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Why We Game, a Theory of Practice, Risk, and Fun

It is a strange thing, gaming, anywhere on the planet you find people, those people will likely have a game to play, but why? For most, the answer why is simply, “for fun,” and while that is true, there’s more to it than that. Like most innate or universal behaviors, the answer lies in pragmatism. Games in many respects are exercises, they allow those who play them an enjoyable means to get good at something.

Games like hide and seek and tag have been played by children for thousands of years, both of which would hone skills in evading threats. Boys often play-fight or wrestle while girls gravitate to nurturing activities or dress up, each would serve as practice for roles later in life. As they grew up, games would become more advanced or change to suit the situation. Drinking games lubricated social interaction, board games built critical thinking and when team sports arose so too did the foundation for team building.

The predecessors to games like soccer, baseball, and hockey all have roots going back to Rome and Ancient Egypt. The games that required teams to play in turn require teamwork, and leaders of the time were keen of the benefits. Being able to act as a team boosts the effectiveness of a group, regardless of what the job is. Roman soldiers were encouraged to play games not only for the sake of fun or physical prowess, but because generals knew they boosted moral, camaraderie, and the overall effectiveness of their soldiers. This is because teams require trust and communication to operate, and when a military operation is at stake, any opportunity to practice had to be taken.

Many historians today believe Caesar’s claim to power was in large part due to his investment in providing games for the masses and his own men. It entertained those who watched, gave opportunity for contenders to gain clout amongst their peers, but above all else, the games they played provided an environment to rely on each other with limited the risk. It allowed them to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and would serve to build compassion and trust without real consequence.

This principle is what we press in every one of our programs. The question “what’s the point of this game?” comes up often and we are quick to answer.  It’s obvious that passing a ball around a circle or jumping through hoops or answering trivial questions alone are just that, but it’s not about the game it’s about the people playing it. Many of the clients we work with bear responsibilities too risky to pass over, where the consequences of another person’s mistake can cost someone their job or worse. That’s why Venture Up offers games like Focus Tubes, as seen in the Houston photo below, where a consequence is allowed to happen with miscommunication, but that consequence is nothing compared to the real world, plus it’s fun.

Perhaps the greatest merit gaming has is that it’s fun. Through tag and hide and seek children learn to protect themselves and still have fun. Board games that force critical thinking can be fun. Sports that require lots of physical exercise and insist on relying on your fellow man are fun.

The most important thing about Venture Up games are they are fun. They are lessons disguised as games, and because they are enjoyable, groups are more confident to take those lessons to heart and are encouraged them to lean on each other whatever, for whatever lies ahead. Is your team ready? Give us a call at 888.305-1065.

The Power of Virtual Team Building for Remote Teams

In the year that was 2020, many organizations ranging from small businesses to large corporations have experienced a transition towards remote work. With many teams becoming strictly virtual, the coronavirus has entirely reshaped how we collaborate, communicate, and operate. While there are many benefits of virtual teams in the workplace, ranging from cost-effectiveness to healthier work-life balances, there are also many challenges associated with remote work. Venture Up believes that virtual team building is essential for remote teams to succeed even beyond 2020.

Today, we’ll be exploring the power of virtual team building for remote teams. Suppose you are a business owner who has felt the impact of fragmented communication during the transition to remote work. In that case, virtual team building has the power to reinforce the effectiveness of your employees. As the nation’s top team building events consultant, we understand the impact that virtual team building can have on various industries. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits you can expect.

What is Virtual Team Building?

Virtual team building is the ongoing process of bringing remote teams together despite the distance between employees. Effective virtual team building activities bridge the communication gap, helping your team achieve deeper bonds by creating a collaborative environment similar to an in-office setting.

The physical distance of remote work can quickly turn into an emotional distance that leads to feelings of isolation among your employees. When your employees feel isolated, they can soon become uncomfortable working collaboratively with their team members. As the old adage states, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” and nothing could be more true when it comes to effective communication and collaborative efforts in a workplace. To truly strengthen the power of communication in your team, it must be regularly exercised and built upon- similarly to how you have to exercise to become stronger.

Virtual team building efforts consist of several carefully designed strategies, including games and activities, that are meant to bring more significant human interaction to the remote workplace. These activities help your team connect with each other on a different level- making them feel like they’re a part of a community despite working from home.

According to Bit.AI, “97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.” As you can see from this statistic, working together as a team to produce greater results for an organization is crucial, and it’s certainly more critical than ever with so much of the nation’s workforce working remotely. So what can you expect from virtual team building for your remote team?

The Benefits of Virtual Team Building Activities

Whether your team is partially remote or fully remote, virtual team building is essential in building a solid team foundation for your company. A study by the ADP Research Institute states that only 8 percent of employees say they’re fully engaged at work. This means, unfortunately, that a lot of companies are failing to introduce practical strategies that can make their employees feel more empowered and engaged. By introducing team building strategies, such companies could see massive benefits. So what are those benefits? Here are a few things that our team at Venture Up has noticed through our team building efforts.

1. Boost Workplace Morale

Regardless of your industry, you likely recognize the importance of pushing your team to operate at its best, meeting deadlines, and delivering quality work. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to burnout and disengagement for your employees. For this reason, the ideal team leader must find a way to encourage their team to function cohesively. Virtual team building activities such as group discussions, brainstorming sessions, and online meetings can allow for more positive feelings among staff.

Virtual team building activities leave your team feeling empowered and motivated due to positive reinforcement and emphasis on the value of their everyday efforts. A happy workplace is a productive workplace. By boosting workplace morale through virtual team building activities, you’re likely to see a considerable increase in productivity. What’s not to like about that?

2. Promotes Collaboration

Without a collaborative team effort, projects demanding coordination between resources simply can’t be effective. While team collaboration is more manageable in an in-office setting, the separation of remote work can make this a less natural thing for your employees. With employees working virtually, aligning your team with the project’s progress can be challenging. This is due to significant discrepancies in communication.

Virtual team building activities are beneficial as they help employees work collaboratively with their coworkers. At Venture Up, we offer a virtual team building activity known as the Cyberthon Virtual Challenge that sends your remote teams on a Global Amazing Race through Cyberspace. This activity requires that your team work collaboratively by connecting your employees from remote locations with fun problem-solving experiences and strategic energizers.

Virtual team building studies show that activities, such as our Cyberthon Virtual Challenge, allow participants to grow more extroverted and open-minded as members learn to be more vocal and expressive to reach a common goal. Additionally, collaboration is further promoted by these types of activities as they make your employees more aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This enables your team to coordinate effectively to complete tasks per their competencies. These are valuable practices that are sure to extend to the way your team collaborates in the workplace.

3. Increases Productivity

With your employees working remotely, the chances are that they don’t always feel as though they have a clear work direction. Without a clear work direction, your employees become less productive over time. However, virtual team building activities allow team leaders to exercise their ability to communicate organizational goals with clarity. This gives your employees a greater sense of purpose that will guide them in their everyday operations. With a renewed sense of motivation, your employees will work with all of their might to reach your company’s goals. By working with this mindset, your team is much less likely to experience burnout while increasing productivity.

4. Encouraging Versatility

With many organizations now requiring a versatile workforce to keep up with the ever-changing demands of their industry, virtual team building activities are valuable. By organizing a virtual team building event for your team, you can effectively enhance resource skills and expertise across various disciplines. These activities also present a unique opportunity for employees to try new tasks and make mistakes while learning, all without the fear of repercussions. There aren’t many opportunities for this type of learning experience within the workplace. In this way, virtual team building activities offer skill-building that your employees simply won’t experience in their job role- especially when working individually from home.

5. Supporting Greater Innovation

When it comes to gaining a business advantage that propels your company to new heights, innovation is vital in competitive industries. Virtual team building offers the opportunity for your employees to engage with each other despite physical distance, promoting creativity, brainstorming, and innovation. The activities and games offered here at Venture Up are cleverly designed to consider the multiple perspectives of your team, which has led to breakthrough innovations for our clients more times than we can count.

Empower Your Team on a Company-Wide Scale With Venture Up

Although 2020 was a stressful year that flung us into entirely unfamiliar territory regarding the way we live and work, virtual team building has offered new opportunities for workplace collaboration. Who would have thought that the transition to remote work would introduce so many to a new way of collaborating that empowers rather than isolates?

If you’re interested in experiencing the benefits of virtual team building for your remote team, look no further than Venture Up, a company with a popular range of team building activities, such as strategic games, bike building, Escape Case, and many more. Venture Up services various industries both nationally and internationally, providing exceptional service that you won’t find elsewhere. Since its founding in 1983, the company has served over 250,000 clients and is looking forward to helping thousands more in the coming years.

Ready to talk about your team? Contact us today at (888) 305-1065 or info@ventureup.com.

 

Stirling’s Engine, the Comeback of the Century

In the yonder years of the Industrial Revolution machines of monstrous proportion dwarfed man in both means of production and thirst of power. The demand for energy was unlike anything called upon before, but inventors of the time powered through to usher in the modern age. It boiled down to two types of generators, the beloved steam engine immortalized in all thermal based energy plants, and the lesser-known Stirling Engine. The Stirling Engine was a fierce competitor against steam power, at least on paper. It was safer, quieter but was also heavier and did not match the power output of steam.

Amazon.com: DjuiinoStar Low Temperature Stirling Engine: Toys & GamesLTD Stirling Engine, The LTD stands for Low Temperature Differential

It saw limited use in its time, and the Stirling Engine faded in the wake of less efficient successors, but today, with our newfound energy crisis, its relevance is scathing. Solar, wind, hydroelectric, nuclear, all have their place in combating climate change, but few have heard of the Stirling Engine. It only requires a temperature differential to operate and thus has found its niche in harnessing wasted heat. It doesn’t matter where the gradient comes from; car exhaust, smelting vents, a warm room, a hot cup of tea, anywhere an interior is warmer than and exterior, or vice versa, this generator can hack it. Today it has made a comeback in everything from powering homes to military submarines!

So, what took so long? Why did it take more than 200 years since its conception to catch on? As with most things, there is no one answer, but to put it metaphorically, it wasn’t loud enough. Robert Stirling made two models of the device by 1816, where the sole survivor of which sat abandoned in a dark room until it was dusted off by none other than William Kelvin (inventor of the Kelvin temperature units) in 1847. It served well as a teaching aid for the principles of thermodynamics, but the device wouldn’t amount to much until the 21st century.  Its potential just wasn’t seen for its efficiency because the voices of those who attested to it were too meek.

Exxon Execs Escape Game Houston Team Building Venture Up

Our facilitators know this problem all too well, though with smaller consequences. Activities like the Escape Case, pictured to the right out of Houston, or Cyberthon require teams to communicate as well as debate. Those loud and in control of the team aren’t always the ones to come up with the best solution. In our programs it is often the soft spoken who see the problem differently that find the solution. Facilitators hear them call it out, but they get talked over and become too timid to repeat themselves for fear of embarrassment. It causes the game to drag, yet they stay quiet until a louder participant calls out the same solution.

This phenomenon happens more often than it should, and with significant consequences. Those reading this might think this about the tragic late bloom of the Stirling Engine, but no, that tragedy is an ant to an anteater compared to the steam engine which was invented almost 2000 years prior! Like Kelvin finding the forgotten Sterling in a dark closet, the Aeolipile was a steam engine tucked away in some What Is Heron's Aeoliple? | The History of the Steam Enginedark corner of the library of Alexandria. It came out of the first century AD, simple, yet robust enough to open doors according to record. It is difficult to imagine what today would look like if they realized its potential all those years ago. Chances are, other revolutionary technologies may be dormant today for the same reason, engines weren’t the only idea to be underappreciated.

Germ theory had been proposed since before the Black Death of 1350 but would be trumped by the ludicrous miasmic theory until 1880, when a German had to prove it using by Anthrax on sheep. Plate tectonics were laughed at and ridiculed just as Darwinism was and would not be accepted until a century after they were proposed. In our programs we stress corporate examples of this as a reminder that many great ideas were not appreciated in their time. So please, be loud, let no good idea be silent. You may be wrong, but that’s nothing compared to unrealized potential.

If you’d like to learn more about Venture Up’s creative team programs, please call 888.305.1065 or email info@ventureup.com

The Value of Compassion to Resolve Conflict

You don’t need a lesson in Buddhism to know the value of compassion in solving problems in the workplace. When facing stress on the job, an employee oftentimes holds their emotions in for a long time before coming forward. When the flood gates open, be prepared to understand how they feel; realize the fear that kept them quiet for so long.

Here are a few tips on turning down the volume and forging an agreeable, quick solution.

  1. Pause. Let them speak. Information is power.
  2. Allow emotions to release. If they are ranting, allow it for a few minutes. Let them purge the pain. Stop them when they begin repeating the same point.
  3. Get the facts. Focus on the facts only. Avoid letting the employee revert to emotion. We’re at the problem-solving stage now.
  4. Assess the facts. How serious is the problem? Do you need a specialist? An investigation?
  5. Hire outside professionals to investigate any cases of sexual harassment, bullying, racism or LGBQT bigotry.
  6. Resolve inhouse if the matter involves people not getting along, lack of cooperation, dysfunction between departments. These issues can be resolved quickly if you can get all parties talking. When they are face to face with the manager, in a relaxed environment (outdoors if the weather is good). You can isolate the problem, encourage staff to interact with their ideas to solve it. Keep quiet as much as you can. A pregnant pause gives birth to chatter.  If ideas come from them, as opposed to an HR authoritarian directive, it is more authentic and they get the credit for solving it. They feel empowered. You just opened the door.
  7. Learn from conflict. When the employees involved also show compassion toward one another, it triggers cooperation of among all parties.

What if you are the problem?

  1. Listen. Acknowledge the feedback. If you are silent, people often keep talking.
  2. Be Switzerland. Stay neutral. This is not a family criticism where you can be defensive, get mad and your partner still loves you later. You have one shot to get this right. Keep your emotional distance. Think before you speak.
  3. Do not take it personally. Do not hold a grudge. The best outcome is a positive solution that satisfies everyone.
  4. Ask them what they would do if they were you.
  5. Assure them you will assess the information they’ve given and you will rejoin them in no more than 1 week to discuss an equitable solution. Don’t ignore it or you’ll break their trust and alienate them forever.
  6. Follow-up the next week to see how the plan is going.
  7. Encourage them to be kind to themselves and speak up earlier rather than hold frustration in. Let them know that you are there for them. You are rooting for their success.
  8. Assure them there should be no fear of consequences for speaking up. Every problem has a solution.

By empowering staff to solve problems with a little guidance from you, you are building mutual trust and facilitating a culture of openness and freedom of expression. When you infuse fun team training games into the mix, authenticity flourishes. Fun breaks the tension and people can be their true selves.

For more information on gamification methods to assist in conflict resolution and building relationships, please call 888.305.1065 or email info@ventureup.com

 

Are your employees screaming on the inside?

Crushing Workplace Fear in 2021

What makes life at work even more stressful these days is the need to appear sane and happy when the entire world is being turned upside. One thing to keep in mind is to understand that almost everyone else feels pretty much the same way. Who hasn’t lost someone to Covid, substance abuse or suicide in the last year? How many homebound kids are depressed? How many parents can focus at work when they know they’ve got “homework” until midnight, helping their children with online learning? How many of us don’t have a job at all?

All the world’s a stage. In the working world, it seems we’re in a contest to see who adapts the best or who best can hide the nagging anxiety. Understanding that we all are having a common experience is in itself healing and unifying. Talking about it is even better (so long as you keep the politics out of it). If ever there was a better opportunity for a manager to create a more relaxing and fun workplace, it’s right now. Many of us have forgotten how to have fun. It’s up to leadership at all levels support a compassionate corporate culture, perhaps offering group sessions for sharing personal pandemic experiences. Nobody survived the past year unscathed, including the stiff upper lips in top management.

Cyberthon Virtual Team Building
Remote teams reignite relationships with office staff with fun virtual games having little to do with the workplace.

Remote teams are really in the same boat as office staff, even more so if they live alone. While they have freedom and flexibility, working in your pajamas can be downright depressing. Being social animals, we all get lonely in isolation, even when we are not physically, but emotionally isolated. Getting out of the emotional slump means getting social — the entire team — either face to face or by teleconferencing.

If absence makes the employee’s heart grow fonder, then a team reunion in cyberspace or at the office can reignite relationships that have been in hibernation for a year.

Escape Room in a Case

At Venture Up, we’ve been able to keep up the pace during isolation working on Cyberthon virtual team games that turned out to be a big hit.

Cyberthon is probably the most addictive (in a fun way) set of games we have offered since we began in 1983. During the last six months alone, Southern CompanyCSG and USDA Puerto Rico have run repeat programs.

Next in line for popularity is the Escape the Case conference room team building game, a top seller since 2019. Are you ready for fun at work? Please call 888.305.1065 or send us an email at info@ventureup.com.

 

 

8 Ways Hotels Are Changing Post Pandemic

Social Distancing is here to stay. Hotels, as well as businesses worldwide, are rolling forward making a healthy and safe environment the highest priority. Like many businesses, Venture Up is much reliant on hotels and group travel. In our case, not only must employees and corporate leaders have confidence to enter an enclosed metal capsule and zoom away to conferences and training sessions, but they also must feel protected during the meetings. One thing for sure, is the process will slow down and so will we.

Hotel Resort Venture Up

Here are 8 changes you can expect from hotels, and a few of our comments:

1. VIRTUAL check-ins and check-outs. VU: Always makes sense.

2. TEMPERATURE checks: Guests must have temperatures checked by nurses upon entering. If you have a fever, turn around. VU: And enter the enclosed capsule again for the ride home? Temperature checks alone do not guarantee anyone is Covid-19 free, but it’s a start.

3. ELEVATORS: 1 guest in the elevator at a time. VU: = Stairs will be crowded, baggage staff overloaded, baggage arrival will be later than the old days.

4. LINENS: Guests receive 3 separate bags — for used towels, used bedding and trash. Guests must place the bags by the door and contact housekeeping to take the bags. VU: Efficiency in this practice requires new training for staff. Rather than burden the customer to call housekeeping, staff should be ready at 8 .a.m. to noon to constantly watch for bags on each floor.

5. GYM: Social distancing requires guests to sign up for a specific time to limit the number of patrons in the gym at one time. VU: Take the stairs. Who needs a gym?

6. ROOM SERVICE: Forget it. Hotel restaurants, bars and complimentary coffee stations will also be closed indefinitely. VU: Off to the vending machines.

7. AMENTITIES: Minibars, excess hangers, excess linens and excess pillows are no longer an option. VU: Calls for upscale vending machine service, or outside restaurant delivery.

8. DEEP CLEANING: 24-hours post check out. For medical staff patrons, brand hotels require that a room stays vacant for 3 days after check out. VU: Good to hear.

Airlines and cruise ships are also gearing up to change their ways and keep customers safe following government guidelines. The new way of doing business requires much cooperation and customer compliance. Get ready.

6 Ways to Avoid Stressing out Your Team

The main sources for workplace anxiety, according to a recent American Institude of Stress (AIS)  study, are unmanageable workload, interpersonal issues, the ole work/life balance, and job security fears. AIS reported 80 percent of American workers are stressed on the job and 92 percent of the anxiety related to working on a team.

AIS defines workplace stress as “the perception of having little control but lots of demands.” When Venture Up is hired to work with a stressed out team, rarely does the team we meet match up to the meeting planners description. Why?Exxon Execs Escape Game Houston Team Building Venture Up Because the team is taken out of the work context. There is a huge difference between a neutral party, Venture Up, running a program to build relationships and in-house HR staff attempting to do the same.

“In many cases, employees simply do not trust HR,” says Mason Lengyel, program director of Venture Up. “They tend to believe that HR is on the company’s side, vs. in their corner,” he says. When the same company outsources a group such as Venture Up to improve team relationships, they wall of mistrust breaks down. “Venture Up leaders are not seen as a threat, or as judgmental or authoritarian figures examining employees’ every move,” Lengyel says.

“We set the stage for a relaxing natural environment where the same colleagues who may face challenges at work, interact in new, fun ways and find it’s a lot easier working when not under the company’s pressure.”

Giving Employees Control

When employees feel in control, the perception of their responsibility shifts to something they feel they can manage. Micromanaging is the enemy of empowered employees. Managers of teams must take a leadership role in respecting team members as individuals. Here are tips to put your staff in control and making your job easier:

1. Meet individual team members on a regular basis, at least every two weeks. Not only will your staff feel more accountable, you will receive valuable feedback as to what’s going on beneath the radar.

2. Involve team members in decisions relating to their projects and department in general.

3. Reinforce company values and practice what you preach

4. Instill leadership in employees by pinpointing a key talent in each individual and assigning each of them individual tasks to contribute to the team.

5. Establish a timeline for the project. The bi-weekly meetings will keep you apprised if the team is on schedule or going off track and gives you a chance to address any obstacles to get them back on track.

6. Define work-life balance. The term means different things to different people. Find out what it means to each individual on our team and acquire feedback as to how the workplace and team environment can help them achieve their goals. In many cases, a separate team project not working-related, such as the same team working on a community project on company time, is as therapeutic for their own relationships as for the people in the community they serve.

Solving problems together is at the heart of teamwork. To inspire your team and give everyone on it an important role, a team building event with Venture Up can help give you valuable feedback as well as strengthen workplace bonds.

Simple Ways to Improve Conversation for 2020

If you are a manager, a parent, or any human dealing with other humans for that matter, you know that communication is key to improving relationships, getting things done and solving problems.  It’s not what you say, but how you say it. A recent article in the Guardian showed ways to get someone to change their mind, or see you in a new light. We at Venture Up have our own ideas. We believe it has everything to do with handing the power of choice over to the ones you seek to lead vs. controlling them.

Research backs up the Guardian’s article, while Venture Up staff draw from threee decades experience dealing with people of all nationalities and backgrounds, from the front line to the top brass.

Analyzing thousands of hours of recorded conversations, from “customer services to mediation hotlines and police crisis negotiation,” social interaction professor Elizabeth Stokoe lead the research at the Loughborough University and discovered that “certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation.” Other research is also included in the phrases mentioned below, along with our humble two cents:

Are you willing to …

Using the term “willing” appeared to have a magical effect on people during mediation telephone calls seeking to resolve conflict. Stokoe said. “As soon as the word ‘willing’ was uttered, people would say: ‘Oh, yes, definitely’ – they would actually interrupt the sentence to agree.”

Venture Up: When dealing with a brick wall, whether an opinionated teenager or adults involved  in conflict, emotions can run high. You can neutralize the situation by handing the power over to the resistance. You show respect that you acknowledge that it’s their power (not yours) needed to resolve the conflict. They really don’t need you. You are simply opening a door to a solution, powered by them.

While the Guardian article mentions “Would you like to” and “Would you be interested in” as other options, we at Venture Up believe such phrases convey doubt, whereas the term “willing” puts the opposing party in a pro active position.

Options vs. Guidelines

By offering a choice, or listing options, medical doctors in Stokoe’s study got a better response, despite hospital guidelines to talk about the best interests of the patient.

Venture Up: Sometimes “el jefe” does not know the best way — and, dare we say, neither does HR. Empowering the “subject” to take action, whether speaking to a family member or an employee, yields positive outcomes and the likelihood of follow-thru.

Can you just …

Former Google exec Ellen Leanse considers “just” a “permission” word, “a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on the door before asking: ‘Can I get something I need from you?’” according to a linked in Blog mentioned in the Guardian article.

Venture Up: Using “just” also conveys frustration on the part of the one making the request. “Can you just eat in the break room?” or “Can you just come home on time for once.” It can also come off as authoritarian and condescending or whiney. Just don’t use it.

Speak vs. Talk

When a police negotiator says to a person in crisis, “I’m here to talk,” they are met with more resistance according to the Stokoe’s study. Common response: “I don’t want to talk, what’s the point in talking?’”

Persons in crisis were more likely to open up the conversation or offer new information if the officer used the term “speak”. Stokoe said cultural idioms such as “You’re all talk; talk is cheap; you talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk” contribute to why the term casts a negative shadow.

Venture Up: The term “talk” is associated with blather. The term “speak” comes with more respect. It conveys that the officer in this case has thought about what he has to say and respects you, vs. talking to see how long he can keep you from acting out = negative outcome.

Sort vs. Help

“Let’s sort it” feels much more direct and active, says Stokoe, “Better to be practical and direct.”

Venture Up: We believe “help” can have a charitable tone to it. As if someone is deficient and needs help. When you say, “Let’s sorth things out,” you create a partnership with the opposing party. Together, as a 2-person team, you will more likely arrive at an equitable solution.

How are you?

Cold callers are famous for beginning calls with, “How are you today.” Working with call staff, Stokoe said one of her main messages was to tell people to “stop building rapport.” Her research shows that small talk does not work and tends to irritate the customer. It’s not that “How are you is rude, but it is false,” she says.

Venture Up: Do you cringe too when someone begins a call with “How are you today?” You know what’s ahead. Somebody wants to empty your pockets. All relationships are built on trust. When you ring false from the get-go, you do the opposite of what it takes to build a relationship.

If you’re selling something, it’s best to get to the point right away, and it is always good to have the name of who you wish to speak with. If not, you can say, “May I have the name of the person who works with corporate events?” The “Can I talk to the manager?” routine will quickly end the call.

The only time a “How are you” rings true is when it is between people who know one another, and best if you follow up with, “Glad to see you got over the nasty cold,” or “Did your daughter’s team make the championship?”

Sales staff are wise to go off the track a little during selling transaction, to connect on a personal level, “I can do the conference call mid-day. My hours are short since my son has a violin recital.” The other party should remember that and mention it in the next phone call. There is nothing like personal attention that bonds relationships, and it also indicates to the buyer you will pay attention to their order and service as well.

Ben Stein
Anyone? Anyone? Ferris, is anyone awake?

Some vs. Any

Doctors in a UCLA study found that “Anything else I can do for you?” failed to get as positive a response as did the more specific, “Is there something more I can do for  you.” Conversation analysts John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson said “any” is too general and tends to yield negative responses.  The researchers suggest to be more specific if you want genuine feedback. “What do you think about X?”

Venture Up: Remember  Ben Stein as Ferris  Bueller’s  teacher? “Any questions? Anyone … anyone? Zzzzz . Yes, we agree you need to be specific if you want feedback. One way to engage another is to ask “how”: questions. “How would it work out if we put Shelly and Rhonda on the party planning committee?” Or, if you want to use “”what,”” “What do you think of hiring an outside party planner?”Or, you can try, “Which company can you recommend for the project whose clients you personally know, vs. online reviews?”‘

Yes, but

According to Rob Kendall, author of Workstorming, “Yes, but” is the classic warning signs that you’re in an unwinnable conversation…”it’s a sign that you’re going nowhere.” He advises shifting the conversation by asking the other person, “What’s needed here?” or “What do you need?” to obtain a solution-focused outcome.”

Venture Up: “But” cancels out the yes. Yes means no when you add the “but”.  At Venture Up, we fall back on the “how” question. “How can we get both our ideas to work?” Or, personalize it more, “Do you have an idea of how we can make this work despite our differences?” When ideas conflict, it’s time for both sides to give in. If neither are willing, time to find a new team willing to work toward problems solving, casting egos aside.

Listen

The Guardian article also includes former FBI negotiator Chris Voss, who writes in Never Split The Difference, his manual of persuasive techniques, that the first stage to behavioral change is active listening – namely, being able to show the other person that you have taken in what they’ve said and, more importantly, have a sense of what it means to them. He says it often works simply to repeat the last sentence or thought someone has expressed.  Example: “It seems like you’re feeling frustrated with this situation – is that right?” As such, you give the person the chance to give more feedback or correct any misunderstanding.

Venture Up: Listening is the most important and underrated communication skill that can never go unchecked. Often, when we think we are listening we are really rehearsing what we are going to say to sway the conversation. Pause. There is no need to rush. Agreeing with others, in part, gets you half way to getting them to listen to you. “To your point ….,” or “As Mark was saying …”. Using names and personalizing the conversation encourages engagement.

Greetings

Saying “Hello” can change the course of a conversation,” Stokoe says. She gave an example of an angry co-worker approaching your desk to complain. “Rather than respond in the same manner, saying something nice, such as a very bright ‘Hello!’, derails and socializes that other person a little bit.”

Venture Up: Tone of voice is everything. If you said “hello” with a dull tone, vs. a cheery one, it could easily be taken as sarcasm and escalate the situation. When you’re genuinely cheerful you neutralize negativity. Confrontations at work are never worth it because people hold grudges and you could face problems down the road. If you smile and focus on a solution, vs. the person, the anger dissipates.

Likewise, when you enter a meeting room or gathering of people by the copy machine,  always say hello, or if they are chatting, at least say hello with a nod and eye contact. Unless asked, do not join the conversation.

 

 

 

 

Screen Time, Brain Damage & Stress

Screen time is slowly damaging us in ways we may not know for another generation or more, when scientists have studied the right populations over time. Like a runaway train, computer technology hit us hard and fast, and there’s no slowing it down. How many hours are workers spending adjusting to the “new and improved” software update? What about the added stress balancing new technology with the job itself? Is a new type of workman’s compensation claim on the horizon?

Americans spend more than 11 hours daily before a screen; watching, listening or simply interacting with media, according to a Nielsen market research group study. Sitting before a bright screen for long periods can also damage the eyes permanently. Computer Vision Syndrome, a combination of symptoms including eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, neck and back pain affects 58 percent of people who work on computers.

Laptop and Coffee at Coffee Shop

A recent Business Insider article reports that since 1971, cases of nearsightedness in the US have nearly doubled, which some scientists link partially to increased screen time. In Asia, nearly 90 percent of teens and adults are nearsighted.

Studies involving adult populations have shown prolonged screen time diminishes the brain’s cognitive functioning, affects a person’s ability to prioritize and organize and has an impact on their impulse control. With all the pitfalls of excess screen time, we are hopelessly dependent upon technology. Workers in professional jobs simply cannot escape from screens.

Workers comp claims due to excessive screen time could be a problem for the near future. Is it time for employers to diminish screen time? Or will they sweep under the rug as an acceptable workplace hazard? What if your employee files a claim? An avalanche could follow.

At the very least, HR departments can provide information on ways to cut screen time at work, such as taking brief hourly breaks from the screen (without being penalized). Another way to alleviate stress is to involve staff in periodic team building events or employee engagement activities that serve the community. In terms of screen time at home, HR can offer tips to cut screen time by suggesting apps that remind you of the time you spend surfing the web. If impulse control is your issue, Cold Turkey is a web site blocker that you can adjust to certain times a day to block such websites as facebook, youtube, amazon, reddit, or any others that suck your life away.