HR

The Benefit of Flexibility by Christina Stewart

Praxis began because Drew and I wanted to be The Boss. We wanted to work for ourselves and have infinitely more flexibility.  I personally was frustrated with asking if I could have an afternoon or an hour away from the office to attend to something for my kids.  I have excellent time management ability and can focus easily, I know how to manage my time with my tasks and saw slipping away from work to watch an assembly or take a child to the dentist as easy and as just part of my day.  Funny, my boss didn’t see it that way. However, I never did ask if I could come in on a Saturday to get ahead of the workload – I just would and of course no one ever challenged me on it. It isn’t that they wouldn’t let me go – if I asked, then I could go – but it was just the fact that I had to ask and that it was tallied up and tracked, used as vacation, or I traded this time at work here for this time at home there and recorded on some spreadsheet and in some database.

As the one in charge of the service we offer now (aka The Boss) I weave what needs attending to at home and at work into my day and my schedule.  It’s the sunny Monday morning of a Long Weekend while I write this – but I was up at 5:30 so I might as well write this blog while the house is quiet and I have the time – right? And come Wednesday afternoon at 12:50 you’ll find me at the school walking my youngest child’s Kindergarten class to the pool for swimming lessons – because it’s important and fun – right? Still trading time but I’m most certainly not tracking it and I’m not asking if I can; I’m simply managing the pieces of my life and my work that matter.

I have a friend in Vancouver who runs his own business with about 20 employees and he doesn’t track lunch hours or what time they roll in each day – and I’ll tell you something crazy - he doesn’t even track vacation.  Not one little bit.  He sets out the expectations and provides plenty of support; guidance and the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. And then: he lets them get to it. If they need a Wednesday afternoon off to walk their kid to a swimming lesson, off they go, without question, without asking.  If they need two weeks in Hawaii, off they go without question, without asking. He hires skilled people with the ability to get the job done without his meddling and then makes sure they know what they are on deck to do.  Then they do it as they see fit, in the times that work best for them. He doesn’t track anything but their final performance and if they are getting the results he needs them to, they are successful.  End of the story.

As Drew and I stare down the barrel of making our first few hires, we’re most definitely thinking about flexibility for our team.  We refuse to make our employees choose between work and family – we aren’t retail, someone does not have to be minding the store in order to get the job done.  Also, as an HR company we fully understand that companies that are willing to offer more flexible job options find that their employees are happier and more committed to their jobs, or even that they get more work done.  So that’s a nice bonus, but in the end we’re offering flexibility because I will trust them and I have better things to do than track and trade my team’s work time with down time – and so will they.

 

My Unplanned Plan by Christina Stewart

It’s no secret that I’m a planner.  I’m organized and thoughtful about the future and I set goals regularly. So, of course, I take care to plan accordingly.  In my own business we have business plans from each year, strategic plans, marketing plans and goals written down on several whiteboards dotted around the office. I have to-do lists and to-day lists. I have lists for each kid (colour coded of course!) and lists for the house, for groceries, for our dogs and for my husband and me. I have notebooks filled with goals and plans and ideas stashed in each vehicle, each room of our office and home and I’m sure there are a few under couch cushions too.  I’m a big fan of planning.

I tell my clients that planning is a tool that serves both themselves and their businesses.  It is a path to follow that allows for the energy, resources and time of your business and your employees to be in alignment. A good plan will not only tell you where you are going but how you are going to get there.  This is a maxim that I live by in my work and in my entire life. This is what my clients pay us to do for them, and we do it very well.

And yet, we’re about to enter the spring of 2017 and I have no idea where Praxis is going this year.   Seriously. Even typing that sentence gives me chills.  But it’s true.  In November last year, my partner, Drew and I took off to Vegas for a few days to do some 2017 strategic planning.  Except, we were in Vegas and away from the kids and our regular life for the first time in years.  So, we slept and ate and didn’t do any planning.  Then around came December and January – our biggest and busiest months in the life of our business. Followed by a productive February, filled with sick kids, sick adults and playing catch up on all the stuff we didn’t get done in December and January.  You get the idea. Life is busy.  A good busy – a great busy, but still busy.

Week after week, I write down that our priority for that week is “strategy development.”  I write down “we need to define who needs us this year” and I write down “How are we going to let business who need us know we exist?” and I write down “how are we going to best help our clients reach their goals.”  And yet, here we are with no plan.  But here’s the fun part: That has become my plan.

Starting my own business has pushed me in ways I could never ever have foreseen.  I am challenged in a new way almost daily to be creative and put myself out into the world in interesting ways. This whole “no plan” has become part of this adventure for me.  I’m understanding what it’s like to live by an organic system. I’m learning to let the flow of my business dictate where I expend my energy.  It’s a fascinating, unique and developing feeling for me.  It makes me uncomfortable – but there is a huge part of me that is learning to live with discomfort and to actually flourish from what I discover while I am uncomfortable.

I’m not sure how long this departure from my normal will last for me – at the core of who I am, I am a planner and I know that will surface and win out again. Plus, I know that setting goals is actually a sound business practice, but for now, I’m going to let it ride and see where we end up.

Why I love Recruitment by Drew Stewart

I came by my interest in Recruitment organically. I was exposed to it through my job as a manager working for a well-established video game publisher. When I would tell people where I worked, the majority of the time I’d get a response such as:

“Oh wow, must be fun to play video games all day.” 

I wish! Now that would be a fantastic job! Unfortunately, when you got to the heart of what I did there, it was not much different then most companies. I spent most my time in spreadsheets, developing reports and managing external relationships with outsourced partners. However, there was one thing that I always looked forward to break up the monotony of a project cycle. That “thing” was recruiting. I took an active role in evaluating my teams and going through skill set inventory to see where we needed to supplement existing attributes. I particularly enjoyed interviewing and getting to know individuals on a bit more of a personal level. I came away from interviews feeling re-energized and infected with the enthusiasm that came from the candidates who wanted to work for this company and be a part of making a video game that they have personally enjoyed. The process gave me tremendous perspective, in two very different and conflicting ways.

1. Seeing people come into an interview and discuss at length about how a product you are a part of has influenced their life, is a very powerful thing. Now, I fully realized that we were not solving the worlds problems within those walls, we were providing entertainment for people. Nonetheless, what we made impacted individuals and motivated them to pursue a career in our industry. It made me feel proud and excited about the future to eventually have even more influence over decision that could make our products even more entertaining and fun. 

2. If I loved this one facet of my job so much, why am I not doing more of it?

 I like to simplify my life and the world around me, as much as possible. I find that getting into too many details can paralyze me into a state of inaction. Paralysis by analysis, if you will. So, when I weighed the two different pieces of perspective, one just seemed too simple to ignore. That question of why not do the thing I enjoy, was too simple to ignore and ultimately it is what gave me the motivation to leave a wonderful organization and enviable place to work.

So, what is it about Recruiting that pushed me to making it a bigger part of my professional life? In my simplified way at looking things, I came up with my top three things that I love about recruiting.    

 Research

I am a natural introvert. Thankfully, like a lot of introverts, I am a genuinely curious person. I love finding out the “why” or the “how” behind how things work or how people think. Through recruitment, I spend a lot of time researching best practices within different industries and searching for the individuals who have the skills that are desired by our clients. I get the time to work independently doing this, which feeds my natural introversion personality.

 Chance to be Extroverted

I wouldn’t be a well-rounded individual if all I did was seek out opportunities to stay in my introverted lane. Doing interviews and talking to candidates on the phone allows me to connect with people and flex my extroverted self. A misconception about introverts is that they appear aloof and disinterested in conversation at times. What I find, is that introverts can become extremely connected to people when getting to a deeper meaningful level. Not so good at small talk but we can build a relationship and stay connected as good as anyone else.  

 Impact someone in positive way

When one takes inventory of their life and lists out important milestones, they do not get very far down the list before thinking about a job they loved or hopefully getting the opportunity to work somewhere they always dreamed of. Giving good news to candidates that they secured such an opportunity if a definite highlight of my job. I help people get the job they want, which impacts their every day life. Being a small part of it is extremely satisfying.

 I have found that recruiting suits me. I have not regretted leaving that tech job, not for one minute. I feel like I have grown and learned a lot about a number of different industries and the people who drive them. I feel that I am helping to make an impact in a community where I grew up. I still don’t get to play games all day but when the opportunity arises, I do so as a fan and not a job.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias by Christina Stewart

I recruit for a living; I assess candidates and determine if they would be a good fit for an organization. I have reviewed 1,000’s of resumes and conducted 100’s and 100’s of interviews.  One particular interview stands out.  I was looking to fill a sales role in a “blue collar” manufacturing organization in Vancouver.  The client wanted competitive, motivated, and hungry sales people who would flourish with little to no supervision, direction or meddling. They had a large team of all men who were killing it and they needed to add one more self-directed person to the mix.  In my experience, some of the best people for roles like this have a background in competitive sports or are still athletes.  When a resume of an experienced sales professional landed in my applicant file with a lengthy list of hockey accomplishments on it, I was excited.  I emailed “Alex” right away and we made swift plans for an interview. 

So, if you’re familiar with what Unconscious Bias is (making snap decisions based on stereotypes) you can probably guess where this is going. When Alex walked into the interview I am certain I was visibly thrown. Alex was, of course, female. I tried to recover without comment and we carried on with the discussion.  Unconscious Bias at it’s finest.

There are a few factors that led to the Bias.  First within the role itself, the team was all men, my clients never outright said “Only men allowed” but the word “she” was never uttered when discussing the ideal candidate, it was a blue collar industry predominately made up of typical male things, and the role involved almost entirely interacting with men – bosses, peers and customers. Therefore deep in my mind, I was already looking for a man.  Then add to that Alex’s hockey history, I further thought male and of course her name, deep in my unconscious Alex must have equalled Alexander and not Alexandria. 

What is Unconscious Bias Anyway?

Essentially, it’s labels, both negative and positive, that exist in our subconscious and affect our behavior.  They aren’t just about men and women, but race, socio-economics, sexuality, weight, age and family status – you name it, it exists.  Some argue that the bias is so deep that it’s beyond our control.  But I disagree.  Let’s take my example above.  When that happened, I could have just moved on with my life and career but I choose to analyse what happened.  I learned and grew from the incident and therefore brought my unconscious bias surrounding all of those factors to the surface.  I use that incident to check myself and ensure that I’m not letting my brain make any quick decisions about roles or candidates.  It makes me a better recruiter and really, just a better person.

But like most of us – I still have a long way to go.  Most of us think we’re pretty good at being fair and that we assign job tasks, promotions, training and other advantages based on merit alone. But if that’s the case, why are there 100 men promoted into entry level leadership roles for every 30 women? (https://womenintheworkplace.com/) That’s the bad news, the good news is that we can start to train our brains to stop making these decisions based on our biases. 

Three Quick Tips to Uncovering Unconscious Bias

1.       Look Inward – What are some of the stories that make up your decisions?  Are they true and accurate or was there something else at play? 

2.       Speak Up – Call out someone on their bias at work (privately and respectfully of course) will help people see the decisions they are making for what they are.  Promoting open discussion at work is essential to exacting change.

3.       Focus on Skills – The number of women in orchestras has gone from 5% in the early 1970’s to 25% today.  This rise is largely due to applicants auditioning behind screens so the judges can’t ascertain gender; they can only ascertain how poorly or how well they play.  Are there any changes like this you can make in your workplace?

By paying attention to our own stereotypes, we can start to see people for who they really are and uncover what value and contribution they can make to our teams.

Are Personality Tests Valuable? By Christina Stewart

We think so.  But there is a catch… The Results Must Always Be Used For Good!  Let me explain…

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Personality tests, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI for those in the biz,) can give folks a super strong sense of who they are and why they behave the way they do. They can also give employers a strong sense of who the employee is, where they may naturally be adept and show the ways that someone may contribute to the team. The problem lies in taking the results at face value, and using those results as a basis for either hiring or not, because there is always more under the surface.  

A great example is with the MBTI.  I am an ISTJ – and I am an ISTJ – I like structure and order and I’m also incredibly reliable.  The risk comes in when, let’s say, an employer may be interested in hiring me to facilitate training. They may see the ISTJ, and assume that I’m too introverted to speak up and move on to another candidate who shows a stronger preference for extroversion.  But what you don’t know about me by only seeing the “I” or the Introvert in ISTJ, is that I actually love public speaking. I adore standing up in front of a group of people and sharing knowledge and having great conversations.  ISTJs can actually be extremely adept at delivering training sessions because they are always incredibly prepared and they’re also information junkies – both attributes would be positive assets to an employer’s training department.

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The lesson here is to use personality assessments to prove what you already and know about someone “Look there is an ISTJ – I knew she seemed like he would be reliable,” and to use it as a way to allow a person a vaster contribution once you do hire someone.  They can provide tremendous value for self-discovery, team building, coaching, enhancing communication, and numerous other developmental applications. But due to limited predictive validity (does this test show how an employer will perform in the future?), low test-retest reliability (will this person answer the test exactly the same each and every time?), lack of norming (can this test be held up against another person’s and show the truth?) and an internal consistency (lie detector) measure, etc., they are not ideal for use in hiring.

Employers with a role to fill who only look at a certain type of person take a big risk in missing out on someone who would be outstanding in a particular role.  Personality Tests can be very valuable when used for good – to build people up, but not to exclude potential employees from their workforce.  They may just miss out on a shining star.

Onboarding is Essential - By Christina Stewart

You have spent time, energy, money and other resources finding the right person to fill your vacancy; the last situation you want is for that new team member to leave your firm early and have all those resources go to waste.  Plus you’d be stuck doing it all over again.  But how do you bridge the gap between recruitment and retention?  Onboarding.

Make your new employee feel welcome, wanted and engaged before the first day.  Often there is a lag between signing the offer letter and the first day of employment, so a week before the start date call your new team member and say how much you are looking forward to having them onboard.   If it is an executive position call again on the afternoon of the day before they start.  This will warm any cold feet and calm any nerves.

It is imperative that when the new hire arrives on day one that they have a work space completely set up, everything from a computer with a working e-mail, e-mail signature, and any other necessary programs to pens, notebooks and business cards printed and sitting on their desk.  Plan in advance what the orientation and initial training will look like.  Know exactly who is teaching what and when.  Show a commitment to having prepped for them and they will feel important and valued from the start, thus increasing their chance of making it through the critical first three months.

One idea is to have new employees start on a Friday – this gives them the weekend to process the new environment and then they can hit the ground running on Monday.  The Friday is essentially a meet and greet anyway.  Make sure your entire team knows they are starting – send out an announcement e-mail with a brief overview of the new hire’s background and always set up their name in the phone system and on the phone directory.

The key to effective onboarding is to always appear organized and to always appear enthusiastic.  Make a commitment to your new team member before they even start and you’ll be rewarded with a team member that makes a speedy commitment to you.

 

 

 

 

Team Building with Purpose (part 5 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True Team Building with Purpose has both intention and determination.

In the final entry of our five part series we explain team building through problem solving.  In Part 2: Team Building through Personality Assessment, we talked about how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) uses the differences in employee’s preferences to launch a conversation about how to move forward as a team.  In Part 3: Activity Based Team Building and Part 4: Skills-Based Team Building we spoke about how learning can be overt or covert – but both ways can have positive impacts on the team development. In our final installment we’ll discuss tackling a problem head-on.

Team Building through Problem-Solving

This type of team building activity usually takes place in a retreat setting far away from the regular work environment and is led by an outside facilitator; well versed in mediation and conflict reduction and who must be an impartial third party. In problem-solving-based team building, team members come together to first identify and to second solve a key challenge the group is currently facing.  Problem-solving-based team building is a brainstorming experience that brings to light the team’s barriers to success. Once the symptoms have been elicited, the team goes on to examine possible causes, until they reach the root cause of the problem. At this stage, team members are able to develop a concrete action plan to solve the challenge.

This team building approach has great benefits in term of stress relief and positive emotions towards the work environment. Problem-solving-based team building is an outlet for frustrations and a step forward to action. The team building helps the group move beyond inertia, stay motivated and take control over its own destiny. 

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True team building is certainly fun but also has both intention and determination – Team Building has Purpose!

Team Building with Purpose (Part 4 of 5) by Christina Stewart

In Part four of our five part series we walk through Skills Based team building.  In Part 1 we learned that Team Building has Purpose and that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction.

While Activity Based Team Building is an indirect way of teaching specific skills while brings employees together, skills-based team building means direct learning.

Skills-Based Team Building

In skills-based team building, team members participate in workshops where they learn and practice a specific skill set, such as:

·         Conflict resolution or management

·         Reaching group consensus

·         Give/receive constructive feedback

·         Types of Power, Control and Influence

·         Shifting Perspective

·         Effective Communication

This type of team building focuses on skills that can be applied immediately to the work environment. Human Resource Managers may likewise use this team building approach to develop the leadership potential of members.

Skills Based Team Building is a superb option for developing your employees both for your organization and for themselves.

Next Entry: Team Building through Problem-Solving

Team Building with Purpose (part 3 of 5) by Christina Stewart

We know from reading in part one and part two Team Building with Purpose that team building is a lot more than a frivolous experience; team building is not just a socializing event, team building isn’t just a way to get out of the office for the afternoon. Many people think of team building as fun and games, risk taking adventures, or merely play time. Although there’s more to team building than just that, team building can actually be a ton of fun!

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction. 

In Part three of our five part series we walk through activity based team building.  Often, when people think of team building, this is the kind of session they think of.

Activity-Based Team Building:

Activity-based team building is used to provide teams with challenging tasks that often take place in the outdoors:

·         Ropes Course

·         Rafting

·         Mountain Climbing

·         Orienteering

·         Kayaking

·         Survival Events

·         Boot Camp

But there are lots of indoor activities too:

·         Iron Chef Competitions

·         Trivia Battles

·         Scavenger Hunts

·         Video Game Competitions

These kind of activities address specific development needs of teams such as problem solving, risk-taking, trust-building and paradigm breaking.  The idea is not just to have fun together, bond well and learn new skills, but to actually understand how these teamwork lessons can be applied to a work situation. The experience of success in an outdoor challenge can be a great booster for the team’s morale and productivity in the workplace.   

Team Building through Activity can be a tremendous opportunity to bring employees together, see colleagues in a different light and get people working together. Next Entry: Skill Based Team Building

Team Building with a Purpose (Part 2 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team Building through Personality Assessment – Part 2 of 5

We learned in part one Team Building with Purpose that team building is one of the best investments that an organization can make, but what are some of the options?  What can a company actually do with their team?   In Part two of our five part series we walk through one of those options: Team Building by Personality Assessment. 

Team Building through Personality Assessment:

In personality-based team building, individuals fill out a psychometric test – MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), for example – where they can learn more about their own personalities and those of their teammates as well. The results of the self-assessment are shared with the team and used as a tool for communication and understanding. Personality-based team building is an effective development tool which helps team members gain better self-understanding, become aware of the differences between each other and adjust their behavior to match their teammates’. Different individuals have different motivational needs and different reactions to work situations, stress or change. This can lead people to misinterpret each other’s intentions and actions. Understanding and accepting individual differences will greatly enhance conflict resolution, collaboration and team effectiveness. 

What You Can Expect After a Session – After completion of the MBTI organizations report that they experience:

Improved Communication: A greater understanding of the preferences of others leads to more open and collaborative dialogue throughout teams, between leadership and employees as well as across separate teams of employees.

Improved Team Performance: The insight gained into the preferences of those around you can aid in decision making, training, project management and other workplace initiatives. Also, by understanding the sources of stress for your colleagues team members are better able to aid and avoid pitfalls.

Conflict Resolution: With increased communication and understanding of differences comes a reduction in the nature and severity of usual conflicts within a work environment.  Employees become better at being empathetic colleagues.

Selecting Better Employees and Increased Building of Effective teams: If you understand the underlying dynamics of your teams it becomes easier to hire the right fit as well as to put your teams together.

Team Building through Personality Assessment can be a fabulous way to bring employees together and keep those connections going long after the session ends.

Next Entry: Activity Based Team Building

Team Building with Purpose (part 1 of 5) by Christina Stewart

The words “team building” are bandied about in business and industry – but what does it actually mean?

We know that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.  We also know the opposite to be true. A team with issues, conflicts or uncertainties, will plod along with success as a far off concept.

Whether in athletics, business, education, government, or a group of people trying to plan a birthday party, things are done smoother and with greater success when people work together towards a common goal. The more effective they are at working as a team, the more fruitful the task they set out to accomplish and additionally, as an added bonus, the greater each team members’ sense of satisfaction.  Provided team members can communicate freely and share confidence in each other’s abilities and judgment, working in a team is the way to go.  Team building is a way to boost confidence in colleagues and ensure that free communication flows. 

Coming together as a group may come naturally for some people, but positive intentions are not enough to turn a group into a team – and a successful, high-performing team at that. HR Leaders know that exceptional teams are built not born. Teams need building and team building is one of the best investments an organization can make. Team building is about creating connections and bringing out the cooperative intellect within the team.

Team Building is an Intervention that:

Solves – Task/Problems

Clarifies – Rules

Solves – Interpersonal Challenges

Enhances – Social Relations

All of which affect team functioning

So, then what is an “Intervention???”

There are four kinds:

·         Team Building through Personality Assessment 

·         Activity-based team building

·         Skills-based team building

·         Team building through problem-solving

Check back soon where we’ll go through each in detail. Next Entry: Team Building through Personality Assessment

Why Praxis? by Drew Stewart

Not unlike many people I know, I didn’t have a professional career path picked out for myself that enabled me to seamlessly transition through High School, Post Secondary and right into the workforce.  My best laid plan was to roll out of bed one day, and magically throw a baseball 100 mph.  Scouts would clamour to sign me and the lineup of teams looking for a lefty flamethrower would rival the headcount for the first McDonalds cheeseburger in Moscow’s Red Square.  Alas, that magic never came. 

I struggled finding something that clicked. Something I could identify as a passion or pursuant interest that would potentially last a lifetime.  Like anyone else without a plan, I tried a wide variety of different things but nothing really stuck. It wasn’t until I started working within the software field, for a video game publisher, that something really clicked for me. Now I know it might seem obvious on the surface, ‘’Young male enjoys working for a video game studio’’ but it was much deeper than that for me. Truth be told, I am not a real avid video game player or enthusiast, only playing casually and sticking to the sports simulation genre. However, what I really loved about working there, was being part of a team.  Being part of a team was tapping into those long held dreams of being an athlete. In fact ‘’ex-athlete” (pick a sport) was a very common part of someone’s CV at the studio.  This wasn’t by accident I’m sure. There is something about the late nights, long days and tight deadlines with members of the same team that creates camaraderie, not unlike a professional locker room. The “we’re are all in this together” mentality. 

At the end of any given project it was always amazing to look back at where we started and how it looked at the end. It made me realize the power of people. In my time there, thankfully there were very few projects that were abysmal failures. It was much more common to come out of the process viewing it as a success.  What I came to learn was that there was a common thread that helped distinguish what made a project successful and want didn’t.  Team Composition.  I found it fascinating with the technology and tools that we had at our disposal, the human element was really the factor that could make or break whether we were successful or not. It was also interesting to see individuals who were utter superstars on one project, struggle on another with a different team. They were after all the same person with the same attributes right? 

It is my interest in human interaction and the power of team that evolved into the formation of PraxisPerformance Group.  We want to open up eyes that your own success can be as simple as optimizing the people that are already onboard with you. Not to mention, opening the eyes of the individuals who work within your company into realizing that varying styles and preferences can become your greatest strength as a team.  

The magic that could have made me part of a World Series Champion never came for me but it’s absence made me able to contribute to making a number of teams stronger.   

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” 
― Phil Jackson

Ditch the “Trust Fall” and Just Follow Through

Have you ever been depended on for the immediate well being of someone standing directly in front of you?  Have you ever been armed with the knowledge that you are tasked with keeping that person from feeling immediate pain and embarrassment? Knowing that failure to do so will not only result in excruciating pain for the individual but also damage any relationship you might have had with that person, at least for the time being?  Sounds like the description could apply to something life altering and dangerous. However, in this case I am more trying to paint a symbolic picture that is representative of an age old team building trust exercise.  That technique is called the “Trust Fall.” 

For the uninitiated, a Trust Fall is a trust-building game often setup within a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on another team member to catch the person. As one of 4 siblings we used to do it for fun; to feel the rush of not knowing if (or when) someone was going to catch you.  Of course with family members or close friends, it isn’t long until someone finds it kind of funny to just let the unsuspecting person meet the floor with a thud.  Now the real question is, does it actually develop trust and is it a valuable tool to use in your team building? While there is no scientific evidence that it fosters any elements of trust, it can be used as a metaphor or ice breaking exercise.  So what does help build trust within a team?  The answer is simple; Accountability and Follow Through.

As the saying goes, ‘’trust isn’t given, it is earned.’’ So first we need to allow our fellow team members the opportunity to gain that trust.  As Ernest Hemmingway famously said, ‘’the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’’ This is surprisingly difficult for some people. I think we have all worked for or with someone who is considered a micromanager, needing to be involved in everything.  How did that make you feel? For most of us, we feel frustrated, angry and wondering why they can’t just trust us to do our job. Given the opportunity to deliver results, we become motivated to do a good job and not let our team down. Delivering on the results and following through on our commitments, deadlines or deliverables is what builds trust within the team.   It is the commitment we make to one another and following through on those commitments, that really builds trust within a team. 

While I appreciate the symbolism of the Trust Fall and the little anticipatory adrenaline rush it gives, I’d rather put my faith into the hands of a team member who follows through and does exactly what they say they will.

‘’Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’’  - Vince Lombardi

Motivation and Retention Rate

New ways to motivate your team will likely have crossed your mind at one time or another. What are some of the ideas you’ve come up with?  Money might have landed in your top three.  You may also have considered the team itself that your employee works with or perhaps you’ve thought of looking at location or possibly culture.  If this is true of you, to put it bluntly, you’re wrong.  Factors such as salary, working conditions, interpersonal relationships with colleagues, fairness and friendliness of the supervisor and company policy do little to motivate the average employee.  But they are still very important.  If your employee views any of these as negative or lacking then dissatisfaction will soon follow and this dovetails directly with your retention rate. 

While related, there is a huge difference between motivation and retention.  Imagine this scenario; your top Account Manager, Taylor, feels that your company doesn’t meet the desired work/life balance.  She regularly comes in early in order to catch necessary clients on the East Coast but is still then required to stay until the usual quitting time.  Due to the fact that she is not authorized to leave ‘early’ she’s continually missing her son’s soccer games.  This is the sort of reason why employees move on, which of course impacts turnover rate.   What if you adjusted the work hours in such a way that Taylor could continue to meet the demands of her role and her life? It’s likely that Taylor would feel positively about her working conditions.  In this scenario Taylor’s not likely to move on and therefore the retention rate has increased.  However, since Taylor would view this optimistic work/life balance as the way it should have been all along, this adjustment would most likely have little impact on her motivation. 

To keep your retention higher you will want to look at those factors that aren’t related to the job content, but are related to the job environment (these are listed in the first paragraph.)  If these aspects are absent a dissatisfied workforce is a possibility, which leads to an increase in turnover, and turnover really means higher operating costs for lost production time, recruitment and training.  So before you push for motivation from a team, take a long hard look at the environmental job factors and make sure they are encouraging. 

Motivation comes from the content of the job which has a direct impact on satisfaction.  If someone enjoys what they do and the inherent facets of the job itself, that employee is going to become better at it and more interested in growing with the role.  This improvement equals an increase in production and an increase in production is truly what is desired when speaking about motivating a team. 

So, what are the magical job features that will increase motivation?  In short, the top five are: the work itself; a sense of achievement, earned recognition, the importance of responsibility and the opportunities for growth and advancement.  Besides the job tasks, these all boil down to a team member feeling valued.  So, if you haven’t told your team lately that you appreciate them you might want to simply say “Thank you.” 

Misconceptions in Communicating with Introverts

Working within a team can be a fun and rewarding experience. There is something exciting about coming together as a group and delivering the highest performance possible, while utilizing the skills of everyone involved. With that being said, I have been fortunate enough to work together with a variety of fabulous people and on great teams. However, there have also been teams where it was a constant struggle. I would fantasize about days being ripped off a calendar counting down towards the deadline so we could go just all go our separate ways.  Invariably, at the root of the issues of these dreary and underperforming teams is the ineffective way that we communicated with one another. 

When there is a lack of communication on a team, we tend to fall back on assumptions or completely rely on our own instincts when making decisions. These judgements completely dismiss the advantages of teamwork altogether.  Teams are generally made up of a variety of individuals who bring with them varied experiences, personalities and ideas. Getting input and leveraging all that knowledge would seem to be of great value, keeping in mind the old saying of ‘’Two heads are better than one.’’   Assumptions and misconceptions, in place of simple communication, can be especially dangerous when it comes to decision making. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theorizes, in part, that people have preferences in behavior with how they like to operate within their ‘’Favorite World.’’  Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Introversion and Extraversion. These are fairly common words that I believe most people have the understanding on what they generally mean. But how do they help in communicating with one another? And what assumptions do we have about Introverts or Extraverts that get in the way of harmonious team?

Introverts typically like to live in a world where they can think things through thoroughly before making their thoughts public. They tend to be more introspective and do all the refining of their ideas internally. When the idea is presented to the group, it is usually very polished and close to what they feel is a final version.  Where a negative assumption comes into play is the misconception that Introverted personalities are too quiet and not offering anything up in a team meeting or brainstorming session. In reality, they have great ideas but they just have not had the chance to be refined. They are not generally comfortable in throwing those ideas out as an Extravert is. Ever been part of a brainstorming session and wonder why a handful of people are very quiet and don’t seem to be offering anything up? Chances are, they are an Introvert. Again, the misconception is that they have no ideas and sometimes leads one to think they are not valuable and maybe are not simply smart enough to contribute.  In our human nature when we feel someone isn’t contributing, we tend to cut them out of any future thought processes or team decisions because clearly they are not invested in what we are doing. This is not reality.  What would work best would be recognizing someone who might be more introverted and allowing them the time to go back from a meeting and give their thoughts after they have had time to think about it.  Brain storming sessions are a great way to get everyone involved but keep them open ended and allow people to still input after the meeting is over.