Lets Focus on Human Engagement in the Workplace

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Before I launched Cooleaf with my amazing co-founders, we all spent a lot of time in the corporate world.

Here’s the thing. I had autonomy. I had focus. I really enjoyed driving forward many of the business initiatives that I was involved with in my prior roles. And guess what? While I wasn’t focused on bringing clean water to the 3rd world or saving the rainforest, I believed deeply that many of the products I was helping to launch would have a tangible and meaningful impact on their respective industries.

But there was something vastly different from my position at a company in New York City versus a job that I held with a large healthcare IT company in Atlanta.

In New York, I had an opportunity to really get to know my colleagues on a personal level. We spent time hanging out. We became friends and did a lot of fun things together on our own or as a team. On the other hand, in the corporate job in Atlanta, I didn’t know anyone. I had extremely limited opportunities to get to know anyone.  People came into their cubes and offices and kept to themselves. Yet, my creativity was being exercised every day, I had autonomy, and I had great visibility to decision-makers in the organization.

I’m not a complete extrovert but certainly not an introvert either. For me, even with autonomy, creative thinking capabilities, and projects that were meaningful, these two positions couldn’t have been more different in my mind.

For me, it was a matter of relationships.

Relationships matter. In a massive study by George Vaillant (that follows a cohort of Harvard graduates throughout their life), there is one factor that stands above all others in determining life satisfaction. That factor? Relationships and connection to others.

Along with my co-founders, we believe that isolation runs rampant in the corporate world.  But this isn’t just our hunch.  Recent Gallup research revealed that only 18% of people work for companies that provide enough opportunities to develop friendships on the job.  What about existing solutions? Enterprise “social” (quotes are mine) networks have failed (for the majority of organizations) at alleviating this pain. It’s time for a new approach.

It’s time for people to feel like joining a company means they have joined a community. Guess what? You already have something in common with the folks at that company (you both work there). But I’ll bet you didn’t know that you probably have a lot more in common with many of the folks at your company than you thought.

Enjoy mountain biking? Did you know that guy in Finance one floor below you lives 5 blocks from you and is a huge fan of mountain biking as well? Are you a film buff? There is a woman sitting five cubes away that knows just as much about film as you do and you’ve never spoken to her.  We need to change these scenarios. You spend the vast majority of your adult life working yet many of us hardly know anything about the human side of those around us in the workplace.

Here’s the kicker.  There is an important business reason to focus on friendships.  People with close friends at work are 7 times more likely to be engaged at their job (Gallup).  Engaged employees are more productive and produce superior business results for their organizations.

If existing solutions fail at this approach, we need to change the way we approach the problem. We need to get people out of their shells. We need to make everyone (including leadership) vulnerable and sharing more about themselves to everyone inside their workplace community. We need to expose the human side of the people inside of an organization and get them to feel like they really belong to a community of like-minded people. Our approach at Cooleaf (with clients and for us internally as a team) is based in this philosophy and we believe it to the core. 

We believe that if you can tackle relationships and friendships then you will be making a significant step in tackling the problem of disengagement. Of course, you must look at ways to increase autonomy, mastery, purpose. But without community (rooted in friendship and connection), you will only get part of the way to the goal of being (in the words of Josh Bersin): “An Irresistible Company”.

The Key to Effective Team Building Activities

 

atltechvillage rockclimbingThe concept of ‘team-building’ activities has existed for years.  However, the days of trust falls and mandatory scavenger hunts are over.  Our approach to engaging teams in organizations large and small often starts with looking at what types of activities/events are currently in place to bring team members together.  Often times what we find is a ‘top-down’ and ‘ad hoc’ approach to activities that are meant to engage the team and foster camaraderie but often fall short of expectations.

We prefer a ‘bottom-up’ approach that is driven by the team itself.  While many of our clients are interested in the Cooleaf platform to better manage, organize, and derive insights from their existing activities and events, a number of organizations we’ve encountered (particularly small & mid sized businesses) have limited bandwidth to craft and execute an activity ‘strategy’ that makes sense for their organization.

To this end, our first step with organizations interested in a more engaging program of activities & events is to ask their team what they’re looking for in a program.  While some teams have a penchant for Dodgeball and adventure, other teams might prefer Yoga and Pilates.  No two groups are exactly the same and we believe it’s critical to create an activity program that is based on the data that the team provides us through our survey methodology.  It’s important to note that you can’t make everyone on the team happy but our approach balances feedback directly from team members to ensure that everyone has at least some activities that align with their interests.

If you’re interested in a free assessment and recommendation for your organization or team, feel free to drop us a line at mail@cooleaf.com

Rethinking employee engagement

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Lately, it seems like everyone is worried about the Millennial generation and how to ‘engage’ them in the workplace. The whole idea of trying to ‘engage’ employees (whether Millennials or any other generation) strikes us as a bit awkward. It’s as if the executive leadership of so many organizations wears white lab coats and looks at these ‘employees’ as lab rats that are responding (or more likely not responding) to various stimuli and carrots and sticks.

It seemed to us here at the founding team of Cooleaf that there had to be a better way to improve employee engagement. How about we first start by eliminating the word ‘employee’ and starting with the person? See that’s our philosophy and one we can feel good about when we go to bed at night. Each one of us brings nuances, quirks, and our own characteristics to work whether we know it or not.

It’s time for us to put the human back in employee engagement and take the white ‘lab coats’ off. We’re all in this together and we need to start recognizing the full spectrum of human nuances in designing programs that create an environment where one is more likely to be engaged. Stay tuned for some real world ways we put this philosophy into practice.

See how Cooleaf powers Top Workplaces

We’ve found that leading organizations understand that their single sustainable competitive advantage is their people. Companies are faced with the business challenges of attracting and retaining the best talent (especially with Millennials), building an innovative culture, and creating a sense of community where teams are actively engaged to achieve business goals.

 

We’re driven by a mission to humanize the workplace and create a community that attracts and retains the most talented team possible. 

 

Cooleaf’s web and mobile platform is branded for our employer client and allows HR leaders to empower their teams to more efficiently organize all internal employee activities and events, automate a rewards and recognition program, and collect participation and engagement data across their organization.

We’ve had the opportunity to do some great work with clients such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia State University, and DeKalb Medical.  Below is a short video that highlights some of the work we’ve done with a few of our awesome customers.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us at mail@cooleaf.com.

Taking Responsibility for What We Eat

We all know that we should eat healthily, regardless of whether or not we actually do. It is time to stop blaming others for our poor American diet and take responsibility for what we put into our mouths. This is easier said than done, but Megan McCarthy, a healthy lifestyle consultant and chef, is here to help.

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During the lunch hour at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP, Chef Megan taught a group how to prepare three tasty salads from fresh, organic, and nutrient dense ingredients. She demonstrated how to properly cut an avocado, squeeze a lemon, lightlysauté kale, chop dark greens, etc. But only half of her act is cooking. You could also call her Megan, the entertainer. Her hands stayed busy preparing food as her voice told funny stories, many of which contained educational food tips. For example, the room burst into laughter after Megan said, “I like to keep my nuts in a jar.” My apologies to all men who are wincing in pain right now.

Cooking with Chef Megan2“I like to keep my nuts in a jar.”-Chef Megan

Megan is willing to tell a couple of jokes if it makes being healthy more fun and cool. Unfortunately,  there tends to be a negative connotation associated with the taste and preparation time of healthy foods. Therefore, Megan demonstrates how healthy foods can be delicious and easy to prepare. Throughout her twenty years of teaching experience, she has utilized a fun attitude in her teaching style to reach as many people as possible.

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Iris, an employee who attended the event, particularly enjoyed the presentation of food with personality. She had previously incorporated information from one of Megan’s cooking demos into her life by eating salads for breakfast. The most recent demo, which included recipes for three salads, will help her add variety to her morning meals. Iris was taken aback by the versatility and nutritional benefits of radishes, an underappreciated superfood. This vegetable will be appearing more often in her home made dishes. In addition, the idea of briefly heating kale, another superfood, surprised Iris, who frequently eats kale raw. For more information about the health benefits of kale, other superfoods, and many great recipes, check out Megan’s blog at Healthy Eating 101.

Megan is very realistic about nutrition. Eating a purely raw foods diet is not practical for those who get hungry, she jokes. Likewise, eating a highly restrictive diet is not practical for those who have intense cravings for “forbidden” foods. Instead, it is important to add something healthy and cut out something unhealthy on a daily basis. The sound of opening happiness echoed  in the room as someone opened a can of Coca-Cola. Megan flashed a judgmental look and got real. “If you do one thing for your health,” she said “then give up soda.” Next time, reach for a Dasani instead of a Diet Coke and you will be one step closer to living a healthy life.

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IMG_1330IMG_1348IMG_1327Setting up a chef cooking demo is easy to do and something that will be a sure hit as part of any employee engagement and wellness program. We bring all equipment, food, and energy! Literately, all you need at the office is a power outlet and a table to host a fun, collaborative cooking class with useful healthy tips. Feel free to contact us at mail@cooleaf.com to learn more about setting up your own healthy cooking chef demo.

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Happy employees are key to driving a strong culture for an organization. Cooleaf will set up a program that is based on creating fun, engaging group activities to help you achieve this goal.

Excelling at Wellness through a Fitness Boot Camp

The sunlight was hot and the wind was blowing as the Dekalb Medical Center employees walked to the roof of a parking garage. After a long day of work, a nervous chatter filled the atmosphere. Their bodies may have been sore and their minds apprehensive, but their faces were smiling and words were encouraging. No matter how hard David Nash made the workout, they were in it together. DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp1

The participants generally acknowledged their preference to work out with others, as opposed to alone. Scott, a boot camp regular, commented, “I love the camaraderie.” Before the boot camp, he had never participated in a group exercise program, but found the environment encouraging. The boot camp fosters growing relationships between employees from different departments. Scott confirmed that he has definitely built relationships with whom he does not directly collaborate. Furthermore, the group sessions have reminded coworkers that aches and pains are a normal part of the fitness process. No pain, no gain, right? Or as David Nash would say “No Excuses! Just results!”

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp2David Nash, the owner of Pinnacle Fitness Bootcamp,  is a certified teacher, trainer, and functional nutritionist. After working in the fitness industry for over a decade, he has learned how to effectively train people of all ages and abilities. For the boot camp, he gauges the workout intensity by those who can do the most, and everybody else will complete a percentage of the workout, which is determined by their individual abilities. This approach ensures a challenging workout for all.

Shatavia, a participant, admits, “He pushes you, but also checks your limits.” Through experience, David Nash developed a keen awareness of fatigue. He knows if you are becoming physically fatigued or just mentally weak. You can’t trick him, and he will push you to your limits! Why is David Nash such an effective motivator? He makes working out fun, military style. Through army calls, he promotes vocal participation and laughter, as seen in the following video clip.

Typically, the largest downfall of group workout sessions is a lack of individual attention. However, David Nash not only raced the track star around the parking lot, but also guided the non-athletes with form correction. Being pushed without feedback increases the risk of injury. At Pinnacle Fitness, David teaches a class focused on form, but there isn’t time to teach form in detail in the boot camp. He spent time explaining and setting form the first day, but it takes time to fully implement good form. He compensated for lost time by fixing form individually throughout the workout session.

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David Nash’s goal is to push each individual to their limits, but he also encourages communication. Breathing hard and sweating after the hard workout, Shatavia reflected,  “He is a great motivator, but also comes around and quietly asks if you are okay.” After a combination of stretching, core exercises, running, and other aerobics activities, the participants left hungry for dinner, but full of physical accomplishment.

When the bootcamp is complete, employees will have an option to continue working with Pinnacle Fitness Bootcamp and take advantage of their Cooleaf discounted rate as an employee of Dekalb Medical.

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp6The DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp is just one part of an overall employee engagement program put together by the Cooleaf team. The goal of this program is to bring employees together in a fun way that focuses on real-life activities and experiences. The results of these programs lead to more authentic relationships among employees and a happier, more productive work environment.

The Get Real Diet – a step-by-step plan for transitioning to a plant-rich, real food diet.

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Summer is just around the corner and for many people this means panic attacks at the thought of oneself in swimwear, especially after this bizarre year of colder and wetter than usual weather we’ve had in Atlanta.  I don’t know about you, but I was craving hearty stews and wearing bulky layers until just about last week. With thoughts of yourself in a bikini or briefs looming large, you, like millions of others, may be considering a fast or cleanse to drop a few pounds before you hit the Jet Ski or the beach blanket.  But before you give up everything but wheatgrass and water, think for a few minutes about the last time you went on a fad diet and whether or not it worked, or if it did work, exactly how long it took to gain the weight back.

I taught Pilates for almost ten years and, as you can imagine, a lot of my conversations with clients revolved around weight, exercise, diet and food. So many of my clients were constantly searching for that one thing – whether it was a new type of exercise or a fad diet – that would make them thin (or thinner). I taught people through Atkins, Slim Fast, The Zone and South Beach. I stopped teaching right around the time of raw foods, meal delivery plans and the Skinny Bitch book. I saw people lose and regain a lot of weight over the years. In my health coaching practice, I am frequently asked about a gluten-free diet, juicing and “Paleo” because these are the diets trending now, with now being the key word of this sentence.

Research shows people can lose weight on any and every diet if they stick to it. No matter what theory it’s based on, every diet on the market involves some form of calorie restriction even if it never mentions the word calorie. When you take in fewer calories, you lose weight. However, research also shows that 90% of diets fail in the long term because nearly everyone who loses weight on a diet eventually gains it back.

Tons of Americans are trapped in the unforgiving cycle of trying and failing to lose weight. It’s as if we have the same approach to dieting that naïve teenagers have to love. We really want to believe Paleo or juicing or Nutrisystem will be the equivalent of our soul mate – once we find the perfect plan, losing and maintaining weight will be easy and problem free. But as those of us who have built successful long-term relationships know, anything that lasts a long time requires some serious work. But this doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun.

There is no magic bullet for weight loss. If you are overweight or coming off a long lapse in self-care, achieving an optimal weight and lowering your risk factors for disease will take time and energy, but this is a GOOD thing.  We all know that the harder the work, the sweeter the reward. In order to win the war on your weight, you have to lose the battle with fad dieting for good.

It is possible to have a flexible, balanced approach to healthy eating and achieve permanent weight loss, improve your energy level, your skin and your moods.  In fact, study after study has shown us what the best diet is: the Mediterranean diet or any low-glycemic diet similar to it that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat but allows good fat in the form of healthy oils, fish, nuts and seeds, and low in processed food, flour and added sugarSo, this time, before you consider a fast, consider food.

Learning to prepare and eat real food in realistic portions is the key to long-term health and weight maintenance. Going on a restrictive fast might make you look better in a bikini next week but transitioning to a real food diet will ensure you never have to worry about bathing suit season again!

I wrote The Get Real Diet to offer people a step-by-step plan for transitioning to a plant-rich, real food diet so they can put an end to fad dieting and weight worries for good. The book includes a complete weight loss program as well as meal plans, recipes, strategies and tips to help you progress from losing weight to living well.

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Guest Blog Post: Lindsay Hill, Author of The Get Real Diet

Lindsay Hill is a board-certified health coach, a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the author of The Get Real Diet, available on Amazon.com.