Out-of-Town Team-Building Activities: Try These 3 Fun Ways to Bond

One of the great things about the global economy in my opinion is that it leads to an opportunity to have meetings, attend conferences, and gather groups in locations far and wide.

In between the marketing meetings and business opportunities, many groups are looking for an activity that combines experiencing the culture, seeing the city, and improving team spirit. Here are a few short, easy, and fun team-building activities to consider on your next business trip abroad.

Learn to make traditional foods with a local chef.

Every country in the world is famous for some type of food and cooking schools in every city, offering classes where your team can learn to make traditional dishes from a local chef. Almost all the schools focus on the classics.

For example in Spain, your group can whip up a seafood paella, while improving their communication skills. In France they can try their hand at making a warm, crusted bread – while bonding over a nice Bourdeux.

Most classes include the meal, a glass of wine, and a trip to the local outdoor market to select and buy fresh ingredients.

Create a group work of art, craft or performance.

In the same way that each country is famous for its food, each nation proudly offers an art, craft, music or dance specialty as well. From lei making in Hawaii, to Bollywood dancing in New Delhi, private group workshops are available to teach your team the local culture, while they bond.

I recently ran across a unique offering in Barcelona based on creating mosaics. The Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí is well known for his use of broken tiles to create art and sculptures.

Your team can create their own mosaic masterpiece by doing a group smash of big, vibrant tiles into small, colored pieces and then placing them to create a large group mosaic.

Go climb a rock.

The typography of various parts of the world offer an almost unlimited number of options for outdoor team building activities. Rock climbing in Yosemite, kayaking in Alaska, horse back riding in Scotland, take your pick.

While their are limits to what your HR Department will let you do (and not do), physical, outdoor activities can be a powerful bonding experience between co-workers.

Take an off the path tour.

Instead of taking your team on the typical guided tour of a cities main sites, why not go beyond the expected and do something a bit more unique. For example, try a fragrance and aroma tour through Le Marais in Paris. Here your nosey group will be guided to the local smells of fresh baguettes baking, Parisian perfume, and intense French cheeses.

One of my personal favorites this year was a Game Of Thrones tour in Girona, Spain. This hit TV series is famous for among other things shooting in cool, beautiful and interesting locations around the globe including Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Ireland, Morocco and more. Most of which offer a tour of where the show was filmed.

I’ve spoken at enough conferences to know that while it’s tempting (and typical) to plan team activities around eating out, it’s been my experience that taking people just a bit out of their comfort zone creates a better bonding experience.

The rich abundance of food, culture, and art, offered around the world provide a chance to take your team beyond the ordinary sit-down dinner, to a stand-up experience they will long remember.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Want to Rock Your Career? A New Book Suggests Avoiding All Work & No Play

I recently attended yet another in a long series of professional time management & productivity workshops I have been to over the course of my career. And while each has its own spin, they all promote some version of the same holy grail of an efficient work life: be focused, be persistent–and above all, be on time.

So it was with pleasant surprise that I read Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman’s new book A Mind at Play (Simon & Schuster). The book chronicles the story of Dr. Claude Shannon, a modest, quirky mathematician and engineer who was one of the founders of the information revolution, and arguably one of the lesser-known geniuses of the 20th century.

While you might not know Shannon’s name–you have benefited from his work. That’s because Dr. Shannon developed the idea of the “bit,” and it’s these millions of bits traveling through space that make this blog post possible.

Shannon wasn’t just a brilliant math mind, he was also a unicyclist, an inventor, a juggler, a stock picker, a gambler, a chess player, a pilot, and the co-creator of the world’s first wearable device. He was someone who passionately followed his interests, wherever they led him, and he built a life out of doing what he loved. It’s a life that has a lot to teach us about the prevailing wisdom of productivity, and why we just may have it all wrong.

Here are a few of the unconventional (and even counterintuitive) lessons from this 20th century genius:

Embrace distraction.

In his graduate school days, Shannon would find himself in the middle of working on some thorny math problem, and rather than double down and focus even harder, he would step away–and play the clarinet. Later in his life, Shannon would come into his office and spend the morning engrossed in long games of chess or juggling.

He’s not the only one who used the distraction strategy. Albert Einstein would famously play the violin as a way of working through some challenging physics problems, and Darwin took long walks.

These breaks, as it turns out, are part of brilliance. Top-level minds treat their mental capacity the way a sprinter treats his muscles: with brief bursts of activity, followed by periods of rest. Today’s science confirms our instinct to pause after intense work. But geniuses like Shannon, Darwin, and Einstein knew it well before the experts proved it.

The right distraction (often considered a dirty word in the world of work) might just provide the important break you need, before your next eureka moment.

Be an amateur.

Dr. Claude Shannon had a PhD from MIT, worked at the hypercompetitive Bell Laboratories, and ended his career with a dual appointment in MIT’s world-renowned math and engineering departments. He won nearly every major prize in his field and was given the National Medal of Science by President Lyndon Johnson.

And yet, for all his professional accolades, Shannon was comfortable being something that we too often take for granted: an amateur.Shannon was “an amateur unicyclist” and “an amateur juggler,” and could often be found tinkering away at his home, building things from scratch such as a robotic mouse that could navigate a maze.

Successful entrepreneurs, experts, and businesspeople often feel the pressure to be successful in all parts of their lives. But one lesson from Shannon’s genius is his willingness to not be a genius–his willingness to try and test and play.

Walk away from your successes.

Shannon experienced a brief flash of fame after the publication of his seminal work on information theory in 1948. Life Magazine wanted him. He was put on national television. He even got a spread in Vogue magazine. If he wanted to, Shannon could have ridden the wave of his popularity for a long time.

But instead, he wrote a 350-word piece letting his colleagues know that things had gotten out of hand. A document–that flies totally in the face of Shannon’s self-interest. Shannon took it even one step further: He walked away from the field of information theory almost entirely and pursued other lines of research and inquiry. That decision led to some of the most imaginative, out-of-the-box work he ever produced.

How often do we feel the pressure to repeat ourselves, doing the same thing, the same way, for years, just because we are good (or great) at it? Shannon’s brilliance shows us that we shouldn’t be afraid to walk away. Our best work might just be right around the corner.

A Mind at Play show us that you don’t need to be a genius to learn from a genius. Claude Shannon’s inventive, vibrant life demonstrates how vital the act of play can be to making the most of work.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

New Research Gives Insight To Decoding Trump’s Tweets & His Personality

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name…” but as it turns out, that’s not quite true–at least when it comes to Twitter. The words you use to craft your messages speak volumes about your personality.

The power of your words.

As a branding and marketing strategist, I am continually nagging my clients about the power of words. Especially those that are etched in perpetuity on the Web. In particular how the words they use – even unconsciously – convey their emotional, social and thinking styles.

In fact, there are researchers out there whose whole area of expertise is dedicated to the field of psycholinguistics.These word warriors have a whole arsenal of tools at their disposal, but for us ordinary folk, here’s a fun one that can give you a quick analysis of your personality –all courtesy of your most recent tweets: http://analyzewords.com.

So how do your tweets compare to typical titans of industry and even, a President of the Untied States?

Two researchers, Martin Obschonka (Queensland University of Technology) and Christian Fisch (Trier University in Germany) wanted to know what Trump’s tweets say about his personality. So they paired up to analyze the tweets of Donald J. Trump and compare his personality traits with those of other influential businesspeople, none of whom are politicians–at least not yet. The leaders they compared Trump’s tweets to included:

  • Eric Schmidt (Google)
  • Meg Whitman (HP)
  • Tim Cook (Apple)
  • Elon Musk (Tesla)
  • Michael Dell (Dell)
  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

A Schumpeterian personality.

The researchers employed specific software to assess the language Trump used in 3,200 tweets issued by October 2016 (prior to his becoming president). Their results indicate that Trump shows strong tendencies toward a “Schumpeterian” personality, a personality the researchers say is common in successful entrepreneurs. The nomenclature stems from Joseph Schumpeter, who in the 1930s described this business type as:

  • very creative
  • change-orientated
  • competitive
  • rule-breaking

Critical qualities in a CEO, business owner entrepreneur, or even a President of the United States.

Using words on Twitter that convey these ideas, can help to craft your brand. For example using words such as inventive, original, stimulating and leading-edge, convey creativity.

Want to be seen as competitive in your Twitter feed? Incorporate words such as ambitious, rival and street wise.

Further analysis of the the Donald’s tweets indicated that Trump also has certain neurotic tendencies and experiences underlying low well-being. Obschonka and Fisch wrote about their research in an article titled “Entrepreneurial Personalities in Political Leadership” for the journal Small Business Economics. The two expounded on their findings to ScienceDaily.

“These traits are rather untypical for entrepreneurs since working as an entrepreneur may not only require emotional stability and optimism but also be able to increase happiness due to procedural utility,” explains Obschonka. Obschonka and Fisch caution that leading a company is distinctly different from leading a country. The jury is still out as to whether a president (or any political leader, for that matter) with such an enormous entrepreneurial bent can translate that style into the successful leadership of government.

So take a few moments and check out your tweets. the language you use might just tell you whether you’ve got the stuff (or not) to be the next commander in chief.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Small Businesses Beware: Bad Boss Behavior Doesn’t Just Happen in Big Companies

Sexual harassment, temper tantrums, a ruthlessly aggressive corporate culture and disgruntled drivers. These are just a few of the plethora of problems facing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. So much so that after a heated exchange with an Uber driver that went viral in May of this year, Kalanick publicly declared, “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help, and I intend to get it.”

But executive intervention may not have come hard or fast enough for the CEO, who as of this week is on track for a leave of absence. The bigger story here, however, (beyond the Uber debacle itself) is the underlying issue of toxic bosses — a problem not limited to large companies but equally rampant in many small businesses and start-ups, as well.

In one study from the University of Manchester’s Business School, researcher Abigail Phillips found that leaders who show narcissistic tendencies and have a strong desire for power are often lacking in empathy, a toxic combination which can result in those individuals:

  • Taking credit for the work of others
  • Being overly critical
  • Behaving aggressively

“In short,” says Phillips, “bad bosses have unhappy and dissatisfied employees who seek to ‘get their own back’ on the company.” Specifically, the research showed that working for a toxic boss can result in:

  • Lower job satisfaction
  • High levels of clinical depression
  • Counterproductive workplace behavior
  • Increased workplace bullying

And the impact of toxic bosses is not just limited to the internal workings of the organization but can have dramatic consequences for a corporation’s reputation as well.

Toxic bosses are bad for business.

One study, reported on in the Harvard Business Review by Stanford Professors David Larcker and Brian Tayan, found that the impact of bad boss behavior on company standing was dramatic. In the reported incidents that Larcker and Tayan studied, the specific story of bad behavior was cited in more than 250 news stories each, on average. In addition, the CEOs’ behaviors were still being referenced online up to an average of almost 5 years after the initial incident occurred.

A flood of frustration.

OK, so I think we can all agree at this point — toxic bosses, bad. But how do you make sure the strain and stress of the job isn’t overcoming your naturally jovial nature and turning you into a tyrant? Anna Maravelas, author of How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress, says the place to start is by identifying when you are experiencing the neurobiological state of flooding.

“Flooding is when our body becomes awash with adrenalin and cortisol,” says Maravelas. “The stress and pressure of the workplace can lead to a flight or fight response in reaction to frustration and make otherwise good people into toxic bosses.” Maravelas says that the walnut-sized amygdala part of the brain lights up during flooding and interferes with analytical thinking, memory and even hearing. The key to halting this tidal wave of hormonally induced bad behavior is to pay attention to the little pause that happens in between the time when something happens and we react.

3 possible responses

According to Maravelas, there are three habitual thinking responses:

  1. Blaming the other person or situation. For example, you are waiting in line at the local deli, anxiously looking at your watch, worrying about being on time to your next meeting with a new prospective client. You find yourself thinking, “What is wrong with these morons? Could they move any slower?” This type of response inflames the flooding response and can lead to inappropriate expressions of anger.
  2. Blaming yourself. You are standing in the same line at the local deli worried about being late, but saying to yourself, “I always do this. I am such an idiot. I should have left earlier; now I am going to be late.” This type of response is reactive and focuses the anger inward, and it often leads to depression.
  3. Curiosity and problem solving. There you are in the same line, finding yourself concerned about being on time for your next meeting. What you are saying to yourself is, “I know this clerk is doing the best he can, and they are short staffed. I’m here at peak time. Is it worth it to wait? Should I just leave or text and say I may be late?” This type of response allows for the greatest degree of problem solving and is an antidote to flooding.

“The first and second responses blame either another person, a [NM2] system or yourself,” says Maravelas. “The third response generates curiosity and humility and looks for data.” All three responses become cognitive habits — unconscious or not — and can be changed with practice and by working backward. “If you are flooded, it’s likely that it’s because of something you are saying to yourself,” says Maravelas. “Go upstream and identify what triggered your sense of anger, hopelessness, etc., and change what you are saying to yourself to be more organized around the third response — curiosity and problem solving,” she says.

As for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Maravelas says it’s probably a good idea for him to take a break. This way he can get some distance from the demands of the job and put the brakes on the flooding that’s leading to his bad boss behaviors.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

How to Know if Your Stress Is Business or Personal

It can be lonely at the top. That’s why so many leaders seek out someone who can help them see things in a more objective light. In decades past, psychiatrists held this position — but admitting to seeing a shrink can still carry some stigma in the C-suite. Likewise, the counsel gained from conversations with subordinates, or even peers, can be tinged with political agenda. It’s for these reasons that the business of executive coaching has become such a significant staple of leadership development.

The huge increase in executive coaching has in some cases pushed out therapists who might have otherwise seen clients for similar reasons. At the same time, many counselors are getting their coaching license and moving into the traditional roles held by management consultants, mentors and executive coaches. In practice, both have a place, as they often contribute vastly different takes on the same situation.

So just who should you hire to soothe what ails you? The answer may depend on the source of your stress. I asked some business leaders and experts to weigh in on whom to see when, and for what.

Are you facing a company conflict, change or challenge?

If you’re experiencing C-suite conflict or a lack of leadership influence or feeling challenged by company change, you might try hiring a leadership coach. According to The Human Capital Institute, as many as 60 percent of American companies are using the services of executive coaches. But is this one-on-one instruction a worthwhile investment or a waste of time?

“I had a coach for the better part of a decade, and his ability to give me feedback and hold me accountable made a huge difference in how I developed as a leader,” says Brandon Black, coauthor of the new book Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business. “He was able to say things that others couldn’t because he wasn’t afraid of potential backlash,” “It’s critically important for leaders, to understand how they may be stalling innovation or creating unwanted dynamics and dysfunction,” says Black.

A formal engagement with a qualified coach can lead to a series of dynamic, confidential conversations that produce very positive consequences. The engagement may be growth-oriented — for example, helping an individual get up to speed quickly after a new promotion. Or it may be change-oriented, such as helping a high-potential individual retool their interpersonal skills so they are in a better position to be promoted.

One 2006 study from the Center for Creative Leadership found that of the 3,500 top executives surveyed, 88 percent said they highly value the mentor/coach relationship for career development. Among their top reasons for wanting a coach were.

  • Assistance with leadership skills development
  • Developing more vision for the company
  • Team building and managing change

Are you facing a profoundly personal problem, choice or crisis?

But what about the darker side of leadership coaching? Some people take a weekend coaching workshop and then hang out a shingle declaring their readiness to sit down and help you deal with your deepest leadership issues.

Many researchers and theorists have cautioned that executive coaching is not a panacea. One leading article by psychologist Steven Berglas in the “Harvard Business Review” cited examples of coaches who lacked proper clinical training and insight, and therefore misdiagnosed coaching clients, leading to bad outcomes.

For example, Berglas describes one client who was assigned a coach to work on her “assertiveness,” when in fact she had deeper emotional and family issues that were impacting her performance and workplace relationships. The coaching that was focused on building her assertiveness was not helpful to her, and she subsequently sought the assistance of a psychotherapist.

In the final analysis, it may be your end-game goals that determine which way you go.

“Therapists are usually oriented around talking and going deeper with dialog. They are very effective at helping people identify patterns and get them from the past to the present,” explains Lolly Daskal, author of the new book The Leadership Gap: What Gets between You and Your Greatness.

“Coaches, on the other hand, often have a different mentality. They are more about creating an awareness that leads to action. Most coaches focus on getting you from the present to the future,” she says.

Whether you’re looking to make peace with your past or invent your future, a sit-down with someone savvy may be just what the doctor ordered.

To learn more about your leadership gap, check out my podcast with author Lolly Daskal.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Spring Cleaning for Your Brand

Spring Cleaning for Your Brand

Every spring, I get an itch to go through my closets and rid myself of clothes that no longer seem to suit me. What begins as a sartorial purging usually expands into a clearing out and cleaning up of my desk drawers, computer desktop and office files. Over the last few years, I’ve expanded this list to include an annual spring-cleaning of my brand. Brands are organic — they grow and change over time. Without a regular review, they can become stale. To give your brand a good dusting off this season, consider the following:

This is a short excerpt from a blog post I did for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the post.


How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

True confessions: When I first started blogging about a decade ago, I wrote a post for a top 10 website where I made what I thought was an innocent off-the-wall comment, meant to be (at least in my mind) somewhat humorous. Let me tell you, the barrage of hate email I got scared me to death and almost had me quit my keyboard clacking for good!

This is a short excerpt from a blog post I did for Entrepreneur.com.  Read the rest of the post.

Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

In a survey, the Society of New Communications Research, explored how media and journalism are evolving. In the study, journalists reported using more social media in their reporting including:

  • 78% of the journalists surveyed said they use company websites in their reporting
  • 75% use Facebook
  • 69% use Twitter
  • 54% use online video
  • 31% use LinkedIn

In addition, 68% of journalists said that their reliance on social media has increased significantly, and 58% sometimes quote bloggers in stories.

So what does all this mean to the small business owner? It means that effective use of social media is key and critical to being found and written about by the press. But to score these PR points and get reporters to respond to you in the first place, it pays to be proactive by signing up for reporter services such as HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and ProfNet.

At least three times a day, I diligently check my email for queries from these sites showcasing serious reporters looking for qualified sources. I comb through the postings journalists have placed and respond with my best pitch — promoting myself, or one of my clients, as the perfect person to fit the bill.

While services such as ProfNet and HARO can provide you with the opportunity to connect with reporters from top-tier media outlets, the chances of a writer using you as a source increase when you respond in the right ways, including:

Go straight to the point and give the reporter what they ask for up front. If they request your two best tips, send them. Don’t tell the reporter to call you or email you for them.

Make your bio short and specific. Avoid submitting endless paragraphs on all your fabulous achievements since grade school — reporters don’t have the time to sort through it all. To get their attention, write a few short sentences that show the journalist exactly why you would be a good source for their story and what, specifically, makes you an authority on the topic.

Respond right away. Whenever possible, respond to a posted inquiry within two hours. Yes, I know you’re busy, and you have a life, but most reporters get hundreds of responses to a single request and are usually on a tight deadline. After a certain point, they stop looking. So if you want to be seen, be among the first to respond.

While a well-written response to a reporter’s query can’t guarantee you a call back every time, just keeping these few small things in mind when you do reply can help you score big more often.

Have you used reporter services? What results have you had? What has worked best? We would love to hear your comments.