Purpose isn't enough

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We all know the importance of purpose when it comes to employee engagement. When people believe in the mission and goals of the organization and understand where they contribute, then they will be motivated to help achieve them.

And this is true. A strong purpose that people internalize drives them to do, and give, more to organizations.

However, purpose alone won’t keep people engaged.

Engagement is like baking a cake. Your purpose is your baking powder, it’s what makes the cake rise. People will rise to the challenge when they have purpose.

However, you need two other essential ingredients.

First, you need flour. Flour is your base – without it, there’s no cake to rise at all. Flour is what enables engagement to happen. This is ensuring people’s skills are matched to their tasks and they have access to the resources they need, such as information, technology, tools and equipment, training, and financial support. Without these, even if employees believe deeply in your purpose, they will become frustrated and be at risk of becoming disengaged, burnt out, or they may simply give up and leave.

Second, you need sugar for your cake. This is an energizing environment for engagement to happen in, one that focuses on the physical, emotional and social well-being of employees. Without sugar, no one wants to eat the cake. Without a culture where people feel cared for, and excited to be part of, people will quickly become disengaged from the purpose.

Make sure that when you are baking up the right culture for your team and organization that you have all the necessary ingredients to let them have their cake and eat it too.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Have you ever worked somewhere where you believed in the purpose but didn’t feel enabled with the right skills, resources and tools? How did it impact your work?

  2. Have you ever worked somewhere where you believed in the purpose but didn’t feel energized by the environment because of negativity? How did it impact your work?

  3. What can you do more of as a team/organization to make sure people are engaged, enabled and energized?

The recognition fix

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Recognition is a funny thing. It’s something that we all need to feel good about ourselves, our work, and our lives, but we’re wholly dependent on other people for it. And no one gets enough of it.

So, we want it for ourselves, but we don’t give it to others. This isn’t a conscious thing. We just haven’t built cultures that support the level of recognition that people need. We think a pat on the back now and then, an Employee of the Month award, or a yearly good review is enough. But it isn’t. The high we get from recognition that drives us to keep doing good work and to feel like we are valued is something we need at least weekly. We’ll take it daily if we can get it – that’s why social media likes are so addicting. When was the last time you were recognized this often? When was the last time you recognized people on your team with this frequency?

Genuine recognition is something we need a whole lot more of in our workplaces. It may seem weird and uncomfortable at first, but the more regularly we recognize people, not just for the work they are doing, but just for who they are, the more engaged everyone will be.

Go out and recognize someone today.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How does it make you feel to be recognized and appreciated at work?

  2. When was the last time you recognized someone on your team?

  3. How can you start building a culture that supports higher levels of recognition in your team/company?

The human story

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John Steinbeck once said, “Try to understand people. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a person well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”

If you’re not familiar with it, check out Humans of New York online – through their website, Facebook or Instagram. I swear it will become a bright spot in your day. It’s the brainchild of Brandon Stanton who started taking photographs of people in New York and asking them questions about their lives.

He found that everyone has a story inside them. He now travels the world taking people’s pictures and asking them about their lives. And it doesn’t matter if the person is in the US, Pakistan, Mexico or Ukraine, the stories show the deep connections we share in our humanity – love, loss, humor, joy, heartbreak, and even the mundane.

We share more connections with one another than we think. The more time we take to share with each other, the more attachment and trust we grow. Teams build strong levels of loyalty and commitment when they are emotionally invested in one another. This means getting to know each other on a personal level.

Simply eating lunch together, going for a walk break, sharing small tidbits about your weekend before starting a meeting, or volunteering or attending events together are great ways to build strong connections.

Are you cultivating these types of relationships at your workplace?

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How do strong relationships make your job easier at work?

  2. How often do you invest time in nurturing relationships with team members?

  3. What can you do as a team/organization to build stronger relationships by encouraging personal connections?

Selling change

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It’s easy to think that people don’t go along with change because they don’t like it or don’t clearly understand the benefits. We can spend a lot of time trying to rationalize with people that change will be good for them.

And it will be a waste of time.

If you have the person’s best interests in mind, they can usually clearly see that the change will be good for them. They can even be quite eager to make the change. The inaction doesn’t lie in not understanding it, it simply comes from fearing it.

We fear change for a lot of reasons – it’s a leap into the unknown, it’s uncomfortable, it forces us to grow and tackle issues we may not have faced before. What if we fail? And sometimes just as scary, what if we succeed?

If you want people to change, your job isn’t merely laying out the benefits of the change, its assuaging the fears that come along with it.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Think of a time that you knew change was good for you, but you didn’t want to do it and explain why.

  2. How has someone helped you through change by removing the fear?

  3. What can you do more of as a team/organization to remove the fears that come with change?

What are you hiding?

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Many people attest that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. But, like it or not, they’re are going to sneak their way into our organizations. Emotions are what separates us from the coffee maker in the break room and the computer on your desk, they make us human and we don’t get to decide whether they tag along or not in the morning.

Interestingly, some emotions we accept quite readily in our organizations. Anger, pride, frustration, jealousy, and happiness are emotions we usually have no problem with, even if we may not always like them. However, we try to ignore others like anxiety, sadness, fear, shame, and even love. Why is this? Why do we tolerate some emotions, but not others?

Often the ones we deny are the ones that make us the most vulnerable. These are our weak spots. We hide them because we don’t trust that others will understand and help us work through them. We fear that the will use them against us. But by not being open about them, we lose the opportunity to grow and connect with others. We stay stunted in both our relationships and potential.

The more we learn to accept the role emotions have in our workplaces and encourage people to share and understand them, the more trust we will build and the more effective we will be.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Are there times when you feel like you must hide what you’re feeling at work? How does this impact you?

  2. Are there times when you’ve had difficulty dealing with someone else’s emotions? Why?

  3. How can you create a culture where people are able to share and accept emotions in a way that positively influences your team/organization?

Back to basics

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Relationships. Relationships are at the core of everything you do. Want better teamwork – build better relationships. Want a more successful business – focus on relationships. Want a happier family – nurture your relationships. Want to be healthier – cultivate relationships. Want a fulfilling life – yep, you know what the answer is.

Relationships are literally everything to us. If we put our time and effort into creating strong ones, they will give us what we need. And it doesn’t have to be complicated, it just requires us to slow down and take a close look at how we are treating the people in our lives.

While we are all different, what we want, and need are still similar. Here are three tips for improving your relationships that you can do for any person in your life.

  1. Make them feel seen.

  2. Make them feel understood.

  3. Make them feel appreciated.

At the end of the day, we all just want people to see and accept us for who we are, to take the time to understand where we are coming from and validate our opinions (even if they don’t agree with them), and to feel like we have value and worth.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How do your relationships improve the work you are able to do?

  2. How do your relationships impact your life outside of work?

  3. What is one thing you can do today to improve a relationship in your life?

Everything matters

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Communication. It’s something we could talk about endlessly. No pun intended. We know that communication is the key to healthy relationships – at work and home. But good communication can seem elusive. And maybe that’s because we are always communicating, and when it comes to communication, all of it matters. Every little interaction we have with people either adds to the strength of the relationship or takes away from it. And that can seem overwhelming when all you want to do is ask if they finished that report you need for the afternoon.

So, what’s one to do? Here’s a simple mantra you can keep tucked away at the back of your mind when communicating with people – ask yourself, what’s my responsibility to this relationship? Your answer will help remind you to communicate accordingly.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How do you see daily interactions impacting your relationships?

  2. What responsibility do you have to the people you work with?

  3. How can you change your regular communication to build stronger relationships?

What's the temperature of your team?

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We track many things in our companies. It’s helpful to be able to assign numbers to what’s important to us so we can work on improving them. What’s tracked becomes tangible, making it easier to understand where changes need to occur.

But some of the things that have the biggest impact on our work are the ones that are rarely tracked and accounted for – if we feel valued, if we feel respected, if we feel like our voice counts, if we have good relationships with others. When we feel good about these things, we are free to do our best work.

Most companies don’t actively monitor these areas. If they did, I could guarantee that they would see a correlation with productivity, profits, and the atmosphere and culture of their workplaces.

In just a few minutes a month, you can easily start tracking how your teams are feeling with this simple five question survey. Have team members fill it out anonymously at the beginning or end of every month. Based on the results, you can adjust how the team is working together and everyone can start taking an active role in creating a strong, healthy team.

1. I feel connected to my team.

1 • 2 • 3 • 4  • 5  • 6  • 7  • 8  • 9  • 10

2. I receive recognition for the work I do in a way that makes me feel appreciated.

1 • 2 • 3 • 4  • 5  • 6  • 7  • 8  • 9  • 10

3. I feel respected by the people I work with.

1 • 2 • 3 • 4  • 5  • 6  • 7  • 8  • 9  • 10

4. I feel my ideas and input are wanted and sought out.

1 • 2 • 3 • 4  • 5  • 6  • 7  • 8  • 9  • 10

5. I feel I can trust my team to support me.

1 • 2 • 3 • 4  • 5  • 6  • 7  • 8  • 9  • 10

Overall Rating:           /50

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1.  What do you currently do to track the health of your team?

  2. How could having actual numbers impact how you work to build a stronger team?

  3. What are other possible ways to monitor the feelings of the team?

Practicing the pause

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What can you do in five seconds? What if you could build stronger relationships, gain knowledge, avoid mistakes, and improve your emotional intelligence? In just five seconds. And you don’t have to actually do anything.

That’s the power of the pause – learning how to wait a beat before reacting. When speaking with others, the pause allows us to avoid agreeing to things before we’ve thought them through, it stops us from reacting emotionally during conflict, and it allows us to think of alternative ideas.

The pause (along with a few head nods) encourages others to share additional information, reconsider their own thoughts and opinions, and view us as better listeners.

The pause usually doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s something that you need to consciously think to do. But if you keep it up, it will become a valuable habit.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How often do you pause before responding during conversations?

  2. How beneficial could the pause be in your communication?

  3. What makes the pause difficult to do?

Rewiring Leadership

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Leadership is often seen as a power position. But the best leaders, though, are the ones that don’t exercise power over their people, but rather strive to serve them.

At some point in time, our view of leadership got distorted from service to power. When people become leaders, we give them a new title, a raise and a corner office. We think these things are the givens of becoming a leader.

However, the perks of leadership are only seen as relevant to the team if the leader has shown they are willing to serve the team – that they are willing to sacrifice, take accountability, continually give, and take on the heart ache of leading others. When this is done for the betterment of the team, people have no problem providing the rewards of leadership. But they must be earned first.  

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What characteristics do you think define a good leader?

  2. What characteristics do you think define a bad leader?

  3. How should your organization decide who becomes a leader?

Gratitude requires work

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Gratitude is an important quality to develop in life. We should all learn to be thankful, show appreciation and be kind. However, sometimes gratitude is seen as a passive action. When things get hard – when life sucks – you should just be grateful for what you have.

Gratitude isn’t only about turning a blind eye to what you don’t like and accepting what you have. Gratitude is just as much about counting your opportunities to make change, as well as your blessings.

It’s about appreciating the fact you have a voice you can speak up with. And using it.

It’s about being thankful for your ability to make a different choice. And choosing to.

It’s about being grateful for having the chance to own your decisions. And doing it.

Gratitude allows us to see the good that we currently have in our lives, as well as the good we can achieve.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What are you grateful for in your life?

  2. How do you use gratitude to improve your life?

  3. What can you do as a team/organization to use gratitude to improve our culture and performance?

Making the sacrifice

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We’ve long held that the definition of a great team is people who go out of their way to make one another look good. While talking about this with a client the other day, they added what we think is a brilliant point. They said a team is a group of people who are happy and willing to sacrifice for one another.

Sacrifice – that’s everything isn’t it? It’s easy to say we want the best for one another and will help each other get it, but what happens when it comes at our own disadvantage? Do we step up to the plate then? A strong team knows that every sacrifice of the individual leads to the success of the group, and that, when necessary, the team will sacrifice for them as well.

This ability to sacrifice comes from high levels of trust between members and a clear purpose for the team. People understand what they are trying to achieve and that they will reach it by helping one another be their best.

So, whether it’s through time, effort, comfort, resources, creativity or a 100 other ways, our willingness to sacrifice for one another shows our dedication and commitment to our team.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Describe a time when someone on your team sacrificed for you. How did it make you feel?

  2. Describe a time when you sacrificed for someone on your team. Why were you willing to do it?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to make sacrificing something people are willing to do for one another?

Lunch Notes

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There’s nothing nicer than a surprise note in your lunch box – really a surprise note at any time just brightens your day.

Spread some joy in your workplace by using our version of “lunch notes” for your co-workers. Click the image below to print the PDF, cut them up and write an encouraging note on the back. Tuck them away somewhere where they will find them and smile.

We could all use a little more joy and appreciation in our lives. Start today.

The first selfie

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People have a love/hate relationship with selfies. You’ve either spent time perfected the right pose and angle to capture a good image, or think they are the worst because you have short T-Rex arms like me. Whether your social media feed is filled with them or you think they are the bane of society, most would agree that the selfie is a relatively modern act.

However, the first self-portrait to be taken by a photographer was in 1839 by Robert Cornelius. Selfies were quite common in the early days of photography. One could argue that even before photography made self-portraits possible, we’ve always been obsessed with images of ourselves – people sat for hours to have their portraits painted and I’m sure even early cave people took a crack at drawing themselves on the walls of their homes. Even the selfie-stick itself isn’t a new invention, check out this photo taken in 1926.

While some people see the selfie as self-absorbed, I think it just speaks to our incredible need to be seen and valued. We want people to remember we are here and reinforce that we matter. Cell phones have just given us the tool to do this on an entirely new level.

This need is something we should keep at the forefront of our mind when dealing with other people – at work, home and in the community. The more we can do to show people we recognize them, the more they will be committed to us. After all, we stay loyal to the ones that value us.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What does it feel like when you don’t think people value your time, effort or presence?

  2. How do you show people that they matter (at work and home)?

  3. In what ways do you like to be recognized?

Taking hits for the team

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Last night I got kicked in the face. My nose bled and I now have a slightly fat upper lip. When it happened, I made sure to congratulate the owner of the foot.

Let’s roll that back a bit. I’ve been doing fitness kickboxing for the last few years. Recently, I took up learning more of the technical aspects of the sport and this includes weekly sparring. Last night was sparring night. I always find sparring an interesting experience. People are doing their best not to get hit, but when they do, you always hear them giving kudos to their opponent – a punch to the head is a “nice shot”, a kick to the stomach is a “good job”.

It’s a pain (quite literally) but one we are all willing to endure happily because it means the other person is improving and us poor suckers on the receiving end are learning.

It turns out, when you are part of a good team, you’ll put up with quite a bit of pain and struggle to help one another. When we feel connected to our team members and care about their development, we will put ourselves on the line for them, knowing they’ll do the same for us.

This is what builds resiliency, perseverance and strength in teams – when we are willing to be open and vulnerable with others to help them grow and when we are willing to put our own comfort aside for the betterment of the team. And, in the end, we all reap the benefits.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Can you give an example of when a team member put your needs ahead of their own to help you?

  2. Can you give an example of when you put a team member’s needs ahead of your own to help them?

  3. What can you do more of as a team/company to encourage and promote this type of behaviour?

It's just talk

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Why do we struggle so much with communication? It comes naturally to us. We do it all day long – in person, on phones, through text and email. When we aren’t using our voices, we’re doing it with our bodies instead.

Communication often becomes our downfall because while we are proficiently skilled in the technicalities of how to do it, we lose sight of why we are doing it. At the core of all communication is the need to keep a relationship strong and healthy. Every instance of communication we have with someone either adds or subtracts from this goal. Whether it’s about a deadline, a project or lunch next week, underlying it all is the relationship.

To maintain relationships, we need to take the time and attention needed to communicate clearly, listen attentively and be respectful. While I believe that every person we come in contact with deserves this, the relationships we rely on are especially important. Surprisingly, these are often the very ones we take for granted. The people we communicate with most often are the ones we get lazy with and expect to forgive our communication gaffs. But too much poor communication will eventually erode even the best relationship.

When you are communicating with people, ask yourself, “What’s my responsibility to this relationship?” Communicate accordingly.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how important do you think communication is to your relationships?

  2. When a relationship is important to you, how does it impact the way you communicate?

  3. What can you do to improve your communication with others?

This is your life

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We don’t go to work to do a job every day. We go to work to live our lives. We like to segregate work from our “real” lives, but there is no difference. We can’t draw a line in the sand with work on one side and life on the other, there are no boundaries. Work will be there when we climb into bed at night and home will be there when we walk into work in the morning.

This is why ensuring people are happy, engaged, confident and proud at work is so important. The average person will spend thousands of days at work. Thousands. We all have a responsibility to make sure this time is not wasted simply checking boxes and making it to the end of the week. Let’s make sure we are all living the best lives we can – no matter where we are at the time.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Do you feel that your work and life are two separate things? Why?

  2. How does work impact your life outside of it? And vice versa?

  3. What can you do as a team and/or organization to ensure people are living their best lives at work?

For the love of food

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This week we were at the HRPA Conference and Tradeshow meeting some awesome people and having great conversations. As part of our time there, we asked people to tell us how they “human up” in their workplaces – how they show care and commitment to others. People had all kinds of great answers, but what struck us the most was how many of them revolve around food.

When you think of about it, it’s not really surprising. Food brings us together, it always has. Food is survival, but it’s also when we build our strongest social connections. When we share not only about our day, but about our values, our interests, our past, and future aspirations. Food comforts and relaxes us and leaves us open to sharing and connecting.

Studies show that when teams take the time to eat with one another, they work better together away from the table. They are better collaborators and problem-solvers. They just mesh better.

So, don’t forego the lunch room for a sandwich at your desk. Encourage people to have a bite together.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How often during the week do you eat with co-workers or have a coffee together? What prevents you from doing this more often?

  2. What types of conversations do you have when you spend time eating with team members?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to encourage people to share a meal together?

It's not you (but it really is)

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Feedback comes in two general forms – feedback on skills and feedback on personality. While feedback on either can be difficult to hear, feedback on skills is the easier of the two. Improving skills or learning new skills is more removed from our self-esteem and is easier to achieve.

However, how do you change your personality? How do you not take it to heart? This is the feedback that really hits hard. Whether it be that you are too emotional, too cold, too open, too closed, too loud, too quiet, too something – or, on the flip side – not enough of something else.  

The reality is, you probably aren’t going to be able to change your personality all that much. After all, it’s who you are. You can’t easily excise part of yourself. What you can do, is make the choice to change your actions.

But, why would you do this? You do this when it will lead to better relationships with others, and when it will allow you to do your job better. Sometimes, it is necessary to adjust the way we engage with others in order to build better connections, communicate more clearly and work through conflict. And at times, our jobs will require us to step outside of what is comfortable for us in order to do them more effectively.

At the end of the day, most people don’t need to change who they are, but we all need to recognize that there will be times we need to adjust our actions for our own benefit.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Describe a time when you’ve been given feedback about your personality. How did it feel?

  2. Do you change the way you act with certain people to get along better?

  3. Do you have to act in ways outside your comfort zone sometimes to do your job better?

Culture packs a punch

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Culture is often discussed as a defensive business move – we need to keep employees happy so that they don’t become disengaged. But good culture is an offensive strategy.

A good culture does more than keep employees from being unhappy. It creates an environment where healthy conflict is possible allowing people to overcome obstacles effectively. It facilitates strong social connections that promote higher levels of collaboration. It encourages people to take smart risks and explore innovative ideas and concepts. It allows open communication at all levels, so people are informed and knowledgeable. It inspires creativity and new ways of doing things.

Creating a healthy culture isn’t something that’s just nice for employees – it’s a necessity for a successful company.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How does your culture allow you to do your job well?

  2. What impact would a negative culture have on your productivity?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to increase the offensive impact of your culture?