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5 Effective Strategies to Create Synergy and Build a World Class Team - Robyn Benincasa

By cmiadmin | Aug 22, 2016 | Comments Off

5 Effective Strategies to Create Synergy and Build a World Class Team

My teammates and I have learned about building World Class Teams the hard way. By competing in and winning the world's toughest ultra-endurance Adventure Races. From the leech-infested jungles of Borneo to the towering peaks of Tibet and Ecuador, to the frigid seas and glaciers of Patagonia and the searing desert of Namibia, we have run, paddled, mountain biked, climbed, whitewater rafted, spelunked, mountaineered, navigated and raced across the most remote places on earth for up to ten NON STOP days and nights as a team.

There is no shelter, no warm food, no escape from the harshness of the uncharted terrain, and no reprieve from the competitors relentlessly nipping at our blister-covered heels. If just one racer from our 4-person mixed-gender team quits, we are all disqualified.

So, by necessity, the journey to the unimaginably distant finish line in these 600-1000 mile "Eco-Challenges" very quickly becomes far less a matter of athletic skill than a matter of great leadership, the human spirit, and our ability to inspire our tattered teammates to continue to rise to the occasion again and again--no matter how tough the challenge, no matter how steep the climb, and in the face of a consistently changing game.

Is Adventure Racing Insanity? Granted. But there is one very useful, if unintended, real world takeaway for every finisher: An honorary PHD in Teambuilding. Or as I like to call it...creating Human Synergy. Here are a few Essential Elements of Human Synergy that I've learned from the world's greatest Extreme Teammates:

1. Be Ruled by the Hope of Success versus the Fear of Failure
Are you consistently doing what it takes to "win" versus simply "not lose"? It’s a completely different mindset, leading to vastly different outcomes. Great leaders are shattering the norm, changing the game, and doing things that have never been done in an effort to propel their team to the next level. They are courageous, not only in terms of innovation, but in terms of perseverance. We won many a race not only by "slowing down less" than the other teams, but also by coming up with some game changing solutions.

Once, during a 100-mile whitewater canoeing leg to the finish, my teammate taught me the "be ruled by the hope of success" lesson through some tough love.

We were paddling our whitewater raft near the front of the race on day 6, and every couple of minutes I looked behind us to see where our closest competitors were. That is, until the teammate sitting behind me grabbed the top of my head, spun it back around to face forward, pointed down the river and said "winning is THAT way".

We also switched out our canoe paddles for kayak paddles, which was far outside the norm for canoe travel.

With those visionary changes, we caught the team that was an hour ahead of us and went on to win the race by 2 hours on that final leg.


2. Offer a Tow Line, but most importantly, TAKE one.
Leave your ego at the start line (but not your confidence!). It’s the heaviest thing in your pack. Over the long haul, leader or not, we are all going to be the strongest link and a weaker link on our team. All of us will happily offer our strength to our teammates when they need it, but how many of us are also offering our weaknesses to the team?

On our team, every racer has 'tow lines', made from thin bungee cords, hanging from the back of all of our packs. If we are feeling strong, we offer it to a struggling teammate. If we are having a low moment, we grab a towline from someone stronger and get lightly pulled along at the faster pace until we recover

The goal? To "suffer equally". You'll get farther, faster if you do. I believe that we have not used all of our strength as a leader until we have asked for and accepted help from our teammates. Think about accepting help is a gift to the helper. People are thrilled when they have a chance to help you. You create a connection and a bond every time you do. Asking and accepting help is one of my favorite team synergy creating tools as a leader.

3. Inspire "We" Thinking
We are all conditioned from a young age to see winning as something mutually exclusive, as in "For me to win, you must lose". What if you decided to instead see a world full of potential teammates instead of a world full of competitors when you left the house every morning?

Great leaders understand that in the quest to become the best of the best, Nobody Wins Alone. The more difficult the challenge, the more critical the team. "We Thinking" leaders capitalize on their strengths and outsource their weaknesses, consistently building and inspiring a team that is able to connect to one another for mutual gain, whether for a moment, for a project or for lifetime. And they happily share that space at the top of the podium with the people that got them there.

4. Act Like a Team Always. Its Far More Important than Feeling Like One
We're not always going to feel warm and mushy about one another. We're human! But it’s important to remember to not let emotion effect locomotion. No matter how we feel, we're never allowed a day off from being the leader or teammate that people need and expect us to be.

During the World Championships in Ecuador, my team had major disagreement about our navigation. In fact, it caused such a rift, that we didn’t speak for hours. But as we approached the media crews on our exit from that hiking leg, our team captain said something that changed the game for us. "If you want to BECOME the World Champions, you need to ACT like World Champions".

And I'm telling you, we could have won an Academy Award for that acting performance--congratulating one another on a job well done, getting food for one another, high fives and hugs all around. It was all for the cameras, of course, but guess what happened? By the time we got new gear and moved on, we were all genuinely happy together and moving forward as team. The argument never resurfaced. We were too busy with winning.

Yes, I did just suggest you fake it until the feelings come back. It works. Same with love, too, by the way. Acting like you're in love is more important than feeling like you're in love. Try this at home. You will thank me later.


5. Put your Teammates on Your Shoulders.
When we have the label of "leader" we often assume that to mean that we need to get out in front and show people the way. And that is occasionally part of the job. But my favorite leaders to work with allow for leadership among team members based on their strengths and not their titles. They "manage" their team, but allow for different leaders to emerge. And they are always focused on helping their team inspire and amaze themselves, understanding that confidence and inspiration are an inside job.

In the 1997 Eco-Challenge, the Japanese team did something that defied all logic, reason, and the bounds of human endurance. They carried their injured female teammate for 18 hours, piggyback style inside a backpack, up and over an incredibly steep, rocky, muddy, dense-jungle-covered 9000-foot mountain in their quest to get to the finish line. When they emerged from the sugar cane fields at the base of the mountain, battered but victorious, they did something incredibly graceful. They picked up their injured teammate and put her on their shoulders. They gave her the moment to shine, and symbolically gave her the credit for allowing them to succeed against the toughest of odds. It's my favorite Adventure Racing moment of all time because their performance says it all.

We don't achieve our greatest heights as leaders by stepping on our teammates' backs to rise higher--we stand much taller as leaders when we put our teammates on our shoulders. And we don't inspire our teammates by leading the pack and showing them how wonderful WE are.

We inspire them by putting them on our shoulders and showing them how amazing, smart, and capable THEY are.

See More from Robyn

The Next Generation and AI - Mike Walsh

By cmiadmin | Aug 15, 2016 | Comments Off

Computational thinking and the race to re-invent 21st century education

The 21st century is a wonderful time to be a kid. Never has so much information, entertainment and wonder been so readily available to any child with access to a connected device — it is, in other words, a tough time to be a parent. Technology dominates our adult work and personal lives, but what role should it play in childhood and learning?

If you have been watching ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix lately, you would have been enjoying the nostalgic celebration of the quintessential eighties, analogue childhood: riding bikes, playing ‘Dungeons And Dragons’, and annoying your sister. For better or worse, smartphones have changed everything from the way kids communicate and play games, to the virtual ways that they now ‘hang out’. (If you want to know more about that, readMimi Ito’s work on Minecraft and progressive learning, or Danah Boyd on networked teens).

What happens to toys, will also happen to tools.

As companies become more digital, the entire system of making decisions, devising plans, and doing ‘work’ also has to change. Smart business leaders already know that to survive this transition, they will shortly need people with the skills to thrive in environments dominated not by rigid processes and micromanagement, but by algorithms, automation and AI. What we don’t really know, unfortunately, is exactly what that means for the design of learning programs needed to prepare kids for this new world.

Although many schools are now experimenting with ways to teach coding to kids, it may be that learning to think like a computer is more important than knowing how to program one. This ability to understand the way a computer processes information, is what researchers call ‘computational thinking’.

Jeanette Wing, Head of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote an influential paper in which she argued that computational thinking is the new literacy of the 21st century. Her view is that core skills like being able to see patterns, generalize from specific instances and formulate problems in a way that would enable computer tools to aid in solutions — is not just relevant for those working in technical sciences, but for all students.

What makes computational thinking powerful is that rather than giving someone the ability to use a specific programming language, it teaches you how to think and work through a problem when the result is not as expected.

The good news, for those fearful of exposing their young kids to more screen time, is such learning experiences can be also delivered through ‘coding toys’ that teach children through hands-on play. Google themselves have launched Project Bloks — ‘a modular system for tangible programming made up of electronic boards and programmable pucks’ — that is designed to provide a wide range of ‘physical programming experiences’. So for example, using the pucks, a kid could rig together some sensors to activate a light switch if the temperature in a room dropped, create a musical instrument or construct a simple robot.

Coding toys are more than just clever gadgets for kids. The ability to imagine abstract, physical components of computing can lead to dramatic breakthroughs in thinking. In fact, you might even argue that our entire modern era of computing began with the thought experiment of a bright young man who developed a rather machine-like way of seeing the world.

In 1936 when he was only 23, Alan Turing wrote a paper in which he proposed what became known as a universal Turing machine. His thought experiment involved an infinite tape divided into squares like a child’s exercise book. The tape was the input, working storage, and output of the system. A tape head could read the current square, write a symbol, and move left or right one position. The tape head could also keep track of its internal state, and followed instructions as to what to do next. The genius of Turing’s model, despite being proposed long before computers actually existed, is that it can still represent the logic of any computer algorithm in use today.

Computational thinking is not a skill for just future software engineers. A medical researcher might find more scalable ways to conduct patient trials or ensure drug designs are less likely to result in drug-resistant strains of diseases. Architects and city planners could create models for how people might use a building, and better project the impact of growing urban density. Even artists and writers could leverage data and algorithms to create radical new works that provide critical insight into the contemporary condition.

Whatever profession your kids decide upon, data and its analysis, as well as an appreciation of the issues of scale and complexity, will be 21st century skills that any future employer — human or AI, are almost certain to hold in high regard.

This article is an adapted chapter from my book, ‘The Dictionary Of Dangerous Ideas’.

 See More from Mike Walsh

Robyn Benincasa comes in first again!

By cmiadmin | Aug 02, 2016 | Comments Off

Robyn Benincasa comes in first again!

We are so in awe of the Incredible Robyn Benincasa who totally ROCKED the Missouri River m340 race late last month!

Imagine a race across the entire state of Missouri, just you and your boat thrown against 340 miles of wind, heat, bugs and rain. This ain’t no mama’s boy float trip. This race promises to test your mettle from the first stroke in Kansas City to the last gasp in St. Charles.

After all her crazy eco-adventure races, here's just how amazing Robyn ​did in this race​:

  • 1st woman
  • 3rd solo boat overall out of 200+​ men and women​
  • 4th boat across the finish line out of all 424 boats (including team and solo boats, men and women​)

…and 1st place in the broken femur category! Yes...while training, she broke her femur the week before the race.

You know what she always says, “Wounds heal, but victory lasts forever! Remember it’s not about the setback…it’s all about the COMEBACK!

Robyn amazes and inspires us with her true grit!

The Purpose-Driven Customer Experience - Lior Arussy

By cmiadmin | Aug 02, 2016 | Comments Off

The Purpose-Driven Customer Experience - Lior Arussy

The days of simple processes and quality products are gone. Welcome to the new age of customer experience.

Let's talk about eggs. If we go to Albertsons or ShopRite and purchase a dozen eggs, the price will be $2.59. If we opt for cage free eggs at Whole Foods, we are looking at a price tag of $4.99 or more. This is nearly a 100 percent increase in the price of eggs. By my own calculation, both eggs will deliver the same amount of cholesterol to my body, and the omelet I will make of them will most likely taste the same. So why is it that rational people opt to pay 100 percent more for what is seemingly the same commoditized product? Read full article here.

See More from Speaker.


Standing Ovation for Michelle Ray

By cmiadmin | Jun 30, 2016 | Comments Off

Standing Ovation for Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray received a standing ovation for her Lead Yourself First!  presentation at the Metz Culinary Management Summer Leadership Conference, held at the Mohegan Sun Resort, PA. Focusing on their theme, “The Power of Relationships” Michelle presented to 300 General Managers, Divisional Leaders, Franchise Owners and Executives as the closing keynote speaker. Metz Culinary Management is one of the leading U.S. food services companies, ranked in the Top 50 by Food Management Magazine.

Metz FamilyMichelle Ray (Middle) with the Metz Culinary Family

See More About Michelle Ray Here 

Successful Fundraising Event for Robyn Benincasa's Project Athena

By cmiadmin | Jun 23, 2016 | Comments Off

Successful Fundraising Event for Robyn Benincasa's Project Athena 

Wow! What a fun surprise from Firebirds Restaurant! Yet another Athena will be born due to their generous support of the Project Athena Foundation. You rock, Team Firebirds!

Xoxo Robyn

Deremer Studios Jacksonville Commercial Photography -

See More About Project Athena Here 

We're Hiring - Digital Marketing Specialist

By cmiadmin | May 16, 2016 | Comments Off

We're Hiring - Digital Marketing Specialist

We are looking for a digital marketing specialist whose role will be:

  • to create and execute a digital marketing strategy   
  • to generate marketing initiatives - promotional emails, images, and writing  
  • to manage and grow all forms of social marketing
  • to research new digital marketing ideas

You will be expected to write blog posts - create marketing emails – edit marketing materials - update our website (HTML code & wordpress) – do basic video editing - do detailed image editing - research and implement online PR, articles, drip marketing ideas - manage our social media (daily tweets, LinkedIn Facebook posts) - and find new ways to connect with clients.

NOTE: please provide 2 samples/links to your work in your cover letter/resume.


If you would like to work for an entrepreneur who deeply cares about changing the world - if you are committed to honesty, integrity and being accountable - if you would like to rub shoulders with 'near celebrities' and are interested in a 2-3 year commitment  - please apply.


Experience Required:

  • digital marketing and graphic artist experience (3-5 years) in a sales environment and/or a degree in communications, graphic design, or journalism with a focus on digital marketing, social media, and/or web design
  • knowledge in growing business sales and relationships from social media platforms
  • demonstrated ability to write effectively and create digital images that attract attention


Required Skills:

  • Creative Mind - you have an eye for design and are passionate about designing creative digital communication material
  • Super Savvy with Multiple Software Programs - including a CRM such as Salesforce, an email delivery software like VerticalResponse, or ConstantContact and social media – we are high touch and high tech so it is important that you are a quick learner of software
  • Uber-organized and efficient with a high output capacity – you are skilled at ‘wearing multiple hats’ – you have the ability to focus and execute during peak activity times - you are an excellent time-manager who accurately sets priorities and meets tight timelines


  • Freaky regarding the details – you execute with accuracy, speed and high attention to the details, you are capable of accurately monitoring our website stats and digital ratings
  • Savvy communicator – you are warm, friendly, fun, and always respectful when communicating on the phone, via email, text or social media
  • Flexible and versatile –  you are willing to jump in, create solutions and ideas to grow the business - even when you are super busy you are willing help out with other team projects - you are a creative problem solver who works well with little supervision



Essential Technology:

  • You are experienced and highly proficient using Adobe Creative Suite - Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign - advanced graphic art abilities and use of an art tablet are an asset
  • You have advanced capability with Microsoft Office - especially Excel, as well as experience with Google Drive and Google Business
  • You are proficient and excited about social media for business - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, RSS feeds, Web 2.0, the Cloud, internet research, video and image editing software
  • You are able to work with basic HTML code for WordPress and SEO development
  • You are able to work in both Mac and PC platforms


About cmi

cmi is a management agency with a global roster of carefully selected business speakers who advise Fortune 100 and 500 companies around the globe. We are known for three things:


  • The high quality of our speakers
  • Our honesty and integrity in all of our relationships
  • Our quick and effective response to our clients’ needs


Founded in 2001 by Karen Harris, relationships are our central focus – with our customers and our speakers. This has earned us the reputation of being the leading management agency in the world.

We look for speakers with fresh ideas who help attendees to think differently – who are constantly researching and growing in their field of expertise – who walk their talk both on and off the stage – and who are passionate about their ideas, their work and making a difference in the world. And lastly, we select speakers that are stellar human beings because that’s the type of speaker our customers deserve.



Deadline for Resumes - June 1st, 2016

Please send your resume and examples of your work to: 


Women Helping Women: 7 Lessons from Ladies at the Top

By cmiadmin | Mar 29, 2016 | Comments Off

Women Helping Women: 7 Lessons from Ladies at the Top - Includes Michelle Ray

by Helen Drinan at HuffPost

Almost any college president will tell you that there are certain events that are their favorites. Among my most cherished activities are soaking in the excitement and possibility of the first day of class; the mix of emotion and pride during commencements; and a special gathering that my university has hosted for the past 37 years known as the Simmons Leadership Conference.

The conference is considered the preeminent gathering for women’s leadership in the country. Every year, more than 3,300 business women (and some men!) come for a day of renewal, skill building, and sheer inspiration. Over the years our dazzling speaker line-up has included Oprah Winfrey, Madeleine Albright, Meg Whitman, Hillary Clinton, Sally Field, Viola Davis, the late Benazir Bhutto, and Billie Jean King.

Since not everyone can attend the conference, I wanted to share with you some wisdom from this year’s speakers. Enjoy!

#1: Be Daring.

Ping Fu
Vice president and chief entrepreneur officer at 3D Systems

On her most “daring” career move:
Ping Fu: I quit a stable job and started a company when I had a baby girl. This move completely changed the trajectory of my career, my attitude towards my life journey, and my understanding of responsibilities.

What did you learn from that experience?

Ping Fu: The entrepreneurial experience has taught me a few lessons:

  • It is all about love. Love what you do and love the people you serve. It is love that carries the tough days
  • When in doubt, always err on the side of generosity
  • Leadership is a being, not a position. Know who you are
  • Practice trusting and tracking; not commanding and controlling

#2: Your Voice is Powerful - Use It!

Carla Harris
Vice chairman of Global Wealth Management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley.

On the female leader she most admires:
Carla Harris: Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan. Both were unafraid to use their voices and extraordinary oratorical skills to get people to listen and to thereby provoke change with their arguments, delivery and compelling logic. They understood that there is power in your voice and that it should never be submerged, for when you submerge your voice, you submerge and lose your power.

#3: Focus on Your Strengths - Be Confident.

Beth Phalen
Senior vice president at EMC Corporation, leads Data Protection & Availability Solutions within the Core Technology Division.

On the best piece of career advice she’s received:
Beth Phalen: The best advice was a while ago, and was basically, “stop putting yourself down.” The message was: “Your strengths speak for themselves. Don’t limit your positive impact by discrediting yourself or minimizing your point of view.” It helped me realize that I can make a contribution and I’m really not helping anyone by not projecting confidence.

#4: Just Do It.

Precillia Redmond
Vice president and manager of organizational effectiveness and strategic project management services at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group

Her tips for work/life integration:
Precillia Redmond: As someone said to me years ago when I complained that I felt guilty all the time - guilty for not spending enough time with my kids, husband, family, work: “Allow yourself to feel the feeling, but do what you need to do anyway.”

#5: Men Play a Role.

Edie Weiner
President and CEO of The Future Hunters

On the major issue or current event women should focus on to effect change:

Edie Weiner: Finding solutions for all of the unemployed, underemployed, and disillusioned young men here in the U.S. and abroad. Nothing destroys the fabric of homes, communities, lives, and the economy as much as disaffected young men with nowhere to develop their talents, interests, economic independence, and civil responsibility. This is a women’s issue! Women, even with the obstacles they encounter, can be strong and supportive. But young men, challenged by war, displacement, poor economic prospects, and biased justice systems pose a significant challenge to their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and children. They are attracted to fiery idealism and quick payoffs. Crime, violence, drug addiction, and terrorism increase, and communities are torn apart. We will have unprecedented refugee problems everywhere, fueled by climate change, wars, and economic collapses. Anthropologists have long known that as go the young males, so goes the civilization. We have to find productive ways to engage our youth, and provide promising paths for their futures

#6. Look to History: Women Role Models Abound.

Michelle Ray
CEO and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute in Vancouver, Canada.

On the female leader she most admires, and how she has driven change:
Michelle Ray: Golda Meir, who was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 - the first woman to achieve this position anywhere in the world. It wasn’t because she was a woman., but rather, due to the fact that she was a leader. She forged change by supporting diplomatic solutions to finding peace in the Middle East and unrestricted Jewish immigration. She aligned herself and Israel with individuals and countries once considered unlikely “friends” of the Jewish state, thus gaining tremendous respect as a leader. She was ahead of her time. She was confident, charismatic and highly principled.

#7. For Goodness Sake - Help Other Women!

Maggie Ruvoldt
Executive vice and general manager at 2U, Inc., an education technology company that partners with nonprofit colleges and universities to deliver online degree programs

On the major issue or current event women should focus on to effect change:

Maggie Ruvoldt: Opening up the inner networks for other women. When you break into the smaller, unofficial network, don’t close the door behind you.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Simmons College, in conjunction with the 37th annual Simmons Leadership Conference - the premier women’s leadership conference in the country - held March 29 in Boston. For more information about the conference, visit here. To follow the conference live, follow #SLC16 on March 29.


See More About Michelle Ray Here 

Lior Arussy Interview - Learning To Be Grateful

By cmiadmin | Mar 14, 2016 | Comments Off

Lior Arussy Interview - Learning To Be Grateful

by MSNBC Host JJ Ramberg

Lior Arussy, the founder and president of Strativity Group, tells us why all small business owners should learn to be more grateful.


Learn More About Lior Arussy Here 

Ultra Distance Paddling and Project Athena with Robyn Benincasa

By cmiadmin | Mar 09, 2016 | Comments Off

Adventure Sports Podcast

Ep. 142: Ultra Distance Paddling and Project Athena with Robyn Benincasa



Episode Info

Robyn inspires us again with more great stories about multi-hundred mile paddling races as well as helping others to come from huge life challenges to amazing success as overcomers through Project Athena.  Need a dose of kick it and go?  Don't miss this show.


See More About Robyn Here