as well as three organizations who donated much needed resources that helped us to create just the right look and feel under the big top tent on Friday and Saturday night.

Let's start with the companies who lent us resources. Where would we have been without Chris Gasbarro and his team at Party By Design. Chris opened up their warehouse to us and we were able to get access to amazing props for the evening programs, including the famed 8-foot Oscar statue! Thank you Party By Design!

We would also like to thank ARAMARK at the Hynes Convention Center for saving us at the last minute. It was only days before the big event and we were still without table linens. ARAMARK generously donated 90 black and 90 white linen tablecloths for the event. We can honestly say that the tent would not have looked as elegant without these items. Thank you ARAMARK!

Lastly, we would like to thank the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge who kindly lent us 90 gold set plates, which added the finishing touch to the centerpieces for Saturday night. Thank you Sonesta!

Now, for the list of individuals and organizations who generously donated. In no special order, we would like to say Thank You to the following, who donated over $1,000 to Grace's fundraising efforts for the MS Challenge Walk 2007:

  • Julian Adams
  • Sara Andrews
  • Amy Bermar
  • Laura Davidson Public Relations
  • Russo Financial Group
  • Steve Holtzman
  • BR Guest LLC
  • Mike Stonebraker
  • Andrew Palmer
  • Quinn & Co. Public Relations
  • Commonwealth Financial Network
  • Sonesta International Hotels Corporation

Due to the generosity of these, and other donors, Grace was able to raise $24,375, which made her the number one individual fundraiser for this year's walk — an amazing feat that would not have been possible without the help of each and every person who donated. Thank you!

About Ignite
Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals.

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Customized program design, superior results and lasting partnerships are key components of Ignite's philosophy and approach to training and development.