Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: Are You Treating Unemployed Friends Like Damaged Goods?

A weird thing happens when successful professionals become unemployed. Suddenly, former colleagues and long-time contacts don’t return their calls so quickly. More and more of their emails drift unanswered to the bottom of their friends’ inboxes.

In our business culture, professionals tout networking as a useful way to connect with people who can further our careers. But as members of our business communities, we also have a responsibility to be the ones who help advance the careers of others.

You’ll find several benefits to helping others find jobs. For one, it feels great. You will almost always find your happiness level heightened after performing even the smallest good deed. It also helps you build stronger relationships in your world of business contacts. You might think of it as an investment in your industry, your city, the economy in general, or even in your karma.

Last but not least, unemployment is generally a temporary condition. A month or a year down the road, that poor sap you helped find a job may be in a postion to help you land that big contract.

That’s why it’s worth making an effort to help whenever you can. Here are three quick and easy ways you can lend a helping hand without breaking a sweat:

1. Offer to make an introduction. Connecting a jobseeker to the right person can make all the difference — and can be accomplished in the 90 seconds it takes to introduce both parties via email.

2. Reply to that email. Hiring practices have grown so discourteous that job seekers now find the most common response to their inquiries to be no response at all. When strangers send their resume, hoping for a job with your company, a very brief but personal reply can make their day. Direct them to someone in charge of hiring, or if you know there aren’t any openings in their area, just let them know you’ll hang onto their resume in case you hear of anything.

3. Take time to answer their calls. Instead of letting those calls roll to voicemail, pick up the phone. A two-minute conversation with you might be just the thing to lift the spirits and raise the confidence of someone struggling with the enormous challenge of finding a job in this economy.

The Fate and Future of Movies

A week following the shooting massacre that took place in Aurora, CO on July 20th at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, America continues to mourn the victims and sympathize with the many families affected by this tragedy.

The controversy that now exists, possibly similar to 9/11, is the question of if this incident will forever change peoples’ feelings about going to see a movie? Will what was once one of America’s favorite past-times now instill anxiety and fear in people?

Some might argue that it’s ridiculous to be nervous, that the odds of this heinous crime being reenacted are slim to none and this is nothing like the events of 9/11, but I am one of the individuals that will always think of James Holmes and what he did, every time I step foot into a movie theater. It will be difficult not to feel vulnerable or trapped in a pitch-black movie theater, surrounded by people with only two exits. Statistics show that people will be more cautious and less likely to go see a movie alone, but will not let the Colorado Movie Massacre stop them from indulging in an activity they love.

Although there are still many unknowns and questions to be answered, my hope is that all of the victim’s and their families find peace during this time, and that we can one day return to feeling safe in the comfort of our movie theaters.

Following the Leader

The power of language is not to be undermined. The way something is phrased can make the difference between a great experience and a catastrophe.

Words can make or break the situation. No one knows this fact better than Capt. David Marquet—the retired U.S. naval captain of a nuclear-powered submarine. He recently recounted his experience with giving orders and what happens when they are blindly followed, even if they are the wrong decisions for the team.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1843334/a-submarine-captain-on-the-power-of-leadership-language

Empower your employees. Capt. Marquet explains that by empowering your employees to provide recommendations instead of the boss calling all the shots, you give employees the boost they need to make difficult decisions and help lead the company in the right direction.

Developing an Engaging Conference

Company conferences are a great way to engage and re-energize employees. It’s one of the few opportunities to bring a large collection of employees together to discuss company news and initiatives and plan for the future – all while taking a break from the normal day-to-day routine. If handled effectively, an engaging conference will not only educate employees but also motivate them to work towards achieving set goals.

Plan early. This may seem like common sense but anyone who has ever been involved with conference planning knows that they have a tendency to sneak up on you. The date may seem like a long time off at the beginning but as it gets closer and closer, many planners end up asking themselves where the time went. Plan as early as possible to help keep costs down, reduce stress and most importantly, allow time for really big, involved ideas that will make a lasting impression.

Make the content relevant and interesting. The easiest way for an employee to feel disengaged at a conference is if they think the material is not relevant to what they do. Avoid thoughts of ‘this doesn’t really apply to me so I can tune it out’ by knowing your audience and what makes them go. For larger conferences, you could divide into sub-groups and tailor your message accordingly. Employees will be more attentive and conversational in the intimate groups.

Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. Have some fun with the conference and show a side employees may have never seen before. Remember, this is one of the few opportunities that employees have a legitimate excuse to get away from their desk for a day and interact with others. Making it as fun as possible will engage employees and remind them of how the company doesn’t have to be business all the time.

Add visual appeal. Just like when we were kids, we’re all attracted to the fun, shiny object. Add life to conference materials and signage through an engaging and visually appealing theme specifically designed for the event. The look and feel will help alleviate negative connotations typical of attending a conference and illustrate the importance of the event. And when all else fails, give technology a try. For example, look into renting iPads for employees to follow along with. It will help keep their attention and serves as a great tool for engaging activities.

Need help planning your next conference?  We can help. Browse through our past experience at www.tribeinc.com or email Kara Bullock at [email protected] for additional information.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Importance of Communicating With Non-Desk Employees

Does every single employee at your company spend the workday sitting in front of a computer? Yeah, I didn’t think so. In companies across virtually every industry, the non-desk worker is a large part of the employee population.

Yet, when it comes to internal communications, non-desk workers are often overlooked. It’s not because IC professionals don’t value those employees. It’s because it can be so dang hard to reach them.

It used to be worse.  A decade ago, it was very common for a company to completely dismiss the need to address the non-desk employee. When Tribe would begin an assignment by asking about the total employee population, we would often hear, “Oh, we’re just talking about the people at corporate. Don’t even worry about all those other employees on the manufacturing line/in the warehouse/out in the field.” Now, thank goodness, we’re seeing more and more companies acknowledge the importance of this audience.

Because the non-desk workers can have a tremendous impact on the customer experience. Whether the customer is an individual consumer or a business, they’re interacting with those non-desk workers — like the sales associates in your stores, the cashier at your drive-thru windows, or the guys in your delivery trucks.

Leave those employees out of the loop, and your brand promise can fall on its face. Because to a large extent, the brand experience is created by those employees who spend their days in front of the customer — not the computer.

A Great Family Vacation

A few weeks ago, we went on our annual vacation to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. This was our 13th year to be exact. For the second year in a row our kids talked us into letting them bring friends. Now it’s one thing if you have a couple of kids and they each bring a friend, but we have six kids, which meant bringing five friends. It was pretty comical, my husband and I and 11 kids. Keep in mind, six of them were over 18 and four were 14 so the kids were very self-sufficient. As we were loading up the three cars, several of our neighbors walked by. It was quite a spectacle and I know they thought we were crazy. For us it was no big deal. When you have triplets and twins and a Chinese daughter, you get stared at a lot. People are always trying to figure out what the story is. When you add five more kids including one Vietnamese and one Bolivian, it just makes it more interesting!

I have to say that this was probably our best vacation to Hilton Head ever. The house we rented was awesome! It was on a lagoon and had a large pool and hot tub. One night all 13 of us were in the hot tub! Too funny! The house had loads of windows with views of the lush grounds, pool and lagoon. There was a dock for fishing and there were lots of places to sit outside where the boys could play cards and hang their hammocks. Many nights we ate dinner outside or just relaxed and read a book. And the walk to the beach was only five minutes.

One advantage to having so many young adult kids around is all the games we can play! On the one rainy day, we had a Euchre tournament. Euchre is a card game that is most fun when you have several tables of four to play and you keep switching partners after so many rounds. You play for money and the person with the highest score at the end wins the pot. Having the prize made it much more fun and competitive! We also played poker and of course Kings, Queens and Peons. Don’t ask me about that last game, they always play it late at night with my husband. I am not a late-nighter and they like to stay up late to play.

We love the actual beach at Hilton Head. At low tide the beach is long, flat and compact which allows for lots of activities including running, biking, football, bocce ball, whiffle ball and skim boarding. I could walk along the beach for hours. The evening beach is awesome for picture taking sessions and the kids eat it up. We have hundreds of pictures and the kids are just beaming. No coaxing them to smile necessary. Our camera allows for action shots so we also take pictures of all the kids running, jumping and racing.

Meals can be a challenge. Actually dinners, because the rest of the time everyone is on their own. With so many teenagers there are too many different wake up times and schedules to all eat together, but I do make sure that we all eat dinner together, and most of the time we eat in. I really only make things that are easy. Lasagna made ahead of time, pasta and grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken. One of my sons and his friend always cook tacos one night. Finally, there is the ever-popular pizza. We carryout at least once or twice. We have one favorite lunch place we always go to: The Salty Dog Café. One of their seating areas is a dock with three tables on it that juts out into the water. We have always been fortunate enough with our group to get seated on this dock by ourselves. Another photo opportunity for sure!

I am sure people wonder how in the world my husband and I get a relaxing vacation out of all of this. I have to say; I think it’s much easier when the kids have their friends to keep them busy. My husband and I had a lot of “just the two of us” time for walking the beach, bike riding, etc. I also had plenty of time to just relax with a book by the pool or at the beach, to ride my bike or do whatever. I guess our vacation requirements are pretty simple.

My husband and I spend our life working and raising our kids. It’s all consuming and exhausting at times. We just want to get away from it all and have time to sleep, read or just sit and enjoy the beauty of the island. This vacation was all of that for us. The bonus is the joy of our kids and the laughter they and their friends provide. Happy kids and happy parents make for an awesome vacation.

Programs to Build Relationships in the Office

Relationships are what fuel society. As important as they are in your personal life, they are equally important in the workplace. Think about it: Many people spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their actual families. This makes it essential that you dedicate a certain amount of your company’s time and resources to help build relationships between the people that drive your business.

Start with cross training. Creating a program that teaches different individuals new roles will allow workers to get to know each other while growing the overall education and training of the team. If an employee moves on to another opportunity or is unable to work for a significant amount of time, then your company already has someone trained and familiar with the position that can take over at a moments notice. This person has already established relationships with the people in their new position which will allow for a smoother transition.

Don’t be afraid to light the competitive fires in your people. I mean this in a good way. Office contests such as March Madness brackets, fitness competitions and other events that cause water-cooler conversation allow employees to get to know each other on a different level. This helps them during their workday as they come together for specific projects. A previously established fondness and understanding by a fellow coworker allows for smoother working relationships that result in better job performance for both individuals.

Sometimes it might be best to take things outside of the office. It could be as simple as trivia night at a local watering hole or something that requires a bit more planning like a zip lining excursion. Both of these activities involve interactions between employees that allow them to get to know each other and build their relationships. These outside of the office activities, as well as the previous ones mention, end with a mutual respect and established friendship between coworkers. This helps a company meet its goals while also providing a solid R.O.I.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Software for Creating With Index Cards

I’m a huge fan of index cards for any creative project. And now Super Notecard, an inexpensive software I’ve just discovered, takes paper index cards to a whole new level. (For more on using paper index cards, please see “Brainstorming with Index Cards.“)

Paper index cards are great for brainstorming. You can scribble ideas with a Sharpie and then arrange them into categories or topics or strategic groups. It’s easy to change your mind and move them around or replace them with better ideas. The drawback of paper cards is that it’s difficult to move them from brainstorming to implementation.

You end up saying things like, “Nobody step on any of those index cards that are taking up the entire hallway.” Even with our giant bulletin boards at Tribe, there’s no easy way to transfer all that great thinking from its push pins to our computers. Sometimes we take an iPhoto of the arrangement or ask someone in the office to type them into a spreadsheet, neither of which really does the trick.

Mindola has solved that issue with Super Notecard. With their electronic index cards, you can arrange cards into decks, and then arrange those decks into other decks. You can link categories. You can enter information on Factors, which might be a person or a thing or a place related to the project. You can Flag certain cards. You can look at the project from a macro level, or drill down to the micro details.

You can even use Super Notecard to write that novel. or screenplay. In fact, that’s what the software seems to be designed to do. Screenwriters use the companion product, Super Notecard for Scriptwriting. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t perfect for any major project, from research to strategy. At $29, the software costs about the same as 10 packs of paper index cards.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: Transferring Parenting Skills to Business

Does parenting make you a better people manager? Shazi Visram’s recent post on Inc.com titled, “Being CEO Makes Me a Better Mother” makes a case for business skills transferring to parenthood. But those skills also transfer in the opposite direction.

Being a parent makes you a better manager at work. With children, you quickly learn that just telling them what to do doesn’t always get the results you had in mind.

Take, for instance, when we asked our son to start doing his own laundry. Months into that assignment, I somehow thought to ask if he was using laundry detergent. His reply: “Oh, do you have to?”

That definitely transfers to the office. Just because you assign someone a task or project, you can’t assume they know the steps you expect them to take to get there.

You also learn with kids that you have to allow for individual style. When I ask my son to take the recycling bin to the curb, I assume he’s going to just pick it up and walk it down the driveway.

His method is to duct tape the giant plastic bin to his motorized scooter. Different approach, same results. The recycling ends up at the curb, either way.

Even though many parents won’t admit to bribery, I find it an effective tool. When it was time for my son to be potty-trained, he happened to be in a major astronaut phase. I promised he could have a real NASA spacesuit (they sell kid-sized versions on their website) as soon as he was sporting underpants full-time. Results were almost immediate. Good thing I’d ordered the spacesuit in advance.

Bribery works for grownups too. Usually we call them Rewards, but same concept. Recently at Tribe, we had a competition between the creative department and the account management department to achieve a certain business goal. We announced that whichever team reached the goal first would win a free Friday off for everyone in that department.

Everybody knows that was a bribe. But what really matters, besides bragging rights for the winners, is knowing they’ve got that extra day of vacation coming.