Team Building Game – Guess How Many Jelly Beans

jelly beans team building

I worked for a company that never had any team building events. When 5pm struck, everyone went home. It was the culture. No fun and no games.

I worked for another company and they loved team building events. We would go to TopGolf, which is a place that has gamified practicing your drives. We went bowling. We would go out to eat once a quarter as a team. It was great. The culture was much more close knit and people would stay later to finish up their work.

It was an interesting dichotomy between both places.

I would suggest building in team building into your culture if you want to encourage people to get to know each other, build trust, be happier at work, and go the extra mile. If you go the extra mile as a company your employees will go the extra mile for you.

Jelly Beans Team Building Game

Start by gathering everyone in the room. Unveil the game and the rules.

Each employee gets to guess how many jelly beans are in the jar. This is just like any other Jelly Bean game, but it’s what you do after that builds a stronger team culture.

Here is what you can do to tie everything back into not only having more fun, but encouraging people to talk with each other. Hopefully improving communication within the company.

So, the first guess is paid by the company. It costs $1 to guess.

Every guess after the first guess the employee should pay out of his/her own pocket. Create a simple shared spreadsheet that will allow the team leader to document each guess. If you want to make sure there is no cheating, you can have team leader put number of jelly beans in envelope, seal it and only open it after the deadline for guesses has passed.

The prize can be a $50 giftcard to a local restaurant of their choice.

There will also be a charity tied to the game. The team will pick 3 approved charities and the winner of the jelly beans guessing game will pick one of the approved charities.

The prize and the charity donation is the incentive for employee to participate. The charity donation is to create goodwill around the team.

You can run this game for a month. I would send out a message once a week and a link to the spreadsheet with everyone guesses. This will get people looking at who is guessing what and start to bid around other people’s guesses. The idea is to get as many people involved as you can so it becomes a talking point around the office.

The final step is to have a celebration around the game. Gather everyone in a room and announce the winner. This step is key because you want to encourage people to talk and share the experience. It’s this part of the game that will do the most good to building a stronger team culture.

Virtual Version (Companies where the employees work from home)

Set-up a jelly been jar and take a picture of it and send to everyone. Run the contest very much the same. You can create a PayPal account or another online account to collect money from each person. You can also collect money before you announce winner. The main difference is everyone will gather on an online video conference call to announce the winner and have the winner pick the charity.


If you would prefer not to collect money, especially if you are a virtual team, you can create jelly bean jar and keep track of guesses. Limit one guess per day per employee. Then the winning employee gets a free lunch.

Review Questions:

  1. How did people respond to the game? (Did they like the game? Did they participate?)
  2. What could be improved about the game when you run it again?
  3. Do you think it helped the team build stronger relationships?
  4. What were the benefits that you noticed to running this game?

If you want a leg up on your competition then here is a cool article for guessing how many jelly beans on are in jar.

How to Help Your Employees Feel Happier at Work

Office Conversation

Leading someone to do what you want them to do and getting them to actually enjoy doing it isn’t easy. I’ve always been a hard person to lead. I like to do things my way. A lot of people like to do things their way or at least feel like it.

Are you difficult to lead as well?

Most people are.

This is the key to leading your people.


Happiness is based on perception. Some employees love complete autonomy while others prefer a more structured day. You need to help them create the type of workday that makes them happy, productive and delivering great results.

It’s how they perceive their ability to make choices that truly matter to them. If they have control over the kind of projects that they like to work on for a large portion of their day they will be happy. They need have the freedom to execute their ideas. It’s giving them the space to grow and expand.

When people own their choices they feel responsible to deliver on their promises. As a leader in your organization, think about who you enjoy delivering great work to, it could be a co-worker, boss, or customer. Why do you think you work harder to deliver these results for them? You’ll understand the importance of emotions in your workday as well as your people’s emotions.

My Mistakes

A few years ago I was assigned to lead to an event that my company was hosting. I had to bring in speakers (inside and outside the organization), set up the conference room in a hotel, create a program, gather materials, promote conference and the list went on.

I was blindly assigning people to jobs without asking for their input. After terrible results in the first few weeks I stopped to take a breather. I gathered everyone for a meeting and I listened to feedback. Their feedback shocked me. I had a lot of improvement to make as a leader.

True Leadership

So you want an atmosphere that encourages great work? Don’t we all. Most bosses and managers talk a good game, but they don’t create a plan to make it happen.

Almost every CEO I worked for always talked about the importance of their people, but their actions did not coincide with their words. They were always more worried about their own issues.

I know how important it is to make money, improve profit margins, keep stock holders happy, but if the employees aren’t happy then the bottom line will suffer.


Let people create their own plan, improving their ability to understand the choices they do have (perceived freedom) and execute on their ideas then encourage them to improve their mistakes. The problem lies in helping them execute so they have the best chance at success.

As a leader of people you need to remove obstacles and encourage happiness in every facet of your business. I’ve created 10 techniques that will help your company be happy and successful.

  1. Be happy yourself.
  2. Know your people.
  3. Make time for your people.
  4. Create more autonomy.
  5. Help them find meaning in their work.
  6. Stop letting jerks dictate the company culture.
  7. Encourage friendships.
  8. Recognize hard work.
  9. Let people know that they have options.
  10. Find out why people leave.

These are concepts that are easy to understand, but may be hard to apply to your company’s culture. Let’s start with little baby steps.

Once you’ve been able to bring a little more happiness into your own life and career, which isn’t easy, but should be daily exercise. You can move on to making your employees happy.

The best way to do this is the 4-step employee happiness process:

  1. Ask them, on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being you would rather lose a foot than continue working here and 10 being happier than a baby giggling) how happy are you?
  2. Ask them, how can I make you happier? (What projects are you struggling with and what projects would you like to do more of? Let’s say they say on the scale of happiness they are a 4 then I like you to say how can I help you get to a 5 or 6. Make it feel attainable and meet their expectations.)
  3. Listen to their responses and be honest about where you could probably help them and where it might not be possible at this time.
  4. Ask them if they can create a plan with 2 projects that they would like to work on (no more than 500 words) that would help them feel happier as well as help the company improve. Give them a date of when you would like the plan buy. Make sure they give you a step-by-step of how they would implement the projects (timeframe, resources, and breakdown of tasks) and what they think the results would be after the project is complete.

That’s it.

You will have to review the plan, pick the best project (give them guidelines to create a better project for them and the company), but if they did their due diligence your job is just to review plan, make mutual adjustments, and have them implement their idea.

The best part is it’s a win-win. You have happier employees and you get better results.

What is one great idea you’ve seen from your boss that helped you feel happier at work?

10 Leadership Secrets From Top Business Books

brazilian hair

Think about your boss for a moment. What do you think are the reasons for his success? What are his qualities that inspire you? Why do you want to become like him? Let’s learn about the answers to these questions by taking help of the leadership books.

Leadership has got multiple facets and each and every facet plays a key role in the success of the leader. Everyone wants to become a leader. People like to have followers who admire them. Leaders are responsible for the success or the failure of the organisation. If they could effectively manage the people, culture and work in the organisation, no one can stop the organisation from achieving heights.

If you are a student who is about to enter the corporate life in a year, learning leadership lessons can help you get an edge over your competitors. If you are a manager who is facing challenges in managing people, work or culture in the organisation, leadership lessons are essential for your career.

1. Every team member should wear the crown of a ‘leader’ and take charge

Becoming a leader and leading a team is an achievement, but when the responsibilities of the leader becomes overwhelming, the achievement can soon turn into a nightmare. Rather than having a single leader loaded with work, developing a team of leaders with each member acting as a leader can help in developing a team with excellent team coordination. By growth of each employee ultimately the organisation grows. This idea is suggested by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Cliff in their book ‘A team of Leaders‘.

Imagine a situation, where you don’t have to give explanation for a decision, instead your team members point out the benefits of your decision as they can relate themselves to you. Life will become so easy for the leaders and the overall potential of the organisation increases.

2. A Motivated Employee is twice efficient than a demotivated employee

What do you think is the reason behind the continuing success of an organisation like Google? It’s the Motivation. Not just external motivation of the employees is important, internal motivation plays a crucial role in the long term success of the organisation. This idea is given by Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about what motivates us who is connecting the dots between motivation and Organisation Effectiveness.

If the employees are just externally motivated by giving rewards and appreciation they may adopt an unethical behaviour in order to achieve the rewards which destroys the culture of the organisation. If they are internally motivated they’ll trust the values of the organisation, put in extra effort and be ethical.

3. Empathy towards your employees will win half battle for you

If you empathize with people and understand their emotions you can learn about things like ‘what motivates them?’, ‘What are the different problems faced by them’ and ‘How can you help them grow?’ It you want to become an effective leader, you need to influence your employees which is possible only if you are emotionally intelligent.

Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence relates Emotional Intelligence with leadership. He describes how leaders can positively influence the people they lead so that they can work at their best potential.

If you are empathetic to your employees, you can get the insights about inside the organisation as well as outside it by developing a healthy equation with your employees. Invite your employees to a dinner party after they failed in a project, appreciate the effort put in and see the difference in their behaviour.

4. Focus on developing the strengths of your employees

Have you ever heard of a leader who is the master of all? Even Steve Jobs was fired from a company he himself created. No one is perfect. As Devora Zack suggested in the book ‘Single Tasking’- Multitasking is a myth. Successful leaders are successful because they can delegate work to their followers on the basis of their strengths and don’t focus on managing their weaknesses. By surrounding themselves with the right people having the right skills they can develop an effective team.

Tom Rath and Barie Conchie in their book Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow explains that effective leaders focus on developing strengths of the people instead of managing their weaknesses.

By knowing your strengths you can use them to become successful in academic, career and personal success. It can help you become a successful leader because now you will be able to identify strengths of other people and recruit them accordingly.

5. You can’t become a leader overnight

What if your employees are not satisfied with your leadership? Instead of talking to you about an issue, they talk against you behind your back? Leadership is about influencing the people and gaining followers which can’t happen in a day. By prioritizing effectively both people and tasks it is possible to become an effective leader.

Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership explains the different laws and steps to be followed to become a successful leader.

It requires patience, commitment and learning from your mistakes. Along with personal development if you can contribute to the development of others you are an effective leader.

6. Predict the uncertainties of future and decide the right path

Leader is a person who could successfully navigate his followers in times of uncertainty and help them deal with difficulties without getting demoralised. It’s important to develop a strategy to achieve the long term goal of the organisation.

Alfred Lansing in his book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage tells the story of the leader Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 members voyage across the Antarctic Circle in a very difficult environment of extreme cold, no food and stormy winds.

There will be times when you face opposition from people against your decision, but staying confident, firm and strong with your decision will help you gain followers slowly and exponentially.

7. Storytelling and Character Building are an effective way of getting followers

Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. in his book Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature tries to emphasize the storytelling is an effective way of making a resonating effect in the minds of the employees where by relating themselves with the characters of the story they can modify their behaviour according to the needs of the organisation.

If you want to be the inspiration of others, develop character and trust among people, and only then you can help others to grow. If your employees perceive you as honest, fair and intelligent, then only they’ll be able to understand your vision and will be willing to contribute their 100 percent.

8. Promoting Innovation by developing a favourable culture in the organisation

Leader who ensure creating a conducive environment for creativity to flourish; values employees, customer and competitors; and works in the interest of everyone is a real leader.

Tony Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by telling about his journey from selling Linkexchange (his first company) to getting Zappos (second company) out of bankruptcy and selling it to Amazon, highlights the effect of culture and core values of the organisation on the creativity and productivity of the employees.

Lazlo bock in his book ‘Work rules’ highlights the reasons behind the success of the Google from an HR perspective. The key behind Google’s success is its culture where no unilateral decisions are made. Every decision is made after the consent of all the group members whether it is performance appraisal or product design or launch of a product.

Employees when given freedom, equal powers and responsibility become more loyal, confident and creative. When people who are more intelligent then you are hired, commanding them may result in reducing their efficiency. They are smart enough to manage their work and innovate independently.

9. Expand the pie

Imagine working with people who competed with you for the position you are currently on. Appointing them to work under you is a big risk. They may try to throw you out and take your position.

Doris Kearns Goodwin in his book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln explains the reasons behind the success of Lincoln who took the risk and appointed his competitors to his cabin as he considered them to be the best men whose service is needed by the country.

Understanding the human behaviour and knowing what motivates them can work wonders for a leader and turn enemies into allies. You can talk and analyse the situation of conflict with other person to find a way that ensures benefit of everyone.

10. Guide the Change

Assume that you work in an organisation which lacks creativity. Being aware of the rising competitive forces, you know that your organisation won’t sustain for long. How will you guide the cultural change of the organisation?

Developing your strategy, gaining trust of everyone and analysing the positives and the negatives of the change will help you guide the change that you are planning to bring in your organisation. Have a plan B ready if the change doesn’t go according to the way you planned. For example- If you are adopting a new technology for your product, don’t discard the old technology completely.

Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to great‘, studies the reasons behind the sustained success of the great companies like Kimberly-Clark, Nucor, Walgreen’s and Wells Fargo. These companies could move from below average to successful company’s status only because of the vision and guidance of their leader.

In the book ‘Only the Paranoid survive‘, Andrew Stephen Grove emphasizes that it is important for long term success of the business to be prepared for changes in the market by anticipating them. The earlier and more accurately you identify these changes, the more freedom you have to choose your response, because your original business will provide the resources to jump-start the new business.

Leadership is not about micromanaging or making your employees scared of you, it has multiple aspects. Each and every aspect is important. You become a successful leader only when you adopt a holistic approach and contribute in the growth of others. Don’t dictate people because of your positional power. Instead influence them with your leadership power. Read these books and apply its suggestions in your life and become an effective leader.

This is a guest post from Vandana Shivani of Keynote where you can read Book summaries.

* All links are affiliate links to Amazon.

An Open Letter to All Bosses Who Don’t Listen

Open Letter to Your Boss

This article was inspired by an email I received from a reader last week:

Dear Karl,

I truly want to work happier, but I feel stuck. I received your email last week about being a great leader. I’m sad to say that my boss is a true jerk. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he is always too busy or when I try to speak up he just cuts me off. There is no way he would ever ask for my feedback. I feel lost. I have a young child and I really don’t want to look for another job. I like my work, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand working for my boss.

Thanks for whatever advice you can give,

Struggling at Work

Here is a nice supplement to this article – 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Here is my reply (An open reply to all the bosses who fail to listen to their employees problems and ideas).

Dear Struggling at Work,

I’ve been in your position before.

My first boss out of college who wouldn’t listen to me and also kept putting me down. After researching a company shirt for him he wanted an update, so I went into his office.

After one minute of explaining the different local print shops we could use, he held up his hand for me to stop talking.

He asked me if the sizes come in Double XL. I wasn’t sure. I told him I could go and find out.

He shook his head, looked down into his lap, then at me and said I could have a monkey do a better job on this project.

He killed my confidence with that one sentence.

I share this with you because I’m a proud man, but as a young man I was afraid to stick up for myself. No one deserves to be treated that way and I didn’t have the confidence to be strong.

Every time I would try to present an idea he would brush me off. He didn’t even try to pretend like he listened to me. He just ignored most of my ideas.

I wish I could share with you that eventually I stuck up for myself and my boss respected me. This never happened.

I worked there for two years and hated working for him the whole time I was there.

I was lucky to have a great manager, in another department, that helped guide me. He hated to see me leave the company, but he supported me.

That was over fifteen years ago.

Now I’m much more confident and willing to speak up. It’s taken a lot of practice, but so worth my energy.

My hope is that you have or can find someone who can help guide you a work, someone in a different department, HR, a mentor, or a coach.

I realize that many bosses aren’t very good listeners, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements in the working world. Bosses and managers should seek training to improve their listening skills and be better coaches to their employees.

They need people like you to lead the way.  They need someone to say you aren’t very good at this right now, but I know you have the talent to be a great leader.

I know it’s hard to step up and say something difficult and maybe feels impossible, but it’s not. Boss by boss and manager by manager we can encourage them to be better listeners so they create a happier work culture. When they understand that with improving their listening and communication skills they will help build a stronger team.

Real improvements in the workplace cultures through America and other top down managed cultures need a wake up call. They must know that these bad habits can’t continue.


You don’t need to do this one your own. You have a lot of power if you are willing to ask for help.

For example you could ask for help within your company. You could seek help and advice from someone outside the company as well, to see if they’ve been through something similar and how they improved their situation.

Guess what?

They probably have.

When we are willing to go find help and be a little vulnerable that’s when we can work on improving ourselves and our career.

Your turn…

How do you find the strength to ask for help when you need it the most?

Would you like to improve your leadership skills? Then take a look at how I help people with my leadership coaching program. I’m taking applications for next month.

Why Great Leaders Have a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset quote

It’s 10am.

Mark knew it was time for the team meeting, but he really didn’t want to go.

It was always the same thing. People would joke around for 10 minutes. Then Cindy and John would dominate the conversation to see who could one up the other. Alex would try to chime in with calm and reason and Cindy and John would talk over him.





Mark would look over at his manager and he would be rolling his eyes or looking down at his iPad. Mark liked his boss, but at some point he stopped caring.

Old Patterns

Many of the old patterns exist because that’s what people do. They get into habits. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but habits are at your work.

It’s the bad habits that hold us back.

I came across a popular talk from Carol Dweck.

She talks about the growth mindset. I clumsily wrote the growth mindset back in 2008. I believed I could be a good writer someday. Almost there. Just a few more years. 🙂

Read what she has to say about her research:

“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).” Carol Dweck

Do you believe you are still learning and growing?

Every leader must be able to believe that s/he can learn and grow. If they are stuck in old habits and can’t break free you get the typical scenario that I described above.

Breaking Old Patterns

Habits are not easy to break, but it’s possible, if you believe it’s possible.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

A man after my own heart. He had the growth mindset back in 1901. He was also an Environmental Activist. The dude was amazing.

Enough about my man Theo.

You can break these bad habits by creating an employee feedback loop. This is where leadership separates the average from the really good. Listening to tough feedback and using it as an opportunity for growth.

Now imagine if Mark’s boss had a growth mindset.

He would see the meetings weren’t productive and he would take action. He would probably start the meeting by stating the obvious then begin by asking each person, what we should do to improve the meetings.

He would list each idea on the meeting room white board. Then ask people to vote on the ones they think would work the best.

Then he would implement the top 3 ideas by asking the group who would like to make sure we follow these ideas in every meeting. If no one steps up then he would do it. If someone stepped up he knew he had an ally to help him.

Either way it would happen.

Be a Great Leader

A great leader knows when to make the tough choice. Even the best leaders can lose sight of what is working well and what needs to be improved. So that’s why you have to create a feedback loop to help keep you in check.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

I truly believe that everyone should consider themselves a leader at work. So you should be asking your co-workers and your boss how you can improve.

It can be a hard conversation to have, but one that will help you grow your career.

If you consider yourself a leader at work then you should get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagementto help you at work. I’m also offering a new type of coaching that I haven’t offered before. I want to help more business leaders improve their employees happiness and productivity. If you are on my email list I’ll send you a special offer to help you create happier and more engaged employees. Just click the button below:

7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement
Below is a cool infographic from Carol Dweck that helps you understand how to bring more of a growth mindset to your work. It’s focus is on students, but you can apply these mindset techniques to your work as well.


What is an Employee Feedback Loop?


To the boardroom.

At least that is where I thought she was taking me.

I entered a room with a big desk and a large man to match.

“Have a seat,” he said.

He gestured to the seat in front of his desk.

“Ok, so tell me why is it important for my employees to be happy?”

He got right to the point.

I was told he was a straight shooter.

Just a little more straight than I was expecting. It stunned me for a moment.

He got right to it.

I paused and smiled.

His eyes creased curiosity.

I told him the most important tool 99% of businesses aren’t utilizing well are feedback loops.

He asked me to explain.

A feedback loop is an ongoing conversation with your employees about what is going well and what could be improved.

I asked him if he heard of the example that we only use 10% of our brains, which helped demonstrate my point. He had heard that percentage before.

I explained that most companies are only using 40% of their employees potential. I created a resource guide to improve your leadership skills. Click the link to get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement.

He leaned forward.

A super small company of less than 10 employees can usually create a natural feedback loop by talking to individuals throughout the month. The busier and larger a company becomes the more layers that are created. The harder it becomes to listen.

Listening is a key skill that most companies don’t teach. They want great results, but don’t make it easy for their people.

A small to large size company should have some sort of system in place.

I told him about Domino Feedback based off of Net Promoter Score. I explained how each employee is a domino tipping out into the world and they usually fit 3 categories.

  1. Promoters – They love working for the company and tell their friends about their experience.
  2. Passives – This group is just ho-hum about working for the company. Not saying anything good or bad.
  3. Detractors – They talk bad about you behind your back every chance they get. They bring other people down and hurt the company culture that you are trying to improve.

The more promoters you have the more you can gauge the health of your company culture. The more detractors you have the more likely they are creating a toxic culture.

He was hooked.

The hard part was making sure that people could be honest. You don’t want them to fear giving honest feedback. You also don’t want them to be afraid to make you mad.

That’s why I suggest most companies create a feedback loop that is anonymous. You get to gather as honest feedback as possible.

The next part is to be consistent about getting this feedback. Asking for feedback once a year isn’t good enough. How much change happens in your industry can be astounding, almost hard to keep up. The same goes for issues your employees have to deal with on a regular basis.

The change is rapid and the only way to keep up is to have every employee onboard, listening to customer’s needs, each other’s needs, and supplier’s needs.

Once you have a system in place to capture these problems and ideas then it’s time to put on your listening hat.

I knew a CEO who actually had a listening hat. He would put on a cowboy hat every time he would review his company survey with his team.

Then it’s using this information to help you get a birds eye view of your company. You can learn what is going well and what needs to be improved.

It’s very important that you or your team don’t take any of the feedback personally. Employees will use the forum to vent their frustration. This is a good thing. They get to vent, feel heard, and find ways to move on.

I’m curious about your company.

How well do they listen to you?

Do you have a feedback loop in place that allows you to give your boss and/or company feedback? If so how to they gather it? Do you use software, in person, meetings, etc.?

If you have any questions about creating an employee feedback loop to create more engagement at work, just reach out to me (contact page) and we’ll set-up a quick consultation.

How to Improve Your Work Culture in an Office

open office

When I first started work at my current job, I was bowled over by the overwhelming sense of fun that permeated the office. There were video games, BBQs, raffles, and frisbee tournaments on the patio. Free food and schwag was so prevalent, you couldn’t walk 500 feet without encountering a giant plate of cookies or a comfy new t-shirt.

We were all about that hip ‘tech company culture’ — that is, until it backfired.

Does your organization need help improving communication, feeling grateful, or creating a happiness plan? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom and we’ll see how more happiness tools can improve communication at your company.

When Internal Culture Goes Wrong

While the effort to keep company morale sky high 24/7 was appreciated, it was also abused. The abundance of distractions competed for the attention span of the employees — and eventually, some of my colleagues just quit working all together.

We had no system in place to make sure employees were meeting their production goals, and no real threat to anyone’s job if poor performance was noticed. Once that became apparent, quite a few people took advantage of the system.

Upper management was confused and unsure of where things had gone wrong. With so many fun happenings around the office, why weren’t the employees happy and productive?

The problem really boiled down to one thing — engagement. Did our employees like the company? Of course, they were paid to sit around and play all day, what’s not to like? Were our employees engaged? No — not even a little bit.

Engagement & Culture

Engagement is more than employee attraction or retention. Employees who are engaged are emotionally connected to and passionate about their work. They’re proud of their company and look forward to coming to work each day. They’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure the organization is successful.

Furthermore, engagement and culture go hand in hand. Company culture impacts how an employee experiences and perceives the organization they work for. Engagement is how an employee feels about themselves and their work.

If the company culture is toxic or apathetic, and employee won’t have positive feelings about the organization and their role in it then they’ll end up just coasting along instead.

My coworkers and I weren’t emotionally connected to our work at all. Hell, half of us had never even heard of our product before we started working here. And as for being proud of our company — well, that’s hard to do when the only way you know what the company stands for is a values poster in the lobby. Without strong leadership, clear communication, and solid expectations, our employees were set up to fail from the very start.

Management eventually identified the problem with both our internal culture and lack of engagement and began to take steps to set things right.

Our leadership made three main changes:

  • We all created agreed upon goals with our team leader.
  • Communication channels were opened up.
  • We began to hear more about what our company really stood for.

And you’ll never guess what happened.

Productivity soared.

Distraction’s Impact on Engagement

It’s hard for an employee to be fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work if they can’t actually get any work done.

Employee distraction is one of the biggest hurdles companies face, and my company is no exception. While the X-Box and popcorn machine no longer pull focus like they used to, the open office environment is another story entirely.

Open offices are incredibly popular in many tech companies as they’re considered a boon to communication and camaraderie. In truth, lack of privacy, uncontrolled social interactions, and constant noise pollution have left workers more dissatisfied and unproductive than ever. Not to mention, open offices make it far easier for illness to spread.

I loathe open offices. I am quite easily distracted and the uninterrupted stream of noise from my coworkers keeps me from reaching my potential. I don’t think I could be more productive in a private office or cubicle, I know I could.

But one major upside to the open office is cost — they’re incredibly cheap to set up. Expecting my employer to pony up the dough to set us all up with our own private space is, frankly, ridiculous.

The trick is to find a middle ground.

There are a couple of easy to apply solutions companies can employ:

  1. Within the open space itself, they can create different zones for different types of work (collaborative, individual, etc) using architectural elements like alcove sofas, low walls, or sheer paneling.
  2. They can give their employees the freedom to move around campus by supplying tablets or versatile 2-in-1 laptops. Individual rooms can be set aside for quiet, independent work.

In order for an organization to see its workers reach the highest level of engagement and productivity, it will need to cultivate an environment that supports optimal performance — both physically and psychologically.

My company is young. We’re learning a lot as we go, and playing many things by ear, but I have high hopes that one day we’ll be considered on of the top places to work in Idaho.

What does your company do to limit distractions so people can be productive and get in the zone?

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

Why American Leaders Don’t Care about Happiness at Work

emotions matter

My son just starred as the credits rolled. It wasn’t the reaction that I was hoping for. I wiped away a tear and whispered in his ear.

What did you think?

Nothing. He just sat there, staring straight ahead.

He’s five and got up on my lap in the beginning of the movie. He barely twitched for an hour and forty minutes.

The movie definitely interested him, but he just wasn’t sure what to make of it.

We watched Inside Out. A movie about a young girls emotions as she dealt with moving from Minnesota to San Fransisco.

It was a look at the emotions inside this girl’s head and the struggles that all eleven year olds go through. The main character (emotion) inside her, Joy, struggle with letting sadness be a part of her emotional spectrum.

It was a cool visualization of how many of us deal with our emotions.

We’re afraid of them.

Their messy.

Especially at work.

This was very true as I talked with my Aunt who is a small business owner. She took me out to lunch and asked me about my businesses.

I explained how my UX (User Experience) company, Domino Connection, was growing very fast for only being me. I told her how I branched out into A/B testing website, so I could help my clients create base markers to measure from so they could increase leads and sales. She was fascinated.

I then shared how I used a lot of the stuff from Work Happy Now to help my clients like helping them create feedback loops, developing core values to use in the workplace, and measuring people’s happiness (satisfaction) at work.

I started to lose her.

I tried to bring her back, but I felt the push back about measuring happiness.

I’ve seen this again and again from American leaders at work.

Don’t get me wrong. My aunt has a lot of happiness ideas in place for her employees. She tries very hard to make employees feel listened to and appreciated. She buys them lunch when they work weekends. She pays 100% for their healthcare.

There are a lot of perks, but she also makes a lot of mistakes. Which she’ll also admit. There are no perfect leaders.

As I tried to bring her back to the idea of measuring happiness and improving her feedback loop she explained how she already did a lot of this and didn’t really need to improve it.

I paused and thought about a conversation that I had with a potential client around creating happiness measurement markers in their company.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

I created the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload. Leaders, like my aunt, can bring a more positive experiences into the workplace and improve engagement if they have help.

It was the same conversation all over again.

Americans don’t like dealing with emotions in the workplace. We don’t want to deal with sadness, anger, and even happiness.

We have a hard enough time accepting our own thoughts and emotions, dealing with other people’s emotions just gets harder.

Does it mean we should ignore emotions in the workplace because it’s hard?


Let me ask you:

How often do you celebrate at work?

Not just closing a big client or someone’s birthday. Which of course is good to do, but celebrating a team’s hard work.

Just sharing a proud moment even if it didn’t work out. Taking a moment to celebrate someone’s hard work shows them that you are listening. That you notice how hard they are working. It’s this appreciation that can make an employee’s week.

It’s not just Americans that struggle with emotions in the workplace. Germans, Brits, and Japanese people struggle with emotions too.

We are afraid to admit we are tired, stressed, frustrated. We push these emotions down and take it out on our families, which isn’t fair.

That’s why measuring people’s emotional states is important. We can see patterns in the joy and the struggle. We can use these patterns to help make better choices for the company to retain people who are thinking about leaving the company or improve how people view their experience at work.

Is it perfect? Nope. Science isn’t perfect. It gets even messier with trying to measure feelings. It’s about doing our best to improve upon our experiences so we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed out, and cause more damage to ourselves or other people. It’s also about being happier because if we aren’t happy at work we don’t have good results.

The point of life is happiness. – The Dalai Lama

Asking for feedback from employees on a regular basis is just one listening tool that you can use to help increase happiness.

This is where it gets tough for many leaders…They first have to admit that they aren’t perfect and they need help. That they don’t always listen as well as they should or believe that they are.

Are American leaders afraid of the answers that they will get if they ask how happy their employees are at work? Maybe they’re afraid of getting too much feedback or not enough.

So I ask you…

Why do you think Americans so afraid of emotions at work? Do you see it similar to me or from a different perspective?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section in the article.

If you need help retaining your best employees and improving your listening tools, so they feel heard. Just let me know and we’ll set up a consultation.

10 Big Mistakes That Kill Employee Morale


A few months in at my last job the greatness started to wear off. I wish it could have been different. The main issue was my relationship with my boss.

He never complimented me or thanked me for my hard work. Every idea that I presented was ignored. My boss, while a good manager on his good days, was a bit of a grump on bad days. Don’t get me wrong, we got along most of the time. But our work relationship suffered. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to psych myself up. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted out.

Here’s the thing: everyone wants a team of employees who are dedicated to their jobs and are excited to come to work every day. The best way to achieve this, of course, is by maintaining a high level of morale in the workplace. You probably know the phrase “a happy wife makes a happy life?” Well, a happy employee makes employers more money.

The problem? This is easier said than done.

Achieving a happy office is largely dependent upon the professional health of the leadership. As even executives are human, it’s all too easy for leaders to get lost in the shuffle of everyday business needs rather than actively searching out how they can address the needs of the employees. Who can set the environment of an organization but the leader?

Leaders who want to be effective, respected and well liked should avoid some of the most common mistakes that directly impact the morale of their employees:

Mistake #1: Trying Too Hard to Be Everywhere

Have you ever seen the portraits where the eyes of the subject seem to follow the viewer wherever they go? It’s creepy, right? Don’t be like that.

As a leader, you’re held responsible for the quality of all projects. It can be hard to trust employees to get it done how you want, especially when they’re new to the team. It’s easy to want to check-in frequently to see how things are going and give them a hand to get the project moving in the right direction. Doing so can inhibit the productivity and creativity of your team, though.

Next time you feel yourself checking in too often, remember why you handed the project off: you’re too busy to do everything yourself and you have a team of capable, knowledgeable employees.

Give employees the space and authority they need to make educated decisions, and trust them to do it. They’ll feel much more confident, and you’ll feel much more relaxed not having to be everywhere at once.

Mistake #2: Being too Proud to Admit a Mistake

The best example of how to behave is by looking at the behavior patterns set by the leadership.  With that being said, however, leaders are prone to making mistakes just like everyone else. What sets a good leader apart from others is their willingness to honestly admit when they are wrong, which, according to Steve Blank at Entrepreneur, is “one more step toward a more effective and cohesive company.”

Even if it’s a small and unintentional mistake, fess up to it. Employees will appreciate the forthrightness and honesty. And, they’ll be more likely to own up to their own mistakes in the future.

Mistake #3: Being Too Busy to Listen to Your Employees

Your phone is ringing off the hook, your inbox is full, and you have a report due to a client in a few hours. It’s easy to neglect your own needs, let alone the needs of your employees.

Be sure to make time to listen to your employees. Foster an environment that welcomes and embraces ingenuity and innovation, and is considerate of your employees’ concerns. After all, giving employees the opportunity to come up with new and better ways of performing their tasks can save the company time, resources and money.

Mistake #4: Thinking You Know What Someone Wants Without Asking Them.

No one wants to be a puppet or the scapegoat of why a project didn’t get completed.

Encourage employees to speak up for themselves so that everyone can understand how the pieces of the group fit together. This ability to converse and be honest and open with one another means that problems will be addressed more quickly and respectfully, as that is the expectation being set. 

Mistake #5: Not Taking the Time to Say Thank You When You are Busy

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and needed. Forgetting to acknowledge the accomplishments of workers can make them feel just the opposite, and chances are, it won’t be long until they go work for someone else who will see – and acknowledge – their value.

Lindsey Lavine, from Fast Company, wrote an excellent article on the power of showing appreciation. Her article discusses the psychological impact gratitude has on getting people to help out, which is incredibly beneficial when trying to motivate employees to work hard.

Mistake #6: Not Emphasizing that Your Employees Ideas Are Important

Leaders who are doing their job well know that every skillset is important. Whether or not the job requires a lot of education or experience doesn’t matter.

Making employees feel as though their opinion matters and they aren’t being lorded over does, so try not to pull rank and make them feel stupid. Instead, appreciate any comments or feedback they offer.

Mistake #7: Not Giving Off the Proper Signals that You are Approachable

Think for a second about the waiting area of the doctor’s office. It’s full of potential issues and problems waiting to be solved by the doctor. The problem is that the doctor is incredibly busy with a long list of patients who arrived earlier. This means a long wait that seems like an eternity.

Often times, leaders also let their employees sit in the waiting room. Their employees’ questions go unanswered and no one gets a proper diagnosis or treatment.

Become more accessible with open communication lines and an open-door policy with specific visiting hours. Be sure to also show that you’re approachable by being transparent and starting the conversation.

Mistake #8: Losing Track of What You Promised To Do

Everyone struggles with this, but follow-through is incredibly important in establishing and maintaining respect with employees. If leadership decides that raises will happen in the spring but doesn’t actually deliver on that promise when the time comes, how is that going to make the employees feel? Like maybe they weren’t worth the money or their boss wasn’t totally honest?

Follow through. Be accountable. Say it and then deliver on it.

Mistake #9: Coasting at Work for Long Periods of Time

Time is always moving, trends are always changing and there are always new developments. Leaders should strive to keep up as best as possible.

There is nothing wrong with taking breaks throughout the day and vacations to recharge. In fact it’s a healthy aspect of work, but coasting for long periods of time is detrimental to you and your staff.

This means taking classes, attending trainings, pushing to be better at the jobs they’re performing. This continual education and professional development shows employees that even leaders need to change or improve habits. After all, that’s what this article is for, right?

Mistake #10: Remaining Rigid and Unforgiving

Let’s face it: Life happens. Traffic gets heavy, commutes are long and sometimes, people just oversleep. There are a million reasons why an employee may be late or why they may need to take a longer lunch or use up their sick time on a Monday morning.

Give employees the flexibility they need to stay sane in both their personal lives and at work. Be compassionate to their needs but expect the work to get done in a timely fashion.

Being a leader comes with lots of opportunities for making these common blunders. However, leaders who make their employees’ happiness a priority are more likely to retain staff and foster a work environment that is friendly and powerful. That sounds like a great leader to work for, doesn’t it?

Now it’s your turn to share a story. What is one small example that you remember from a great boss that you would like to share with us? (Just let us know in the comment section.)

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

What Can Your Boss Can Learn from a Goose?

Flying V

Have you ever looked up in the sky and noticed one of the most amazing skills any animal possesses?

You’ve probably seen it at least a few times. Geese flying in a V formation is beautiful thing to watch.

It’s teamwork at it’s best.

You remember fifth grade science or probably looked up in the sky and asking one of your parents why do geese fly in a V?

You probably know the answer, but let me explain something first.

Happiness is an ever allusive feeling. You can’t always be happy, but there are ways to make it happen more often. I’m not talking about just popping in a smooth piece of chocolate. Letting it just melt all over your tongue.

I got a little carried away there.

I’m talking about tools that are proven to bring longer lasting happiness to your company. You might be thinking. There is no way my company would create a happiness plan to make us happier.

I get it. I’ve been there.

This might be true, but if you just give up then are you just throwing in the white towel. Are you resigned to an unhappy workplace? If so then you can click away. You shouldn’t waste your time here any longer.

You should be planning your weekends.

Let’s talk about what tools you have to help you bring more happiness back to your work.

I’m not sure if you noticed a trend in the younger workforce. They are buying less things and spending more money on experiences?

Why is this?

Because experiences make us happier, not new things. Experiences build friendships. It’s these friendships that matter to you, not an extra $2,000 in your paycheck. Very rarely will you look back on your life and appreciate the couch that you bought.

So I’m going to ask you a tough question.

What is your company doing to create more positive experiences for you?

They probably know that if they create positive and even stressful experiences for you it creates memories that endear you and your co-workers to the company. Yes, that means employees stay longer and work harder because of the attachment they feel for the company. It’s up to you if you want to share that information with your boss.

Ok, so they probably should buy you and your team a trip to Bali for a team building getaway, it would be nice, but probably won’t happen. What they might do is thank you for wanting to make the team happier and more productive.

That’s where my new “Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload” comes in handy. Every company deals with stress, but it’s how you deal with it that makes the biggest difference for your employees. It’s in Beta right now, but the feedback so far has been wonderful.

I need a few more leaders who want to bring more fun and happiness to their teams. Are you interested? Click here to get the first 6 modules that can help your manager improve the culture at work and help you to become more engaged.