Extreme Executive Retreat

, , ,

By James Carter

Tim Hume of CNN interviewed Founder and CEO, James Carter, about the extreme nature of our executive retreats and why they are essential for some executive teams:

A short article can never capture everything that is important but Tim does a great job of highlighting the role these retreats have in the ‘Executive Retreat’ realm.

There are many other articles out there that emphasize the value of extreme retreats but they are not to be selected randomly.  Like every other format for retreats, the structure must support the overall goals and outcomes.  Or you just end up having a great time – not a bad thing, but you are losing the value of an executive retreat.

The most valuable time you can spend is having a firm understanding of where you are now – A, and where you want to be – B.  While this is simplistic, it is not necessarily easy.  It may require  great deal of courage to face the current situation!

And once you know A, understanding B is the next step – where do you want to be?  What do you want from your executive team?  Generalities DO NOT work here.  What are specific behaviors you want members of the executive team showing.  If you answer with something like ‘collaborating’, you are not digging deeply enough and keep going.  What will more collaboration do for the organization?

In addition, what are the goals the team must hit?  What are those ‘B’s’?

With those answers in mind, you select the format and structure for an executive retreat.  And perhaps something extreme is in order!

Read more about the A to B strategy.

Read the article here!

 

The Carrot and Stick Approach No Longer Applies

, ,

Most of the time, business is at the forefront of change in our society. Sometimes, on the cutting and bleeding edge of change.

But from time to time, business is sadly behind what we know to be fact.

This is especially true when it comes to what motivates employees within a company.

Traditionally, a ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach to rewarding employees has worked very well.

A goal is set and if you achieve it, you get the carrot. If you fail to achieve it, you get the stick.

According to Dan Pink, author of Drive, the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, the carrot and stick still work, but in narrowly defined areas.

These areas are in simple problem situations – ‘in the box’ creativity versus ‘out of the box’ creativity.

Using Duncker’s famous ‘Candle Problem’, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators were tested by Princeton professor Sam Glucksberg.

In one experiment, two groups were asked to solve the problem of how to affix a candle to a wall, given a simple wax candle and a box of tacks.

One group he told he was just timing them for norms. The other group he told if they finished in the top 25% of times they would get $5 and if they finished fastest overall they would get $20.

The key to solving the problem is to use the box of tacks as a holder for the candle, a rather creative and ingenious solution to the task.

So what happened? The group that was promised rewards for the fastest times actually took longer to complete the task.

In fact, they took and average of three and half minutes longer than the group that was not promised incentives.

How does this happen?

It’s simple.

External rewards to increase motivation can serve as blinders for our creatiivty.

A lot of the solutions to our problems are out on the periphery. But the external reward cause us to narrow our focus and our potential solutions.

But what if you take the tacks out of the box to begin with?

The solution becomes obvious and the external motivators WORK! The groups that were incented by money do, in fact, perform more quickly.

What does this tell us?

Pink does a fantastic job of highlighting this in his TED presentation.

External, carrot and stick, reward systems worked in the 20th century because most of our problems were more simplistic.

Dont’ get me wrong, even with the tacks out of the box, it is still a creative solution to tack the box onto the wall!

But in the 21st century, we will have more and more need for solutions that require us to take the tacks ‘out of the box’ and create a solution.

For that to occur, we need to intrinsically motivate people.

What does that mean? Well, many things. Google famously created the 20%. 20% of the time, Google employees spend on whatever they want. Most of the new products that come from Google come from the 20% time.

Pink also mentions ROWE environments, Results Only Work Environments, in which employees set their own time, come in when they want and are not required to attend any meetings. These have shown to be highly effective in white-collar work situations.

Bottom Line

Moving forward, organizations need to intrinsically motivate employees if we care about achieving greater results and creating positive workplaces. It will take extra time and energy up front, but the dividends will pay off huge if done correctly.

If you are unsure where to start, you might want to look at our activities. They are set up to help individuals be introspective and truly understands themselves.

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Marshal McLuhan


About the Author

James Carter is Founder and CEO of Repario. Repario helps companies connect the hearts, hands and minds to their organization through Emotional Experiences and sustaining the individual motivation through unique technology applications. Additionally, James recently authored Discovering Your Inner Strengths with Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy and Steven Covey.

About Repario

We are a commited group of individuals focused upon helping you improve individuals, teams and leaders through experiential opportunties that connect the heart and mind.

A Push Forward

We must constantly reevaluate what we do and not let habits and past wisdom blind us to new possibilities.

Apple just launched their newest operating system, OS X Lion, last week.  Like any new idea, people are excited about the change, but weary of its unfamiliarity.  Just like people who are fretful about the idea of switching from PC to Mac, the unknown holds an unsettling feeling for the potential of both positive and negative consequences.

But to ignore a source of innovation because of the possibility of misuse would be senseless.  In Mihaly Csikszentmihaly book on the psychology of optimal experiences, Flow, he writes, “If mankind had tried to ban fire because it could be used to burn things down, we would not have grown to be very different from the great apes.”

Embracing the unknown has been civilizations igniting force continually pushing it forward.  On a smaller scale, the very same ideology can be broken down on an individual level.  What is common and routine now, was at one time unfamiliar and unknown.

Using what was once a part of our tactics to crawl, lead us to stand on our two miniature legs for the very first time.  Entering a building full of classrooms, friends, and considerably taller, unfamiliar adults was our first experience of structured learning.

Growing up was full of firsts.  And although the idea of walking could lead to the very realistic possibility of falling, it wouldn’t stop of us from taking hold of our latest ability to explore new surroundings.

Entertaining new possibilities is a visceral drive.  We look back and view a child learning to walk or going to school as a natural part of growth.  It is because growth is an innate drive.  Breaking through to new areas of our life is a state of being and it does not end with childhood abilities.

We constantly drive to push ourselves forward.  But we also establish a frame of reference and a list of habits to go with it, and so breaking into new areas becomes risky.

Fresh life ideas contain learning curves, time, consequences, and chances of failure.  But does that mean we should ignore them?  And even if we do, growth is our state of being.  To ignore possibilities would create a dissonance as our beliefs and our actions would not align.

To act would evoke fear, while not acting would create dissatisfaction.  I find we are better fear facers then dissatisfaction creators.

If life is a an array of dots, the ones behind us connected, the ones in front of us an unpredictable sequence – then we must learn to trust that the dots will connect.  Our first day of school might have been our scariest challenge at one time, but now we see it as a connection to what has brought us to where we currently are.

The same can be said about the future. Although those dots may seem like leaps and bounds away right now, they will connect and make the intricate and extraordinary sequence of the life you have the potential of living.

How to Identify Worthwhile Actions

,

How do you know which actions are worthwhile and which are not?  Anyone who has an appetite for the taste of success thrives to take meaningful steps towards it, but what do those steps look like?

The most pivotal and overlooked component for success is its starting point.  Teddy Gross, founder of Penny Harvest, has helped raise over $7 million by collecting the tiniest denomination of currency in the US fiscal system.

But where did Teddy begin?  It started with one single penny.  Something so common and tiny most of us don’t even bother to pick one up as we pass it in the street.  And yet the collection of pennies has culminated into something truly extraordinary as millions of dollars have been raised for people in need.

None of this would have not been possible without that starting point, without that initial penny. And so one component to what makes actions so valuable is to not underestimate the value of our actions. What at first may seem as trivial and inessential could very well be the building blocks to an extraordinary breakthrough.

When we look at our actions, the only part of it that is truly factual is the action itself.  You take a job, you sell your house, you travel to a different country, you make a sales pitch.  Those are all facts. What comes after the action is our interpretations and perspectives.

The reasons you take a job could run the gamut.  Money, benefits, boredom, satisfaction, travel, fulfillment.  As well as whether or not you actually like this new occupation.  Variables such as co-workers, location, workload, tasks, interaction, and administration all have their respective roles to play.

The reality we create on how good or bad our job is – is formed by the perception we create. And so all our interpretations of our actions feed into whether or not something is worthwhile.

But after actions occur what do you think we tend to focus on?  Look at the front page of todays newspaper, turn on the news, or simply listen in on a conversation at work.  The general scope of perspective is pointed in a negative view.

Out of the 30 most common emotion words in the English language only 6 of them were positive.  This focus on the adverse has put on blinders to countless positive possibilities.

When trying to identify choices and actions that have the most value, focus in on the bright spots of those actions.  In the beginning stages of Penny Harvest when a few hundred dollars of pennies had been raised, Teddy Gross could have thought, “this is barely anything, this certainly won’t make a difference.”

But instead, he looked at the same few hundred dollars and saw peoples desire to help and built off these bright spots.

Identifying the worthwhile actions isn’t about a full proof plan designed to give you the right choices. It is about finding value in the reality we create.

Shakespeare said, “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Realize that behind every decision we make and every action we take there are positive potentials and bright spots to be found. These actions may not seem valuable alone, but together, can create an outcome that is truly worthwhile.

Can Work and Play Co-Exist

,

“If it isn’t fun, why do it?” says Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Its ironic that what many of us dread, another day of work, is supposed to be an environment for productivity, creativity, and innovation.

Work and play are considered opposite ends of the spectrum.  But can the two co-exist?  Can we have some fun and dare I say even enjoy going into work? And if we can, what does that mean for results and outcomes?

David Ogilvy, head of an advertising agency says, “Make it fun to work at your agency.  When people aren’t having fun they seldom produce good advertising.”

“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father,” said Roger von Oech.

Yet when the idea of play is brought up, it’s like violating the sacred sanctuary of the office.  It will only distract and detract.  What other offices incorporate play into their work culture?  Aren’t casual Friday’s sufficient?

A company seeks for its employees to generate new ideas. This is accomplished by the unexpected joining of two old elements creating something new.  Bringing fun to the workplace could not only produce innovation, but the joining of these two elements is innovation.

There is no harm in planting some seeds to make your workplace more enjoyable.  In fact, there is significant benefit.  Creativity, camaraderie, increase in results, and a breeding ground for ingenuity, just to name a few.  Not to mention your own personal well-being gets a boost.

Be creative. Find ways to make work fun. Because if it isn’t fun, why do it?

Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning.

Darts. Put a dart board up in the conference room for people to play when they need a break.

Get outdoors. On a nice day get outside.  Suggest holding one of your meetings outdoors.  Who knows what ideas could arise from mother nature.

Decorate. Decorate your office with stuff you enjoy. Bring in kids pictures or artwork to hang in the office lobby or break room.

Talent Show. No one can resist showing off what they are good at.

Dress Up Day. Every now and then you can’t deny, you enjoy dressing up.

Personal Project. Structure into the work curriculum a project to work on with no guidelines – completely up to whatever each person is interested in. (Google has gotten most of its ideas this way)

Group TV Shows. Once a week, or even once a month, watch a favorite TV show. The Office perhaps…

Baby Pictures. Put up a board of baby pictures and guess who is who.

Dance. Turn up the tunes and show off some moves.  While your doing it check out the lyrics for the songs you always lip sing to (ie. Macaroni)

Making the work place more enjoyable will ultimately turn it into an environment generating some legendary ideas.

The Need for Challenge

There was an Indian tribe residing in the Shuswap region of British Colombia.  This specific region was considered by the Indian people to be a rich place.  There was plenty of salmon and game, vast amounts of below-ground resources, and plenty of fertile land.  They built village sites and had elaborate technologies to effectively cultivate the resources.  The Indians looked at their lives to be rich and good.

Yet, over time the elders began to find predictability throughout their days.  With everything so readily available, challenge began to go out of life.  Without challenge, life had no meaning.

So the elders gathered and discussed what they should do.  Through discourse and in their wisdom they decided the village should move.  Every 25 to 30 years, the entire population would move to a different part of the Shuswap land, and there, they found challenge.   There were lands to fertilize, new game trails to learn, new areas to navigate.  Life would regain its meaning and everyone would feel rejuvenated and happy. Incidentally, it also allowed resources in one area to recover after years of harvesting.

The need for challenge.  It is an essential part of our lives.  We all have days when we wish we could just have things handed to us.  Money, jobs, knowledge, health, people.  The list goes on, but if we were to magically acquire our, desires would we really be happy?  Or as the Shuswap elders predicted, would life loose its meaning.

This tribe had it all.  They were the Rockefellers of the Indian world.  But even surrounded by all these riches, the people were still unfulfilled.

We think if, if only I had ‘this’ then I would have the means to do ‘that’.  But by not being handed what you want, it allows you to focus in, face the challenge, and achieve what you need.

A psychology study manipulated the initiation of being part of the experimenter.  Little did the participants know, the initiation was actually the study.  The first group completed quite simple and basic tasks and then went on to partake in an arbitrary study. The second group had to go through much more difficult initiation.  The tasks were harder.  Some of them were embarrassing and required significantly more involvement from the participants. When the study was over, who do you think valued the study more?  The latter group.  It was a relatively meaningless study, but because it was more challenging and greater amounts of effort went into the process, the second group found significantly more meaning in the study.

We thrive for challenge.  If you were given everything you wanted in this world, would you become complacent? Probably not.  We are constantly seeking stimulation. No one wants to sit around and do the same word search over and over again.  We know how it works out, we know the answers, we want something new, something unfamiliar – something unknown.

Having it all does not give you a life of fulfillment.  Next time your tested by something, challenged by its complexity, tired from its rigors, ask yourself would you have it any other way?

Making a Better Work Environment

“If it isn’t fun, why do it?” says Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Its ironic that what many of us dread, another day of work, is supposed to be an environment for productivity, creativity, and innovation.

Work and play are considered opposite ends of the spectrum.  But can the two co-exist?  Can we have some fun and dare I say even enjoy going into work? And if we can, what does that mean for results and outcomes?

David Ogilvy, head of an advertising agency says, “Make it fun to work at your agency.  When people aren’t having fun they seldom produce good advertising.”

“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father,” said Roger von Oech.

Yet when the idea of play is brought up, it’s like violating the sacred sanctuary of the office.  It will only distract and detract.  What other offices incorporate play into their work culture?  Aren’t casual Friday’s sufficient?

A company seeks for its employees to generate new ideas. This is accomplished by the unexpected joining of two old elements creating something new.  Bringing fun to the workplace could not only produce innovation, but the joining of these two elements is innovation.

There is no harm in planting some seeds to make your workplace more enjoyable.  In fact, there is significant benefit.  Creativity, camaraderie, increase in results, and a breeding ground for ingenuity, just to name a few.  Not to mention your own personal well-being gets a boost.

Be creative. Find ways to make work fun. Because if it isn’t fun, why do it?

Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning.

Darts. Put a dart board up in the conference room for people to play when they need a break.

Get outdoors. On a nice day get outside.  Suggest holding one of your meetings outdoors.  Who knows what ideas could arise from mother nature.

Decorate. Decorate your office with stuff you enjoy. Bring in kids pictures or artwork to hang in the office lobby or break room.

Talent Show. No one can resist showing off what they are good at.

Dress Up Day. Every now and then you can’t deny, you enjoy dressing up.

Personal Project. Structure into the work curriculum a project to work on with no guidelines – completely up to whatever each person is interested in. (Google has gotten most of its ideas this way)

Group TV Shows. Once a week, or even once a month, watch a favorite TV show. The Office perhaps…

Baby Pictures. Put up a board of baby pictures and guess who is who.

Dance. Turn up the tunes and show off some moves.  While your doing it check out the lyrics for the songs you always lip sing to (ie. Macaroni)

Making the work place more enjoyable will ultimately turn it into an environment generating some legendary ideas.

Burn Your Boats

This example, although extreme, is a powerful mindset.  Burning your boats is essentially removing all excuses.  If soldiers found themselves outgunned and outmanned they would have to come up with a strategy different then strength in numbers.  When the option of retreat is off the table, ingenuity and innovation become the new battle tactics.

When we commit to an idea, we must burn our boats.  Eliminate excuses.  The ideas are as endless as your potentials.  We shouldn’t spend time contemplating reasons why we cannot do something.  Instead we should create a list entitled: Why it needs doing.  At the top of the list sits three simple words, “because you can.”

If you don’t have enough money, borrow some.  If you don’t have enough time, wake up an hour or two earlier, if you don’t know enough, learn!  Burn your boats.  If you do this, you no longer have an excuse to fall back on.

Thomas Edison often predicted he’d invent something by such a time.  He would purposefully be premature with his publications so that he would have full incentive to get it done.

Jack Foster writes, “Chances are the things you’ll regret the most won’t be the dumb things you did during that time.  They’ll be the things you didn’t do – the chance you didn’t take, the opportunity you didn’t seize, the idea you didn’t stay with.  Take it. Seize it. Stay with it.”

With excuses off the table all that’s left to do it try – and try we must.

I had a conversation with traveler and blogger Lauren Rains about stepping into the unknown.  I think she put it best when she outlined her own thoughts:

“Failure is always a possibility, but what if I don’t try, then I will never know. What if I don’t make a big difference? Well, what if I do? What about making small difference in peoples lives that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t act?”

We are never fully aware of the ripple effect of our actions.  So when the opportunity to retreat presents itself, when excuses begin to surface, and a life of ‘should haves’ begins to manifest, burn your boats, commit to action, and take a step into the unknown.

Are Your Investments Worthwhile

How many times have we uttered the phrase, “That was a waste of time.”   As good as our intentions may be, the outcome clearly did not pan out the way we wished it to.

Hours upon hours of time invested into something, and the result goes unnoticed.  Perhaps it’s trying to figure out how to use a new piece of seemingly cryptic technology. Maybe it’s an attempt at learning a new language.  It could be time spent exercising, consoling others, studying, reading, helping, conversing, or just showing some support, and yet nobody really seems to notice.

We tend to measure our investments based off the worth other people see in them.  But any experience you engage in runs deeper than the perception others create.

Walt Disney World is a wonderful example of this.  Described as a magical place, Disney has an atmosphere of sheer wonder and awe.  How did Disney come to be what it is?  Investments.  Many of which go unknown, but no doubt play a pivotal roll into creating this living fantasy.

There is an incredulous attention to detail at Disney.

Sign posts are repainted every night after closing so as not to appear worn or chipped.

Pictures and murals contain such detailed ambiguity that each time you look at one you’re bound to find something new.

Carousels are painted with gold paint.  No, not gold-colored paint, but 23-karat gold-leafed paint.

But why invest in things that 95% of the guests won’t even notice?  I seriously doubt kids can tell the difference between gold-leaf and gold colored paint.

It is Disney’s commitment to their guests, letting them know that they go all out in everything they do.  And even if the guests don’t notice the employees certainly do.  Passion is contagious and so the commitment to excellence certainly catches on.

And so a good amount of the efforts that contribute to Disney’s greatness go unnoticed.  But unnoticed does not mean unworthy.  All those hidden details contribute to Disney’s unmatched reputation.

The same idea can be applied to each and every one of us.  We may not see direct results and our actions may go unnoticed, but like the freshly painted signs and ambiguous illustrations of Disney World, everything culminates into the essence of the whole.

Every action you take shapes who you are.  And so even if you have spent countless hours investing your time without being recognized for it, its okay, it is all part of the fantastical character of you.  And that is what get’s noticed.

Some people would view a golden painted carousel as idiotic and a waste of money. But those horses and chariots were painted gold because of the belief of Disney’s passion for excellence and commitment to it’s guests.  To Disney, their guest are gold, they are the reason for it’s existence.

If everything you do creates the essence of who you are, then is there really any time wasted?  Unmeasurable and unnoticed does not mean misused.

So what are your gold painted carousels?  Do you think your actions develop character? What is something you thought to be a waste of time? Was it?

10-Step Survival Guide for Tough Times

,

Times are tough.

2 million jobs lost in 2008, 533,000 in November alone, the most in 34 years.  Manufacturing is down.  Now the automotive industry is requiring a bailout.

The economy is moving into a very difficult and tumultuous time.  We are all feeling nervous about what is coming.  Even companies in strong positions are running scared.

But, in the meantime, we must accomplish more in less time! Why? Because of the 2 million lost jobs.

We MUST be more productive and it is quite possible our job depends upon it.

What can you do?

Surprisingly, more than you might think.  Below are some ideas that may help you and/or the people you work with.  Follow our made-up 10-step recovery system and you will at least feel better:

  1. Stop reading the news. Or at least read less.  The dire headlines will continue with every nuance discussed about how the economy will never recover.  It makes for good, continuous coverage for journalists but is bad for our psyche. When the economy is recovering, the news will trumpet that too. Absolutely stop watching the news, for the same reasons as above.
  2. Do something selfless. Go do something positive and self-less for someone else.  You will feel good, they will feel good and perhaps someone is watching your random act of kindness.
  3. Create a ‘Thankful’ List. Sit down as a group and create your ‘Most Thankful’ list.  Each person shares one item on the list. We really do have a great deal to be thankful for. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter if you don’t feel thankful. Trust me, you will after that.
  4. Think positive thoughts – you will, in fact, get through this.  Say it to yourself.  Say it to each other. This may seem silly, but thinking positively is a habit. Create a good habit.
  5. Find Motivational Quotes. Assign a task for everyone to go out and find their favorite motivational quote, then share it with each other about why you picked that particular quote.  What personal meaning does it have.
  6. Fund an Entrepreneur. Have everyone pitch in $5.00 and create a pool. Goto www.Kiva.org and invest in an entrepreneur in a third world country. There are dozens to choose from and through the process, you get to decided, as a group, the kind of person and industry you want to support. This can lead to a great discussion of values.
  7. Spend Time As A Group. Set focused time aside to problem solve as a group.  We have tremendous experience that we could share.  When times are good and the money is rolling in, no one needs to worry about best practices or share ideas.  Right now is the time.  Now.
  8. Communicate Clearly. Communicate VERY clearly about the above tasks and any other tasks, situtation or challenge facing your group.  Don’t make it sound more that it is – be honest and clear, yet positive. Tell people times are tough and you will all need to get through it together.  Difficult times and challenges faced are what bring out character, both individually and as a group.
  9. Buy One of Our Group Activities. Carve out 60 minutes and run it.  It will bring the group together and potentially discussion about how you can all be more productive as a group or possibly communicate better or any number of potential outcomes depending upon which activity you choose.  And worst-case scenario, you purchasing our product will help us and make us feel better!
  10. What is your idea for #10? Send us your best idea for what we should add to this list and you will receive your choice of a digital product — $24.95 value – simply for sharing your knowledge.

Email James Carter at jcarter@buildingteams.com and tell him your idea and which digital product you would like to have and she will respond to you. Pick them here.

We will accumulate the responses and ideas and put them in a future blog post.

Let’s talk seriously for a moment — during these difficult times many organizations struggle with decisions to reduce expenses and even lay off employees.

But now more than ever, it is imperative that companies optimize their employee’s potential and strive to develop a high performance teams.  When companies work with minimal resources, it is more crucial to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace.  Teams with the right combination of knowledge, skills and motivation to excel can give the organization a competitive advantage.

Whether conducted by company trainers or outside consultants, team initiatives can promote greater cooperation, better communication and minimize dysfunctional conflict.  Experiential learning techniques such as interpersonal trust exercise, collaborative initiatives or interactive games can be very beneficial.

Remember, it is the Holiday season. Give Thanks. Reach out. Help a Stranger. Smile.