The 10 on the Team: Shawn Banzhaf
By Jody Thompson – November 8, 2022
Shawn Banzhaf IS Arizona State University. As the Associate Director of Student Success and Academic Innovation for ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center, you can't miss his infamous spirit, passion and dedication (and awesome glasses) for supporting all Sun Devils, especially student veterans here at ASU.
For twenty-one years, Shawn served in the United States Army National Guard and retired as the acting First Sergeant of the 1057th Transportation Company. He is an Iraqi War Veteran, during which he earned the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge while executing 100 combat missions in and around Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah. His unit, the 1074th Transportation Company, was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation during their year-long campaign (OIF 06-07). Shawn is the creator of the 5 Ls: A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma and is a facilitator for ASU's Treks For Vets. Most recently, he earned his Master of Arts in Sociology at Arizona State University.
What are 5 qualities of highly effective teams?
Patience, Tenacity, Care, Strategic Communication and Innovation.
Of those 5 qualities – is there 1 that is an absolute essential?
What facilitates good team communication?
I call it aerobic listening. This calls for someone to use their whole self while listening. We often turn off some of our senses when listening and it takes away from the message being sent.
What is kryptonite to a good team?
Staring at your feet. I heard it said once and fully believe it. You will never win a war looking at your feet, you must set your sights on the horizon. This is the case with teams, if you get caught up looking at your own feet you won’t see what the team is doing.
What are ways in which teams can “grow”/develop their team-ness?
I think it is essential to learn the humanity of your team'mates. We are not just a means to an end but we are all real people with real feelings and emotions. Put another way, we are not human doings, we are human beings.
As the Associate Director of Student Success and Academic Innovation for ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center, what are some examples of cultivating "team-ness" among groups that perhaps you experienced within the military that you have utilized in your current role and with your current team?"
Shared experiences are key to a good team. Both good and bad moments create bonds that last. If you don’t take the time to spend with people you won’t grow the necessary connective tissues needed to be a successful team. I like to use Treks for Vets as my example here. A pretty difficult hike together over rough terrain through unknown places creates a bond and the positive experiences we share along the way deepens it.
You lead Arizona State University’s Treks for Vets- Wilderness Therapy Initiative. Do you feel that the wilderness, and wilderness practices, facilitate connectivity among those engaged, and if so, what are some of those elements of connectivity that you see come alive in the Treks for Vets program?
I see some positive things on our trips that facilitate connectivity and one in particular is the unplugging from society for a few days, to include our phones allows for a space of mindfulness or living just in the moment. When we all do that together it makes for a special bond.
As an expert in trauma-informed care, what are some strategies you suggest for groups/teams that have collectively experienced a trauma together? Do you feel the Five L's, from your book, The Five L's: A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma, apply to groups wanting to heal as a whole?
Wow, thanks for the expert title but there are, for sure, more expert persons out there in the area of being trauma informed than me! But I am humbled you would ask about my book and how we can collectively experience relief from shared trauma. I think the practicality of my book can be a good tool and a good first step. If we could all look at one another and think what happened to this or that person and not what is wrong with them it could go a long way in healing together as a group. The key to all of it is Love. Conscious Love. Can you make the determination that the wellbeing of the other person is connected deeply to your own wellbeing? Can you decide that Love is not an abstract thought or feeling or emotion but rather all about human solidarity? Personally, I don’t want love to be abstract, I want it to be real. If we wanted our teams and groups to heal then love is where it starts. And if you were wondering if its okay to love on people in your teams, remember this, there is no such thing as a love crime.
You have an extensive and accomplished military career - how do you feel your military background helped cultivate your skills and abilities related to empathy, connectivity, and communication?
I think my military career played an important role in helping me realize my own mortality. This is bent more towards the philosophical, but having faced death on multiple occasions, you begin to appreciate life and everything that encompasses at a different level. Things you used to take for granted, you no longer do. Relationships that used to be “replaceable” are kept around because you realize how quickly they can be lost, and how you communicate becomes clearer because life and death have perhaps ridden up your words.
Your bow ties, glasses and uplifting personality bring immediate levity to your interactions - how do you sustain yourself and your well-being through all that you work through, see, and hear?
I am glad to be seen! I think it is essential for me to make sure to know balance. I know my personality and I am an achiever. But that can get me in trouble sometimes because I rarely say no! I find my balance and peace with my life in those relationships that are dearest to me. My wife, Jodi (also and ASU employee), my kids and grandkids and some of my closest friends both in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and outside of it. I also enjoy a good laugh. It is something you learn quickly in the military. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and at your surroundings or you will find yourself in a bad spot pretty quickly. So, spending time with those I love and laughing with each other keeps me balanced and allows me to bring my full person into each situation and I hope I help those I come in contact with.
And quick follow-up - do you have a favorite bow tie or glasses?
My favorite bow tie and glasses are my ASU pitchfork tie and my gold glasses. I really love to wear them and support the Sun Devils and our student veterans here at ASU!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just that we are all faced with a near indescribable onslaught of bad news each and every day. Take some advice from me and put down the phone, close the laptop and turn off the television. Take time to hug your loved ones, pet your dog, go for a hike and just breathe, you are worth it and your team will thank you for it.