Values: Serious vs. Fun

In recent years, several Fortune 500 companies have changed their values to include “fun” in hopes of attracting a younger crowd of future applicants and as an overall sign of changing times. The stodgy corporation that existed 50 years ago are a dying breed in the U.S. More and more, companies are reevaluating their workplace and saying it is ok to have a sense of humor about work and to have a little fun while being productive.

Work is more stressful than ever with employees trying to keep up with new technologies, produce more while working with less and just trying to keep a job in this stagnant economy.  With a company telling its employees (and the rest of the world) that their company is an amusing place to work, it helps to keep the atmosphere light and maybe the employee doesn’t notice that they are doing the work of 3 others when they win the office’s chili cook-off or are dressed up as a pirate for Halloween.

Of course, there is still a place for more serious-sounding values within companies. It is important not to jump on the “fun” bandwagon if you aren’t ready or that isn’t really who you are. For instance, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my investment firm to have “fun” as a core value. Having “fun” investing on my behalf does not sound like a good time.

Most importantly, a company’s core values are a reflection of the company culture (or they should be if they aren’t already). Values set a foundation for employees and provide guidance when making any decision on behalf of the company – each decision should be rooted in the company’s values. So it is important that these values reflect the company and don’t try to portray an incorrect image. Staying true to your roots is sometimes more important than adapting and a lot of people will appreciate your consistency.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Live the Life You’ve Imagined, Today

Are you living the life of your dreams? If so, way to go. If not, then there’s no time like the present to begin following Henry David Thoreau’s sage advice to “Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Another way to put it: The way you live your day is the way you live your life.™ Sherry Essig, a business-life coach in Raleigh, coined that phrase years ago and had the good sense to trademark it.

It’s a brilliant reminder that we won’t just wake up one day and suddenly have everything we want. Your dream life can become a reality, but you’re more likely to get there by making conscious choices that support that dream, day after day after day.

If you want a relaxed, simple life, then why are you cramming your days with too many commitments? If you want to live an active outdoorsy life, then why are you spending your Saturday at the mall? To get the life you want, make the daily choices that support it.

Essig has recently rebranded her business as Flow Dynamix. She helps her clients “get unstuck and stay unstuck, so they can move forward in the midst of change.”

Personal development is the same as professional development, according to Essig. One of the aspects of her work I most appreciate is that understanding that your professional career and your personal life are not separate but two aspects of the whole.

The Way You Live Your Day is the Way You Live Your Life™ is now the name of Essig’s monthly newsletter. I highly recommend it for Essig’s practical, real-life tips for living your best life. If you’re like me, you can always use a gentle reminder or some quick inspiration.

Yea Lindsay! A Literal Employee Engagement

Sorry gentlemen, Tribe’s Vice President and Creative Director Lindsay Podrid is officially off the market. Ryan, her boyfriend of five years, finally proposed and might have taken a year off my life in the process. It started Saturday afternoon. Ryan called Sara (Tribe’s Art Director, Lindsay’s good friend, my roommate) to have her help him go ring shopping. Sara and I quickly whipped ourselves into a frenzy. When Ryan came to our door to pick Sara up, the happiness and focus on his face was so exciting, I wanted him to propose immediately.

After a full afternoon of planning and ring shopping, Sara finally came home and gave me the scoop. The ring was gorgeous and Ryan was headed up to Lindsay’s parents house to ask their blessing. Sunday morning was like being a kid and waiting for Santa to come. ALL DAY LONG Sara kept checking her phone and I kept looking at Lindsay’s Facebook profile. Nothing.

Monday was Presidents Day so Tribe was closed. I tried to get Sara to invite Lindsay over for dinner thinking maybe she wanted to tell people in person and not over the phone. Finally when Sara talked to Lindsay late Monday, Lindsay didn’t mention anything about a proposal and couldn’t come over for dinner. The suspense was killing me. Ryan is lucky Sara wouldn’t give me his phone number.

Tuesday finally arrived and by this point, practically the entire office knew what was going on. As she arrived for the day, everyone anxiously and excitedly looked at Lindsay’s left hand only to be disappointed. I love surprises, but I do not like suspense!

Seeing Lindsay Wednesday though almost made the torturous weekend worth it. I can’t say which was bigger and prettier, Lindsay’s smile or the sparkly rock on her finger, but both were stunning. Ryan did a great job. Anyone who has spent time with them knows what a perfect match they make and I wish them every happiness.  Oh and by the way, if anyone else in the office is about to get engaged, please don’t tell me a head of time.

The Vehicles to Communicate Change

A few weeks ago, Alan wrote a blog called The Right Words at the Right Time During Change. He discussed how change happens; it’s unavoidable and gave some great tips for what to say when. Now that you know what to say and when to say it, here are some tips on what vehicles to use to get the message out.

1. Use what you’ve got. Your intranet is a valuable resource and at Tribe, we talk about it a lot. This is a great central place where all the information can live and it’s a place employees are already familiar with. For long-term change, it’s a good idea to give the information its own page. Make sure it’s easy to access and think about giving it a widget or quick link on the landing page.

We also work with a lot of clients that have newsletters or internal magazines. Consider creating a dedicated column to talk about any changes. Consistency is key and your employees will start to recognize the column as a good place to look for updates.

2. Send it home. Whenever you have a large change initiative, we recommend doing a direct mail piece to the homes of your employees. This gives them the opportunity to get the whole family involved. It helps communicate how everyone fits into the change and gives them time to process the message.

3. Talk to your employees. Face-to-face communication is one of the best ways to communicate change. It gives employees the opportunity to ask questions and creates a dialogue. To help your managers, it’s a good idea to create some cascade tools like talking points. It’s also important to prepare managers for the questions and let them know what to do when questions are asked that they don’t know the answers too.

Hearing it from leadership is important as well. Employees need to know the whole company has bought into the change from the top down. Encourage your leadership to write a blog or send out an email talking about the adjustment in their words.

Change is always hard to accept, but as long as you have consistent communication you’ll come out the other side stronger and often with even more engaged employees.

How Does Employee Engagement Affect the Customer Experience?

At Tribe, our favorite thing to do is to help your team become more engaged.

One of the benefits of employee engagement is how it positively impacts a company’s bottom line. Creating a happy workforce, where employees have a clear sense of purpose, tons of company pride, are personally driven, and feel they are truly valuable assets to a company and its successes will undeniably result in more enthusiasm, more productivity, more ROI for the company itself, and in the end, a better customer experience.

Essentially, engagement is nothing more than a cascading trail of happiness that transcends downward from the top, through its employees and out to its customers, who as a result, return the favor by passing on praises and bring in repeat business, time and time again, bringing the art of engagement full circle.

Consider the latest interaction you had in a place of business. Would you say it was outstanding, so-so, or sub-par?

Companies that are successful often have developed and deployed strong employee engagement programs to help ensure and drive their success.

Consider Chik-fil-A. Team members know their value, purpose and worth, AND IT SHOWS. You’ll never meet a group of individuals happier to serve you a hand-spun milkshake or chicken sandwich. Consistently, without fail, they happily offer whip cream, a cherry, an extra pickle with a genuine smile and the sincerest of thanks for you and your business.

Or Embassy Suites. Their internal program “Stay True. Be Bold.” has successfully revitalized their workforce into a team of hospitality experts who live and breath their brand. Providing for the guest is what they do best, and it really shows.

Or UPS. Who recognizes that the face of their company, their most precious cargo, is carried solely by the drivers who hand deliver packages right to your doorstep? Without the drivers and their pride and commitment, it’s pretty safe to say that America’s favorite parcel service might not be so popular with their customers.

Often the employees with the most customer interaction receive the least amount of encouragement and praise. In the end, this hurts the growth and success of a company’s bottom line.

So the next time you interact with someone who truly loves their job, provides you with great service or goes the extra mile for you without batting an eye, be sure to return the favor with a genuine compliment or some kind words or praise.

Help keep the circle flowing. And if your workforce needs a little help with its flow give us a call, we’d be delighted to help!

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Key to Personal Change Management: Cultivate Resilience

How do you respond to changes in your business environment? When your company is downsizing or has lost a major client? When you’re going through a merger? When you’re asked to transfer to another city?

If you can cultivate a spirit of resilience, you are better able to respond to change. You can “witness the change,” as Dr. Carol Orsborn describes it, rather than becoming a victim.

Orsborn has been a  hero of mine since I read one of her early books, “How Would Confucius Ask for a Raise.” That book offered useful wisdom for me early in my career and still impacts the way I run my company today. Orsborn’s most recent focus is  her work with individuals and organizations to help develop resilience.

By witnessing change instead of seeing yourself as a victim, you’re able to take the emotion out of the situation. Orsborn describes that as getting to neutral.

That’s when you can see the opportunities the change creates. Instead of freaking out, you might notice that this creates the perfect opening for you to take on a new role in the company. Or that it’s the perfect segue for starting your own business with your old company as your first client. Or that the transfer to a new city comes with a lower cost of living so your spouse can stay home and write that novel.

Because one thing is certain in this business climate of uncertainty. There will be change. Some of them might not be the changes you would wish for. But if you can cultivate the ability to take blows and recover quickly, you’ll be better able to find the up side in any change.

The Pinning Appeal: Pinterest

If you’re one of the few who has yet to join Pinterest, all I can say is you’re missing out. Pinterest is the first website where users can log-on for free and create a personalized account where they can house high-res images that represent them. Whether it be a picture of a dream home, a cute puppy or a delicious bowl of pasta, Pinterest has it all to organize your wants and needs. With over thousands of images that allow you to temporarily escape to a fantasy world, it’s very easy to get distracted and lose track of time.

Pinterest is a user-generated website that contains images of almost anything and everything you can think of. The idea is to “pin” different images to your custom-made boards that reflect your hobbies, interests and personality. Your boards can be titled as you wish, for example, a few of mine read: “Dream” “One day…” and “Wish List”. The best part is each image appears to come from a magazine or taken by a professional photographer, making the products and places look even more desirable.

I predict that Pinterest will continue to grow in popularity until it holds the same status as Facebook and Twitter, which I don’t think will take long. Jump on board the Pinterest train and start pinning today! However, I advise you proceed with caution – it’s quite addicting!

Want to read more about Pinterest?

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Which Comes First, The Internal or External Brand?

The real answer is that they are two parts of a whole. Rather than a chicken and egg situation, what we have here is more like the yin and the yang.

The external brand is what we want our consumers to think about the company. Or more accurately, the external brand is what consumers do think about the company, which is only partly constructed from the brand advertising.

Word of mouth means that a large part of the external brand is composed of what consumers say about the brand to each other. Most researchers say that consumers give the opinions and reviews of other customers more weight than the TV ad they saw last night.

The consumer brand experience shapes word of mouth. If someone has a great experience, they tell other people about it. If they have an awful experience, they tell even more people.

Then there’s social media. Add the exponential possibilities of exposure created by blogs, tweets, and updates and you begin to see just how important it is that the consumers have positive experiences with the brand.

And who creates those consumer experiences? The employees of course, particularly the frontline people who are interacting with the customers every day. So the onus is on employees to deliver the brand.

That’s where the internal brand comes in. The internal brand is where you’re able to create the culture that supports the external brand. Without a culture that instills the values of the brand and guides employees in exactly how to deliver the brand promise, you’re leaving that consumer brand experience to chance. When you’re able to build a strong culture, you not only raise the likelihood of positive customer experiences, you also begin to create brand ambassadors.

It’s not a question then of which comes first. The challenge is how to unite the two. How do you build a strong brand from the inside out? You start with building your culture.

Need help with that? Tribe is ready when you are.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Big Project Due? Take It Bird by Bird

Ever felt paralyzed by the enormity of the project sitting on your desk? Have you experienced the creeping panic of a deadline looming closer and closer while you seem to be completely incapable of tackling the task?

Take it bird by bird. That’s the best and most helpful advice I’ve ever heard for that situation, and it comes from Annie Lamott’s book on writing. In “Bird by Bird” she tells the story of her brother, at age 10, struggling with a school report on birds that he’d postponed writing until the night before it was due.

We’ve all been there. LaMott writes that her brother “was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

Bird by bird. One step at a time. One after the other after the other. Until you’re through.

Engaging Employees by Including Them in the Corporate Strategy

A motivated employee is going to take great pride in what they do and the company they work for. They want to feel that their contributions to the company are not only noticed but also impactful. One of the easiest ways to engage employees is to instill a sense of ownership with the goals and direction of the company within them.

Behind every great company is a great strategy. Putting together a well thought out plan and identifying the resources needed to execute that plan is the first step towards success. Regardless of level, employees want to feel like they are a part of this plan since this is the platform that will take the company to where you strive to be. They understand that their personal growth is contingent upon the growth of the company and want to have an influence on the outcome.

Be open to ideas from all levels of the company. By giving employees the opportunity to provide their thoughts and opinions on company matters, they will feel much more connected with the overall business results. Their involvement creates a sense of accountability that can increase motivation and productivity, as they will feel partially responsible for the outcome.  In addition, they will be able to see the rewards of a job well done first hand and want to experience that feeling again.

Share results as much possible (especially the good ones!). As mentioned before, employees want to know that their contributions are making a difference. They take pride in their work and feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that their effort created value for the company. Whether it is through a monthly/weekly meeting or some type of internal communication piece, keep employees apprised of the company’s progress towards business objectives and goals.

Finally, remember that your employees are proud to work where they do. Involve them as much as possible and give them something to brag about!