Undertone Networks Team Bulding And Networking, The Roosevelt and Tonic, New York
July 13, 2010
Be honest, what is your knee-jerk reaction to this sentence: "Tomorrow we'll be conducting a team-building activity!" Do your eyes dart nervously around, gauging your coworkers' willingness? Do you check your calendar to see if by the grace of [insert your favorite deity] you actually have a lobotomy scheduled that day? Or do you clap your hands with glee, eager to bridge those gaps, giddy with desire to synergize the hell out of everyone, and tingly with the sweat of potential hug/cry circles? Come on. No one, not even the heartiest of interpersonal communication wizardry looks forward to these things, which is why sometimes you need to use a little magic.
Magic yesterday afternoon came in the form of Song Division, a company that began with songwriter and producer Andy Sharpe teaching indigenous students the art of song-writing as part of the Garma Festival, run by "Yothu Yindi," an indigenous Australian band, and morphed into what it is today: an organization helping groups large and small strengthen connection through music. If you're anything like me, music wraps its grubby hands around every facet of your life and marks every moment gone right or horribly wrong. It's a powerful thing, so it only makes sense that it should be used to unite teams, literally (not as a Powerpoint bullet) getting your team to sing the same song.
And that's what Undertone Networks did.
I arrived at The Roosevelt to discover the foyer filled with blue-shirted employees. They were gathered in clusters, eyeing the room, eyeing each other, talking nervously, and shifting from foot to foot -- the dance of team-building anxiety. They entered the auditorium in a mass, brought in by the rock of the Song Division Band. I was surprised to see a little air-drumming so early in the activity during the band's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash. I was even MORE surprised when one employee leapt onstage, shakin' what his momma gave him, pumping his fists at the ceiling and, well, all over the place.
It was a different story once the group was split into teams and assigned a musician. Some immediately participated, getting their rhymes out, volunteering to play the guitar, volunteering to sing the lead, grabbing the marker to scribble lyrics onto the flipchart. Seven out of seven flipchart positions were held by women. The majority of guitar-holders were men. It was intriguing to watch from the outside as some employees sat quietly, looking like they wanted to run, while others stood on chairs, hooting out lyrics. My stomach was hooting out lyrics to "feed me Seymour" so I stepped out for a snack.
When I returned from my late-afternoon quarter-of-a-sandwich that cost five bucks (Seriously, NY? Seriously?) it was as if I had stumbled into a completely different crowd! Each group was standing, singing together loudly, some on chairs, some clapping - even the quietest person I saw was standing on a chair and singing with their team. The transformation was awesome! Music Director Angus Clark, also lead guitarist for the Trans Siberian Orchestra, bounced from group to group, clapping along, encouraging the teams with bawdy laughter and rock 'n' roll snarls.
The climax of the experience came when each team performed their original song in a battle of the bands, with the winning team performing with the full band. Yesterday's winners were the "Late Nights," whose chorus "Lots of late nights! Lots of late nights" stuck with me through the night and even into my shower this morning.
Other teams' lyrics threw in some beefs with other ad networks, with "other networks/are smokin' crack!" and my favorite: "Your ad showed up in real bad place/right next to a porn star's face," a cautionary tale. In the end, the entire Undertone Networks staff all sang the winning song with the band. Michael Cassidy, President and Chief
Executive Officer of Undertone Networks, must have been pleased, seeing his entire team belting out a tune about his company with huge smiles on their faces, with energy going through the Roosevelt roof.
Afterwards, the whole gaggle traveled over to Tonic and filled the second floor, enjoying their earned beverages and yummy snacks like chicken wings and mini burgers. Basking in their brush with rock stardom were Eric Franchi, SVP. and his minion Josh Kaner, who actually knows my coworker Lauren Honig's fiancé and her adorable dog Charlie. Josh is also connected to what is no doubt an educational site: mustacheglory.com.
I also met Tony Franklin from the Undertone sales department, more notably co-lead vocals from the winning band, "The Late Nights." I also met Minal Lamlani, Consumer Insights; Derek Rinchiuso, "awesome" Account Supervisor; Maria Peraza, sales intern and almost-outta-there NYU student, who is really enjoying her internship at Undertone, where she's not just making copies, she's going out on sales calls; Simon Curtis, Sales Director; Angela Wang, Insights Coordinator; Natalie Olson-Elm, Sales Account Executive; Gina Maryasis, Finance; Theresa Sarbeng, Finance; Raina Silver, Account Manager, and a ton of other people.
Last night was only the beginning; this is a weeklong event for Undertone Networks. No doubt by Friday they're going to be burnt out like my air conditioner.
I'd like to recognize the talents of Earl Slick, who has played with John Lennon and David Bowie; Denny Blake on Guitar & Lead Vocals, who has experience with Billy Joel's "Moving Out"; Dave Berger on Drums, who has played with Norah Jones; Pemberton Roach on Bass, whose experience spans Moby and Blue Oyster Club; The springy-haired Tyrone Noonan on Keyboards of the band George; Chris Haskett on guitar who has played with Henry Rollins Band; and Andre Karkos on guitar from Rock of Ages. They were so much fun and were so generous to lend their time and talent to a bunch of ad network types looking to grow as a team.
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