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Sync or Swim: A Fable About Improving Workplace Culture and Communication

Sync or Swim: A Fable About Improving Workplace Culture and Communication


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Working with a discouraged, disorganized, cynical team? Learn how to turn it around.

Sync or Swim is a small tale with enormous insight on ways you can empower, engage, and energize employees or volunteers facing discouragement or cynicism.

Sam, the new CEO, was ready to hit the ground running. But his team members—and Mother Nature—had other plans.An ambitious yet naïve sheepdog is called upon to lead Monarch Enterprises, a troubled organization on a beautiful isle. Confronted with broken systems and challenging personality types, Sam must learn how to marshal his team before the imminent storm washes everything away. Along the way, he gleans valuable lessons from an unlikely mentor: a wise, old puffin.

This delightful, quick read will:

  • Teach you communication techniques that enhance teamwork and productivity
  • Bring to life the principles used by hundreds of successful organizations
  • Provide relevant, practical insights based on real-world experiences
  • Stimulate lively and positive interaction (discussion guide included)

Based on the principles successfully used by major corporations, health organizations, over 250 colleges and universities, government agencies, churches, and non-profits

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802422163
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 714,278
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.27(d)

About the Author

GARY CHAPMAN—author, speaker, counselor—has a passion for people and for helping them form lasting relationships. He is the #1 bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages series and director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. For more information visit his website at

PAUL WHITE, PhD, is a psychologist, author, and speaker who "makes work relationships work." He has consulted with a wide variety of organizations, including Microsoft, the US Air Force, the Million Dollar Round Table, and Princeton University. He and Gary Chapman coauthored The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

HAROLD MYRA served as the CEO of Christianity Today International for 32 years. Under his leadership, the organization grew from one magazine to a communications company with a dozen magazines, copublished books, and a major Internet ministry. Myra started his journalistic career with "Youth for Christ" magazine, which under his leadership became "Campus Life" magazine. Author of five novels, numerous children's and nonfiction books, and hundreds of magazine articles, Myra has taught writing and publishing at the Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois. He holds honorary doctorates from several colleges, including Biola University in California and Gordon College in Massachusetts. Myra has received various awards, among them the prestigious Magazine Publisher's Award and the James Deforest Murch Award from the National Association of Evangelicals. The Evangelical Press Association presented him with its highest honor, the Joseph T. Bayly Award, for his triple career as an editor, author, and publishing executive. Harold and his wife, Jeanette, are the parents of six children and grandparents of five. They reside in Wheaton, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

Sync or Swim

A Fable About Workplace Communication and Coming Together in a Crisis

By GARY CHAPMAN, Paul White, Harold Myra, Betsey Newenhuyse

Northfield Publishing

Copyright © 2014 Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1223-2


Sam Comes to Paradise

Sam the Shetland sheepdog loved big challenges, and landing his dream job as CEO of Monarch Enterprises, the family-run company that owned Spruce Isle, felt like the challenge of a lifetime. Standing atop the islands sea-wall, he studied the breach where storm waters had blasted through a while back, flooding several streets and shops and impacting Monarch's bottom line. His mandate was to ensure it never happened again and that Spruce Isles all-important tourist trade would continue to grow and flourish.

Friends had warned him that it wouldn't be easy, and that as CEO he'd be caught between Monarch's head-in-the-sand board and its prickly staff. Sam sniffed the sea air. He had years of experience dealing with prickly personalities. I'll get them on board and get it done!

The sun was bright, the breezes warm, and it was hard to imagine the fury of a storm assaulting the levees. Tourists were filing off the ferry at the dock and heading for the quaint shops and restaurants renowned for their seafood. The oceans blues, greens, and frothy whites lifted his spirits.

All his life Sam had dreamed of coming here. Spruce Isle was named for its majestic trees on the mountains and famed for its flowers and butterflies, including a species that swarmed in its forest each year. Everything—shops, mountains, butterfly migrations, beaches, and even the system of storm barriers—everything invigorated him.

Bring on the storms! His resolve rippled through him like a shot of adrenaline.

Looking out at smaller, distant islands, he noticed a seabird flying toward him. As it neared, he saw it was a puffin. It soared in, landed, settled itself, and stared out at the sea.

Sam had seen puffins in photos. He thought of them as odd but somehow natty seabirds, with their white faces and black caps and stout, multicolored beaks. But this one looked tattered, her chunky body a bit unsteady on her red-orange feet.

The old puffin said, "Bigger storms are coming." She hunched forward as in a stiff wind.

Sam glanced her way. She'd be amazed, he thought, to know he was in charge of leading the entire Monarch organization and protecting the island. He had come from the turbulent world of sports management with a reputation as a problem solver, someone who could work with big egos. Whatever it took, he'd rally the team and get it done.

The puffin flapped her stubby wings and shifted her weight. "The next storm could bring disaster."

Sam looked over at her. I know that. What's with this bird?

The puffin wagged her head, eyes still on the sea. Then her short wings suddenly beat furiously, lifting her into the air.

Annoyed and slightly unsettled, Sam watched until she became a little speck in the distance.


The Bear on the Mountain

Sam started climbing the mountain that dominated the island's interior. Its wildlife, trails, and butterfly pavilion drew thousands of tourists, and they were drawing him. Eventually he was looking down on the shoreline below, a long, thin squiggle of brown separating the ocean blue and island green. That squiggle had to hold back the coming storms from the lowland shops, beach, and hotel.

He reached the highland forest with tall oaks and pines and meadows bright with wildflowers. Although early for the swarming butterflies the island was famous for, blue swallowtails circled a puddle and orange-tips zigzagged over a meadow. A bird chirped and a feathery flash of scarlet caught his eye.

Sam passed hikers studying a trail marker and went on to the butterfly pavilion, one of the island's most popular attractions. After standing in line with other visitors and then entering the vaulted enclosure, he feasted his eyes on the hundreds of butterflies on the trees and plants and in the air. A poster on the wall helped him identify clear-wings, swordtails, cabbage whites, and painted ladies. He watched light play on sparkling metallic colors of a metal-mark. A hovering leafwing landed on his shoulder and stayed there a while.

The experience was all he'd hoped.

Yet the pavilion itself was in need of paint and a bit shabby, with cobwebs in corners. He'd take that up with Frisco, the head ranger.

Sam followed a trail to the preserve's headquarters, a complex of log buildings with flags flying, including Monarch's corporate flag—sky-blue, with a monarch butterfly poised on the leaf of a gnarly branch.

Monarch's proud history started with a pioneer who saw the island's potential for tourism despite the dangerous storms. Over time the company built seawalls, developed hotels and shops, and cut trails so visitors could see the butterflies swarm. Much of the forest was set aside for camping and hiking. Then came the butterfly pavilion, and tourism spiked.

Sam found Frisco in his headquarters cabin. The big spectacled bear stared at him. "Heard you were coming." His expression said he'd like to send Sam back out the door with a swipe of his paw.

Sam's hair bristled but he forced out friendly words of wonder at the butterfly pavilion. He said nothing about its cobwebs but quizzed Frisco on his priorities.

The ranger's responses confirmed what Sam had heard: Monarch workers were very good at playing the blame game. "We're supposed to have emergency shelters up here all stocked and ready in case a storm breaches the levees," Frisco blustered. "But go look for yourself. They're not ready because we requisition supplies but the stuff never arrives!"

Sam perked up his ears. "I'll check on that."

"We're understaffed and underfunded. Hordes of tourists keep coming, and we can't worry about shelters we'll never need." The big bear reared up higher and stared down at his new boss. His meaning was clear: The seawall is your problem, and you don't look like you can handle it.

Sam had dealt with plenty of big pro athletes. He stared back.

Unblinking, Frisco complained, "My staff can't keep up with all these campers and gawkers. Headquarters never delivers on promises, and nobody cares." He thrust a list at Sam. "Here's what we need."

Sam took the list. He wondered what the rest of his direct reports would be like.


Tias Complaints

That night Monarch's senior staff welcomed Sam with dinner in a restaurant overlooking the harbor—but Sam didn't feel welcome at all. During his short speech, no one smiled at his attempts at humor. Frisco yawned, and others looked down at their phones. Sam knew they all felt underpaid and underappreciated by Monarch, and they resented having no say in the CEO selection. Sam was their third new leader in two years.

Next morning he arrived early at the office and saw Tia, the plump gray squirrel who headed human resources, was already at her desk. As he worked studying charts showing needed seawall repairs, he noticed employees going in and out of her office. Mid-morning, when she was finally alone, he stepped across the hall and asked sympathetically, "Long, busy morning?"

Tia looked up from organized stacks. "Longer than you know." She thrust the short stack toward him. "I've been compiling these reports for you."

As he glanced at them, she made a sharp clicking sound. "You won't like what you read."


"You'll see." The white tips of her bushy tail swished defensively. "Start with the exit interviews."

Tia's downcast look made Sam try to encourage her. "Employees leave for all kinds of reasons. Exit interviews are always full of complaints."

She shrugged. "Too many are leaving."

"Any sense of why?"

"Yes! Over and over they say nobody cares about them, only that they get their work done." Tia's intensity was softened with motherly concern. "They're skilled employees! They're good people, and we're losing too many."

Sam promised to study the reports.

What he read made Tia's point starkly clear. An engineer complained, "I'm expected to do more with less, yet faster and better. But I'm working flat-out."

A data-entry worker said, "Nobody cares about me. I'm invisible ... except when I make a mistake. Then, watch out!"

An accountant explained why he quit: "I felt used—and never supported."

The reports described turf wars and endless red tape, deadlines missed, and conflicts and mistrust among supervisors. No departments were rated as having "high morale."

Sam put down the reports. He didn't find them discouraging—in fact, just the opposite. They energized him, the way years before seeing a puppy drowning in a lake had spurred him to race to its rescue.

Late afternoon he visited Tia's office and affirmed he was taking the reports seriously.

"I hope so. Frankly, you may be in over your head."

Sam waited for more.

Tia's tail twitched impatiently, and then she confessed she felt like climbing the walls. "You wouldn't believe all the negativism around here!" She made a sound like a stifled sneeze and then shook her head. "How am I supposed to help employees when they won't work together, and they sit around blaming each other for all the lost work orders and not meeting deadlines?"


Sam Throws a Party

Through his office window, Sam watched tourists entering shops and restaurants and heading for the beach. Vacationing families and hikers, birders, photographers, and butterfly enthusiasts had no idea the barriers were in poor repair.

A squall had swept in overnight, reminding him the storm season was upon them. He had barely slept, thinking about the dysfunctional teams, weakened levees, and the catastrophe that could happen on his watch.

He had to turn this organization around—and fast! He had handled big-ego players and agents. He relished building team spirit, he knew he was good at it, and he was ready to get moving.

Monarch, he learned, put a lot of money into tourist promotional events but did nothing for employee morale. He decided to change that in a big way and started working with team leaders to create a splashy, inspiring "celebration." He would emphasize the heroics of Monarch's pioneers. He commissioned graphics for the big screen to show breached-levee devastation. He asked Tia to work with supervisors to identify employees deserving awards.

The Monarch Celebration Luncheon was held in a hotel ballroom and included music, banners, good food, skits, and a funny guest emcee. Then Sam took the microphone while huge, graphic images of storm surges flooding the islands shops and hotels appeared on a screen. He was brutally honest about the weaknesses of the seawall, and then he shifted to his we-can-do-it speech. "In the spirit of our island s visionary pioneers, we can strengthen those seawalls, and we can make this world-class attraction better than ever."

Sam was the coach in the locker room inspiring his team. He was the storyteller showing how working together was the way to exceed expectations.

Supervisors then presented awards to selected employees, and Sam presented special ones, including a significant award to Tia for her constant work on behalf of her fellow employees.

That night Sam finally got a full night s sleep.


Excerpted from Sync or Swim by GARY CHAPMAN, Paul White, Harold Myra, Betsey Newenhuyse. Copyright © 2014 Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra. Excerpted by permission of Northfield Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, by Gary Chapman

The Fable, by Harold Myra

The Lesson, by Paul White

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Sync or Swim is a quick and easy read with a simple but powerful message for anyone who hopes to effectively manage and lead others. It reminds us of what we all need to remember but too quickly forget—that everyone needs appreciation, but that everyone needs it communicated in their own unique way. This book is a beautiful introduction to the basics of the true art of appreciation in the workplace."
— Jack Canfield | Coauthor of The Success Principles and Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

"I’ve always said that business is easy . . . until people get involved. The key word is teamwork. If you can’t work together, you can’t win together. In Sync or Swim, Chapman, White, and Myra tell a quick, fun story that gives you the tools you need to bring your people together like never before."
— Dave Ramsey | New York Times bestselling author and nationally syndicated radio show host

"I was sitting waiting to board a flight, with twenty things on my to-do list. But I decided to look at this fable . . . and couldn’t stop reading! It really drew me in and I instantly started thinking about how I need to purposefully tell (and show) my amazing team members how much I genuinely appreciate them—and to do so much more often. Sync or Swim makes a tremendously important point in an incredibly simple way—that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget."
— Shaunti Feldhahn | Author, For Women Only and The Male Factor

"Congratulations! Sync or Swim is a quick and easy read with valuable insights. Wherever you work, whatever your role, you will see yourself and your team in this little story . . . and you will learn. Extremely well done."
Gary Bradt, PhD | Primary trainer for Who Moved My Cheese?;Author, The Ring in the Rubble: Dig Through Change and Find Your Next Golden Opportunity

Not since Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has someone encapsulated a critical leadership lesson in a quick and fun-to-read fable. After fifteen years as a turnaround executive and seven years as a leadership coach, I recognized old familiar patterns in Sync or Swim and picked up several new useful techniques for keeping executive teams motivated and working together. A valuable and enjoyable read!
Glenn Hellman | CEO, DrivenForward; executive coach

"In an age fixated on quarterly results, bottom-line growth, and increased value for the stakeholders, this book turns our attention to HOW those results get produced. The people who make them happen (or not) are real-life human beings, not cogs in a machine. And each of them is unique. Sync or Swim sheds valuable light on the everyday human interactions that can make or break any organization. Leaders and managers will do well to take heed."
Dean Merrill | Publishing executive and bestselling author/collaborator of more than forty titles

"'It’s about people, stupid.' That’s the first line in our book Brains on Fire and that’s the big management lesson I learned reading Sync or Swim. We all want to be seen as individuals. And heard. This short fable is a simple and wonderful reminder."
Robbin Phillips | Courageous President, Brains on Fire; Coauthor, Brains onFire and The Passion Conversation

"Sync or Swim points out how easy it can be to help others improve their performance with positive affirmation, genuine encouragement, and open communication. Every manager and executive will recognize themselves—and others—in this fun, readable tale."
Judy Bryson | Pioneer Clubs president/CEO, retired

"There are many Friscos, Tias, Alanas, et al in the workplace. The trick is for managers to appreciate the differences and lead accordingly. This book will help managers appreciate people for WHO they are and recognize them for what they DO in an appropriate manner."
Peter W. Hart | CEO, Rideau Recognition, Inc.

"I was surprised at how I was drawn into Sync orSwim, despite the fact that I’m a lover of practical, proven management case studies. This fresh and creative approach gave me insights on how to appreciate, understand, and communicate with each colleague through their eyes that I wouldn’t have gotten from any “typical” business book. Now I’m challenged to put into practice these unforgettably practical lessons."
John LaRue | Founder,; Chief Development Officer,

"The title Sync or Swim was not lost on me. As a leader, I not only see myself and my team in Chapman, White, and Myra’s latest book, I identify things we could have done much better in our own journey. If you lead or ever want to lead, this is a must-read. You did it again guys!"
Mike Novak | President and CEO, KLOVE

"I really enjoyed the story and the perspective it gives business leaders at all levels. Sync or Swim is a great, easy read with a terrific message that allows the reader see the value of targeted, sincere appreciation."
Mike Byam | Terryberry Company

"Sync or Swim is a compelling tool for management training and a refresher course for those who’ve spent years leading people. You’ll find yourself smiling and resonating with the sequence of events in this delightful fable."
Carol Thompson | Chief Operating Officer, Christianity Today

"Sync or Swim is a brilliant modern-day fable that captures the essence of everything that is wrong in the workplace, and it offers real, authentic solutions steeped in practical wisdom! If you manage people or plan to in the future, you must read this fable!"
Aaron Broyles | Entrepreneur, speaker, and author of Do Great Things

"Sync or Swim is an awesome read with many in-depth messages.  Even though this delightful book does not take long to read, the lessons it teaches can take a lifetime to understand and integrate into our personal and corporate worlds. It is a message that every leader who desires to be affective must learn and put into practice. "
Golden Jenkins | Executive Director, LifeCare Counseling and Coaching

Customer Reviews