Heck, Tom

Dr. Relly Nadler:
Today we are going to look at teamwork and collaboration. As a leader, how do you develop your team? How do you build team spirit? How do you get them involved in the team process and the mission? How is trust important in teams and how do you generate it? What are ways to create an empowered team?

The answers to those questions are the focus of this session. Hi, I’m Dr. Relly Nadler, a licensed psychologist and executive coach and your host. Today is the next segment for the star secret, we are going to bring in our guest Tom Heck.

Tom is a teamwork coach, author, inventor, entrepreneur, speaker and a banjo player. His passion is in teaching team and leadership skills through experiential activity. He created a great website called www.teachmeteamwork.com. It’s a web-based team training resource with over 27,000 members in 101 countries. It’s endorsed by a wide range of training professionals from around the world. I have been a member for quite a long time and Tom just has excellent material and excellent content.

Tom Heck is a teamwork coach, author, inventor, entrepreneur, speaker and banjo player.  His passion is in teaching team and leadership skills through experiential activities.

He’s created www.teachmeteamwork.com that you can go to and check out. There’s a ton of tools and interviews, and resources available. It’s a web-based training resource with 27,000 members in 101 countries endorsed by a wide range of professionals.

Tom, welcome to the call.

Tom Heck: Thank you Relly, it’s great to be here.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Why don’t you tell us how did TeachMeTeamwork start? You have a wonderful mission; maybe we’ll start with that and then get into more specifics.

Tom Heck: Well, for the last ten years I’ve had a business and like a lot of entrepreneurs, facilitators, and coaches, we get the idea somewhere along the line that hey, I’m going to start a business. I made the leap and then really TeachMeTeamwork was a result from 9/11. On the morning of 9/11, I was driving to a conference facility about eight hours away from my home, and I was lined up to present a 3-day train the trainer event to 60 people from across the US. Well that morning, I was on the road maybe not even 30 minutes. I was so busy that morning that I hadn’t checked the news and hadn’t listened to the radio; I hadn’t done any of that. I was so focused on delivering this program. About 30 minutes in, Relly, I turned the radio on to hear the first tower come down. I pulled over and made a bunch of phone calls and we decided to go ahead with the training because 30 of those people had arrived early for a pre-conference event. At that point, the airports were shutting down and we decided to go ahead with the training. So for 8 hours there and the training was really a powerful moving experience for me. I thought, this is what win/lose consciousness or lose/lose consciousness results in, and I need to step up my game.

On the drive back I thought, okay, how can I reach more people with a message of teamwork and coming together where we can all really go from the place of win-win which Covey talks about in the 7 Habits. So I thought, well, I’ll make a book…nah that won’t do it; I need to reach more people faster and spread ideas. That’s where TeachMeTeamwork.com was born. I’m listening to the statistics that you are sharing with us and the number of subscribers, and I’ve got now up from 27,000 I’m at 31,000 in 103 countries. So it’s truly amazing to send out a newsletter or receive a call from someone who is using the material that I’m sharing to influence their group.

Just a quick aside, two that were just jaw-dropping to me, that it is neat to see how what you are doing can impact other people. I received a phone call from a woman who is on a Navajo Indian reservation in the southwestern part of the U.S. She told me that in such a remote area it takes an hour and ½ for her to get to a grocery store. I didn’t even know that places like that existed. So she is on my website learning activities and principles about teamwork and teaching them to the people in this community center.

Then there is another guy who emails me from Kathmandu, Nepal. He is emailing me saying, you know, I just wanted you to know that I’m on your site learning some things. I’m here on a trip to help teachers in the mountains around Nepal. So, the thought that the things that I’m teaching are somehow making their way up into the mountains of Nepal is an awesome thing.

Dr. Relly Nadler: That’s got to be great. I think it’s such a great mission and you think about starting it on 9/11. I also did a training on 9/11. I probably should have canceled it, but all day long people were taking breaks, and trying to see if family members were involved. I think this idea of emotional and social intelligence and what you are doing, and that we are wired to connect.

We had a guest on who was a brain expert around empathy and mirror neurons. He said a similar thing about the more we can teach empathy, and I think in teamwork people are being empathic with each other in a different way, which we hope would translate to some of the overarching mission of peace and people getting along better.

Tom Heck: Well you know the whole idea of empathy, and I know that I have studied a little bit of emotional intelligence and Daniel Goleman’s work, and what strikes me is when I come across something like last night. I’ll give you a great example: I’m watching a documentary by Michael Moore called Sicko. I was so moved. What was moving to me was seeing the plight of people who are in desperate situations because of healthcare. I got done with the movie and I told my wife, I said, I can’t imagine someone watching that movie and not being moved. The sad part is that, she said, well there are people who have somehow got to that stage. I think that this is what happens on a team is that we lose sight sometimes of what we are really here to do. The whole real concept of teamwork and I’ve just been going through this emotionally myself this morning, is that we are there to help each other and care for each other—essentially. That is where the emotional intelligence comes in, right?

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yes, that’s exactly where it comes in, that idea that we are wired to connect, it’s almost like what you are doing and what I’m doing. We are already that way, how do we take off some of the interferences that are getting in our way of connecting with each other? This idea of when we connect with each other our brain is mapping the same emotions that someone else is. When you watched Sicko last night, that empathy, that mirror neuron basically is mapping exactly what is going on in the show. In teams, people are reflecting back what each are experiencing. I would imagine at some level, the empathy is just building. From the brain research we are starting to see that. I think you and I, we experience that and so do the team members.

Who don’t you tell us, I know you have a lot that we can talk about; what would you say are some of the five keys, I think you have, for building a high performance team.

Tom Heck: Well, I get a lot of calls and emails from people having a list this size and making myself available to people who are interested in building teams. One of the things as you were doing the lead into this program today, you said, people often times feel that teamwork is unnatural because we are not trained in teamwork. Typically it’s the whole idea of what we are rewarded for in school, that is, how well we can do individually often times. Then, that goes all the way through elementary school to middle-high school and college. Then we are thrown into a situation where the real world, if you will, demands teamwork. This is an unfortunate thing. It’s good for people who are teaching team skills right, and teaching emotional intelligence, it sort of keeps us in business.

The reason I mention that is because, one of my favorite books on team building that I share with a lot of people, is written by a guy by the name of Patrick Lencioni, it’s called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This is a New York Times bestseller. It’s a book on teamwork. Isn’t it telling that a book on teamwork is a New York Times bestseller? He was sharing in an interview that his publisher told him, you know, your numbers were great the first year but you can expect them to drop the second year. They didn’t drop, they went up. It’s one of these things that should, in my opinion, should be taught and trained and we should all share a common language around what it means to be on a high performing team.

I think that that is where the real key is; that someone calls me, and this just happened the other day—a trainer called and says, okay, I’m working with this group and I’m trying to figure out what I can do in one day—this is also one of the challenges and I’m sure you see this—an organization gives one or two days devoted to building team and unity and collaboration skills. This goes back to your great statistic there of 95% of the time in the business world we are in performance. We’re not practicing.

The real key, if I had to boil it down, is that we share a common language. When we start to talk about team, because the average person when they show up on a team and you say teamwork, almost everybody starts to think of sports teams if they have ever participated in them. That is a win/lose type of consciousness, a win/lose type of thinking, wherein the best players play. If you are on a sports team you put the best players on the field so you win. On a business team, you can’t do that. So all of these people come together on a team and then you say, like you said, alright, you’re a team, but then they don’t share a common language.

So that is the number one; if I could get a group of people, trainers, anybody who is out there building teams of managers, is that what are you doing every day to build a common set of language. That is why I think Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team comes in. These five key building pieces of a high performing team.

You can listen to the entire interview, above.

Relly