How Building Effective Teams Can Supercharge Your Business

GettyImages-881068442.jpgTeam building can be an overused cliche in business circles, but there is something truly magical about what a cohesive team can create together. Individuals working alone are able to contribute specific tasks towards a goal, but a team working together adds energy and power to push their achievements higher. This is one of the reasons there are so many books and manuals focused on building effective teams. If you have never seen this in action you may not believe the synergy that can be attained — it is almost like a force of nature. See how building effective teams will maximize employee productivity and happiness as well as helping you retain your hardest workers.

Effective Teams Bring Their “A” Game

A Gallup article from a few years ago stated that up to 70% of employees are showing up to work disengaged, costing the American economy billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. When you find ways for these individuals to connect to one another, they become invested in seeing each other become successful. Engaged, enthusiastic employees are ones who are constantly looking for ways to innovate and exceed expectations. If you could move the needle on even 20% of your mediocre performers, the impact to your bottom line would be significant.

Effective Teams Provide Diverse Ideas

The age-old saying that ‘two heads are better than one’ is extremely valid in today’s business world. The complexity of ideas and interconnectedness of our systems means that it is difficult for any one person to have the knowledge needed to innovate and excel. Bringing together your team in a safe space allows for the free flowing of ideas between members — and the ability to synthesize these great ideas into something actionable for leadership.

Effective Teams Blow Through Restraints

Where one person working alone may be worried about going down a specific — and potentially risky — path, a cohesive team has the bravery to take the leap. These leaps are what drive lasting change in an organization. Without this shared risk-taking and an ability to literally blow through restraints, your business can become stuck in the rut of doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Effective Teams Inspire Others

Let’s face it, everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. When you see one team that seems to get all the awards, recognition and respect, you want to see what makes them special. Many times, it’s their ability to work effectively together and collaborate to achieve a shared vision and goals. When one team in your organization is able to attain this level of cohesiveness, it will inspire and motivate others to do the same. This breeds a more positive working environment for all.

Effective Teams Have Fun Together

When work ceases to be work and becomes something that you enjoy doing during the day, you are able to devote your heart more fully to the tasks at hand. This joyful passion shines through in everything that you do. Ineffective teams can cause this light to dim, but having fun together can create a bond where individuals connect at a deeper level.

There are so many ways that effective teams create a sum that is greater than the individual parts. When the team truly works together as a single unit, the strengths of each person are multiplied allowing for an oversized impact on your organization’s effectiveness. Bring your teams together if you want to truly supercharge your business!

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Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

The Courage to Connect

When research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:

  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?
  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.

Invite Them to Engage

We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:

1. Start every meeting with a question.

Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.

Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.

2. Listen with action.

How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?

Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.

3. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.

What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.

When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:

“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”

Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.

 

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Top 5 Ways to Create an Eco-Friendly Workplace

Many organizations today are looking for ways to become more sustainable. While there are some pretty out-there options for going green, most businesses can find more moderate ways to reduce their overall impact on the environment. Improving the energy efficiency of your office is really only the first step as there are plenty of options such as rescheduling offsite meetings as a conference call and more. See how these eco-friendly workplace initiatives not only tell a great story for the public but also benefit your employees and other stakeholders.

1. Limit Disposables

Many offices have a shared kitchen or break room, and you might find them stocked with a multitude of plastic cutlery and plates. One quick way to make your office more eco-friendly is to limit the number of disposables that you use in the office. You can easily encourage staff to use coffee mugs instead of foam or paper coffee cups, spoons instead of stir sticks, and real silverware instead of disposable options. Getting everything washed up only takes a few seconds, but this small measure can have a dramatic impact in terms of saving our environment.

2. Ditch Bottled Water

One of the perks available in many offices is bottled water or other drinks. Water bottles are one of the key issues with overfilled landfills, and swapping from individual bottles to a filtered water system or larger bottles can make a significant difference in the long-term quality of life on the planet.

3. Use Recycled Materials

Whether you are updating some of your office’s interior or moving into a new place, look for ways to incorporate recycled materials in your office scheme. Using recycled materials allows you to reduce your carbon footprint and show your customers your commitment to doing something nice for the environment. Look for opportunities to recycle in all corners of your office — from using recycled paper for your business cards to upcycling older office chairs and furnishings.

4. Adjust Your Thermostat

Did you know that a single degree adjustment can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year based on the size of your office? Your employees are unlikely to even notice a small change of only a degree or two. You might be surprised to find that many of your staff actually appreciate not freezing in the summer and sweating bullets in the winter!

5. Update Your Appliances and Light Bulbs

Your appliances and light bulbs could be costing you money! That little red standby light that you can see on many electronics means that there’s actually a trickle of electricity pumping through at all times. Turning items completely off will save you energy.  Swapping traditional light bulbs for low-energy fluorescents is another eco-smart change!

Have you gained some inspiration for ways to make your office more eco-friendly? These easy tips are ones that — once you get in the habit — you’re unlikely even to notice are there. Some of the changes may even benefit your staff, and all will help make the world a better place to live both now and in the future.

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Why Your Marketing Should Be Actionable Above All Else

GettyImages-819013660.jpgOne of the traps that even seasoned marketing veterans often fall into involves crafting collateral that has far too much information for its own good. Marketing messages start out simple enough, but as brands continue to grow and evolve, the marketing messages do the same until it can be difficult to remember what that short, sweet, actionable idea was in the first place.

And if you think your marketing has lost focus, just imagine how your audience members probably feel.

When your marketing starts to suffer from a lack of direction, it starts to become much too passive. Thankfully, the solution is simple – strip away the noise and focus on the action of it all. This, of course, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

What is Actionable Marketing?

Think about your marketing the same way you would something like a call-to-action. A CTA is effective because it’s clear and concise. It tells your readers exactly what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and most importantly, what they’re going to get in return.

It’s a way for them to take the experience they’ve already had and elevate it to the next level by continuing their relationship with your people or your brand.

Passive marketing, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. People may see one of your flyers and become aware that your brand exists, but they’re not motivated to do much with that information. They certainly don’t know why they should care or what you can do for them that nobody else can. Passive collateral just… is. That, most definitely, is a problem.

To put it another way, every element of your collateral – from the color design of a flyer to every last word on a brochure – needs to be building towards the eventual action that you want someone to take. It’s like a CTA on a larger scale and rest assured, it pays dividends.

The Byproducts of Actionable Marketing

Actionable marketing requires you to target your audience. You need to know who people are, what demographics they fall into, what they like, and what they don’t like. You then have to address a specific need that they have and direct them to take your desired action.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because these are the types of things you should already be doing. Making action a priority simply allows you to double down on these efforts, allowing them to rise to the surface.

The real benefit of actionable marketing is precisely that – it creates its own momentum. It has an energy that passive content just can’t match. You can use that energy to create new opportunities for yourself, not only in terms of up-selling or cross-selling your products but also with regards to increasing the overall lifetime value of your customers.

Simply put, if your marketing content is active your customers will be, too, and that’s the type of opportunity you do not want to overlook.

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5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?

The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.

Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time — very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?

1. Be Prepared

Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you’re prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won’t be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil’s advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request.

2. Be Adaptable

Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you’re kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation says, “when you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  

You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can’t listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward.

3. Be Confident

You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas — as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world — are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there’s no path forward.

4. Do the Work

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told “No” more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success.

5. Inspire Others

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times.

Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Shouldn’t you give it one more shot?

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Is Your Advertising Take You Up or Down?

Marketing and advertising can be quite costly. However, marketing can attract customers and earn you money. So, you need to be asking yourself “is your advertising taking you up or down?”

Let’s take a quick look at three of the best ways to make sure your marketing efforts are boosting your sales revenue instead of draining your budget for nothing.

1) Keep An Eye On Frequency Rates When Online

Advertising online can an effective way to reach a targeted audience. What you want to avoid, though, is blasting your ads multiple times to the same people. The more times the same consumer sees your ad, the more they will become annoyed by it. In fact, when the same person sees the same ad twice, the click-through-rate decreases by 8.91 percent. Seeing the same ad five times decreases the click-through-rate by 30 percent. And once they see the same ad nine times or more, the click-through-rate is cut in half. More important, the cost-per-click rate increases each time the ad is seen multiple times. This is why you need to check ad frequency  and mix up your marketing mix using other effective channels like print.

2) Switch Up the Background

Both your online and offline marketing campaigns can benefit from switching up ad background colors. Did you know that ads with the color blue tend to make consumers feel calm? Green brings about a sense of peace, while yellow ignites a feeling of happiness and optimism. With this in mind, you need to integrate these colors into your ads based on the feelings you are trying to invoke. For example, if you are advertising massage services, then you will, of course, want your background color to be blue or green to portray a sense of peace and calm. If you’re advertising a theme park or vacation services, then using yellow in your background to bring forth feelings of happiness and excitement will be effective.

3) Run Your Own Blog

One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to market your business is by running your own blog. Your blog can touch on a variety of topics, including articles discussing products you sell, tips for your using products, how to get good deals on your products, and how your products can be used to make your life simpler. The important thing is to make sure you are providing content to your readers that has value.

Once readers see that you are genuinely trying to make their lives better, they will come back to read your future blog postings. More importantly, they will be enticed to share your postings with other consumers, which is an excellent way to attract and secure new customers. Even better is that running your own blog is very affordable. In fact, if you’re a decent writer, you can write your own blog postings for free. If you don’t write, you can always hire a content creator to create the content for you.

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5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt

GettyImages-861164910.jpgAre meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

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