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Does Team Building Build Teams?

Fresh back from a two day retreat with our team, I am excited to say that whilst there are still improvements and lessons to be learnt (like not drinking too much) it was one of the most enjoyable retreats I have been part of.

Holding team retreats that are well planned and structured can provide tremendous benefits to you, your team and organization. It provides you and your team time off from “doing” all the things that need to be done “in” the business and gives you space to focus working “on” the business with the people that know it best. To be most effective they need to be run regularly (we do ours every 6 months), needs to make people feel comfortable (so abseiling is out), stimulate interactiveness and it needs to be relevant to the current space the business is in.

Simply getting away from the stressful atmosphere of the workplace can do a world of good. Often your team members will be more connected and know more about each other at the end of one of these events. Engagement levels will increase because it is the opportunity for you to actually ask them if there is better ways to do things and how they think it should be done. These guys are, who I call your superstars, the people that know more on a day to day about your business than you do.

So what are some key points to focus on when running your next team event. 

  1. Make it comfortable – Create a learning environment that is positive and relaxed and encourages openness and warmth
  2. Encourage staff to dress comfortably, few people can truly relax in formal business dress.
  3. Don’t forget some social time. If you want your team members to care about each other and help each to perform well, then it’s important to allow some “social time” for everyone to connect with team members.
  4. Make it interactive, the key to a productive team retreat is to use it as a time to really draw out all the creativity and problems solving skills of your team.
  5. Fun IS important, Neuroscience tell us that adults learn better when they are engaged and having a good time.
  6. Get them involved! Have them move around the room for different phases of the retreat, do role playing, take turns recording information for the group, brainstorm on post it note pads & have them get up and down to post their ideas. Whatever it takes to keep your team members awake, alert and involved.
  7. Plan ahead, don’t expect to throw together an agenda and activity materials the day before.
  8. Be prepared to get things rolling, if a current problem in your organization is a lack of communication, come prepared with some “real life examples.”
  9. Help build to a positive conclusion. In addition to problem examples, you will also want to think about possible solutions. Try to keep the group focused on “process issues” and “possible solutions”.

 Participants will return to work re-energized, invigorated and with real tools and understanding and strategies to tackle the challenges that lie ahead, seize opportunities for growth and boost performance.

 

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Viewing human capital as an asset not an expense

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Here is one for the accountants and business owners/managers that really look at their balance sheet and wonder how to increase shareholder value. What about valuing the human capital in your business. This idea has been building as a practice overseas but is still a relatively new concept here in Australia.

It is a very relevant concept for service based business where people are the key to achieving a sale and distribution of a product or service. However, even in a retail or wholesale business people can still be valued on the balance sheet.

Consider this, are people an asset or a liability? For decades, we have put people as a liability due to their wages and super, so they are an expense item. But in an era where we talk about employees as our greatest asset, it is time for the 21st century balance sheet to match what we say. Human capital should be placed on the left side of the balance sheet, due to their knowledge, skills and labour that together represent a valuable resource.

One of the reasons why so many businesses don’t actually value human capital is because it is difficult to do. Determining the actual value of an intangible asset is a difficult nut to crack.  In the industrial age it was much easier to build value in the balance sheet because 80% of a company’s value was mostly tangible assets such as factories and equipment. But now 80% of company value is mostly intangible assets such as brand value, intellectual property and, of course, people.

One example of an organization that has done this is Infosys, the giant Info Technology services firm. It has assigned a value to its entire workforce since 2008 using an accounting model that calculates all of its employees’ collective worth. Because of this, Infosys has a significant commitment to investing in employees across all functions and levels of experience.

So why don’t companies do this more often if it could value in an organisations value for sale, capital/equity raising or simply building shareholder value. According to some in the industry its because of  the belief that companies do not own people and therefore should not account for them. That is technically true, but companies clearly reap the benefits of their employee’s work. Look for example at the balance sheet of a company such as Starbucks, while they do not own the properties in which they operate, they often capitalize on the leases as an asset  on their balance sheet, Why cant we do this with human capital. A new valuation process is required for, given the changing face of business in this conceptual age where whole brain thinkers grow innovation and development in an organization. Business owners should be encouraged to invest in their employees, not drop the axe when a bad quarterly report hits.

Winning the Right Way (and Building Neurocapability at the Same Time)

Brainwaves For Leaders

This week, Adair Jones, a Brainwaves for Leaders staff writer, looks at the neuroscience of success and how we can change our brains to keep winning.

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The brains of winners are actually different

According to Dr. Jeff Brown and Dr. Mark Fenske, Harvard-trained neuroscientists, winning in life has very “little to do with IQ, circumstances, financials resources, or even luck”. What it does have  to do with, they claim, is creating  a failure-resistant brain.

Neuroscientists have long understood that the brain can rewire itself in response to experience—a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Every thought, emotion, action changes the neurocircuitry of our brains. It’s because of this, Brown and Fenske say, that the key to success really is all in our heads. And recent research in neuroscience backs this up.

In their 2010  book The Winner’s Brain, Brown and Fenske explore the science behind motivation, focus, and achievement, and…

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Sometimes it is just a matter of picking a path and dealing with the consequences

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Decision making is part of life, we do it every day. What to have for dinner, will I have that piece of cake, should I take that new job. Some decisions are small with little long term consequences and others can have far reaching effects. So much of our decision making is driven from the subconscious and we barely notice the process involved. We think we make decisions rationally, It turns out, though, that for most people there is no such thing as a purely rational self. Decision making is intrinsically linked to our emotions.

Every now and then, life just throws us a big hairy decision. Id like to say, I am talking about the decisions where both options have pretty positive outcomes, but I am actually talking about the sort of decisions that are going to cause pain whichever option you choose. These kinds of decisions can be excruciatingly hard, and people often waffle in an unpleasant state for months trying to choose what to do. But fortunately, there are some strategies one can apply to help make the decision process shorter.

The best decision makers let the situation guide them. The more experience you have with a particular type of decision, the safer it is to go with your intuition, since your subconscious has a wealth of reliable information from which to draw. The key when making these big hairy decisions is to not accept the default. One way to avoid the default is to set a date to make a thought out decision. Recruit a friend to support you meeting that date and set a consequence if you don’t (you owe them a bottle of expensive plonk if you don’t)
When decision making, don’t focus only on a few noticeable details, sometimes the aspects of a situation that come to mind most easily or most vividly are not representative of the situation as a whole. Don’t exaggerate the importance of a decision, people tend to overestimate the impact of both negative and positive events on their long-term happiness. Think about the advice you would give a friend, sometimes it is helpful to forget for a moment that it is your own life you are deciding about. This trick allows us to remove emotion from the decision.

One strategy that I haven’t addressed, and clearly pointed out by one of mentors is that sometimes when it is hard to decide which path to take, rather than sweating the outcome of that decision, sometimes you just have to pick one and deal with the consequences.

Brain science changes the way we market our businesses

Can understanding the brain change the way we market ourselves, our businesses and our regions? Can what we know about the brain predict what people will buy or even help find a very simple way to press their “buy” button?  I recently attended a workshop delivered by an expert in Neuromarketing and NeuroSales (more about that later).

It got me thinking about whether you really can predict and even stimulate the part of the brain that motivates people to buy. Whilst many of these strategies have been used in predominantly retail environments, it has some very valid lessons in terms of building your self brand and that of your business.

Neuromarketing is becoming more and more of a popular answer. If you’re unfamiliar with it, neuromarketing is a science that’s based on the fact that 95% of all thoughts, emotions, and learning occur before we are ever aware of it, That means most of us are actually only talking to 5% of our potential customers’ brains! In 2008, a team of scientists in Germany published a study showing how the brain unconsciously prepares our decisions: that several seconds before we consciously decide what we’re going to do, its outcome can be predicted by looking at unconscious activity in our grey matter.

So back to the workshop I attended. It was delivered by a man called Christophe Morin, the “Chief Pain Officer” of SalesBrain, a neuromarketing agency.

Here are some of his key tips in using Neuromarketing or Neurosales strategies.

  • Don’t Make It All About You 
 appeal to a customer’s pain spend less time talking about how great you are and more time talking about how you’re going to help a potential buyer
  • Don’t Take Too Long 
Our brains are getting overloaded with information all day long so keep it simple and sweet
  • Seeing Is Better than Reading
What our eyes see connects directly with the unconscious parts of the brain, keep it as visual as visual as possible.
  • Have a Strong Start–and a Big Finish
The brain notices how you begin and how you end more than what you’re saying in the middle.
  • Stay Simple 
If you’re too clever or too abstract, our brains are going to want to move on.
  • Employ Emotion
 Emotion hits our underground intellect more powerfully than the most effectively worded argument.

Many of the points made above simply confirm marketing advice given by experts over the years, but neuromarketing has demonstrated there is real scientific validity to these recommendations. By working towards more actual social engagement opportunities with our potential clients and customers, instead of just artificially buying our clients, we also increase our odds for creating conversations, conversions, and long-term clients.

When the holes line up its time to hang on

A recent discussion with my husband, by his words an operations guru, had me discovering the Swiss cheese model. We were talking about an innovation in the business he works in that his staff had come up. The innovation was a very novel idea but my husbands beliefs was that while it might work the first time the cumulative effect of of this solution may lead us to what is known as the Swiss cheese model of accident causation.

The Swiss Cheese model is risk analysis and risk management of human systems and human capital. The model, looks at an organization’s defenses against failure and considers the series of barriers as the slices of Swiss cheese. The holes in the cheese slices represent individual weaknesses in parts of the system. These weaknesses are continually varying in size and position in all slices. The system as a whole produces a massive failure when all of the holes in each of the slices momentarily line up so that a hazard passes through all of the holes in all of the defenses and causes all sorts of problems in a business. In other words people are left holding their backsides wondering what happened.

This model whilst mostly used for incident management in heavy industry or emergency situations made me think about its use in any business type. I also was considering the type of leadership it might take in an organisation to ensure the holes don’t line up or that leaders can manage the fall out when it does. Any organisation that does this is generally considered as a high reliability organisation. A high reliability organisation is consistently error free over an extended period of time and makes good decisions resulting in high quality performance and high output.

A leader of this sort of organisation is one that cultivates Resiliance  and Adaptation. They anticipate trouble spots and develop employee capability to improvise and be innovative in their own part of the organisation. These leaders are quick to think and develop trust in their team swiftly and they encourage and live the concept of just in time learning ( being ready at all times).

Considering the Swiss cheese model in any organisation is highly valuable as it considers how to deal with the risk of the future in a much more practical and relevant way. It also helps us considers what sort of leaders or even employees we want in our organisation so they can manage and deal with what is fast becoming a world of rapid change which is exhausting to many staff and causing high burn out rates.

Being your authentic self in workplace communication

There are many times in my professional life when I feel like I am talking to grown ups and I am the kid in the playground. I might at times have the equivalent or more experience or skill on paper than the person or people I am having a conversation with, but I still feel like I am the one lacking the emotional ability to verbalize what I want to say with the right clarity and sense of purpose (I call it oomph) that might be needed.

In the world of business, this little conundrum is often what is at the heart of most conflict situations or defective communication issues, but I ask you is it so much more? It is about having emotional competency and authenticity and active mindfulness or as a friend of mine calls it “attentional intelligence”, when it comes to dealing with how we interact with people.

Dr Phil is a big promoter of developing your authentic self. Authenticity is a technical term used in the world of psychology and is the degree to which a person is true to their own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures and it is how the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world. It sounds difficult because you first have to define what is your authentic self and then put that into words, roll it around on your tongue and see if you even enjoy the taste.

Take for example if you were asked “Who are you?” what is most people’s answer? They would most likely state the facts. Often the answer is not who you are, but what you do, what your social station is, or how you see your function in life or even your values. People struggle to  answer who they are, because they don’t know or they struggle to define that. Brain science tells us it is very hard to put language or words around this or anything emotional.

The authentic self is the “you” that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role or even the task you are doing in the workplace. It is the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely yours and need expression. It is the “why” you do all the things you do. Being your authentic self  requires “attentional intelligence” to ensure you portray “you” as best you know how. It is also about having the courage to acknowledge your limitations and embrace your vulnerability and gain the confidence to be humble.

At the heart of it, one of my favourite sayings from an old mentor of mine is to “be curious” because it gives you time to contemplate and determine how to respond as your authentic self.  Your speed of personal growth depends on you living in a state of curiosity instead of certainty. Open your mind to possibilities and you will find you will fight less with other people without having to surrender what is most important to you.