Posts Tagged ‘Team Building’

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Do Your Employees Have Emotional Intelligence?

Business Team Chatting at Their OfficeIn my recent post 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Reps, I mentioned the concept of “emotional intelligence.” Since emotional intelligence is a very desirable quality in a customer service employee, I wanted to explore this topic a little further.

In the workplace, emotional intelligence (sometimes called EI or EQ for “emotional quotient”) means being able to identify, understand, manage and use emotions—your own, and others’—in positive ways to build teams, lessen stress and communicate more effectively.

There are four aspects of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding one’s own emotions is the first step in EI. By paying attention to their own emotional reactions, employees can learn to recognize the physical, mental and emotional signs of emotions such as stress, anger or sadness that can hinder good customer service.
  2. Self-management: Self-aware employees are in a better position to manage their own emotions. For an example, an employee who recognizes that a stomachache is a sign of stress can take steps to ease the stress before it becomes overwhelming. When they realize that emotions are interfering with their job, employees can make positive choices to defuse these emotions.
  3. Social awareness: The third part of emotional intelligence is being able to understand what others are feeling, empathize with them and react appropriately. For instance, if a customer is sighing heavily during a customer service call, an employee with social awareness will recognize this might indicate growing frustration, and “check in” on the customer’s emotional temperature.
  4. Managing relationships: Employees who possess the three other aspects of EI will be more successful at managing their interactions with other people. By being aware of their own emotions, managing them in a positive fashion, and responding appropriately to others’ emotions, these customer service employees can defuse conflicts, improve customers’ moods and build customer loyalty.

Want to assess and improve your employees (or your own) EI? Here are some emotional intelligence exercises and an emotional intelligence toolkit to assess and improve EI. 

Can You Beat the Marshmallow Challenge?

1-30 marshmallow challenge smallHow can twenty sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and one marshmallow help build a stronger team?

The Marshmallow Challenge has become a popular exercise in which small groups are asked to build the “tallest free-standing structure” out of the materials provided. The teams have eighteen minutes to complete this task including the entire marshmallow on top. It’s a fun and instructive exercise that allows teams to experience simple lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.

The challenge has been conducted with business school graduates, CEOs, architects, engineers, and even kindergarteners. There have been surprising findings for which groups perform most successfully. Surprisingly, recent business school graduates are among the worst performers and kindergarteners often excel at this challenge. The children don’t spend time fighting to be the leader of the group. Instead, they just start playing and in the process begin prototyping. Business school grads spend most of the time talking, planning and building, which means they don’t have much time to change the design when it finally comes time to put the marshmallow on top which is usually too heavy for the structure that was built.

The teambuilding lessons from this challenge include:

Always test assumptions through prototyping: Participants think that marshmallows are light and will be easily supported, but when teams start building the structure, it suddenly tips it over. Only through realizing that every idea has value and then prototyping various solutions can the teams find out what works.

Don’t focus on being the tallest. When the instruction is given that the tallest will win, teams assume that height will win the contest. As a result, they wrongly focus on how high they can build the structure instead of the stability its base. Many times, companies try to grow too fast before they have a solid business.

Use what is available. Development of every product has limitations and teams can only use what they have and not get resources they want to build something better. In business, there is never unlimited resources or the perfect environment to grow.

Use only what is needed. There are some things that are given in the exercise that do not need to be used like the string. Teams have to figure out what is useful and what needs to be discarded in developing any solutions.

Give up perfection. Teams start out dreaming about building an elegant structure like the Eiffel Tower. They have to give up this idea of perfection and build something (even if it is ugly) that works that can be “good enough” to win.

If you’re looking for a fun way to kick start a meeting or get a team into a creative frame of mind, try running a marshmallow challenge of your own. Is your team up to it?

The New Leaderboard: How Gamification Can Motivate Your Team

12-19 leaderboard smallIn traditional sales environments, managers would often keep leaderboards as a visual representation of employee performance. Achieving the top spot on the leaderboard gives employees something to aspire to, igniting the spirit of competition among team members.

As the business world has become increasingly mobile, however, it’s less common to have all employees in the same physical location. This eliminates the possibility of a traditional leaderboard, but the benefits of such a visual tool still remain. For businesses with multiple workers, an automated leaderboard is a great way to motivate employees and achieve better results. For that reason, gamification is growing in popularity among sales teams across the country. There are a variety of uses for gamification in an organization. Here are three ways this tool can be put to use in your small business.

Time and Attendance

Showing up for work every day should be a given, but as many business owners know, reliability can be a real problem for some employees. Perhaps taking a lesson from schools that issue certificates for consistent attendance, some software providers are incorporating gamification into their HR efforts. Kronos’s Workforce Central 7 has a points-based rewards system that provides positive reinforcement for activities like perfect attendance, timely approval of timecards, bonuses for overtime, and more.

Customer Support

Many companies are finding ways to improve customer support processes. However, healthcare company OmniCare learned through experience that gamification should be customized to the type of employees. After unsuccessfully deploying a leaderboard with cash rewards for its helpdesk, the company realized that its technology-oriented workers felt overly watched instead of motivated. After adjusting the program to one that more adequately motivated its helpdesk employees—one that issued challenges and gave non-cash rewards—OmniCare saw a dramatic improvement in its helpdesk performance.


Gamification is perhaps most popular in sales departments, since companies so often rely on sales teams to bring in revenue. Sales tools like Hoopla,,, and Salesforce’s offer incentives to employees through performance rewards, leaderboards, and countdown clocks. Like,, and, Hoopla can be incorporated into Salesforce and handled along with a manager’s other responsibilities. Rewards aren’t simply badges and virtual awards, either. Businesses can build in real rewards like gift cards to make hosting contests easier for managers.

Before choosing a gamification program, however, it’s important that businesses understand which incentives appeal to the team members in question. In 2012, Gartner documented this issue, predicting that by 2014, 80 percent of all gamification programs would fail due to poor design. This hasn’t happened, however, due in part to the evolution of Big Data. Businesses are interested in measuring performance and improving operations and gamification is a way to incentivize employees to do things differently.

How can gamification be used in your organization? Only you know. But there are many tools available to help you reach out to your employees and make them excited to come to work each day. One of the best things about gamification is that it challenges employees and makes work fun, which tends to get better results than repeated staff meetings to remind workers of their objectives.

4 Ways to Use Technology to Plan Your Office Holiday Party

Friends setting the table for Thanksgiving dinnerEach year, offices struggle to put together effective Holiday parties. Whether your business is planning a potluck or an outing to a local restaurant, getting employees together to determine the best time, location, and food preferences can be complicated. With professionals busier than ever, this process can be complicated and involved.

Fortunately, there are many technology tools available to help. Instead of sending an employee around with a sheet of paper and pen, businesses can now send one link to everyone and collect information immediately. By automating the process, your planning team can be more efficient, allowing them more time to focus on their daily duties.


There are numerous polling apps available that allow groups to vote using a PC or mobile device, with results available in real time. Your employees can vote on the type of Holiday party they want, the type of food they want served, or the restaurant they’d prefer. If a potluck party has been chosen, teams can use Google Drive or sign-up sheet apps like Jooners or SignUpGenius to allow team members to sign up for the items they would like to bring.

Party Planning Apps

If your office is planning a more complex party or you have an ambitious party planning committee, party planning apps can help. From organizing the layout of the banquet room to automated reminders that keep your team on track, these apps are usually designed to run on a smartphone, giving you the ability to work on your party planning from anywhere.


If your plan is to rent a facility or take your office to a local restaurant, OpenTable is a great resource. In many major cities, Holiday party venues are listed under “Private Dining venues” in a list on the left side. You can browse the list of venues that advertise that they host Holiday parties and complete a contact form to have someone get in touch with you to arrange your event. You can also make online reservations directly through OpenTable at select locations, although many venues limit the party size for online reservations. If you’re planning a small office party, however, OpenTable is a great resource for making a reservation without having to pick up the phone.

Online Ordering

If you want catering for your Holiday party, this can be set up online, as well. Some grocery stores and restaurants allow you to browse their selections and choose menu items online, as well as pay for everything and schedule a delivery time. After determining the type of food your employees prefer, find local restaurants, grocers, or catering companies that can deliver the items and get several cost estimates before making a final decision.

Thanks to modern technology, this year’s Holiday party can not only be a success, but planning can be made easy and quick. From getting a team-wide vote to ordering items to be delivered the day of the party, you can use technology to set everything up from the comfort of your office, freeing up time to focus on other tasks.

How Tech Tools Can Bring Your Remote Workers into the Office

Woman working from homeThe internet has made it possible for businesses to work with talented professionals located on the other side of the world. Instead of filling an office with employees, you can either hire salaried employees or contract workers who work directly from their own home. Even your field workers no longer have a need to come into the office every day, freeing them up to go directly from their homes to their daily calls without stopping by your building.

The move toward remote workers has presented a challenge for businesses, however. Keeping all team members involved in day-to-day activities is difficult when only some of those employees are on site. Fortunately, the same technology that allows you to work with employees wherever they are can also keep them actively involved in your team.

Instant Access

At one time, it might have been easy for remote workers to feel disconnected but the many technologies available today have changed that. In fact, in one study 80 percent of respondents said they felt more connected to their co-workers while working offsite. Those who had access to unified communications reported a higher feeling of inclusion than those who solely communicated by videoconference or phone. Using tools like private group chat, instant messaging, and project management solutions, a business can facilitate conversation between employees whether they’re in the office, working from home, or on the road.

Social Collaboration

Both consumers and marketers utilize social media to communicate with friends, family, and customers. That same technology can be employed privately within an enterprise to encourage ongoing communication between team members. Using enterprise-level collaboration tools, teams can brainstorm ideas, post project status updates, share and work together on files, and even post polls to vote for the best location for this year’s Christmas party. Since information can be updated on an ongoing basis using smartphones or PCs, these collaboration tools are often more effective than in-person meetings or videoconferences.

Electronic Staff Meetings

The growing popularity of telework is redefining the traditional staff meeting concept. Instead of gathering teams around a table once a week, entrepreneurs must rely on email and phone chats for status updates. For businesses with multiple remote workers, video-based staff meetings eventually become more effective. Many of these tools now include the ability to share your screen for conducting presentations or updating spreadsheets while the rest of the team adds their thoughts. Consider hooking up to a projector in your conference room so that on-site employees can interact with those who are attending by phone for a more team-building experience.

With more businesses using remote workers, it’s important to find ways to find ways to encourage team member communication. With so many collaboration tools available for enterprises, business leaders can set up a way for employees to work together, even when they’re separated by many miles. If it’s possible to occasionally get all remote workers together for retreats or conferences, business should, but technology makes it possible to simulate a face-to-face meeting without incurring travel expenses.

5 Tips To Building a Successful Team for Your Small Business

??????????????????????As a solopreneur, you can only do so much. But as your business grows, you’ll need to expand your staff. Finding and hiring the right people will help your company become more successful faster. Here we look at five tips that will not only help you find quality talent but also nurture them so they feel vested in your company and want to help it thrive.

1. Know What You Need

Pinpoint exactly the skillsets you need to fill to round out your team.  Each person should have a slightly different background and experience so that they complement one another. But really drill down into your needs. Do you need to hire someone who has skills in social media? What specific social sites do you need help with? The more you know about your needs, the better fit your hire will be.

Also consider what types of employees you need. Not every addition to your team needs to be a full-time staff member. You can hire part-time, intern, or freelancer if your needs in one area are less than full-time.

2. Look to Your Network

Before you hit the job boards to find your next employees, ask your network for referrals. They’re cheaper to hire, faster to get on board, and have a retention rate of 46% after being at a company a year. Ask your colleagues, friends, employees, family, and business contacts if they know of talent that would be a good fit for your company.

3. Set Up Your Onboarding Process

The more training materials and processes you have set up, the faster a new hire will feel acclimated to your company and start being a productive member of your team. Have general training materials for your company, as well as those specific to the role you’re hiring for.

If you plan to work with a freelancer or agency, give them access to all the documents, login info, and details they need to be successful at helping you.

4. Foster Team Activities

Hiring one person is a small success. Integrating them into your team is another. Make sure your team is apprised throughout the hiring process so they feel vested and connected to this new addition. Encourage communication among team members, and consider setting up a team-building activity, like attending an event together or even having dinner after work.

Even if you as the business owner aren’t involved in the day-to-day with your team, you want to leave them to be able to build and foster their own relationships with one another.

5. Check Back In Often

A month after you’ve hired a new team member, check back to see how she’s doing. Get open feedback from her, and do your best to remove any obstacles she might be experiencing that keep her from being 100% productive.

Once you’ve done this successfully, make it your road map for future additions to your team.

Mondays with Mike: The 8 Female Values Every Male Leader Needs

Stocksy_txpc96af066We9000_Small_285956I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some spectacularly smart and strong women throughout my career, and I’m frequently reminded of the values that these women have displayed – things I’m working hard to implement in my own business.  Whether you believe that gender differences are the result of nature or of nurture, don’t miss out on the lessons you can learn from successful women.

  1. Self-worth derives from community service.  Some men tend to be trophy hunters – racking up accomplishments and money in an attempt to demonstrate their value to the world.  Women tend to see their relationship to their community – and the vital ways in which they are connected to their community – as the hallmark of success.  Keeping in mind that we are part of our community and that it is our interconnectedness that makes and keeps us relevant and necessary can help us focus on strengthening ties rather than creating distance.
  2. Presentation matters.  Women have been judged by their appearances to a much greater degree than men have, and it’s worth remembering that we only get one chance to make a first impression.  Make sure that you present yourself as organized, neat, and capable … every time.  And hey – stylish doesn’t hurt either!
  3. Balance work and home.  While no one gets it perfect every day, women tend to make the effort to flourish in their careers, while still making time to spend time with their families.  It’s important to maintain the vital support of our home lives – the support that will actually help us succeed in business.  Don’t devote all of your time to your career at the expense of your partner and your family.
  4. Tolerate pain.  Running a successful business is hard work – much like the labor that precedes a delivery.  Women are masters as gritting their teeth, settling in for the long haul, and getting the job done.  Growing a business is a struggle, and it’s never painless.  Entrepreneurs can’t afford to be wimps!
  5. Multitask.  Women tend to be much more adept than men at juggling multiple tasks efficiently.  While there is something to be said for a single-minded focus, sometimes concentrating on just one task is a luxury we don’t have.  When you’re faced with many things all competing for your attention, observe some women working on multiple tasks and see if you can improve your multitasking abilities.
  6. Ask for help.  We joke about the man who will drive around forever and never stop to ask for directions, but the joke hits close to home for some men.  Realizing that you’re not an expert in everything and that asking for help is actually a sign of strength lets you avail yourself of the expertise that’s all around you.  You don’t have to be the best at every task that keeps your business running, and asking employees or mentors for advice or assistance shows your confidence in them.
  7. Use social skills.  Women are master networkers.  They use their ties to the community as a powerful asset, and nurturing those connections will put you in contact with more clients and more collaborators.
  8. Collaborate.  As fields become increasingly specialized, we’re going to find more tasks that require us to collaborate with other experts.  If you’re focused on producing the very best products and services, that goal will nearly always be more easily achieved by collaboration.  Look around you for folks who can make you better.

In listing these values that I’ve seen in so many successful women, I’m not guy-bashing.  I work hard to keep an open mind about techniques for improving my abilities to run my businesses, and I’ve learned that success had no gender.  It’s available to us all.

How Small Businesses Can Give Back without Breaking the Bank

Major U.S. corporations are notorious for their philanthropic works across the globe, but how often do their efforts touch your local community? When small businesses reach out to help others in the area, they can witness the effects of their assistance, even as they build long-term relationships.  You don’t need a big-company bank account to make a real difference to your community, express gratitude to the major players in your business’s success and gain a little well-earned notoriety.

Here are four affordable ways your company can bring major benefits to the community.

?????????????????????????????????Sponsor a Worthwhile Cause

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to improve your community, sponsor a cause that has a local impact.  For example, your entire company can get some fun in the sun by adopting a local roadway and keeping it well-maintained.  Or perhaps consider sponsoring a youth sports team.  Depending on the team’s needs, you may initially view sponsorship as an expensive proposition.  But your net cost may be lower than you think.  Providing a great opportunity for the kids is a relatively inexpensive marketing investment that increases awareness of your business and loyalty to boot. Check with your accountant to see if you can get a tax write-off as well.

Involve your Employees

When the stresses of work start to take a toll on employee attitudes, many companies look for ways to release the pressure.  A nice summertime picnic may provide a pleasant interlude for your employees … well, except for those who suffer from severe allergies.  And I can’t even begin to describe the complaints that I heard from one non-sports fan I know who was forced to attend a pro baseball game every year.  Why not do something that makes everyone feel good, instead?  Involving your employees in charitable giving can offer the flexibility to meet individual needs, while providing workers with an opportunity to have fun as they experience the satisfaction of helping others.

Some companies ask their employees to choose a charitable event that they can work on as a team.  Others allow employees to select their own individual activities, perhaps offering a half day off to volunteer or prizes for the top three employee-volunteers.  If your company has only a few employees, consider encouraging employees from other local businesses to participate in your cause.

Take Collections

The spring cleaning season entices people to de-clutter their homes, but for anyone with a basement or an attic, restoring order is an ongoing concern.  You won’t have to ask twice to encourage employees to bring in toys for needy children during the holidays, gently-worn clothing or coats or pet food for a favorite shelter.  If you have a store-front business, keep a collection box where customers can see it.

When natural disasters strike, your employees might also welcome an easy way to make a monetary contribution.  But, you may need to do a little homework to make sure that the money goes to a reputable organization.  A review of charity evaluation sites such as Charity Navigator or Charity Watch can go a long way toward ensuring that your employees’ donations are used as intended.

Mentor a Local Student

With upwards of 27,000 public high schools and more than 4,200 community and four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., there is a good chance that many young people in your community are looking for some form of work experience.  Offering internships can be a low-cost way to offer training and experience to add to their resumes (plus a recommendation on their LinkedIn page or a personal reference).  You also gain by adding the extra hands needed to keep up with your workload. 

Just as important, today’s intern can become tomorrow’s valued employee.  I know one college computer sciences student who began a summertime internship with a software company nearly 20 years ago.  The company and its people have gone through many changes, but he remains with the major players to this day — as Chief Technology Officer!

Charitable Giving Benefits Everyone

Even if you can’t make huge monetary donations, you can find many ways to help people in need and be recognized as a local philanthropist who is dedicated to the betterment of your community.  Your efforts can help put your company name in front of the public, while building new relationships with other local entrepreneurs.  But the biggest benefit is how great it feels to pay it forward.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Tips to Motivate Your Part-Time Employees

If you’re like many small business owners, you have more part-time employees now than you did in the past. As employers seek flexibility in hiring and the ability to staff up or down as needed, part-time workers can often be the most cost-effective option.

But financial cost-effectiveness can come at a different cost. It’s often harder to manage and motivate part-time employees. They may not feel as connected to the company as full-timers with salaries and benefits, and for many of them, the job is short-term.

How can you motivate part-time workers despite these challenges? Try these tips.

  1. Show them where they fit in to the company’s structure and goals. It’s easy for part-timers to feel divorced from the “big picture,” especially if their work schedules vary from week to week. To create consistency, training for new part-timers should include an overview of the company’s organization chart, getting to know all the employees they’ll be working with, and how their job adds value to the company. By showing part-timers they’re not just random people who shows up on alternate afternoons, but instead are essential to your business’s success, they’ll feel more connected to your company.
  2. Know what they value. Different part-timers value different things, so it’s important to treat part-time employees as individuals. For instance, a mom working part-time may value consistent hours so she can spend after-school time with her kids; a senior working part-time may value social interaction with customers and co-workers; and a high school student working part-time may value flexible hours that give her time for school activities and a social life. Motivate each employee by ensuring they get what they value the most.
  3. Match them with mentors. Pairing part-timers with full-time mentors can ensure they’re kept in the loop about developments at the company that happen when they’re not there. It also gives them someone to ask questions of or express concerns to. In addition to helping with training and development, the mentor should also keep an eye on whether the part-timer seems happy and socially engaged as a member of the team.
  4. Plan for the long-term. Some part-timers are in it for a season, others want to work for you for the long haul. Show part-timers there are long-term opportunities at your business, and give them tasks that help them stretch and grow. For instance, if you hire a college student part-time during the summer, let him or her know if there are full-time job opportunities available after graduation.
  5. Use contests, rewards and incentives. Full-time employees have salaries and benefits to provide incentive, but you have to work a little harder with part-timers. Providing monetary rewards such as cash prizes for surpassing quotas or fun awards and recognition can make a big difference. For instance, has one of your part-timers excelled handing customer service calls? Then recognize his or her accomplishments at your weekly staff meeting, and perhaps offer a cash bonus or gift certificate. Get creative and think of rewards that match your corporate culture and your staff’s personalities.


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