Team Building, Does it Work?

The term team building has become somewhat of corny clique that brings forward images of trust falling into your coworkers hands. While the idea can be corny, I am a huge believer in getting people out of the office environment and interacting in situations that don’t revolve around work. Yes, team building is with all of your coworkers, and yes you are technically getting paid but this is the fun part of work.

Everybody is a person outside of work. Sometimes we get so caught up in the stresses of  the every day balancing act of commuting, projects, and deadlines that we forget that the people we work with are actually people. Yes, we know they live and breathe but it’s also important to be reminded of who they are. A day of team building can bring the glue back in your team that was starting to lose it’s stick.

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The little one on top is our COF “captain of fun”

When out for a day of team building it’s important to initiate interaction with some type of physical activity. Physical activity (but not too physical) will get people moving and laughing. When people start laughing it’s the moment the team building starts. A little laughter will get people opening up and sharing parts about themselves that you never knew. The impacts of a day filled bonding with your team will be felt for a long time after it’s done. The activity of trust falling has some importance to the concept. When people trust each other they don’t fixate on the little things people say and are more open to different types of interactions. It’s amazing what even a tiny bit of trust can do.

Here is a photo of a team building outing I recently did with my coworkers. I have to admit a 1/2 day spent relaxing and doing silly games on the beach did a world of good. We’ve all had a very stressful few months and interacting in a non-formal environment helped bring us back to center.

Please leave a comment and let me know of your thoughts on team building and whether you think it works.

Tools for Creating an Online Portfolio

In today’s world people look for everything online. They look for facts, they look for recipes, and they even look for information on people they know. In fact, according to CareerBuilder 39% of hiring managers research a candidate online during the application process. With such a high chance that you’ll be searched for online, why not create an online portfolio so you can control the message going out about your.

This past weekend I have been creating an online portfolio on a site called Powtoon. However, Powtoon is not your only option. Below I will outline your free options for creating an online portfolio.

Powtoonpowtoon

Powtoon is the route I went because I wanted to be creative without having to think too hard. The way that Powtoon is designed you can’t help but make your portfolio lively and engaging. There are several formatting options for free. Plus hundreds of caricature options. The one negative side of Powtoon is that you can only have one recording for the entire presentation. This means that you have to either record your full presentation in Powtoon without having the slides in front of you or you need to record your presentation in another place and load it in. I wound up recording my presentation on my iPhone and then using Audacity to edit and reformat the recording into the appropriate file type. There was also an interim step of converting the iPhone MP4 format to WAV which is what Audacity uses. In short it was a bit of a pain but I wound up getting excellent sound quality.wix

Wix

Wix is a free online web creation program. Wix would be a good option if you don’t want narrative with your portfolio and simply want to have your work displayed in a clean and easy to follow manner. Wix’s big positives are that it has very modern templates to choose from and is incredibly easy to use.

Weebly

Weebly is really similar to Wix. They both offer the option to create free websites and have a very easy to use platform. I think the difference between the two is that Wix has more modern looking templates and Weebly has more features for their user-face.

 

An online portfolio is always a weeblygood idea. It can be a little added extra to put in your resume that provides prospective employers an interactive look at your skills. Below is my current online portfolio made with Powtoon.

Let me know what you think!

Work, Fear, and Rock Climbing

I recently started lead climbing. Well to be honest I have been trying to start lead climbing a lot of times and have always found every excuse under the sun not to lead climb. For those that don’t climb, lead climbing is when you are the first one to go up a route and clip in the rope to the bolt. The reason it’s intimidating is because between bolts there’s a certain distance that if you fell, you would fall that distance. 99.9% of the time the bolts are set up where if you fell you would be just fine. However, there is that .01% of the time where you could fall and hit the rock wall (or even the ground!) in not the most desirable way. It’s intimidating for everyone when starting out; whether they’ll admit it or not. I have personally been climbing for 11 years and have stayed away from lead climbing for one reason only – fear.me climbing

Recently while climbing I realized that the fear you get from lead climbing is really similar to fear that you feel when taking on an intimidating task at work. Everyone experiences some form of fear or intimidation at work and I’m going to share the tips I’ve learned from climbing to conquer that fear and move forward.

  • Know that the thought of doing the task is worse than actually doing it: When climbing I came to the epiphany that my anxiety and anticipation for the task was worse than actually doing the task. Our minds can drive us crazy with thoughts of failure and the “what ifs”. That anxiety actually causes physical sensations of butterflies in your stomach and much more. If we let that anxiety overwhelm us then the task actually IS as scary as our minds have let us believe. However, if you push the thoughts out of your mind and try to think about literally anything else you will be calmer when the situation arrives.
  • Take it one step at a time: My anxiety always happens from thinking of the large overwhelming task as a whole. For example, looking all the way up or all the way down the route it’s easy to get anxious. Each climb often has one section that I’m a bit nervous about. If I thought of that section the entire climb then I would be an absolute mess. If you only think about one piece at a time and only the next step then you’ll be a lot more focused. You’ll sail through the intimidating part without even realizing it. For work it’s important to plan out the entire project, but focusing on one task at a time, the most immediate task is the way to stay calm.
  • Believe in your abilities: Women seem to have a harder time believing in their abilities than men. Women often feel that they don’t have the skills or experience to take on an intimidating task. Know that you were put in a situation because somebody thought you could do it. That somebody could even be you. If you need to say in your head or out loud that you are strong, smart, and capable then do it. You’ve got the skills, just move forward!
  • Fool your mind with your body: This one is more for work situations than climbing but it is possible to fool our mind with our body postures. I watched a great TED talk by Amy Cuddy about using body postures to fool your mind into feeling more confident. I’ve tried the tactics and they actually work! I would highly recommend watching the presentation and trying it out.

Leave a comment and let me know of any tactics you’ve used in dealing with intimidating situations in life and work.

Pros and Cons of an MBA per Me

If you’ve been following my blog or are a classmate reading this blog you are well aware that I am about to finish an Executive MBA program. After spending countless hours over the past two years working towards acquiring this degree I can honestly say that I’ve developed some strong opinions on the pros and cons of getting an MBA.

Cons:

  • Price: An MBA costs a lot of money. The price of course is highly variable depending on the program you pick. MBA programs can cost anywhere from $12,0000 to $150,000 for the full degree. This price factors tuition, books, and some travel expenses if necessary. What it does not factor is any lost income during the time period. In order to allow enough time for coursework I needed to switch from a full-time job to a part-time. The idea with an MBA is that you’ll be making more when you graduate, but that’s not a guarantee.Student
  • Time: The coursework takes a lot of time. I have pretty much been hibernating from all social and other engagements for two solid years. This is no joke. Yes, you do get some breaks but they aren’t for long. This needs to be considered if you have a family or other obligations that will have to get lower on the priority scale.

Pros:

  • Knowledge: The wide variety of coursework you learn is invaluable. I majored in Natural Resources for my bachelor’s so all the information was new. Each class in the program was really interesting and was valuable for understanding the inner workings of the business world. I know I’m walking away with in-depth knowledge that I will revisit throughout my career. I like to say that an MBA didn’t make me a skilled craftswoman at one thing, it provided the knowledge of the contents for my tool chest, and the knowledge of how to use the tools. This makes me better prepared for future business experiences.
  • Career Opportunities: While it’s not guaranteed that you will find a better job once you’re out of school, I personally did, and many others I know have as well. An MBA simply makes you more marketable because it guarantees that you have received coursework in a variety of aspects of business.

Above is a very abbreviated version of the pros and cons of getting an MBA. To enter a program shouldn’t be taken lightly. I would highly encourage if you do decide to pursue your MBA that you fully dive into the program and make good use of your time. There are countless programs out there whether it be full-time, weekend, or online. The right program is a decision that’s based on your particular situation. If you have any questions about receiving your MBA, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

Ergonomics and the Office Couch

There has been a lot of buzz going around about the casual office environment. Many offices for start-up tech companies show photos of employees sitting on couches. Take this advice from someone who has spent the past two years on her couch doing homework; the couch is not an ideal work environment for a simple reason, ergonomics.

Ergowho? Humans and their relationship to ergonomics is defined by Wikipedia as “…In essence it is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities.” Ergonomics is literally the study of how our bodies and tools for work can fit together to help us feel and work better. By having proper body positioning for work you can help your body stay healthy. Having proper positioning will prevent back injuries, carpel tunnel, stiff necks and much more. As I said earlier, I have spent the past two years mainly doing homework from my couch. I have to admit after a full day of homework on my couch my back is sore. I can’t image having that be the norm as my work environment.

Here’s an interesting fact. Did you know that modern day ergonomics was invented not as a way to prevent injuries for workers but to keep them productive? Lillian and Frank Gilbreath were the inventors of modern day ergonomics. Their studies focused on increasing worker efficiencies in the early 20th century. The idea is that if you are positioned properly for the job at hand you will be more efficient and effective in getting the work done. Think of proper body placement next time you see a photo of a tech start-up company employee sitting on the couch. How effective are they really at getting the job done? Maybe that’s why they spend so many hours at work ;).ErgonoGuide

Important things to keep in mind for proper workplace ergonomics are comfortable and adjustable chair, desk height, proper hand placement for moving your mouse, and monitor height. Look at the image to the left to see all the things to keep in mind. I know it doesn’t seem important now, but taking care of your body now will keep your body healthy for future adventures. Leave a comment with feedback on your thoughts on workplace ergonomics.

 

Does Success Come by Moving Forward, or Standing Still?

I have spent all of my adult life focused on moving forward. When I finished my bachelor’s degree I quickly went and found a job. This job led me to a career and then to another career and so forth. When I turned thirty I wanted to continue with moving forward and began an Executive MBA program. Now that I’m almost done with my degree you’d think that I would be focused on what’s next. Well, I’m starting to wonder if my constant focus on moving forward has stopped me from fully succeeding in what’s happening right now.

Looking back I wish I would have gone on that ceremonial graduation trip to Europe after my bachelors or taken that three month road trip around the US. At that time I had all the opportunities in the world for careless adventures but my constant need to move forward prevented me from taking advantage of them.

Dave and Roma McCoy

Dave and Roma McCoy

It’s interesting to think that perhaps letting go of the outcome for the future might allow you to fully succeed in the present. An interesting person as a comparison is the founder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Dave McCoy. While I wasn’t around in the 50s when he founded the ski area, I am familiar with the stories and the facts. The fact is that he didn’t start the ski area until he was in his early 40s. 40 years old in the 50s is like 50 years old today – or even older. He was already done with more than half of his career time frame and he wound up having his biggest success. He wasn’t focused on future success but simply on doing what he loved (skiing) and assisting in providing those fun opportunities for others. Dave was famously known for thinking that every day is the best day ever. His joy was contagious and wound up attracting millions of people in the years to come.

So perhaps I should take the lesson of Dave McCoy and focus on today. The majority of us have amazing things happening all around us every day that we’re missing because we’re too focused on the next step. So here’s to living for today and temporarily forgetting about tomorrow!

Emotions in the Workplace

We all spend a lot of time at work. In fact, the majority of working professionals spend more time at work than they do at home. When spending so much time and effort at work it’s natural to get wrapped up in your own emotions. However, the more time I spend in the workplace the more I realize that it’s important to manage your emotions – perhaps more than anything else.

Keep calm and carry onkeep-calm

When I was managing events I quickly learned that if I stayed calm the event went a lot smoother than if I get emotional – with events the usual emotion is panic. I would pay careful attention to breathe and give information in the most calm manner possible. At the end of the day the people understood what I needed more and me portraying to be calm (even if I was not on the inside) made things a lot more enjoyable and successful. Keeping calm at work is universal for all types of work situations.

Your emotions affect others

Whether you realize it or not, your emotions affect others. We can all think of a time when we were in a bland mood and an interaction with a happy and positive person lifted our spirits. Think of that experience next time you’re in a bad mood at work or are about to complain about something. According to Sheri Carter, Psy. D in “Emotions are Contagious – Choose Your Company Wisely“, “Just as second-hand smoke can have the same or worse effects on the health of nonsmokers, second-hand emotions (if they’re the negative kind just described) can have significant, long-lasting effects on the health and well being of those experiencing them. The negativity keeps pounding away at you and ultimately results in significant second-hand stress, which as you might expect, has the same effects on your mind and body as direct stress. The body experiences and interprets it as one in the same.”

Controlling your emotions can be tough, but with a little practice it becomes easier. Important things to keep in mind for portraying a more calm and happy demeanor are your tone, speech speed, body language, and facial expressions. Obvious signs of people being stressed out or irritated are tense/irritated tones, crossed arms, rapid speech, eye rolls, and raised voice. Next time you’re stressed out take a deep breathe and attempt to portray a calm demeanor. I promise you’ll be happier with the outcome. Putting a little effort in managing your emotions will make a huge difference for providing a calm and supportive environment that’s more ideal for success.