Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Don’t Make Things Harder Than They Need To Be

There can be real beauty in the simple answer, the direct approach, or even in the decision to move forward without all the answers. It’s not uncommon for large corporations to belabor the process, turning what could be a simple operation into a major production.

This video, titled “How To Put Yourself Into A Coat,” by the hilarious Allie Brosh, is a fantastic example of how to take something way easy and make it ridiculously complicated. It begins like this:

“If you want to be inside of a coat, but you are not currently inside of a coat, you may find this instructional video helpful. In five easy steps, I explain to you the complex process of inserting your body into a coat.”

PS: Allie Brosh’s oddball sense of humor can also be appreciated in her blog, Hyperbole And A Half. The dog ones are the best.

“The Red Menace”

It’s a sad week for Tribe and other ketchup lovers across the globe. The Today Show featured a tragic story this past Tuesday that France is pulling the world’s most delicious condiment from it’s school lunch menus. Chefs there claim that ketchup has too much sugar, fat, and salt for their kids to eat. They must serve pretty healthy lunches over there to be so worried about a little bit of ketchup ruining the diets of  their youth. As for us over here in the states, I’m not so sure half of us would have survived our childhood cafeterias or dinner tables without it.

I cannot imagine having to eat school lunches without ketchup. Aside from green beans floating in water with three almond slices, I am not sure half of what we were served was even real food. Chicken nuggets, hockey puck burnt little burgers, mystery meat-meatloaf, chicken-ish sandwiches. If it weren’t for the sweet rolls and French fries, I would have been a goner.

I also cannot imagine family dinners without ketchup. It still makes me gag when I think about some of the entrees we had to eat. And leftovers? No way you can eat those without ketchup. My mother used to put ketchup on vegetables to get my brother to eat them. Technically adding ketchup to your plate counts as double vegetables if you think about it! My uncle liked putting ketchup on his mashed potatoes. Sometimes mixed together with Grandma’s gravy. I even knew a chick who liked to put ketchup on mac-n-cheese, steaks, and would even use it as a dip for lonely potato chips.

I’m willing to bet a bottle of ketchup lives in practically every fridge and every restaurant across the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe. And look how far it’s come! Once upon a time you had to skillfully whack your wrist at the perfect angle or strategically shove a table knife into it’s neck to enjoy it’s tasty deliciousness. Now-a-days, you don’t have to struggle to open and squeeze all those teeny tiny packets onto your lunch tray because ketchup is so much more advanced and sophisticated. Now you can dip directly into their new adorable little dippers, open one giant packet instead of ten, and best of all you squeeze it from a germ free, unmarred plastic bottle to get your ketchup fix.

Idk what France is thinking, but I do know this week, I am extra grateful I live in America. Where the ketchup runs wild and free.

And, thank you fancy France, for inspiring me to order more French fries, in order to show my undying support for the USA and my American made ketchup.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Features To Build Traffic To Your Employee Intranet

Need to revitalize an employe intranet that’s an online ghost town? Planning the launch of your company’s first intranet? To have a well-trafficked and energized intranet, you have to give employees compelling reasons to go there. If your intranet is not much more than the repository for HR forms and policy information, your company is missing the chance to create a real sense of community there.

1. Facebook-like feature: Sharepoint and other platforms allow for a social network page that helps connect employees and build relationships. If your company has locations around the world or business units that tend to silo, this page can help put faces on colleagues that employees don’t just bump into in the hallway. And of course, those relationships can lead to both collaboration and engagement.

2. CEO blog: The employee intranet is a fantastic forum for regular communication from (and to) company leadership. Often the CEO blog is ghostwritten, but shares the vision and news of leadership. Employees want to know what management is thinking, and they also appreciate the opportunity to communicate with their leadership via comments on those posts.

3. Recognition programs: An intranet can be an excellent forum for making recognition programs visible, both in top down and peer to peer kudos. At Tribe, we’ve developed programs that let employees offer an online badge of appreciation to their coworkers to make that sort of recognition easier and more frequent.

4. Innovation Think Tanks: Not only do employees appreciate the chance to share their ideas for the company, their suggestions can also lead to some brilliant innovations. Although there are several good stand-alone innovation management platforms out there (see The Tribe Report, Fall issue, p. 18), you also can build a simple innovations program within your intranet by creating the space for those conversations to happen.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey Gives Tips on Being the Boss (no, she’s not talking about being Bruce Springsteen)

Tina Fey is the funny, bespectacled woman on NBC. You might know her as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, as the previous librarian newscaster for SNL’s Weekend Update or even as the lady who looks more like Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin.

Tina is famous for her self-deprecating humor and her personal quest to champion nerdom. It’s ok if you aren’t familiar with her work – you’ll still enjoy her latest book, Bossypants. Besides being hilarious, Bossypants provides advice for anyone working towards a goal through the lens of a shy, awkward, unlikely heroine. The book chronicles Tina’s rise to success in a male-dominated comedy world and discusses what it means to be the boss, and how to be effective at it.

Hire good people and then get out of their way – Throughout the book, Tina attributes much of her success to the talent with which she has surrounded herself. She values their contributions and understands that to be effective, you have to trust the people you have hired and let them do what they do best without micro-managing them along the way. Be confident they will perform well, even if the path to success was not quite how you would have done it.

Lead by example to gain respect as the head honcho – “Being the boss almost never involves marching around, waving your arms, and chanting, ‘I am the boss! I am the boss!’” Instead of simply telling people to do what she says because she signs their paychecks, Tina is in the trenches with them. She gives numerous examples in her book of hashing out scripts with writers, personally inspecting a set before Oprah guest-starred and handing out flyers to attract attendees to a comedy show. Respect is hard earned. Showing your staff that you are dedicated, hard-working and have their success in mind will go a long way in establishing respect from your employees. In turn, they will feel personally invested in the success of your business because they know you are right there with them fighting for the company.

Don’t let naysayers knock you down – Comedy is a male-driven space. Tina is obviously a woman and had to push through the pre-conceived notion that women aren’t funny. Her advice for overcoming ageism, sexism, or any “ism” in the workplace is to ask yourself if that person is between you and your goal. If not, don’t worry about it. If so, use the Sesame Street strategy of “Over! Under! Through!” Instead of tackling these naysayers head on, work around them to achieve your goals. “…don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. ‘Go Over! Under! Through!’ and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares?”

Socializing in the Office

“Man is by nature a social animal…”


Even though you could say this quote is slightly outdated (circa 50 B.C.), it still rings true today when you consider the millions of people using social networking services such as Facebook or Twitter on a daily basis. This is no different in the workplace. At Tribe, we place a premium on workplace socialization and feel that a social work environment translates into better productivity and a higher quality of work.

Obviously, we are all employed for one primary reason: to work. Getting your job done takes precedence over everything else but that does not mean a day at the office needs to be all-business 100% of the time. A social and positive workplace creates added motivation to perform to the best of your ability and deliver value to the company. In turn, social interaction amongst co-workers creates a bond that carries over to teamwork in group assignments.

While a social workplace creates a positive reflection of the company, the question then becomes where is the dividing line between too much socializing? Through consistent interaction opportunities, employees can gain a sense of when it is appropriate to socialize and when it’s not.

Encourage group lunches. We all get time to eat lunch during our workday so why not eat together? Obviously, the easiest way to bring everyone together is for management to actually provide the lunch (needless to say no one will turn down free food) but there are other ways to do so without breaking the company budget. Create a de facto lunchtime by eating at roughly the same time every day. If everyone knows that lunch is at 12pm then they have no excuse for not including themselves with the rest of the group. In addition to setting a time, take the lead on getting a group together. Include as many people as possible so they won’t feel left out and put together your own hour-long social circle.

Create reasons to interact. We’ve all heard the old expression of how employees will get together for a water cooler discussion but let’s be honest, who really hangs around the water cooler anymore? Instead, create your own water cooler discussions by finding other things within the office that would attract employees and facilitate interaction. Coffee and snacks are always a popular choice but outside-of-the-box ideas such as a pool table or game room will really gather attention. In addition to the social element tied to these activities, employees will also be able to get away from the grind for a few minutes and feel a small sense of rejuvenation.

Organize company get-togethers. As Rose Curtis from allbusiness.com suggests, the best way to really get to know your co-workers is to spend time with them outside of the office. People will feel more comfortable showing their true personality away from work and will typically open up more than usual. On top of that, you can be free to socialize as much as you’d like without feeling as though you’re wasting valuable time. Getting to know your peers outside of the office can then carry over to the workplace as you’ll feel more connected with one another. Whether it’s a 5K run that allows you to get out of the office early for the day or simply grabbing a couple drinks after hours, look for opportunities to socialize with one another outside of the normal 9 to 5.

What are some ways that your company facilities interaction amongst employees?

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Or The Mule Could Start Speaking Spanish

This one is about staying open to possibilities. There was this old fella who said to a farmer friend of his, “Give me $100 right now and I’ll pay you back $200, if I can’t teach your mule to speak Spanish by Christmas.

The farmer took the bet and gave the guy a hundred bucks. When the farmer was out of earshot, the old fella’s friend said, “You don’t have a lick of sense. Come Christmas, you’re gonna have to pay out $200.”

The old fella said, “Aw, I ain’t worried about it. A lot of things can happen between here and Christmas.” Like what, the friend wanted to know.

“Well now, that old mule  could die. Or he could start speaking Spanish.”

All Hallows Eve

My favorite time of year is nearly upon us. Since I was a just a wee lad, I have always loved Halloween. It’s always been a bit ironic because I’m not a huge fan of being scared, though dressing up as one of my personal heroes every year has always brought absolute joy to my heart. Through my entire childhood, I had a pretty solid costume rotation of Batman and Darth Vader, although a Red Ranger or Ninja Turtle may have made its way in every once in a while. As a kid, it seemed like every year I convinced my mom to let me put on my costume earlier and earlier until at one point, I just started putting it on the second I got home from school.

Ironically, not much has changed since those days. Well, my mom doesn’t dress me, but I do continue to dress up every year. The best thing now is having an entire Halloween weekend that consists of multiple nights. Also, instead of candy, I get beer. This being my first year in Atlanta for Halloween, I get to go to the Little Five Points Halloween Festival and Parade.

But what will I go as? Let’s see, in the last few years I’ve been a Jedi, Rorschach from Watchmen and a 17th Century Vampire. This year Brittany and I will be attending all of our festivities as Wolverine and Phoenix (Jean Grey) from the X-Men series. The costumes are pretty fitting as we both enjoy the films. With Britt’s bright red hair and all my facial hair it works out perfectly. We even ordered contacts! I found youknowit.com last year and vowed to never go another Halloween without them. You’d be hard pressed to find a pair that cost more than $28 with shipping and they really step your costume up to the next level.

Typically I like to create my costumes from thrift store items and old clothes of mine. But if you don’t have the time to search for all the right pieces, the best all in one costume store is Spirit. Here you can find both all of your old favorites and new costumes. What truly makes them stand out are the amount of stores they open all over the U.S. and Canada. You can search for locations online and then head over and try your costume on locally. So who will you be this year?

Happy Halloween.


3 Ways to Bring Your Values to Life

Breath life into your company values by using these three methods that will take your values off the written page, and into the hearts and minds of your workforce.

1. A Companywide Event – An event that not only promotes, but also celebrates the values of a company will easily put these ideals front and center for your workers. An event like this reinvigorates what the values mean to the company and how they are a part of the way business is conducted. Tribe organized and produced an event like this full of fun activities and giveaways that helped reconnect employees with the values of their company. The result was a more engaged workforce with a clear understanding of the direction and goals of their organization.

2. A Book on Values – Writing a book that provides a detailed explanation of each of your values and gives examples of how they are put into practice paints a clear picture for employees. It can be written from a CEO perspective or more of a narrative format that interweaves real business life experiences with corporate messaging.

3. Signs and Swag – The concept of “out of sight, out of mind” really does exist when it comes to company values. If things are kicked off and then everything goes radio silent, the developed momentum and employee engagement will be lost. Placing signs around the office in hallways, lobbies and break rooms will keep your values in front of your workforce and remind them of the finer qualities of your company. Branded swag-type items like mini-posters and mugs that contain values messaging can be used as reinforcement pieces employees interact with each day.

Sustaining – Once your values are created, it becomes an unending process to bring your values to life for the people within your company. Having values that sit on your website and have little to do with the day-to-day activities of your general workforce are not only a waste of time, but also a wasted opportunity. Establishing and consistently acknowledging a core set of values for your company should be an essential part of your culture building strategy.

The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman

I will never say, “Can I play devil’s advocate for a minute?” again.  For most of my career that was my go-to line.  Being an analytical thinker I always thought about how a potential good idea wouldn’t work or how we needed to tweak the idea to make it better.  Don’t get me wrong, The Ten Faces of Innovation does support the idea of over-coming potential hurdles or collaborating with others to improve a thought, but I never realized how the expression “devil’s advocate” was the easy way out. 

Be prepared to wear 10 faces.  In most organizations it isn’t possible to have 10 different people that can think through the lenses of each of the proposed faces.  At most companies, each person needs to be prepared to wear each face.  Sometimes your role may be the anthropologist where you are observing behavior or researching how people may interact with a product or service and other times you may need to be the director and bring together a talented group of people and spark their creativity.

Innovation is a marathon. Being around sports my entire life, I always admired the marathoner.  The ability to go for the distance and never surrender is a quality I respect.  Innovation is the same.  Companies tend to think they can put a new creative process in place, have one meeting to discuss it and they will see results.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.  Innovation takes flexibility, long-term vision, a never say-die approach, and a dedicated coach that is willing to put the time and energy into results.

The Ten Faces of Innovation does a great job of pushing companies to look at their innovation process differently.  Tribe believes each person on your team, from front-line staff to the c-level suite is innovative; they just need a culture that supports the process.

Engagement Has to Keep Engaging

At Tribe, we understand the engagement Catch-22. After implementing an engagement program the scores usually go up. Leadership then calls it a success and thinks the work is done. However, this is not the time to stop engaging. In fact the work is never done. Maintaining engagement isn’t any easier than improving it. You can’t increase the scores and then put engagement on autopilot.

This mindset is common from leadership. More often than not, leadership is more highly engaged. They see the vision and big picture and their role in it. It’s important that this vision trickles down to help the rest of the employees stay engaged as well. Leadership lives and breathes it and they have to make sure their employees do too. Leadership can have a far-reaching impact and that’s why they understand the importance of sustained engagement more than others within the company.

Your post engagement survey is not the end. It’s actually the new beginning. Companies actively working to improve engagement score higher in studies and financially outperform those that don’t have engagement programs. The good news is you already know where to start. The post survey is your new starting line. Unless you scored 100 percent, there is more work to do. It’s important that people of all ranks and geographies get equal billing in the survey. It’s easy to subjectively dismiss findings that don’t appeal to what you want to hear or that can be easily explained away.

The post survey is crucial to determining the next course of action. At Tribe, we usually recommend an 18-month program. The plan should be cohesive and include different things to target different employees. By looking at how you scored, you have a road map for engagement. Sometimes it’s good to do additional values work. Other times you might want to add a recognition program. There is not going to be a one size fits all solution and it’s not always going to be an easy process. The important thing is to keep sustaining. You have the fish on the line, reel it in.