The Cleveland Browns: How to prevent miscommunications at work

The Cleveland Browns are statistically speaking, the worst NFL Team in history. Despite having one of the most dominating decades in all of sport, lead by the NFL immortal Jim Brown, The Browns have failed to capitalise on any talent they have been able to muster since the inception of the NFL in the 1970s, and have famously been through an almost unbelievable amount of Quarterbacks and Coaches (in the double digits) since the turn of the decade.

Above all else, the Browns seem to suffer from one key error, that results in their consistent losses in the NFL extending far beyond what could naturally be expected of an average team.

This key error is miscommunication. Even when the Browns manage to reach an advantageous position, they are unable to capitalise upon it due to the effects of their terrible communication, causing mistakes in the teamwork left, right and centre. So how do you stop this from happening at your workplace?

You need a quarterback, and you need a coach

For most companies, having a manager and a 2IC is very typical in any given team. In project teams, this will often be a Project Manager and a Business Analyst. For Product Teams, this may be a Product Owner and a Product Manager. There are loads of examples to choose from, and you’ll probably find yourself in a team where a Manager will decide what to do, and a Second Manager will focus on the execution.

A quarterback and a coach are no different. The Cleveland Browns have lacked a consistent Quarterback and Coach over the past decade, and thus have lacked two fundamental components of any well managed team; a decision maker and execution manager.

Without either of these people, your team is destined for failure. Without a decision maker, the message cannot be clearly defined for the execution manager, and without an execution manager, the message cannot be clearly delivered to the team members. Communication in itself is the one area in all of business that is absolutely necessary, and the success or failure of the business rests upon it.

Definition and Execution

In order to build an effective team, above all else you need definition and execution. To define what needs to be done, and what is the expected outcome is to make a clear decision on the direction of the team. In doing so, you can build a clear idea as to what is needed to build a truly competent team, instead of a team of highly skilled individuals.

Following definition, the execution matters the most. The hardest part of creating value in a company is deciding how to manage the right tasks to be executed in the right order, in doing so building the right way forward.

This is where the Cleveland Browns are lacking. The Browns themselves don’t have the best method for recruiting coaches and quarterbacks either, which doesn’t do them any favours. With their most recent recruit at quarterback, the Browns may have found their execution manager, and along with their coach, have found a way to win (or at least not lose as much).

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When Life gives you lemons: A guide to dealing with negativity in the workplace

Negativity in the workplace can often be difficult to deal with. When it comes to building a positive workplace, negativity can be the antithesis of all the hard work you put in to influence a positive culture.

A negative attitude can lead to toxicity, and once toxicity sets in, the amount of work it takes to get a toxic environment back to a positive one is enormous. If the downward spiral takes hold, performance drops, and if performance drops due to negativity, it can hurt the bottom line significantly. The only way to stop negativity from setting in and become “the rot”, is to build a “positive counter mindset”.

What is a positive counter mindset?

A positive counter mindset is what happens when your organisation develops a series of statements to counter a negative situation. The most common example is the statement “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”. This type of positive spin lets people remove or mediate that initial reaction of frustration that occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens.  A positive counter mindset is what happens when an organisation builds into its culture the idea that nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

“As it turns out”

One of the most famous examples occurs at Apple.

Apple, like any company goes through some rough times. Though problems may arise left, right and centre, Apple has found a way to deliver negative information with a positive mindset. The way it controls the “positive counter” is by delivering information with the phrase “as it turns out”. Though issues may arise in the day-to-day running of the business, by delivering the information with a slightly positive spin, Apple is able to reframe problems to find a solution.

The phrase might not seem like much, but with enough repetition it can curb the slippage into a negative mindset, which saves the culture in the long run.

How do you reframe problems? Make lemonade!

A positive countering statement such as “as it turns out” is a great way to be able to build into your internal vocabulary with a positive spin. The positive countering to “life gives you lemons” is the term “make lemonade”.

For your internal communications to be able to reframe problems with a positive spin, start by making a list of things you may say to each other to reframe information that is presented in a negative light. “As it turns out…” is a great example of a statement that can soften the blow of any specific problem.

A good way to find one of those statements is to start by understanding what sorts of problems you may encounter in your day-to-day working environment. For sales focused departments this may be a lack of deals flowing through for the month, or for technology focused companies this may be the presences of technological bugs.

The next step is to find an all encompassing statement that lets you both reinforce your company culture and internal brand, and reframes the problem statement to suggest a positive spin.

The rest is up to you!

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Busywork: A guide to making work more fun, and avoiding work for work’s sake

Welcome to our series on classical novels, and relating them to the employee engagement. We hope you enjoy understanding a little bit more about how to engage employees, and build a company culture, and can use them to take away

In Oscar Wilde’s famous comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, the main characters are constantly concerned with maintaining their fictitious personas in order to keep up appearances and escape the social obligations upon which they are burdened. In many companies, employees will engage in this exact type of comedic behaviour to escape, which for the sake of this exercise we shall refer to as “busywork”.

 

“Busywork” is what happens when we take work too seriously

Busywork is defined as making work for work’s sake. The great author Franz Kafka became obsessed with this type of work in his writings. One of the most classical examples in his novel “Metamorphosis” involves a man who has been transformed into a bug, and yet his only concern for his day is how he goes about getting to work on time. Kafka’s novels were littered with references to Busywork, stemming from his belief that many of the processes that we as humans undergo in our day to day lives are only there to provide someone else a job. For instance, he believed that most bureaucracy was fundamentally meaningless, and simply moving a series of forms from one place to another, and then back again.

Franz Kafka himself worked within the insurance industry, and spent many of his days moving pieces of paper around his office. Kafka was able to distill the feeling that he felt working in insurance into his novels, eventually being donned the term “Kafka-esque”. Of course, we know that insurance itself is a very important part of society, but working in insurance, it can be hard to see that your work matters.

Busywork is what happens when everyone within a company takes their work too seriously. If a company culture does not allow for fun, employees will find things to do that may or may not assist existing company processes. Often this comes in the form of pretending to do work, but actually doing nothing. Not only is this type of work detrimental to the bottom line, but it is detrimental to the company culture.

How do you prevent busywork? Make work fun!

The best way to prevent busywork is to ensure that no matter what, under all costs, employees have a way to make their work fun. Facebook famously holds their own internal hackathons (as do Google). Twitter used to hold it’s own parties (until recently), and there are many, many other examples of companies that ensure that they have “fun” activities that are a stone throw away.

To prevent busywork, you first need to try to redefine what productivity is. Being productive doesn’t necessarily mean staying at the office until late, as getting a good night’s sleep can be just as effective. It takes a mature management team to be able to look at it, and if done right you just might find your overall productivity increasing!

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Love your work: Having small company culture as a big company

There is a famous story once spoken about NASA. Upon his visit to the Houston Mission Control, then President John F. Kennedy saw a man scrubbing the floors vigorously. Upon being questioned of his motives, the man simply replied “I’m putting a man on the moon”.
It goes without saying that often small companies have much better culture than a big one. To do this you need to understand your work matters, have a mission focus and build big.

The difficulty in building a company for growth while maintaining its culture can be something akin to trying to run along a tightrope. For those of you who have done slack-lining, you may understand how difficult this is!

So the question remains, how do you maintain your small company ethos at a big company?

Your work matters

The hardest part about working at a big company is understanding that no matter how large the company, your work matters. It’s easy to feel like you are a cog in a machine when sitting in a confined cubicle, and by extension, it’s even easier to feel like neither you nor your work matters.

The truth is, as the great entrepreneur Richard Branson once said “a company is just a group of people, so you need to treat them like one”. The Virgin ethos applies all the way down to the furthest employees from the core. Put simply, treating people like both they and their work matter is a sure fire way to make sure your company grows while still being positioned for maintaining your culture.

Mission focus

It goes without saying that having a mission focus for your organisation is incredibly important if you want to keep your small company ethos.

Big companies can often get caught up in one thing and one thing alone, money. More sales, bigger deals, better metrics, operational efficiency become the norm, and the core mission goes out the window.
Smaller companies usually do this type of thing really well. They’ll start by proposing a mission statement that goes above and beyond the usual idea of focusing on money. Money is not the goal at a smaller company, money is the outcome. For smaller companies, performance become the goal.
Having a focus on the mission statement at heart can help keep your company culture balanced, ensuring that people don’t get over-excited when things are going well, and don’t get too down when things are going poorly.

Build Big

The hardest part about being in a large company is being so focused on increasing optimal efficiency of an existing product. This is where “the rot” sets in. Company culture goes down the drain when a company loses its ambition.
To stop this, it’s important to recognise that often the only thing that separates a small company from a big one is its ambition. By having this ambition and drive to constantly be reinventing and redefining new or existing products, you can be assured that the company in totality will be clearly positioned for the future.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

What’s in a name? The importance of naming

Classically, Shakespeare questioned the relevance of names by declaring: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet, the research is very clear, names matter. This is because names signify a lot of information, gleaned instantly upon first utterance; they convey gender, social class, ethnicity and may even connote personality characteristics such as kindness or morality. In yesteryears, a surname even described one’s occupation. But ultimately, the simple fact of one name being easier to pronounce over another can land an applicant a job, an employee a promotion, and even just mean you are more likely to befriend one person over another. When looking at new recruits, or workplace relations, it appears we are subjectively skewed to favour people with easily pronounced names, both first and last names. This effect goes beyond race, with surnames like “Smith” rating more favourably than “Urquhart”. How then does this impact the workplace, and by extension, how should you name your company?

Individual careers

A classic article in the New Yorker in 2013 described a famous study where researchers sent fake resumes to various employers where the only difference was a “white- or black-sounding” name, such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker versus Latisha Washington and Jamal Jones. They found that one-in-ten “white-sounding” names receive a call-back, whereas only one-in-fifteen “black-sounding” names also received a call-back. This effect has also been seen in the classroom, where names associated with low socioeconomic-status or certain cultures, influence the expectations of the teacher for different pupils. As a result, the opportunities available vary considerably, and tell us that names really concretely signify certain attributes which affect interpersonal relationships. This is hard to avoid, as it is mostly the result of subconscious bias, but one approach could be to de-identify resumes prior to assessment. Furthermore, being aware of these subconscious biases and make an effort to correct them. After all, it may lead to recruitment of the most talented and effective workers.

Naming a company

Not only do these differences matter in terms of an individual’s career, but how you name your company can have a significant impact on your brand. While creativity is important for ensuring that people remember your company name, it is also important to have an easily pronounced name. Furthermore, you can associate your company name with certain feelings to influence your brand, such as use of the word “apple” to signify fresh new ideas, “google” to make you think of oggling pages as you search, or even simply “bing” the onomatopeoia that signifies the exchange of information and receiving of information. The name used has a powerful impact on the brand clients associate with your company, and may even have something to do with the favourability of “Chrome” and “Firefox” over “Internet Explorer” (speed of downloads aside).

Shakespeare had it right.

Ultimately, think carefully about names. Juliet might not have thought they mattered in Elizabethan times, but we are certainly not disillusioned about their relevance in modern society. Ensure you take care not to bias your selection of new recruits based on their names, and think long and hard about the name of your company in terms of catchy, easy to pronounce and associated with the right context. 

 

Five fun tips for employee engagement

Employee engagement needn’t be a difficult venture. There are plenty of small, effective and fun ways of motivating your employees to be more engaged in the workplace. These simple measures are also often quite inexpensive. It is well established that the dividends of investment in employee engagement exceed initial input many times over in terms of success and productivity. With the relative ease on instituting these programs, it really doesn’t make any sense to delay it any further, put these simple ideas into place today and reap the rewards!

  1.       Free lollies

Everyone loves a sweet treat! What is even more important than the token gift of thank-you lollies, is that you can accompany them with a personalised and funny message. There are literally hundreds of options to try out in your company. They needn’t even be lollies, you can offer encourage-mints, give coffee vouchers that say “thanks a latte!”, or even give out scented candles thanking your employees for being “scents-ational!” The possibilities are limitless! Check out this Pinterest article for more options. The personalised messages will give your employees a kick of humour to break up the work day, be inspired to be more engaged at work, and the touch of personal acknowledgement will help them feel more a part of the team.

  1.       Free fruit

The provision of healthy snacks should be more regular occurrence. If you have a weekly fruit box delivered, this says to your employees that you care about their health. If you aren’t already using a fruit box delivery service, you should really take advantage of this small way of letting your employees know you care

  1.       Fitness programs

A further way to let your employees know you care about their wellbeing, is to offer free or subsidised fitness programs. Healthy employees are less stressed, and are ultimately more engaged in the workplace, with less days of absenteeism. You can subsidise a gym membership, set aside an office space for yoga classes, or even just organise a simple office jogging group.

  1.       Ice breakers

Yes, ice breakers can be the worst. Who can think of one fun thing to say about themselves? I mean who is to say what your target audience will think is fun? And what about the self-confidence that requires?  But I’m not talking about the kind of ice breaker which requires you to sit in a circle, say your name, your job title and department, and one fun thing about yourself. The best kinds of ice breakers are office games. These shouldn’t be too complex, and your box of Cards Against Humanity is probably not appropriate here. Think charades, celebrity heads and scavenger hunts.

  1.       Team activism

Getting your employees involved in a volunteering opportunity can be infinitely useful for employee engagement. It helps them socialise, feel part of a team, and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Find a cause that your team is passionate about and sign them up! Not only will this benefit your employee engagement, you can also advertise that your team is involved and positively influence the brand of your company in the eyes of your clients!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Building bridges: developing the network of communication

Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, taking enduring strength and meticulous planning to construct. They provide a means to connect one place to another, enabling transport of persons and equipment not previously possibly. Bridges therefore represent a new frontier for human endeavour.

Exciting frontiers

Similarly, creating information highways in business generates new frontiers for business development. There is a concerted effort required to generate the foundation for effective communication and business relationships at all levels, from peer-peer connections, to inter-business trade. The relationships need to be gently supported to prosper, and it requires work from both ends.

Bridges and businesses

There are striking similarities in the ways that bridges and business relationships are built. Take the Sydney Harbour Bridge: construction began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon’s Point to the north and graduation came together over the next five years until the structure was complete in the middle. There is something beautiful in this collaboration, in the elegant plan required to align the construction and the camaraderie and teamwork involved in the labourers putting together such a magnificent structure.

Collaborative planning

The way that an effective business relationship is developed is also beautiful. The bridge built here also needs to provide a viable business model at both ends, equally enabling each co-worker, employee and manager, and sellers and buyers to maintain the integrity. Any model which favours one party over the other results in an unstable network.

Effective planning

It is also essential for the planning to be effective to support the structural integrity required. If there is ineffective planning for capacity or for taking external factors into consideration, the bridge is likely to fail. Historically, we can learn from the lesson of the Severn Bridge, to link England with Wales which was opened in 1966. The response in increase in traffic was unanticipated by the designers and another bridge had to be constructed 5 miles upstream to compensate. What you want is to design the Bay Bridge in San Francisco built in 1934 which today successfully can accommodate 240,000 vehicles.

Finally, ensure you take external factors into account, such as market growth or compliance requirements. Ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the Tay Bridge in Scotland which killed 60 train passengers due to its design which did not take wind-loading into account.

Mind the Gap

Basically, you want to ensure you “mind the gap” to build a successful bridge in developing a business relationship. To do this consider three main points:

–          Build from both ends, taking both sides into account

–          Consider future growth, and ensure the relationship is large enough to accommodate

–          Ensure you design your network to be robust enough to take external factors into account

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.