Sports: Where I First Fell in Love with Teamwork

As a product of Southeast Michigan born in the early 1980s, sports were a very important part of my life. I grew up with what I believe are some of the most amazing “teams” of all-time. I truly believe that a large part of my interest in teamwork as a social researcher was formed in watching the amazing feats of connection and collaboration that took place during my formative years.  

For the next few days, I will be pointing toward some of the key reasons I am passionate about both teamwork in general, and sports in particular. Recently, ESPN has participated in a spotlight on Detroit highlighting the 25th anniversary of the Bad Boys and so I thought it fitting to pick up some of the memories and people that have shaped the way I think about teamwork.  


Today – the 1984 Detroit Tigers

As a three year-old I was a witness to the Roar of ’84 in which the Tigers went wire-to-wire in 1st place and defeated the San Diego Padres to win the World Series. Though I was only three, the impression that team left in my consciousness was deep and important. This team carried such an amazing blueprint for success.

When you think about the team that toiled on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull that year, players such as Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Willie Hernandez, Chet Lemon, Darrell Evans, and Tom Brookens come to mind. Even now after 30 years, I still recall the poetry in motion that these players brought to the diamond. In my world they were larger than life, though even to this day the only member of that team to make the Hall of Fame was their manager.

When you think about the quintessential players of that generation, you think of Boggs, Yount, Molitor, Murray, Rice, Henderson, Carter, Davis, Fisk, Murphy, Sandberg, Schmidt, Garvey, Brett, Smith, Ripken, Gwynn, Strawberry, Gooden, Ryan, Eckersley, Puckett, Fingers, and Hersheiser. Unless, that is, you are from Detroit. Then you think about how this team was powerful in the mid-80s, put together with such amazing depth, complementary parts, and lack of weakness.

Roving the infield as a youngster, Sweet Lou and Trammy were my heroes, leading me to play 2nd and SS for much of my baseball (and now since I am older, softball) career. These two were the greatest double-play combo ever (don’t just believe me check out the stats), they taught me the value of continuity (played together from 1978-1991) and trust. This team never boasted the best player, though Gibson, Morris, and Hernandez were amazing in those playoffs, but brought together a wonderful collection of players who understood their role and had an amazing leader (Sparky Anderson) to guide their collective journey.

What I love about this team is that while there were some real personalities (see Gibson, Kirk; Hernandez, Willie; Allen, Rod; and Lemon, Chet) this wasn’t in anyway a ‘me-first’, or superstar-oriented team. They didn’t have any hitter with 100 RBI and no one with 35 HRs (Lance Parrish surprisingly led Detroit in both categories with 98 RBI and 33 HR). Further, they only one regular player who hit over .300 (Alan Trammell). They had 5 pitchers though with double-digit wins, a closer who had 32 saves (which seems almost pedestrian today), but not a single starter with an ERA south of 3.20 (Dan Petry had a 3.24 ERA the lowest of the starters).

Stats thrown out, when you watched this team they had chemistry. Right from Opening Day they went on a 35-5 start that has never been (and might never be) duplicated. They seemed to enjoy being together, having such an interesting collection of players that each brought something different to the table. To me they are the quintessential team. No megalomaniacs (Gibson’s later run in LA doesn’t factor in at this point), no serious in-fighting, a good deal of diversity, and consistency that led to greatness.

What teams (whether they be sports or not) formed the way you think today?

What is left to Discover?


It was said that once Ernest Shackleton and others made expeditions to Antarctica the world had largely been mapped in every sincle continent. By that point in history, about one century ago (the Endurance voyage began in 1914 with the culmination in 1917), it was thus, believed that there was nothing left for mankind to discover and the age of the explorer was coming to an end.

That idea is downright laughable. Discovery takes place every day. Just yesterday, as I sat and watched children plotting strategies for an Egg Hunt and toddlers fumbling over themselves searching for eggs, I recognized that we are constantly charting new territory that can lead us to discovery.

In many ways this reminds me of Easter just before my 4th birthday (it is possible that some video evidence remains of this day) that I, in hunting for my Easter basket, struck on some realities that were both comical and enlightening. That morning after looking in the end table and seeing that my basket was not in that location, I started away, only to stop, bend down and look in that same location through my legs. Not surprisingly, the basket still wasn’t in that spot. Yes, I did go on to find my basket sometime later, but being the youngest child, this video became fodder for some sibling ribbing throughout the years.

In hindsight, I have learned a great deal about this process of discovery. Most researchers now acknowledge that innovation and invention do not stem from an epiphany moment or some random leap forward in knowledge. Instead, this growth happens by taking and bringing together previously unconnected areas of life.

So what it is that has been keeping you anchored in your life or work? Rather than taking the same line of reasoning that brought you to this present stagnation, how could you embark on a new road of discovery by taking parts of your world that may seem unrelated and bringing them together?

Give yourself permission today to step outside of your normal box and discover a new path forward, it may mean all the difference in the world!ry

Finding time for Silence


If you are like me (which is a scary thought) then you probably find yourself running from one commitment to another, sprinkling in just enough mindless social media, hobby participation, and sleep to reach the allotted 24 hours of a day. What is often missing is silence.

Regularly as I drive, prepare for the day, and even engage downtime I am listening to audio books, music, or caring for needed phone conversations. In fact, silence at most comes in 5 minute increments. So, it is no surprise that I find myself with an overstuffed brain as I prepare to down-shift.

For much of the world, this is the Holy Week. Celebration of Passover for Jews and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus for Christians (and frankly life in general for others) necessitate that we force a stop of the busyness that runs our lives and slow down enough to examine our beliefs, values, celebrations, faith, inner-nature, etc.

This weekend, please – stop, breathe, examine. You will understand who you are better when you do!

Your help is needed!

While the name on the site is teamworkdoc, this site is really more about us than it is about me. Every day when I sit down to write, I think about what can truly bring impact to your life. While the process of writing is a positive way for me to get the research, books, blogs, conferences, and presentations to codify into a clear line of thinking, ultimately the only reason for this site is the desire to engage people in an ongoing pursuit of excellence.

So, after almost ten days in on the fun, I want to flip the script a bit. Rather than me pretending to be the sage with all of the great thoughts, I thought it would be beneficial as we chart the course, to ask you some questions (please answer in the space below).


1)      Of the blogs that you read, what type of content generally brings the most benefit to you?

2)      Do you prefer just the written word, or a combination of type, video, and images?

3)      Have you ever offered to be a guest blogger for a site? Would that interest you here?

4)      How much time are you willing to set aside when you read a blog?

5)      What one topic do you most want to see addressed here on teamworkdoc?


Thanks! I hope to stir up some discussion and co-create a space that challenges each one us as we move forward in our journey!


Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

Fight burnout and stress: Go play!

It is amazing to me how often I hear about the themes of burnout, stress, lack of creativity and innovation, stagnation, etc. from people in business, nonprofit, educational, and religious work spaces. The truth of the matter is, we likely have all felt ourselves in these downward cycles that occur at work from time-to-time (or in some cases, all the time). Why?

Let me detail one workplace that I was in, where this easily could have been the case, but rarely ever was. I worked in college admissions for a small, private, religious higher educational institution. We faced aggressive targets for enrollment, high expectations for student contacts, and the hope of a solid close rate for campus visits. All of these things could have been overwhelming to a group of workers who were mostly just out of college themselves. But it didn’t.

Recently, I have been influenced by a stream of research that has focused on the importance of play. Research by Stuart M. Brown, M.D. points to the reality that play is not only fun, it is vital to our living and working! He points to play, you know that stuff you did when you were younger – before everyone told you to grow up and be serious, as a mechanism that shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul (which just happens to be the subtitle for his book). Dr. Brown along with the National Institute for Play are working to bring about a greater understanding of what play actually does for us as humans (think energy, happiness, creativity, etc.) and this is a very exciting project.

So back to the potentially stressful work environment. How did we get through this? We played. A handful of us had a standing pattern. When stress got high, calls were not going as planned, etc. we would take a break, walk down to the Campus Center and play foosball. Other times, when we were unable to step away we would shoot hoops on a flimsy door mount basketball hoop. Still other times we would engage in word play over the way someone said something in a previous call, or even – when computers were left “unlocked” we might come back from lunch or a break with a desktop background of a cat, or a screen saver of our designated “employee of the month”. This was on top off our semi-regular lunchtime basketball playing and evening euchre games. This could have been problematic, but thankfully during that period of time we had supervisors who understood the benefit that this play brought to our workplace: harmony, energy, teamwork, concern for others, and creativity.

What a realized in those instances, and have recently tried to reconstruct due to mounting levels of priorities, was that play helps. Think about it. The energy you get from stepping aside to play for even a few minutes provides fuel for an hour of work or more, easily. Some people may look at you as immature, a screwoff, or even worse for playing in the midst of these environments, but your ability to stay sane, produce creatively, and maintain energy will be all the proof you need for play.


So, how can you incorporate play into your work?

Know yourself. It’s a must!


I am attracted to books, presentations, research, and ideas that deal with self-knowledge (obviously looking at my bookshelves this isn’t the only topic I am attracted to, but that is for another post). I love books about how the mind works (see Brain Rules), I love thinking about how talent is formed and functions (see The Talent Code and StrengthsFinder), I love the discussion of vulnerability (see Brene Brown – TED Talk), I love the discussion of appreciating grace (see The Ragamuffin Gospel) and so many other pieces of work that cause me to be introspective, and challenge my personal status-quo.

The reality is though, all of the reading in the world doesn’t make me know myself. The only way to know yourself is to truly dig in with the hard questions and sadly, these questions are usually only asked in the painful times. When we grieve – we ask “what lies beyond the present?” When we fail – we ask “what am I really good at?” When we face rejection – we ask “who really accepts me?” It is through these moments of self-discovery and digging in with helpful guides to ask about your fears, talents, joys, passions, and dreams that we begin to know ourselves.

Why don’t you take the step in the self-discovery journey today and find some time to sit and think. What is it that drives you? Money? Success? Acceptance? Validation? Love? Fulfillment? Fear? What do you do well? What makes you content (not just happy)? Where do you find your joy and peace? When you begin to ask these tough questi
ons, you will better understand yourself.

Always be ready!

Monday’s seem to be the day that most of us least look forward to. The weekend is over, and it is back to work. When we hold that attitude, what possibilities might we be closing ourselves  out of? With the importance of being ready for opportunities in mind, here is a guest post by my friend Joel Dillard (with a few thoughts from me at the end).

[Joel] So kinda a cool story (for me at least). I was in Seattle a couple weeks ago for business and because of the 3 hour time difference to MI, I was waking up each morning at like 4:30 AM Seattle time. One of the mornings I decided that I wanted to go find, and get a coffee from the original Starbucks since I knew it was located somewhere in the city. Our hotel was right downtown, so I knew it wouldn’t be too far away.

I googled the address and then set my navigation to take me there, and also grabbed my camera so that I could take some pictures of the city and the Ocean. I eventually found the original Starbucks (1912 Pike Place Market) at about 6 AM and decided to take some photos of the store front to mark the occasion.

As I was snapping a picture of the address above the door as proof of where I was, a man happened to be walking out at that exact moment (he’s in the picture below). Right after I snapped the photo, I walked into the store to buy my coffee, but before I did, the man in the picture stopped to hold the door for me and was very pleasant as he said “good morning”, and told me to “have a great day”. I probably would not have given this man a second thought had he not been such a nice person.

As I walk into the store, I turn around to see what the man would do and notice that he gets into a very expensive Porsche parked in front of the store. At that moment, a light goes on in my tiny brain and I start thinking that the man’s face was very familiar and that I should know who he is. Then all of a sudden it dawns on me – It was Howard Schultz the CEO of Starbucks. I knew this because while in college, I had to do a semester long research project researching organizational behavior issues related to Starbucks and spent about 10 weeks learning everything there was to know about Howard Schultz and his company. I also asked the girl behind the counter in the store if that was him and she said “yes, there was going to be a shareholder meeting that day, and he always goes to the original Starbucks on shareholder meeting days and performs some sort of good luck ritual”.

Here’s the photo, nothing special but a least I got to accidentally document a neat run-in with a individual that I have always admired as a successful human being, and right before he holds a door open for me and treats me with what I thought was genuine kindness and respect even though he is one of the most influential CEOs in the world!”

Howard Schultz

[Todd] So beyond being one of the most amazing bump-in-to-you stories I have ever heard, this account also illustrates the value of being ready. The story on its own is quite impressive – an out of town worker choosing to get up and experience the sights of a new place rather than just taking it easy in the hotel, someone recognizing the value of seeing famous landmarks and acknowledging the impact of major organizations, and taking pictures to commemorate life experiences – but the uniqueness of the image (which should be the new public relations glossy for Mr. Schultz) paints such a vivid picture of the interaction. Sometimes as the saying goes “showing up is 80 percent of life” (Woody Allen). Joel showed up and now has an amazing story and photo to prove it.

What do you need to show up for? Are you ready? How are you going to be ready?

Looking at your world through new eyes

So, preface, I am married to an incredible woman and with that marriage I became part of a larger family. In that family, as in all families is a cast of characters (all are wonderful, trust me – I am so very thankful for them). One particular member of that family has challenged the way that I see things, literally. After examining his work the other day, I joked about my desire to have an eye transplant to see the world the way that he does. While technology has grown by leaps and bounds this still has yet to occur.

So since transplants won’t happen, I have challenged myself to learn from the images that he captures with his camera lens. Yes, my brother-in-law, Jeff (a.k.a JLB), is a photographer. No, I don’t mean he takes pictures though. He is a painter of landscapes, a designer of ideas, a sculptor of imagery, a collector of memories, and a vessel of imagination. He is an artist (seriously, go check out his work)

Now, the above description, artist, will never be said about me. In fact, I might go so far as to say that my almost 5 year-old daughter is a better artist than I am (see, I told you so). For much of my life, I have focused on thinking, talking, and analyzing. I enjoy a beautiful sunset, I love the view of being on the water, but no one would ever mistake me for an artist.


For the last decade though, I have been growing. It is through initial interactions with JLB (then a graphic designer at a small, private college that we both worked at) that I began to appreciate the world through new eyes. No longer do I think about “creative” as some distinct group of people, instead I have learned to see the finer things about design, scope, and imagery in my work.

Starting with JLB and leading to a host of design-oriented individuals, my world has expanded to seeing a new way to piece things together. I have a continually growing level of appreciation for how design immeasurably impacts work. While you are at it, check out organizations like Work Design Magazine and IDEO. Read books like A Whole New Mind, Accidental Creative, and The Myths of Creativity. But also, explore, take photos, look at magazines, create a design wall (gosh, that might have just stuck me close to promoting Pinterest), scrapbook (that one is for you, mom), step out outside, visit new locations, walk in the park, and meet people.

We live in a time in which we are constantly moving, always bombarded by noise and images, but rarely do we stop and appreciate beauty. As we grow up, society tends to discard imagination and play as being immature and juvenile. Fight back, have fun, pretend, go hang out with children and get drawn into their world of imagination. Experience the beauty that is all around – and you will recognize that you are seeing the world with a whole new set of eyes.

Finding your “sweet spot”

Look at it, if the pathway to careers are different today than ever before, why do we still continue to coach people into career paths the same old way? Rather than charting a pathway that is being reshaped constantly in the present workplace, why not build a positive framework that leads to exploration, engagement, and enthusiasm.

 venn diagram

Passion: What is that thing that you would do for the rest of your life even if you didn’t get paid?

Skills/Abilities: What are the talents that uniquely set you apart from others?

Experience/Opportunities: What trends are presently occurring in the marketplace and what opportunities and experiences have you engaged?

My own self-model earlier in life would have been – “I want to be a lawyer because I like to talk and I want to make money”. Yet, a life in law could have proved to be a great detriment, particularly if I had no passion for the law, no desire to study, and expected that every lawyer comes right out of school making great money.

Or what about the quintessential juvenile ambition of being a pro athlete, singer, actor – it is wonderful that I am passionate for these things, but what if I lack talent – it isn’t a fit! Further, when I recognize that very few people ever “make” it in these performance industries – I have to come to grips with the reality that likely is not my fit either.

Fit is not about a job, it is about a pathway. I have been a politico, event coordinator, communications specialist, recruiter, minister, coach, and teamwork facilitator. Each of those jobs was a fit because I am passionate about helping people as they work to achieve their potential. Each of those jobs was a fit because the skills I hold are Strong Communication Skills, Initiative, Flexibility, Creativity, Resourcefulness, Passion for Learning, and Listening Skills. Further this pathway was a fit because I continued there were opportunities available and I was able to build a growing level of experience through volunteering, education, and training.

Whether you are 6 or 60, it is never too early or too late to begin exploring the realities of yourself and the world you inhabit. I encourage you to Dream Big, Know Yourself, and Investigate the World Around You! In doing so, you will find the “sweet spot” for your work life, it may not be a specific career but it will be a place where you can thrive!

What work discoveries have you made that allowed you to find your “sweet spot”? Share below!

I owe my soul to the company store

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”

Most famously, these words were sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but for a generation or more of workers, this song was the reality of life. You didn’t have a choice, the company store owned you. For the generation that followed things started to change. People didn’t owe their soul, so to speak, to the company store but they still worked their entire career at a single employer. And when they retired they received a golden watch and a pat on the back. The generation that followed that has found themselves in a shifting workplace, mergers and acquisitions, plant closings, businesses going bankrupt, but largely a single (or few) career path(s) in their career. And then it all changed.

Recently I came across an estimate that Millennials would change careers on average approximately 7 times – CAREER change, not job change! How do you prepare for a career, when the likelihood is that path won’t even last very long? Further, with estimates that of the jobs present in the marketplace in about 10 years, only half currently exist, how do you plan?

This was part of the conversation I had with a group of 8th graders at a local middle school during a recent “Career Fair”. If we want to prepare for the future, we can’t afford to think like the past. Rather than preparing for a particular job, the workers of the future, have to work to better understand themselves.

The framework I approach is pretty simple and is represented in the following Venn diagram:

venn diagram

Tomorrow, more on the model.