Speed Humps Have Got Me in the Dumps

Yesterday our office building management sent out an email to the tenants non-chalantly mentioning in the body of the letter that they are adding speed control devices to the parking deck.

This is the worst possible thing to happen to our building since they removed the fountain. I admit I wasn’t working here while the fountain was flowing, however I can only imagine the enjoyment it brought to the lives of all who came to work.

Speed humps or speed bumps are going to ruin everything good about driving to work. I’m really bummed they are going to be installed. Here’s why:

  1. They wreck your car. Unless you have a big truck. But if you do you can’t fit in the deck so it only affects people with cars.
  2. They are noisy.
  3. Their vibrations damage surrounding structures and foundations.
  4. They don’t really help stop bad drivers.
  5. They cause unnecessary and additional stress. (As if work isn’t stressful enough sometimes!)

I think we should petition to limit the number of humps and bumps they install.

In front of the mechanical arms at the gate makes sense, since so many people seem to drive into them and break them off. Alternatively, raising the gates during arrival and departure times could solve the problem just as easily.

Adding a mirror to show approaching traffic from opposing levels would also help to avoid near misses with other exiting vehicles as well.

Or a sign that says slow down.

Boo. Hiss. Grrr. I say to speed control devices.

What do you think?

Creating Brand Ambassadors from Alums

Current and former employees are your strongest brand ambassadors. When someone is considering using a product or service from a potential company, a reference from a current employee – or more importantly, a past employee – speaks volumes. There is an opportunity to ensure that alumni from your company will be strong ambassadors for your brand.

During the departure process, treat employees with respect and kindness. There is an ethical and kind way to terminate an employee that will help ensure the alum thinks well of your brand.  Train your managers on the best way to terminate employees.  Tribe’s position is you are not rejecting the person, just their performance on that particular job.  There is likely another job out there where that person would excel.

Offer assistances in finding future employment. If possible offer to provide a letter of recommendation, review of their resume or a LinkedIn recommendation.  This will show the employee that you care about their future and them as a person.

By treating departing employees with respect and helping them find a good career fit, you will leave a positive lasting impression and will help make them a brand ambassador.

Do you have other thoughts on how to make departing employees brand ambassadors?We would love to hear from you!

How to Measure Engagement

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know the secret of employee engagement is out. Engaged employees are happier in their roles, feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves and work harder to make a positive impact on their company’s bottom line.

But how do you know if the actions you’re taking to engage employees are actually working? These programs and campaigns can sometimes require a significant investment. Are you getting the most for your money? There are many different ways to let you know if your workforce is fully engaged. Taking the time to review a few numbers will provide you with a clear picture of the engagement levels in your company.

The actual methods to use when measuring employee engagement are not difficult to put into practice. You can start by taking a look at the attendance levels during events. How many employees in your office are signing up for the lunch and learn programs? Do the seats at a managers’ roundtable discussion fill up fast? Or is it two people staring across the table at each other over donuts and coffee?

This leads us to participation levels. The point of these discussions, online forums or any other activities that require people to get involved is for them to actually be involved. A room full of chirping crickets doesn’t help raise employee performance levels or contribute to the company’s bottom line. However, if employees are sharing ideas and discussing better ways of accomplishing goals, it shows people are engaged with the process and eager to meet their milestones.

Measuring employee engagement online is easier than you might think. Most websites and email programs provide analytics that tell you how many people are looking at a particular page on a site or the clickthrough rate of an email. This doesn’t necessarily give you a sneak peak into what people are thinking, but it does show how many people are interested in what’s happening with the company.

Sometimes you need to come up with your own way to measure the success of your engagement initiatives. Sometimes unique programs require unique ways to measure them. The good news about all of these measurement methods is that when the numbers are positive, you know your employees have a good attitude about working, and that more than anything helps a company meet its goals.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Monday Zen: When a Home Office Means You’re Never At Home

Now I remember what I like about working at home. And what I don’t. Thanks to poor coordination or faulty vision or who knows what, I’ve split my kneecap open to the bone twice in the last month, which means I’ve gained lots of firsthand experience of the ER — and of the mobility restrictions that come with stitches and staples. So I’ve been working at home for long stretches.

It’s great to be able to sit down at the computer when I first wake up, while my brain is early-morning fresh and that first cup of coffee is coursing through my veins. A shower can wait an hour or two, because before I know it, I’ve knocked out some big project that would have taken me much longer at the office, with the usual interruptions (not unwelcome, but distracting).

It’s also lovely to work with the windows and backdoor open to the beautiful almost-Fall days we’ve been having. I can take a phone call outside by the turtle pond or take a break to chuck tennis balls for the dog. Mid-afternoon, I can look up and see our son walking home from school, trudging along through the backyard with that 100-pound backpack of books.

But when I’m in the office, I eventually leave the office. I come home, and I’m home. Off duty. Available to my family. Switching my attention to personal projects, or even just sitting down with a magazine.

At home, the workday has no end. Instead, it’s somewhat elastic, and I find myself stretching it later and later. While my husband is outside with a glass of wine waiting for me to come join him for cocktail hour, I’m finishing up something I’m writing, responding to email, piddling around with work stuff.

Even now, I’m late for date night. He’s home from the office, has had his workout, wants to know what the plan is, where are we going, what are we doing. And I’m pleading for another 15 minutes to finish a blog post.

I’m a big believer in maintaining work-life balance. Which means I’ve got to get back in the office, before I completely burn out working at home.

Football in the South

It must be said that I love being from the South. There are so many things I love about living here. Besides the obvious perfect weather, beautiful landscapes and great shopping, one of my favorite things about Georgia is the football.

The statement above has some irony to it considering football is a recent interest of mine. It was not by choice that this came to be. If anyone lives or has lived in Georgia, you know that Georgia football is a part of the culture. It took years of pouting and resistance until I visited some friends in Athens and my life was changed forever. The excitement and energy was contagious and I was an instant fan – there was no turning back.

Now that I am a loyal Georgia fan, I can’t get enough. I watch every game and attend every game I can get tickets to. There’s nothing better than getting a group of friends, driving down to Athens and setting up a tailgate. You can smell the camaraderie in the air as you walk the streets and are enveloped in a sea of red and black and people yelling “Go Dawgs!”

Every season brings new hope. As we embark on what looks like a successful football season, I’ve never been more proud to call myself a Georgia football fan. I look forward to what the Dawgs will bring to the table this year, and will hopefully earn bragging rights around the office!

Go Dawgs!

What team do you root for?

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Does Your Company Value the Leadership of Introverts?

Must great leaders be gregarious? Because whatever happens in this presidential election, we’ll have an introvert in the White House, notes Susan Cain* in a recent New York Times article.

Here’s another question: Does your company promote leadership primarily in extroverts? Without any conscious decision to do so, many many company cultures emphasize leadership development in those who fit the popular image of a leader. As Cain puts it, our culture tends to “prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say.”

Perhaps unintentionally, many company cultures emphasize leadership development in those who fit the popular image of a leader. By doing so, companies are depriving their management ranks of the many innate leadership qualities typical of introverts — like vision and sound judgement and stiff backbones.

We also might train managers to better understand the true differences in extroverts and introverts. One critic of President Obama, John Heilemann, said, “I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert.”

As Cain points out, his understanding of the word introvert is incorrect. As she writes, “Introverts like people just as much as introverts do, and often care deeply about them. They just don’t want to be surrounded by crowds 24/7.”

Interestingly, many  of this country’s most successful companies happen to be led by introverts. Jim Collins found many chief executives in the best-performing companies he studied to be known “primarily by their fierce will and dedication — and were often described with words like ‘reserved’ and ‘understated.'”

Can your culture become the sort of place introverts are valued as leaders?  Of course. Not so long ago it seemed radical to emphasize and nurture the sometimes different leadership qualities of women.

Placing value on leadership qualities more typical of introverts can start any number of places in the company culture. Some logical points to begin would be the company values and internal branding or your training and development programs. For help with any of the above, call Tribe.

*Cain is the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

Setting Up Measurement Programs

Every great internal program needs to be able to prove how great it really is. This means a measurement program that provides real numbers or feedback that takes leadership into the minds of their workforce. To create the best possible work environment for employees, company leaders need to have a clear vision of how their workers feel about the company.

Start at the start. To help show an increase in engagement levels by your workforce — as well as the accomplishments of your communication programs — it’s great to have numbers you can compare with each other. To do this, start gathering your information prior to the launch of your campaign so weeks, months or years down the road when you re-solicit employees for information, you can compare the two (or more) scores and see where opportunities for improvement exist.

So what measurement methods can you use to gather data from your programs? You can start by creating and sending out surveys to your workforce. This can be done over email or by simply making a few copies and passing them out with clipboards and pens. Providing multiple choice answers will provide straight percentages, but including a couple of written responses will allow you to see directly into the thought processes of your employees and how they interpret their work environment.

Once your programs conclude or reach a significant milestone, reach out to employees again. More than anything else, you’re looking for positive behavior changes in your workforce that help enhance your bottom line. Feedback from workers will highlight how engagement programs have influenced them and the final result will be employees with a higher level of contentment within their roles and a strong dedication to the company they work for.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

“We are in a gravitational pull toward multi-tasking”

“And we must fight it like the dickens,” says Julie Morgenstern, New York Times bestselling author of “Time Management from the Inside Out.

The idea of doing one thing at a time, of slowing down to focus solely on the task at hand, is anathema to many today. We fool ourselves into believing that  by doing more at once we can get more done. At the same time, our work is less enjoyable, because we feel distracted and scattered instead of enjoying the flow of relaxed productivity.

Steve Leveen of Levenger concurs, saying in a recent blog, “Multi-tasking offers a fool’s-gold way to cram more life into life.” As an antidote to multitasking, Levenger now offers Morgenstern’s Balanced Life time calendars and planning pages.

Any lover of office products or paper planning systems will appreciate the multiple features of this appealing system. Built on Levenger’s well-loved Circa format of notebooks, it’s fresh green color is said to be energizing and soothing. Brain research supports the color’s aid to good decision making. The system helps you batch types of tasks by collecting phone calls that need to be made in one place and things that need to be done in another. It offers a Time Map — just the name of that makes me want to start filling it out — and Do Every cards to transfer recurring tasks forward.

There’s something about mapping life out on paper that can’t be replicated on computer. I’ve been a fan of paper planning systems since I started using the Franklin Planner in 1990, years before the company became Franklin-Covey. I remember an early morning flight from Tampa to Chicago where I scored a first class seat, plus had time to pick up Starbucks before boarding. I spent an enjoyable several hours setting up my new Franklin Planner, complete with weekly goals in each of my seven areas of priority in my life. I’m a big believer in the productivity possible on flights, but that was one of my most productive ever.

The Franklin Planner worked well for me for more than a decade. In the years since, I’ve cobbled together several paper systems into one that works for me, and my system continues to evolve. The Balanced Life calendars might be the next step in that evolution.

For more on Morgenstern’s approach, see Steve Leveen’s blog post sharing an interview with her. Or just jump right in and order the whole Balanced Life system, including autographed copies of Morgenstern’s book, at levenger.com


It’s Camping Weather!

There’s something about sitting under a sky full of stars and being mesmerized by a roaring campfire that soothes the soul. Or maybe it’s the gooey delicious s’more that melts all over my hands that’s soothing. Either way, I love camping. My family went camping every summer growing up. My parents were big on seeing the country and we never went to the same place twice. Nor did we just arrive at our destination and stay for the two weeks.

At the time, I just wanted to stay at the beach like the rest of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I loved camping. It was the constant taking down the tents, resetting up the tents, and repacking the car that I dreaded. I don’t know why my mom agreed to it, but I’m happy she did. I’ve been to every continental state (except for Utah) and some really cool and gorgeous places in Canada — like Montreal.

We would go to national parks and monuments, but also do things like riding bikes down from the top of Pikes Peak or Alpine slide in Colorado. If you want to see some American pride go to a rodeo in Wyoming on the Fourth of July — also great for people watching.

My mom also has a thing for the “World’s…” anything, really. I have a picture next to the country’s biggest nickel and the world’s largest barbershop pole. If it was the biggest, smallest or weirdest, we were driving — sometimes out of our way — to go see it.  When my friend and I were driving through Illinois and I saw signs for Metropolis, home of Superman, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I needed my picture with his statue.

So as I started gathering my camping equipment to go up to Asheville, NC this weekend, I look forward to adding to my camping memories. I guess sooner or later we all turn into our parents. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

Tips for Developing an Engaging Conference

Lots of thought and energy goes into planning and hosting a conference. Here are a few tips to help you create an amazing experience for your next event.

Plan ahead.
Launch a pre-event campaign to get the word out and the buzz going. Consider printing invites, signage, email updates or videos to build anticipation for the event. Reserve your space and your catering ahead of time.

Set the mood.
Nothing is worse than overhead fluorescent lighting and bad sound quality. You don’t have to put on a production like a show in Vegas, but you should consider setting the mood with lighting, energetic music and clear, crisp audio. Hire professionals and let them help you wow your crowd.

Get your audience involved.
Today’s tech-savvy audiences want to feel connected. It’s not enough to stand and talk to the room for long periods of time with no breaks and no audience participation with the exception of the old Q&A session at the end.  Try a new approach at your next conference.

Use social media to connect your speakers directly with the audience.
Today’s smart phone users are just that. SMART. Why not use this to your benefit and gain instant audience feedback from the room? Have an additional monitor to display live texts, posts or tweets to accompany your presentation. Consider live video conferencing or online survey software as well to help you truly connect.

Keep it short, keep it moving.
Try having shorter breakout sessions with more guest speakers to keep the momentum of the day rolling. Allow more time for interaction and networking. Incorporate some fun too. Try a game show approach or scavenger hunt to liven things up. No one wants to sit in the same place for hours on end. Group interaction and mingling will make for a better, more memorable event.

These are just a few tips for developing a fantastic and engaging conference. And of course, we would love to help you plan your next big event.