Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Good Leaders Use Employee Engagement when Team Needs to Reengage

By Michelle Riklan

Employee Engagement Team Needs to ReengageEmployee engagement has been a hot topic among leadership circles over the last few years. It’s estimated that employee disengagement costs the U.S. more than $450 billion each year according to a Gallup poll. More than just monetary costs, disengaged employees can also negatively affect company culture and can drag otherwise engaged employees down with them. Employees are likely to share a bad experience with ten or more people, but will share a good experience with just three – meaning that disengaged employees who don’t care about your company or their work could be poisoning your company’s reputation.

Employee Engagement when a Team Needs to Reengage

But surprisingly, team disengagement isn’t always easy to spot. Below are four ways you can tell if it’s time to get your team re-engaged through team building events, frank conversations, or other methods of re-engagement.

1. Sometimes, stress in your office can be physically palpable, and is often manifested in teams complaining, putting longer hours in at the office than usual, or expected barriers that arise with clients or products. A healthy amount of stress and urgency about tasks can be good, but its long-term effects can be disastrous.

80 percent of Americans are stressed at work – but just because most teams are stressed out doesn’t mean that this should be the accepted status quo. Stress can disrupt brain cells and actually impair memory. If you’re seeing signs that your team is stressed out, it’s time to take action.

2. A lack of communication is a surefire sign that teams are disengaged. Teams that are collaborative, asking questions, and offering up suggestions for company or process improvement show that they are excited about the work at hand.

Conversely, teams that are glued to their desks, aren’t asking questions, and don’t offer to help or support their fellow team members are showing telltale signs that it’s time to help them re-engage.

3. Consistent cynicism and complaining are other signs of disengaged teams. The occasional complaint, venting session, or tough day is to be expected – and is probably even healthy. Your employees coming to you with a sporadic concern is a sign that they trust you to turn a listening ear.

But when complaints are offered on a more on-going basis about the same situations, and are given without offering any solutions or a drive to want to make something better, this is a more serious issue.

4. Disengaged employees are order-takers instead of proactive. Teams that are usually doing the bare minimum, don’t explore different avenues or ways of doing things, or are showing signs of just plain laziness are good signs that it’s time to get them engaged again.

These employees are detrimental to the rest of your team and the company as a whole. It’s best to act swiftly instead of sitting back and letting the consequences get worse.

Employee engagement is a real issue in the workplace that is better faced head-on than swept under the rug. Conversations about decreased productivity or performance with your team can be uncomfortable, but they are always necessary when these circumstances arise. To ensure your company’s success, look for these telltale signs of disengaged teams, and take action.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

Build a Culture of Trust and Rapport with Your Team

Looking for a quick way to build a culture of trust and rapport with your team? Over a decade ago, I wrote a book called 28 to Influence People as a simple how-to book in building a team culture and improving leadership skills. Interestingly, since I wrote that book, my company, The Leader’s Institute, LLC has become one of the fastest growing and largest team building companies in the world. These principles from the 28 Ways book are time-tested. As a result, they work 100% of the time. However, groups sometimes have confusion between “shared experience” team building event and “behavior change” team building activities.

For instance, sometimes, groups just want to do a fun activity as a group and feel good about the camaraderie that was built in the experience (shared experience). Other times, teams may be experiencing team challenges, or the team may be doing well, but still want to improve communication and teamwork (behavior change). Sometimes, groups want a combination of both.

That is one of the reason why our team building events are so popular. Our instructors mix real behavior changing activities with a fun shared experience. For instance, the first seven chapters in the 28 Ways book are seven ways to build a culture of trust with your team. They are also essential keys to building a team culture. So, in fun activities like a Build-A-Bike ® team building event, an instructor might deliver these seven principles to the group as an introduction. Then, the instructor may reinforce these principles throughout the activity. That way, the group receives real team building skills while having fun in the activity.

Seven Ways to Build a Culture of Trust

  1. Avoid Complaining.
  2. Look at Things from the Other Person’s Point of View.
  3. Smile.
  4. Make an Effort to Remember Names.
  5. Avoid Placing the Burden of Your Problems onto Other People.
  6. Take Responsibility for Clear Communication.
  7. Practice Good Listening Skills.

For a list of our fun team building events, click here. Or, if you want to participate in the online workshop based on these principles, click here.

When Should a Leader Apologize for a Mistake?

We all make mistakes – even leaders. And when that happens, a leader should just apologize, right?

No, not necessarily.

Leader Apologize for MistakeSaying sorry isn’t as simple as all that. As a society, we are sometimes a little too polite. When you miss something that someone said to you, you say sorry. You bump someone in your way, and you say sorry whether or not it’s your fault. You sneeze while someone is talking and you say sorry. Sometimes, our society says it a little too much. So when should a leader apologize for a mistake? When something is genuinely your error, and it has caused someone pain or inconvenience, an apology might be in order. Even if you’re the boss. Remember, finely tuning your social and leadership skills are part of your job.

Acknowledging that you’re only human goes a long way. When does proper leadership and management dictate it’s appropriate for a manager, a supervisor, or a CEO to humbly admit he made a mistake? And when is it wrong to apologize?

When Should a Leader Apologize: What They Probably Didn’t Teach You in Business School

When You’ve Made a Mistake

OK, so you screwed up. You wrote down the wrong deadline in a calendar, misfiled an email, or gave your staff member the wrong lead, and it’s caused him to make a mistake too. It all snowballed from something that you’ve done.

As the boss, the right thing to do is to own up to your error and take the blame from the higher ups, from peers and publicly acknowledge that it was your fault. The keyword here is publicly. Your employee will commend your leadership skills if you don’t throw him or her under the bus, even if you could’ve just as easily passed the blame to him.

When a Wrong Decision You Made Affects Others

Your prediction about the last quarter, or how a new product would fare, was wrong. As a result, the company took a loss and your whole team suffered. Again, as the CEO, it was your responsibility to make the final call. Own up to your mistake.

When You are Wrong, Don’t Delay the Apology

If it’s your fault, and you know you need to say sorry, don’t stall for time. Delaying the apology will only make you look worse. Say it soon, and say it sincerely. Learn from your mistake and let bygones be bygones.

Don’t Defend Yourself

If that apology is warranted, again, don’t get defensive. It will only make you look insecure and weak, and set a bad example for your staff. Admit that you were wrong, and move on – your employees will admire you more for it.

Look Inside Yourself

Examine your week. Is there anything you should apologize for? If there is, man up and do it now. It’s never too late to demonstrate your strong ethic and leadership skills.

A Situation When Apologizing Will Undermine Your Leadership and Management Position

When You didn’t Meet Unreasonable Expectations

Let’s say for example that you are the head of communications at your company. Your boss wants you to get three new advertising leads – by Friday. It is now Wednesday night. He doesn’t know that these leads take weeks and sometimes months to cultivate. When Friday rolls around, and you don’t have anything to produce, he flips his lid.

If you’ve already communicated that it’s almost impossible to get this done, you don’t owe him an apology. After all, you’re only human, and you can’t work miracles. Apologizing in this case will only make you look worse, because it looks like you’re admitting that you did something wrong, which you didn’t.

When You’re Standing Your Ground for Something You Believe in

Scenario: Your boss asks you to do something slightly unethical. Perhaps he’s asking you to alter some data, or do something risky. You believe it’s wrong. You know doing it will negatively impact the company and your reputation in the long run, so you refuse to do it.

Don’t apologize. You need to explain what your beliefs are and why you stand by them.
Demonstrate Leadership and Management Skills Worthy of Your Position when Apologizing

Ending Office Gossip is a Leader’s Responsibility

Office GossipOffice gossip can ruin careers. Years ago, I worked with a woman named Susan (not her real name). Susan is a lovely lady who kept her nose to the grindstone, and went home straight to her family after work. She did well at the office, and people always thought that she was going places. She was the next to be promoted. One day, a rumor started going around about Susan. She had started wearing nicer clothes around the office, and had lost some weight, which was part of her New Year’s resolution. One of our colleagues said she was having a fling with our boss. In all likelihood, this rumor couldn’t possibly be true – she and the manager worked closely together, yes, but they were happily married to their respective spouses, and each had children.

Susan started calling in sick. The quality of her work was slipping. She kept her head low and her attitude changed. She started dropping the ball on projects, and when she was skipped over for a promotion that should have been hers, she left the company.

Should Preventing and Minimizing Office Gossip be Part of Your Leadership Skills?

Sure, preventing office gossip isn’t as important as coaching employees or personal reviews, but office gossip can ruin careers-especially if it gets out of hand. A small rumor can grow to be a malicious virus. It can ruin lives, as it did Susan’s. It likely hurt the boss’s reputation as well.

Institute an Open Policy about Communication

Gossip starts when there’s misinformation, or change. When there’s trouble in the finance department, people who don’t know what’s happening might start spreading speculations about the company’s stability. A game of ‘telephone’ starts, the message changes slightly with every whisper, and soon enough, one of the executives in the leadership and management team hears a funny rumor about a layoff.

Gossip prevention is easy, if you keep an open door policy about what’s happening in the office.

Nip Gossiping in the Bud

Refuse to be a part of the office gossiping. Next time Nosy Nancy asks you if you’ve heard something about ‘that girl from marketing’, change the subject.

Your reaction might disappoint some people, but they’ll get the message soon enough. But if they keep talking, look at them and say, “I don’t think that’s any of our business.” And immediately direct the conversation into neutral grounds.

Replace False Information with Truths

In most cases, entry and non-management level employees don’t have the guts to talk directly to anyone from the leadership and management team. So your best bet for getting a feel of the office gossip are the supervisors — their team members talk to them, and you in turn can find out what they’re talking about. You’re not going to do this to gossip, but just to find out what people are saying, so you can then quell bad rumors about the company and policy changes, among other things.

Ask Other Leaders to Play Mediator When Personal Gossip Runs Amok

Business-related gossip is easier to stop, compared to gossips of a more personal nature. What can you do in case a gossip like Susan’s infects your team? Are your leadership skills and communication know-how enough to stop the gossip from ruining someone’s career and personal life? Is it even your responsibility?

In cases like Susan’s, the best possible thing you can do is to give the victim a chance to air their voice. Talk to the employee in concern, tell him or her about the rumors going around, and offer a chance to clear his or her name.

Crush Office Gossip

Office gossip seems petty and harmless on the surface. But I’m sure that’s not the case for the rumor’s subjects. Rumors can affect people’s productivity and teamwork, so you have to act before it gets worse and someone resigns. Put your leadership skills to use.

Leadership Skills and People Skills to Build a Team Environment

Below is a list of leadership skills and people skills that can be used to help you build stronger relationships and more of a team environment in the workplace. Below are three Human Incites (People Skills) that, when you understand them, will help you build trust and rapport more easily and resolve conflicts. In addition, below are seven people principles that will help build a team atmosphere, help you communicate more effectively, and build trust in the work place.

Human Insight #1: How to Build Trust and Rapport Quickly


  • Human beings enjoy being around and are influenced by people they like and trust.
  • In general, people are far more interested in themselves than in others.
  • When you become genuinely interested in others, they will like you and trust you more.



Human Insight #2: How to be a Great Conversationalist


  • The most interesting topic for most people to talk about is themselves.
  • The person who asks the most questions tends to control the conversation.
  • Use the 80/20 rule. Let the other person do 80% of the talking.
  • People will know like you and trust you more if you ask questions about what interests them.


Week #1: Build Trust and Rapport with People Quickly  

Leadership Principle #1

Avoid Criticizing and Complaining


People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be—not what you nag them to be.

–S. N. Parker


My college football team had an offensive coordinator who was arguably one of the most brilliant minds in the game. However, he used fear and criticism to motivate his players. If someone missed a block, he’d yell and curse. If a player dropped a pass, he’d shout profanities and ridicule the player. Consequently, the players were focusing on their mistakes rather than their successes. The coach eventually moved on, and after he left, morale improved dramatically. The very next year, the team won their first bowl game in years and went on to eight straight bowl games in the following years. The practices were the same. The fan support was the same. The only thing that changes was the atmosphere on the field during the practices and the games.


Think about some of the greatest leaders you’ve known. Are they people who quibble and complain about irrelevant issues? Do they point out every mistake? Probably not. In fact, they probably do just the opposite. They’re probably masters at keeping others focused on the relevant and pointing out every improvement. Any jerk can complain or criticize – and most do. But real leaders are the people who build others up, not tear them down.


Typically, when we point out mistakes that others are making, we are doing so in order to create a behavior change in the person. However, when we point out mistakes that others make, the automatic human reaction is to get defensive or shift blame elsewhere. People rarely make a change in their behavior as a result of criticism.


In section three, we’ll cover seven ways to create behavior change in others without raising resentment. Each of these tips will work much better than constructive criticism.


The next time you feel like you need to complain or to criticize someone, think about the outcome you want. Do you want that person to change his behavior? If so, by criticizing, you will cause the person to want to defend himself. This booklet is full of principles that you can use to build trust with and ultimately influence others. The next time you want to criticize or complain, try silence as an option.



Leadership Principle #2

Look at things from the other person’s point of view.



It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others.

–Alfred Adler


One of the most primary desires of human beings is to be understood and esteemed by others. We want people to see things from our point of view. Sometimes we want this so badly, that we disagree with and argue with points of view that are also valid.


A business owner I know hired a young man who, in his first year, broke all of the sales records for the company. This young man had fantastic ideas that would revolutionize the way the company sold its services. The owner was very cautious about implementing these ideas though. He had spent years building his company and was very careful about making changes. The salesman debated and eventually argued with his boss, and the boss, after being backed into a corner, argued back. Neither had the courage or the foresight to take a step back and try to see things from the other person’s point of view.


The frustrated salesman finally gave up a promising career and quit. The boss lost a great salesperson, because neither took the time to understand the other.


This very thing happens day after day in businesses and families all across the country. Human nature is that we always believe that we are right. Guess what? The other guy thinks the same thing, and if we dig in our heels, he will dig in his heels as well. All that we have to do is take a step back and say, “Why is this person thinking the way that he is thinking? Why is he acting the way that he is acting?”


That little moment of clarity can add a tremendous amount of understanding on our part and will help us build rapport with the other person very quickly. We don’t necessarily have to agree with the person, but just looking at things from the other person’s point of view is a big step forward.


If we want people to like and respect us, do the opposite of what comes natural and see things from other’s point of view. When we understand others, we are much more likely to be understood by them.



Leadership Principle #3

Smile more.



The man who gives little with a smile gives more than the man who gives much with a frown.

–Jewish Proverb


One thing I learned in high school and college was that if I wanted people to take me seriously, I had to have a serious, stern look. I learned that if I was to be “in charge,” I had to look unyielding. Then I got into the real world and realized that the stern, unyielding look came across to others as a scowl. One morning, I came into the office and my boss pulled me aside and asked, “What’s wrong? Are you OK?” I told him I was fine. He looked at me and said, “Then somebody should tell your face.” He told me that my grimace made others think that I was unapproachable. I made a change that day. I began smiling more (granted, I didn’t feel much like smiling, but I faked it.) Low and behold, people began smiling back. Eventually, they even began to make small talk. It was amazing.


I told this story to my class once, and one of my class members took it to heart. He went home that night, and when his wife met him, he smiled a very big grin at her. She was so shocked, that she asked what had happened. He told her that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He did tell her he was just glad to see her, and he was glad that she was his wife. When he woke up the next morning she had made him breakfast for the first time in two years. You can bet he is smiling more often today.


Many managers and supervisors have an “open door policy,” but because of the atmosphere that they create, no one ever walks through the open door. When someone has a problem or needs help, they walk up to the door, just about to walk in, and they see the negative countenance. Most people just turn around and decide to come back later.


A neutral expression can be just as unconstructive. People don’t like to guess about whether someone that they work for or work with is in a good mood or bad mood. A genuine small can do a lot for you and for the people around you because it will make you more approachable.


Smiles are also contagious. One well placed smile can go along way to improving morale and building rapport.



Leadership Principle #4

Make an effort to remember names




A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest most important sound in any language.

–Dale Carnegie


Have you ever been in one of those situations where you run into someone that you have met before and can’t remember that person’s name? It can be an awkward situation for both you and the other person.


When we remember someone’s name, we’re telling him, “You’re important.” Therefore, when we forget a person’s name, we may leave the opposite impression.


Do you want great service at a restaurant? Call the waitress by name when you place your order. Want to be the center of influence at a party? Introduce people you just met to others at the party. People love to hear their own name. In fact, Dale Carnegie said that, “a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest most important sound in any language.”


One of the first things we teach in our High Impact Leaders course is a simple way to remember names. It is a technique that is so simple that many people in a class of 25 will be able to recall the first and last names of every single person in the classroom within the first hour of class (You can find a short summary of this technique and others on our website at https://www.leadersinstitute.com/resource.)


In 1988, Harvey Mackay wrote a book called Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive, and he wanted to get it published. When he found a publisher that would talk to him, he had the audacity to request that the first edition print 100,000 copies. The publisher thought that Mackay was nuts. No publisher would print that many copies of a book written by a first time author. Then Mackay pulled out his Rolodex and showed the publisher how he new over 6,500 people on a first name basis, and he consciously kept in contact with each one. The publisher took a chance, and ended up selling over 300,000 copies of the first book.


Harvey Mackay used his ability to remember people – remember their names to build his world-famous envelop company, and then used the same relationships to build his writing and speaking career.


You can do the same thing. If you want to be a good people person, focus on remembering names.



Leadership Principle #5

Avoid placing the burden of your problems on other people.



A prudent man will think more important what fate has conceded to him, than what it has denied him.

–Baltasar Gracian


Have you ever known someone who, after any setback, had an excuse and typically laid the blame elsewhere? I’m ashamed to say that at one point in my life, I was one of those people. The economy is down. My sales manger is not distributing the “good” leads. Joe was responsible for that. I had one for any occasion. Luckily, at one point in my career, I had a good friend that sat me down and said, “You can continue to come up with more excuses, or you can solve the problem.”


It hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t the economy, it wasn’t my sales manager, and it wasn’t Joe who was causing me to fail. I realized that every mistake or problem that had ever occurred in my life had one common variable. ME!


At that point, I took a really good look at myself. I looked at some of the mistakes I had made and asked myself, how can I avoid making the same mistake again? I used every obstacle as a learning experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still make excuses on occasion, but they are few and far between, and they no longer define me. Since I made that conscious decision, my career has really taken off.


There are actually some people out there who make themselves feel better by bringing other people down. They revel in their ability to know who had a heart attack, who is getting divorced, who is stealing office supplies, and more. The more they can bring other people down, the better that they feel.


Unfortunately, when the gossip starts, it’s easy to get caught up in it. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lofton used to say, “Misery loves company.” So just one person in your office with this type of mentality can cause the morale and team atmosphere in your office to drop like a stone.


Good leaders are the ones who stop this type of behavior in its tracks by just refusing to participate and standing up for coworkers who aren’t their to defend themselves. If you want to be a great leader, avoid placing the burden of your problems onto other people.


Leadership Principle #6

Assume Responsibility for Clear Communications.



The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

–Daniel W. Davenport


Communication is a two-way street. In order for communication to be successful, we must have a successful speaker and an effective listener. If either party is not present, miscommunication may occur. However, there are things we can do to reduce miscommunication.


For example, I used to work for a man who had been extremely successful in our business. I was fairly young, but I had a number of great ideas that I frequently told him about. I noticed, however, that when I shared many of my ideas, he discounted them immediately. Sometimes, I would leave his office upset and tell some of my coworkers how he wouldn’t even listen to me. Often, when these coworkers agreed with my ideas, they would bring them back up to the boss at a later date. He always seemed to be much more open to the ideas when he heard them a second time. I realized that we had a communication problem, but I took responsibility. I learned that if I wanted my ideas to be heard, I needed support from my coworkers. Many times I would plant the seed with the boss and then tell someone else the idea. Often, the idea would be implemented with a few weeks.


We all listed to each other at different levels depending on circumstances that are present. The leader is the person who takes into account these circumstances and the character of the listener in order to make sure that the communication occurred.


For instance, if you know you are communicating with a person who is not really detail oriented, and you give instructions verbally just once, you have a very small chance that the person with follow through on your instructions. So for that particular person, it might be a good idea to follow up with an additional phone call or email. Or, you might have to send some written instructions to the person. Regardless of how you follow up, if you want to ensure that the communication occurs, you have to go above and beyond the call of duty.


To be a great leader, take responsibility for clear communication.



Leadership Principle #7

Practice good listening skills.




A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.

–Wilson Mizner


My first year in sales, I read a book about how to be a good Listener. The book said that if I wanted to be a good listener, I should make eye contact, say “Uh huh” a lot, and then paraphrase what the person just said. I couldn’t wait to go on my next sales call. I asked my prospect a question, made solid eye contact, said “Uh huh” a lot, and then said the words I read in the book over and over… “So, what I hear you saying is…” Take it from first hand experience; this type of listening does NOT work. My prospect looked at me like I was from Pluto and said, “If your having trouble keeping up, maybe I should go a little slower.”


Don’t look for techniques on how to listen better. The people who are great listeners do so because they want to, not because they learned a new “technique.”


I’ve noticed that there are three types of listeners. Selective listeners listen mainly out of self-interest, and will practically ignore you unless you are talking about something that directly concerns them. Responsive listeners listen just enough to form an opinion or a rebuttal. They tend to interrupt a lot. The highest level of listener is the focused listener. This person ignores all distractions and focuses totally on the speaker.


In any given conversation, we will typically slip from one of these types of listening levels to another. The key is to get our minds off of ourselves and onto the other person. If we are genuinely interested in the other person – if we really care about the other person – we will automatically spend more time in the focused listening level.


Want to be a good listener? FOCUS on the other person.



Week #1 Recap: Building Trust and Rapport


  • Day 1:     Avoid criticizing and complaining.
  • Day 2:     Look at things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Day 3:     Smile more.
  • Day 4:     Make an effort to remember names.
  • Day 5:     Avoid placing the burden of your problems on other people.
  • Day 6:     Assume Responsibility for Clear Communications.
  • Day 7:     Practice good listening skills.



Human Insight #3: How to Resolve Conflicts


  • People love to be agreed with.
  • People hate to be disagreed with.
  • People like other people who agree with them.
  • People dislike other people who disagree with them.
  • People who are good at resolving conflicts look for some point of agreement and use good people skills to get others to see a different point of view.


Laramar Hosts Build-A-Bike In Denver, Colorado.

150 Laramar Community employees get together for a Build-A-Bike ® in Denver, Colorado.  The Laramar employees took time out of their busy schedules to gather for a 3 day meeting taking place in downtown Denver.  The theme of their meeting was “Mission Possible” and the intent was to redirect their focus on raising the level of their customer service.  They were happy with where it was but wanted to take it to another level.  Laramar owns and manages apartment communities nationwide.  The attendees were from all over the country and it was a mix of new hires and people who had been with the company for some time.  The group was comprised of community and service manager’s and the field worker’s who are in direct contact with their customer’s.

The goal of the event was to have everyone walk away with a fulfilling experience that was fun and unexpected and for the group to get a true sense of “team”.  The activities in the Build A Bike are designed so that the participants learn team building in an experiential way.  They are broken into teams and are given tasks that cement their team identity, only to discover that ultimately they have to go beyond what they think is their team to accomplish their goals.  Not only are the teams more effective when they work together but they are happier because of the sense of camaraderie. By the end of the event, they saw that sharing information and working through problems with communication is the path to everyone winning.

It was a good day to be a kid in Denver!  The Laramar participants donated 24 bikes to children at the Boys and Girls Club of Denver.  The organizer’s had been able to keep the kids a secret to their participants, including their CEO.  He was so surprised and delighted when all those kids came in the door that he was unable to hide his tears of joy.  Many of the participants were moved to tears but the kids were jumping up and down with enthusiasm, just the way it should be.

Thank you Laramar for your generosity!  You made this mission very possible and you have the 24 bikes and happy kids to prove it.

NOAA Creating a Team Culture in Norfolk, Virginia


A group from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gathered recently to participate in a Creating a Team Culture workshop in Norfolk, Virginia. The group of 10 co-workers gathered at the Nauticus Museum near their offices to spend most of the day learning how to apply leadership principles that can help them communication more clearly and improve their working relationships. NOAA  has a wide variety of functions, including collection of data regarding the oceans, the atmosphere, and fisheries. This particular office supports the staff that work on the boats doing this important work.

We began the session talking about personality styles and how they affect our communication styles. Looking at the natural strengths and weaknesses of each personality style created lots of dialogue about how and why people react the way they do to many different situations.

We honed in on the four sets of Leadership Principles that deal with building trust and rapport, managing conflict, gaining cooperation, and building the team around you. The discussion was robust around the first of principles, building trust and rapport, as it is at the foundational base of that which affects most teams’ ability to work well together. Without first addressing these fundamental principles in this key area of communication, it is difficult to move forward with a strong team. The material and exercises challenged the group to move out of their comfort zones and interact in a way that had previously been avoided.

By the end of the workshop, the participants had an improved outlook on their ability to work together, and were more open to each other. They still have some work to do, but this workshop provided a strong base of ideas on where and how to start.

“This was a good place to start. We have a lot of work to do but these principles are definitely things that we can begin applying right away. Thank you!” — Jennifer Pralgo, NOAA

Communication difficulties can cause problems in the workplace that extend beyond the workforce and begin to affect our customers in adverse ways. Include Creating a Team Culture team building workshop in your plans to give your employees the tools they need to be more successful together!

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

Interested in a Team Building Event of Your Own?

Three Important Questions when Choosing a Team Building Activity

Stressed out and overextended
There are probably thousands of different team building activities out there on the market today. How can anyone possibly sift through them all and decide on the “best one” for their group? As soon as you put in the search term “team building” into any search engine, it’s easy to become overwhelmed just looking at the number of results that come up.

Here are three important questions to ask yourself when choosing the right team building activity for your group. They aren’t the only questions to ask, but the answers will give you a great starting point.

1. What is my goal for this group?
The three questions are equally important in my opinion, but this one happens to be first. If you don’t have a clear sense of WHY you are doing a team building activity, choosing one will send you off in a myriad of directions. You just might end up becoming so overwhelmed by the never-ending choices that you just give up.

2. What do I hope the group will do differently after this event?
This question is often overlooked by the planners of a team building event. It is easy to lose focus on where you are going if you didn’t have a clear sense of the path before you started. Asking yourself what you hope that your group will do differently or better after the event can help you narrow down the type of event that is best suited to help you reach that goal.

3. How will this benefit our business?
Finally, this question is also often overlooked but equally important. Team building events that are done well can have clear benefits for your business in that they can help your team be more productive, communicate more effectively, or increase your team’s collaborative spirit. Thinking about how that can benefit your business may make it easier to select an appropriate activity. It can also help with justifying the expense of a good team building program.

Selecting the right team building program doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary. Gaining clarity yourself before beginning your search can help you stay focused on the goals you have for your team, and how a good program can move you towards reaching them. Happy hunting!

Colette Johnston is a Corporate Development Manager who works with clients in over 30 major cities including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York. Interested in a Team Building Event?

PRA Hosts Build-A-Bike in Atlanta, Georgia

PRA, a contract research organization (CRO) in the pharmaceutical industry hosted a Build-A-Bike ® team building event for their annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.  This organization provides support to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in the form of research services outsourced on a contract basis.  It is a highly technical field in that a CRO may provide such services as biopharmaceutical development, commercialization, preclinical research, clinical research, clinical trials and management.  Their meeting was for the management team and also for the sales team in charge of acquiring new studies.  Their theme for their meeting was “Renew. Refocus. Reignite.”  They really wanted to have fun at their team building event and show that you have to work together as a team to acquire new contracts but to have fun doing it.

The group traveled from around the globe- US, Canada, LA, Asia, Europe, a mix of everyone knowing each other really well and a fair number of new people just joining or their first sales meeting.  Many people know each other from phone calls, but not in person so this was a perfect opportunity to come together and get to know each other a little more personally.  The activities in the Build A Bike ® are designed so that the participants learn team building in an experiential way.  They are broken into teams and are given tasks that cement their team identity, only to discover that ultimately they have to go beyond what they think is their team to accomplish their goals.  By the end of the event, they saw that sharing information and working through problems with communication is the path to everyone winning.

The PRA participants donated 16 bikes to children at the John H. Harland Boys & Girls Club of Atlanta.  One of the young girls was visually impaired and had been sharing a bike with her older sister.  When Ms. Robinson of the Boys and Girls club shared this information she was so touched that her little girl was getting a bike that she was tearing up as she spoke.  Many of the participants were moved to tears but the kids were jumping up and down with enthusiasm.  A perfect mix of emotions to end the event on.

Thank you PRA for your wonderful contribution!

Perkins Coie Hosts Build-A-Bike in Seattle, Washington

Perkins Coie, a law firm headquartered in Seattle, WA, hosted a Build-A-Bike ® team building event for its newest group of attorneys.  The 30 participants attending just graduated or have less than two years of legal experience.  Perkins Coie wanted to introduce them to their culture and their commitment to community service initiatives that is so important to the company.  The firm has over 900 lawyers in 19 offices across the United States and Asia and it just celebrated its 100th year anniversary last year.  The firm prides itself not only on their strong legal practice but also on their community involvement and their achievement of being listed on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for ten consecutive years (2003-2012).  It is with a commitment like this that brought the organizer’s to a Build a Bike team building event for fun and to give back to the community.

Some of the attorneys had met one another during their time as summer interns, however, not all were summer interns.   Also, they came from a variety of different practice groups and US offices so they may not interact with one another on a daily basis.  The exercises in the Build a Bike were a perfect way to get the  participants interacting and partnering to accomplish the tasks.  The problems cannot be solved without the groups working together but they also must go outside of their team as well.  This is just how it is in the firm where it is essential for the associates to know their colleagues from across various offices and practices groups, so they can partner with them on future projects.  By the end of the event the new attorney’s saw first hand how working together and bridging the gap with other groups is the recipe to success.

The Perkins Coie employees’ hard work and determination paid off in the form of 6 new bicycles that were donated to the local Boys and Girls Club of King County.  Aside from learning new communication skills the Build a Bike team building event also teaches the value of giving back to the community which is one of Perkins Coie’s core principles.   While they grew stronger as a team they were also able to have fun and make a difference in the lives of 6 lucky boys and girls. The team will certainly carry the lessons learned and the fun memories with as they return to their respective areas. The Perkins Coie team hosted a fantastic Build a Bike team building event that helped both the employees and their local community. Thanks to all the employees that participated and made the event a success.

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