Odyssey Teams COO Lain Hensley explains why GSA scandal has him peeved and what real corporate responsibility means…
The General Services Administration (GSA) is under fire from Congress for spending more than $800,000 in taxpayer money on a lavish conference and unnecessary perks for 300 employees in Las Vegas in 2010. The government is investigating just how GSA officials could have allowed such a thing to happen, particularly in this economy, as well as other potential instances of fraud and abuse at the GSA.
While the Las Vegas trip was supposed to be a team-building conference, Odyssey Teams Co-Founder and COO Lain Hensley says the whole situation gives invaluable, legitimate team-building exercises and programs, such as his, a bad name. Hensley shared his thoughts on the ordeal with genConnect:
I have been delivering large and small company meetings around the world for over 20 years. The other day I was having my morning coffee and I came across an article about the GSA having a little meeting in Vegas, which got them in a whole lot of trouble. I bet by now all of you have heard about this little meeting and the BIG trouble that is going down because of it. Six thousand dollars for commemorative coins, a mind reader as entertainment, clowns, evening events and repeated “scouting visits” to Las Vegas by officials and family members that added up to a grand total of over $800,000 of tax payer dollars. They even did a team-building exercise to construct 24 bicycles they then gave to underprivileged children. “Wowowo…!” my coffee is now in my lap and I am half laughing and half crying.
You see, in the year 2000 my training company Odyssey Teams Inc. created the first ever bike team building program called “Life Cycles“. We have been around the world doing this amazing program with hundreds of great companies. We have donated more than 15,000 bikes to kids in need and given more than 100,000 people what they would call, “the best team building program of their life.” All good in my book.
We even build prosthetic hands in a program called “Helping Hands.” With our clients help, Odyssey Teams has donated more than 10,000 hands in over 60 countries to date. Heck, we practically started the Corporate Social Responsibility movement or at least put rocket fuel on it. Notice I said, “Corporate” Social Responsibility. We have never done this program for a government group and I am betting at this point, we never will. It turns out that the government is not legally able to make donations in the same way a private corporation can.
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Now, twelve years later, many of my competitors have copied this bike building process because it is flat-out amazing. When delivered to the right group in the correct way, it can transform and inspire employees and change a company’s culture for the better. “What the hell have they done with my program?”
I am reminded of a great quote: “The abuse of the good does not diminish the good.” They have taken an amazing bike building program and now it is part of a terrible story. The truth as I see it is this: 24 kids in Vegas, who probably can’t walk home without fear for their life, now have a shiny new bike and a great story. The GSA paid $75,000 for it– entirely too much. We would have built 60 bikes for a third of the price. I guess that is the power of government negotiating. I’m not saying Odyssey Teams is the cheapest game in town, and we don’t want to be. But, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. In this case I think they got monkeys, paid in gold and we, the taxpayer got the shaft.
I hope you will see that this is an “abuse of the good” and continue to see the good in people coming together. People need to connect more than ever in these times of change and growth. We have been beat down and split apart, merged, foreclosed on and bailed out. Call it teambuilding if you want, but right now I think we need to be a better team and stop taking advantage of each other every chance we get. I’m not saying that we can’t have high expectations and push for better performance. I’m asking that we keep the good parts about this little Vegas trip in perspective and focus on building ourselves and let the team follow.
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