"Come together"

Increase Your Team’s Performance By 48% With This One Word

Technology drastically changes the face of both work and play from one decade to the next. Ten years ago the iPhone was still an idea, and Facebook had not yet replaced chat rooms. Ten years ago internet users were still connecting with dial up and internet videos were avoided because of it.


Due to the not-at-all-slow changes to accommodate technological advances, workflow is accomplished in increasingly solitary environments.  More and more people work remotely rather than collectively – at least in a physical sense.  I myself, was recently part of a marketing team hired to promote a yoga site.  Every single one of us worked via instant messenger, email and video conferences every Monday .


But no doubt, there are plenty of companies whose employees work remotely these days.  Woothemes, a WordPress ecommerce and plugins company, is comprised of 30 employees located in seven different countries. Buffer, a social media sharing tool, is also a completely remote and/or distributed team, with team members located throughout several time-zones and countries.  Other examples of businesses who operate either partially or totally remotely include Foursquare and WordPress, as well as many other lesser known companies such as 10up, Treehouse, Basho and Lullabot.


Advantages of  Social Context

Because social context and sharing physical space with members of a team have a natural advantage over remote team work, remote teams may need to be reminded -often in more creative ways – of the same motivational concept that is a naturally present implication in physically shared spaces: that you’re all doing this together.

In a physical office, you can see the faces of your colleagues or co-workers. Engage in chit-chat and small talk. Observe body language and facial expressions at any time. Even learn how many cups of coffee each one drinks per day, or how many bathroom trips they make.  These things –even if sub-consciously – all contribute to a team-like environment. While things like how much sleep your co-worker got the night before or what they’re having for lunch may seem like trivial details, it’s all part of the contextual information you can gather about your team just by being physically present.  And the more information you have about a team member, the more you intrinsically trust them.  This is precisely why most of us initially trust people far less when we meet them online, than when we meet in person for the first time.  We simply have no information about them upon which we can base any amount of trust.


A continually nurtured sense of teamwork and team building is vital in a remote environment. Without a sense of teamwork, which often translates to “purpose” behind the tasks and contributions of any given remote worker, they will likely become disengaged, slower and less productive or efficient, and less motivated about the work in general.  Who are they working for? What are they working toward? Who is supporting them and vice versa?  These are powerful motivators to workers.


As briefly mentioned above, this may require more creative, and sometimes more extravagant strategies.  You might hold bi-annual staff workshops or retreats to encourage team interaction and socialization as well as team cohesiveness.  Or you may implement daily means of team building, such as a virtual water cooler or “always-on” web cam or even circulating playful pranks.  There are productivity tools out there specifically to aid team-building and teamwork, such as IDoneThis and Sqwiggle, which is one of those “always-on” video chat systems I mentioned.


That’s all well and good – but where does this 48%-more-productive figure come from?


Research Results That May Change Your Team Management

Gregory Walton and Priyanka Carr – two Standford researchers and psychologists, studied participants in a case study in an attempt to help indentify what drives intrinsic motivation.


Two groups of participants were all given the same task and instructed to carry out the task in the same work environment – alone in a room.  The first group was told that the research was being conducted to find out how “people work together to solve puzzles,” and that each participant would work on part of the “puzzle called the map puzzle.”


The second group were all given the same instructions, minus any mention of working with other participants or working together to solve the puzzle.


When the results were in? The “psychologically together” group worked 48% longer, solved more of the overall problems correctly, and could recall significantly more information than the “psychologically alone” group.


This research really speaks for itself.  When you emphasize the “together” aspect of a task or project, it will intrinsically motivate your team – regardless whether they’re all sitting in the same room, or looking at each other through a web cam. In the words of Carr and Walton, “a defining aspect of humanity is that people work together toward common ends.”

Employee Engagement

Why Managers Must Engage the Mind of Every Employee

When it comes to the overall effectiveness of a company’s employees, no one is held more accountable than management. As a manager, you’re responsible for more than the hiring process and performance evaluations — employee morale and engagement are yours to foster.


Strong managers seek to engage every single employee, and it’s no easy task. What makes an employee engage with a company’s mission? What keeps that employee happy to return to work the next morning? With the right engagement techniques, not only will your employees seem happier at the start of the workday, but they’ll also become more productive.


Studies consistently show the importance of employee engagement, but statistically speaking, companies don’t seem to be getting the memo:


Workers Worldwide Are Simply NOT Engaged.

 According to a recent Gallup World study, only 13% of employees worldwide report being engaged at work….Only 13%!


The statistics of employee happiness are bleak. An article by the Ivey Business Journal cites these numbers as equating to a “crisis” of employee engagement. When an employee is fully engaged with a company and the work at hand, he or she will work harder, contribute more, and exhibit that rare trait of company loyalty.


Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: Which Is Better?

We tend to focus on extrinsic motivational factors to reward employees: financial compensation, benefits and praise. Those are all incredibly important and shouldn’t be sacrificed. Too often, however, we neglect looking at intrinsic motivators, which are motivational factors employees find within themselves. As writer Ross Coverdale explains in his article If Money Alone Isn’t Enough to Attract Talent, What Is?, these intrinsic motivators can include meaningfulness, competency, choice and progress.


Do you know what motivates your employees? As a manager, it’s your job to find out.


What Really Motivates People?

“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”
― Zig Ziglar, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World


Motivation isn’t a “one size fits all” concept. Everyone has a different style, and it’s up to management to both discover that style and foster it. Some employees work more productively as they receive more praise, while others have the opposite response. Some employees’ productivity is closely correlated with meeting challenges and proving themselves, while others shy away from competition.


Don’t make the mistake of only taking only one motivational approach. Offer a multitude for best results, and don’t forget to make motivation a continuous process.


How Can You Better Engage Employees?

When looking for ways to incorporate intrinsic rewards into your management style, consider tried and true methods that provide meaning to employees.


Offer positive reinforcement

Never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you,” a genuine compliment or taking the time to notice individual strengths. These positives may only take a brief moment on the part of management, but they can mean the world to the recipient.


Stay consistent in order to build trust

Nothing confuses employees more than inconsistency at the management level. If employees see that some coworkers are treated differently depending on who they are and what friendships they maintain, this can justifiably be interpreted as an injustice. Your employees must trust you, and the best way to demonstrate trustworthiness is through fair and consistent actions.


Seek employee feedback

Communication will make or break you as a manager. It’s perhaps the most crucial component of your effectiveness, and strong communicators get better results from their teams. That doesn’t mean the loudest managers take the gold, either. Communication is a delicate balance of excellent listening skills, positivity, empathy and honesty. Truly listening to employee feedback is the single best way to connect with them.


Assist employees with their own goals

Ask employees about their own ambitions to see if any special projects or assignments might advance their pursuits. Treat the employee/manager relationship as a two-way street, and take the time to learn about your staff members’ individual interests. You might be able to put some of their skills to use – and allow your employees to more thoroughly enjoy their assigned tasks.


Pose challenges in a manner that lets everyone contribute with solutions

Some employees prefer to analyze an issue before offering insight, while others like to vocally brainstorm in an unfiltered manner. Allow ample time so that everyone has a chance to respond to an idea, and encourage employees to communicate through any medium that suits them, whether it’s via email or delivered in person.


Be flexible

The number one request that Millennials have in regard to their workplace environment is flexibility. Luckily, in these modern times, virtual platforms allow for more opportunities to freelance and work from home. Allowing employees to flex their time to meet personal obligations and scheduling needs is sure to please them, and when they’re at work, they won’t hold resentment over an imbalance in work/life pursuits.

With the right motivational techniques and intrinsic rewards, management can foster an atmosphere of employee engagement. Nothing helps more with employee fulfillment, production and retention – and your company will reap the benefits.

Don't Need Talent to Succeed

Here’s What Makes You Successful (and No, It’s Not Just Talent)

Stephen King once said: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”


Certainly, the bestselling author isn’t alone in this belief. In their influential 1993 paper The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, K. Anders Ericsson et al. argued that what we know as “innate talent” is, in fact, the product of at least 10 years worth of intense practice.


Likewise, UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth suggested that grit is the ultimate predictor of success. It’s not hard to see why these ideas have mainstream appeal: Anyone can push themselves to work hard and persevere, but not everyone can be talented. So what does it take to be successful?


Talent Still Matters (to an Extent)


Success isn’t just about effort, though. According to a study by David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz, an individual’s basic abilities still play a role in the performance of complex tasks, even among those who are considered experts in their field. The researchers did concede, however, that in certain fields such as piano, “…working-memory capacity may become less important as the piece is practiced and then becomes entirely unimportant once mastered.”


Above anything, your basic, natural ability — your passion and talent — drives success and mastery of a given subject. We can teach almost anyone about SEO tactics, but it takes a person with a true talent and natural desire to continuously learn, stay on their feet and engage with users to stand out from everyone else.


Your Specific Field of Expertise Matters, Too


But even if hard work does contribute to success, it’s probably not as important as its proponents make it out to be. A research team led by Brooke N. Macnamara dug deeper into the idea of “deliberate practice” as defined by popular science. The team found that it accounted for “…26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.”


In other words, if you’re a hardworking basketball player, you’re probably going to fare better than, say, an overly enthusiastic math teacher who’s no better at understanding numbers than his students.


What About Luck?


Yes, luck does play a part in success. According to David Lubinski of Vanderbilt University, opportunity (or a chance to get lucky) should also be factored into the study of human performance, in addition to ability and commitment. Though “luck” and “opportunity” may be difficult variables to measure, most people know it when they see it.


To be successful, always keep your eye on golden opportunities. Being able to take advantage of prime moments or unique situations can lead to some of the most promising business ventures.


What You Can Do


It’s clear that a combination of talent, hard work and luck is the recipe for success. But what if you lack one or more of these qualities? What if you’re not talented, motivated or lucky enough? Does that mean you’re doomed to failure?


Not necessarily. You can’t do anything about things beyond your control), but you can:


  • Know the boundaries of your “circle of competence.” In his 1996 letter to his shareholders, billionaire investor Warren Buffett encouraged shareholders to invest only in companies that they understand inside and out. That way, they’re more likely to gain the stock returns they want.   By the same token, it’s more rewarding in the long run if you focus on maximizing your strengths, rather than trying to overcompensate for your weaknesses. As Mr. Buffett put it: “The size of [your circle of competence] is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.”


  • Adopt the “lucky person mindset.” Luck can’t be easily quantified, though Prof. Richard Wiseman did conduct a study on it back in 2003. He found that “lucky” people tend to be more relaxed, resilient and skilled at finding opportunities right under their noses than “unlucky” people.


  • Learn something new every day. According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence and talent are unchangeable, and therefore don’t bother to develop either. People with growth mindsets believe the opposite, and are usually the ones more likely to succeed in life.


  • Define success on your own terms. So far, we’ve used the word “success” to mean “financial wealth,” because that’s the most common and most quantifiable, definition. However, it can also mean “contentment,” “happiness,” “peace,” or a combination of all of the above. If you’ve already achieved your own definition of success in spite of everything else, isn’t that enough?


When it comes to success — whatever your definition is — talent isn’t everything. And neither is hard work. Knowing how to seize opportunities, maintain a natural passion for your field, and build on your expertise will help you meet your goals.