Should You Ever Say Perfectionism is Your Greatest Weakness?

Published on The Muse: April 28, 2014

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One of the most common—and most dreaded—interview questions out there is, “What’s your biggest weakness?”

And you’ve probably heard that a great answer is something along the lines of, “Well, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.” It addresses the question directly, but still presents you in a positive light—who wouldn’t want an employee with an overwhelming commitment to quality, especially in fields where details make the difference?

But is this really an appropriate answer? Do recruiters still buy it—even if it’s sort of true?

Here’s the thing: Chances are, telling a hiring manager that perfectionism is your greatest weakness won’t surprise him or her—and it might come off as sounding like an overly rehearsed cliché. It also doesn’t offer much of a true insight into your work style or personality (especially if half the other candidates are giving the same response).

So, here’s how to answer instead. If you’re not truly held back by perfectionist tendencies, look for something else to talk about—the fact that you’re working on speaking up more in meetings, for example, or that delegating doesn’t come naturally to you.

And if you are? There are ways to explain that perfectionism is your greatest weakness that really demonstrate authenticity. You can deliver a more effective and unique answer by explaining that you tend to be extra critical of your own work, that you have a propensity to overthink projects before diving in, or that you always like to deliver an exceptional product, which means you’re often working up against deadlines. (And then following up with all the ways you’re actively seeking to improve this trait, of course.)

These answers are much more individualized, and they provide a launchpad for a meaningful conversation with your interviewer—which is really what you’re going for. Remember that, when asking this question, interviewers aren’t looking for super-human candidates whose only weakness is that they’re “a little too perfect.” They’re looking for people who know themselves—both their strong suits and points of weakness—and who can improve on those things. And more than anything, they’re looking for a real person.

In short, if you can answer authentically, connect with your interviewer, and provide a personal insight—it’ll go much, much further than some canned response.

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Said Something You Shouldn’t Have? 4 Ways to Recover

Published on The Daily Muse: April 18, 2013

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When you’re trying to impress someone, it always seems like a good idea to throw out a witty quip to win her over. But when it doesn’t come out quite the way you imagined (“That’s an, um, different idea!”), it can have quite the opposite effect.

If you’ve ever been in a similar dilemma (and who hasn’t?), you’ll agree—there are few lessons more valuable than learning how to recover from an awkward, wish-you-could-do-it-all-over-again moment. In fact, I’m a prime example: No matter how hard I strive to be tactful in professional settings, I always seem to find a way to embarrass myself or put my foot in my mouth. And while it never becomes less horrifying to realize you’ve said or done something you shouldn’t have, don’t worry—you can recover.

If you’ve rubbed someone the wrong way, said something regrettable, or didn’t bring your A-game to an important company meeting, don’t panic. Here are a few ways to upgrade a negative impression to one worth remembering.

1. Honesty’s the Best Policy

After an awkward interaction or embarrassing slip-up, there’s no better way to set the record straight than with a sincere explanation or apology. We’re all human—so chances are the person you interacted with can relate to your mistake and will appreciate your candid follow-up. Sure, it’s uncomfortable to ’fess up to your own shortcomings, but it’ll serve as a huge step toward building your long-term credibility.

Can’t quite find the right words? Try this: “Michelle, I want to apologize for how outspoken I was in our meeting this morning. I thought I was being funny, but I realize that some of my comments weren’t appropriate. Moving forward, I will be much more collaborative and open to feedback.”

2. Get Third Party Validation

If you’re concerned that you made a negative impression on someone you don’t know very well (e.g., the CEO from two floors down or one of your co-worker’s clients), a mutual contact can usually help smooth any ruffled feathers. This works especially well when circumstances prohibit you from delivering the follow-up on your own. Reaching out to a third party will not only ease some of the awkwardness of an apology, but it will show that you’re willing to take an extra step toward rectifying the situation.

When you’re ready to contact your mutual friend, try this: “Allyson, I’m concerned that some of the things I said in the meeting with your client this morning came across as a bit harsh. I don’t know her well enough to call her personally, but you would be willing to pass on my apologies—or send her my contact info and let her know I’d love to reconnect?”

3. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When you walk away from an awkward or not-so-stellar interaction, it’s important to figure out exactly what caused the unpleasantries. It’s one thing to be temporarily disengaged or to have an occasional “off” day. But if the problem was something completely preventable (for example, maybe you got visibly frustrated during a complicated training presentation), you should reflect on the situation and figure out how you can avoid this type of problem in the future.

Take a few minutes to revisit what happened and figure out what you can do differently to make a better impression next time. Think: Okay, last time I lost my cool when the trainer went through the instructions too quickly. If it happens again, I’ll just ask her to spend a few minutes during a break recapping the process with me.

4. Keep Calm and Rock On

Sometimes, a bad impression is a bad impression, and no amount of excuses, explanations, or clever recovery strategies can change that. In these rare but painfully uncomfortable situations, the best way to get back into the good graces of a colleague is to simply do better in the future. Instead of spending time worrying about the impression you made, focus on being a valuable asset to your team and doing everything you can to knock the socks off your peers and managers. (Think: Kill ’em with kindness meets over-achiever.) In time, your stellar accomplishments will overshadow your slip-up.

Unfortunately, an awkward or embarrassing slip-up doesn’t always have an instant fix. It takes time and hard work to reinvent yourself and the way others see you—but it’s definitely within your reach. Be patient and remember that you’re in good company: Everyone—yes, everyone—has been in your shoes at one point or another. There’s no use in beating yourself up, so focus on moving forward, one step at a time.

When you’re trying to impress someone, it always seems like a good idea to throw out a witty quip to win her over. But when it doesn’t come out quite the way you imagined (“That’s an, um, differentidea!”), it can have quite the opposite effect.

If you’ve ever been in a similar dilemma (and who hasn’t?), you’ll agree—there are few lessons more valuable than learning how to recover from an awkward, wish-you-could-do-it-all-over-again moment. In fact, I’m a prime example: No matter how hard I strive to be tactful in professional settings, I always seem to find a way to embarrass myself or put my foot in my mouth. And while it never becomes less horrifying to realize you’ve said or done something you shouldn’t have, don’t worry—you can recover.

If you’ve rubbed someone the wrong way, said something regrettable, or didn’t bring your A-game to an important company meeting, don’t panic. Here are a few ways to upgrade a negative impression to one worth remembering.

1. Honesty’s the Best Policy

After an awkward interaction or embarrassing slip-up, there’s no better way to set the record straight than with a sincere explanation or apology. We’re all human—so chances are the person you interacted with can relate to your mistake and will appreciate your candid follow-up. Sure, it’s uncomfortable to ’fess up to your own shortcomings, but it’ll serve as a huge step toward building your long-term credibility.

Can’t quite find the right words? Try this: “Michelle, I want to apologize for how outspoken I was in our meeting this morning. I thought I was being funny, but I realize that some of my comments weren’t appropriate. Moving forward, I will be much more collaborative and open to feedback.”

2. Get Third Party Validation

If you’re concerned that you made a negative impression on someone you don’t know very well (e.g., the CEO from two floors down or one of your co-worker’s clients), a mutual contact can usually help smooth any ruffled feathers. This works especially well when circumstances prohibit you from delivering the follow-up on your own. Reaching out to a third party will not only ease some of the awkwardness of an apology, but it will show that you’re willing to take an extra step toward rectifying the situation.

When you’re ready to contact your mutual friend, try this: “Allyson, I’m concerned that some of the things I said in the meeting with your client this morning came across as a bit harsh. I don’t know her well enough to call her personally, but you would be willing to pass on my apologies—or send her my contact info and let her know I’d love to reconnect?”

3. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When you walk away from an awkward or not-so-stellar interaction, it’s important to figure out exactly what caused the unpleasantries. It’s one thing to be temporarily disengaged or to have an occasional “off” day. But if the problem was something completely preventable (for example, maybe you got visibly frustrated during a complicated training presentation), you should reflect on the situation and figure out how you can avoid this type of problem in the future.

Take a few minutes to revisit what happened and figure out what you can do differently to make a better impression next time. Think: Okay, last time I lost my cool when the trainer went through the instructions too quickly. If it happens again, I’ll just ask her to spend a few minutes during a break recapping the process with me.

4. Keep Calm and Rock On

Sometimes, a bad impression is a bad impression, and no amount of excuses, explanations, orclever recovery strategies can change that. In these rare but painfully uncomfortable situations, the best way to get back into the good graces of a colleague is to simply do better in the future. Instead of spending time worrying about the impression you made, focus on being a valuable asset to your team and doing everything you can to knock the socks off your peers and managers. (Think: Kill ’em with kindness meets over-achiever.) In time, your stellar accomplishments will overshadow your slip-up.

Unfortunately, an awkward or embarrassing slip-up doesn’t always have an instant fix. It takes time and hard work to reinvent yourself and the way others see you—but it’s definitely within your reach. Be patient and remember that you’re in good company: Everyone—yes, everyone—has been in your shoes at one point or another. There’s no use in beating yourself up, so focus on moving forward, one step at a time.

5 Career Lessons I’ve Learned From Mad Men

Published on The Daily Muse: April 7, 2013

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I love Mad Men for the same reasons we all do: The writing is incredible, the characters rule, and the evolution of the advertising field is scandalously intriguing. But beyond the drama, the show offers a unique glimpse into the process of navigating a career path and overcoming professional challenges. Despite being set in the 1960s, much of the on-screen wheeling and dealing draws uncanny parallels to the workplace today.

As we wait (with bated breath!) for Season 6 to debut tonight, here’s a look at some career lessons I’ve learned from Mad Men. (And yes, while I’d like to say that the secret to success is keeping a bottle of scotch in your desk, there are a few more practical points to glean.)

1. Manage Your Personal Brand

We’ve seen Don Draper successfully launch lots of ad campaigns, leveraging creative approaches and somewhat unorthodox ideas. But his success isn’t solely a factor of his team’s brilliant marketing techniques, it’s also the result of his undeniable charisma. When Don walks into a room, you know he means business—he dresses the part, arrives prepared, and is perfectly poised in his delivery.

Confidence, sincerity, and having a presence go a long way in business, and as Don shows us, there’s a lot to be gained from both talking the talk and walking the walk.

2. Work Hard, Get Noticed

Everyone scoffed when Peggy tried to break into the boys’ club at the agency, but it didn’t take long for her hard work and perseverance to pay off. She had to endure a fair amount of grief, but eventually she surpassed many of her naysayers and landed a role she loved.

There are lots of good lessons here: Working hard for what you want, never taking no for an answer, and sometimes being willing to pay your dues and take an entry-level position to navigate to a better opportunity. But most importantly, Peggy shows us that there’s no limit to how far a good work ethic and a can-do attitude will take you.

3. Productivity Doesn’t Hinge on Technology

Gasp! I know. It’s a farfetched idea at best, but Mad Men is a good reminder that a lot got accomplished before the advent of computers and cellphones. Granted, it was a different world and a smaller marketplace, but big things happened with typewriters, landlines, and face-to-face meetings.

I’m not saying you should toss your iPad out the window, but don’t forget the value of real connections and conversations. In the Mad Men days, it was all they had.

4. Beware the Office Romance

First it was Pete and Peggy, then it was Joan and Roger, and last season Don and Megan tied the knot. While a passionate office rendezvous makes for awesome TV, we’ve learned over the past few seasons that these can get complicated quickly and don’t typically end well. While it’s not completely taboo to date a co-worker—lots of people do it—it’s best to keep it under wraps from 8 to 5 to avoid jeopardizing your credibility and professionalism.

5. A Woman’s Place is in the Boardroom

I consider myself lucky that when I entered the workforce, women could pursue any path they chose. Gender was far less of a barrier than in the days of Mad Men, and it’s pretty hard to imagine a time when my participation in the labor force would have been stunted by cultural, educational, and legal practices. I have a true appreciation for women like Peggy and Joan (er, their real-life counterparts) who helped pave the way for my generation to kick butt and take names in the workplace. There may still be a glass ceiling, but it’s nothing compared to what women had to deal with in decades past.

Times sure change, but the fundamentals of business success don’t waver too much. So if you watch closely, there’s a lot to be learned from Mad Men. I can’t wait to see what becomes of Don and the gang this season, and you can be sure I’ll be taking notes on how to give my career path a little more edge.

Oh, and yes: If all else fails, there’s always scotch.

Team Not Playing Nicely? 4 Ways to Deal With the Drama

Published on The Daily Muse: Nov. 18, 2012

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We’ve all been there at some point—stuck on a project team that seems more like a scene from Mean Girls than a professional work environment. There’s the manager who won’t listen to anything that’s not part of his plan, or the colleague that seems to snap at everything you say, or—worst of all—the guy who lets everyone know what he thinks about their ideas, using quite a colorful array of profanity.

The truth is, we have to work with all kinds of people in our careers, and despite our best intentions, sometimes personalities clash more dramatically than outfits in an LMFAO video. But instead of running for the hills when things get tense, try the techniques below to rise above any drama and find peace with your teammates.

1. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Simple advice? Definitely. But we’ve all heard it so many times before because it’s an important rule—and one that’s often overlooked.

When a co-worker is acting inappropriately or challenging you on something, avoid stooping to her level. I know—when emotions are running high, it can be tempting to make a snide remark or engage in a back-and-forth argument, but take a few minutes to relax and regroup before you react.

Try a line like, “I understand your concerns and definitely want to talk this through with you. Why don’t we both take some time to cool off a bit and reconnect in an hour in the break room?” This validates the other person’s feelings and addresses the disagreement, but gives you both some space to simmer before you have an important conversation. And allowing yourself some time to process or vent to a trusted colleague helps you recollect your thoughts and respond more professionally when the time is right.

2. Kill ’em With Kindness

I’ll admit it, I learned this in my sorority years, and have always found it to be a great way to surprise someone during a conflict and redirect the conversation. When prompted with a hostile question or harsh feedback, responding with humility and a calm, measured tone is a surefire way to regain control of the situation and bring it down to a more comfortable level.

One way to do this is by controlling any sort of emotional reaction, and simply smiling and offer a polite response. (“You know, you’re right, this is a pretty bad location for a meeting—the acoustics in this room are terrible. Maybe you can help me find a better place for our next team event.”)

Chances are, it will totally disarm the negative energy that was headed your way. Most of the time, when people enter a conversation aggressively, they’re coming from a place of fear or insecurity. Reacting in a way that is non-confrontational and accommodating usually catches the other person so off guard, she’s immediately more open to hearing your side of the story and working together to find a solution.

3. Take it Outside

Well, maybe not literally, but if you can’t seem to strike a chord with a co-worker, try to get together somewhere other than a conference room or your sterile office. Go to lunch, happy hour, or even for a walk. A change in scenery can help de-escalate a hard conversation and allow you to talk things through in a neutral environment.

I was once completely taken aback when a team member confronted me in front of several others; she had misunderstood my actions on a really important project and was furious with me. Instead of hashing it out with an audience, I asked her if we could finish the conversation privately, and we ended up talking things out while we walked around our corporate campus. As soon as we left our workspace, she seemed to unwind a bit—plus, walking while talking eliminated any awkwardness of a face-to-face debate.

4. Don’t Take it Personally

Bottom line? It’s work. We’re all there for a reason, and the things we end up in conflict over often have little to do with us personally. So when things are a little upsetting or get you fired up, put that passion to good use. Invest it in your work and in finding common ground with your team instead of wasting time and energy in arguments or debates. You’ll shine as a leader and gain the respect of those around you as someone who can succeed in any situation.

When you think about it, we spend more time with co-workers than with most of our friends or family members, so getting along with them makes life a heck of a lot easier. Conflict among teams and individuals is a natural part of working together, but learning how to quickly and effectively resolve issues is a true key to productivity. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely worth the investment.

4 Factors That Advance Your Career (That Have Nothing To Do With You)

Published on The Daily Muse: Sept. 11, 2012

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You’re awesome at what you do. You’ve mastered the skills you need, gained some solid experience, and built an impressive portfolio. That’s what it takes to land you that promotion or next job, right?

Well, yes, that’s part of it. But there are many more factors that contribute to your career advancement—factors that have nothing to do with how well you’re doing in your current gig. In fact, many of the things that can impact your future and success aren’t really about you at all.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the external factors that can influence your professional growth—and the best ways to leverage them into bigger and better things.

1. The Right Industry

Yes, you can advance your career in any field out there—but your opportunities to climb the ladder are going to be much more plentiful in a field that’s growing versus one that’s going through tough times. So, it’s always a good idea to look for opportunities in emerging industries (or at least ones likely to remain stable over time, like education).

Of course, that’s easier said than done if you’ve already established yourself in an industry that’s waning or going through a difficult period, or if your passions are leading you in that direction. In that case, you don’t necessarily have to jump ship, but it’s not a bad idea to explore other fields you might be interested in. Ever thought about technology or healthcare? Now might be the time to parlay your skills that way. And in the meantime, focus on what you can learn from your current experience, like how to manage teams through change and the best strategies tonavigate through layoffs—valuable skills no matter what industry you’re in.

2. The Right Location

If you want to work in television production, you’re most likely to succeed in LA or New York. If you have an interest in higher education, a state with tons of colleges and universities makes sense, like Massachusetts or Texas. And we all know that Silicon Valley is still the capital of tech.

In short, if you’re committed to a certain industry, it’s helpful to be in the right place. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but when you want to work in an area where your field is less prevalent, there will certainly be fewer opportunities—and stiffer competition for those that do exist. On the other hand, being surrounded by companies that do what you’re passionate about is a great way to establish relationships with people who can help you find opportunities and expand your future.

If relocating isn’t an option, think about other ways you can expand your network and increase your exposure in your industry. Join professional associations, attend and speak at national and regional conferences, or even take on freelance work in other markets.

3. The Right Network

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: It’s not always what you know but who. Relationships mean everything professionally, and the people you’re connected to are often your best bet in finding a new job or receiving a promotion. Don’t underestimate the power of meeting and staying close to people in many different positions and companies, even when you’re not looking for a job.

One of the easiest ways to expand your network is to join a local industry group (like PRSA if you’re in public relations, or Toastmasters if you frequently deliver presentations). In addition to helping you meet like-minded professionals, these groups frequently offer training and job boards, tools that ultimately can boost your career growth.

4. The Right Mentor

No matter how great your industry, your network, or your experience, one of the most crucial factors to career advancement is having the right mentor by your side.

For one, there’s a lot that you’ll never learn in management textbooks and seminars—but that you will from firsthand conversations with a trusted advisor. A great mentor can also help you figure out which new areas you can explore within your field and which skills you should be expanding upon.

Having a mentor within your company is particularly valuable—she can identify opportunities for advancement you might overlook, guide you through challenging projects, and help you build relationships with higher-ups. Most importantly, if she’s influential, she can earn you recommendations for special projects or teams that you might not have been considered for otherwise. And these are the factors that are going to pave the way for success at your company.

If you aren’t sure exactly how to find a mentor, start by asking your manager or HR for suggestions. It doesn’t have to be formal, either—look around and see who the stars are in your organization, and ask them out to coffee. If you’re not finding anyone in your company, approach members of professional groups you belong to or check out industry organizations with official mentoring programs.

It would be awesome if there was a clear recipe we could follow to ensure a successful career path—but, well, you already know there’s not. Career advancement isn’t an easy or straightforward task, but by continuing to do great work and identifying and leveraging the other factors that can impact your goals, you’ll put yourself on the right track.

5 Tips for Training New Hires

Published on The Daily Muse: Aug. 5, 2012

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Starting a new job is probably one of the biggest transitions we experience as adults. Yes, it’s exciting—but it’s always a little reminiscent of the first day of school: a blend of stress, nerves, and pressure to remember a whole bunch of new stuff.

So, needless to say, when you have a new employee, the way you welcome him or her onto your team will make a crucial first impression. That means, even if your company provides formal training, it’s just as important to incorporate some activities of your own as well.

Here are a few ways to help a new employee adjust—ways that are much less overwhelming, arguably more helpful, and definitely more fun than the traditional onboarding processes.

1. Play Tour Guide

It’s standard for a new employee to get a tour on the first day, where the typical highlights include the restrooms and the cafeteria. But it’s also important to show a newbie the lesser-known locations—the mailroom, the security office, and, of course, where to find the best coffee. (This hits close to home—I once started a job where it took me two long weeks before I finally found the microwave!) Work with your colleagues to create a short list of places worth a visit, and include them as part of your introductions.

2. Make Connections

When a new person joins your team, it’s natural to introduce her to people. But think about how you feel when you meet a million people in the same day: It’s pretty tough to remember all those new names, roles, and faces.

To make introductions a little more strategic, put together a list of key contacts to meet, and provide some background on each of person—name, title, and role with the company. Write it all down, and give it to her. If you know of any common ties between your new team member and another person, call that out, too (for example: they’re both huge baseball fans, or both have young children). This little cheat sheet will be a seriously helpful way for her to remember new contacts and kick-start the process of building relationships.

3. Wine and Dine

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but make sure your new employee has lunch plans her first few days on the job, with you or with other people you think she should meet. Nothing feels more lonely than sitting alone in a new cafeteria, unsure if you were supposed to bring your food or if you missed the team lunch run. You can also plan a happy hour for her second or third week—a good chance for her to get to know others in a casual setting.

4. Provide Resources

Pull together a list of go-to resources for new employees to explore—things like annual reports, the company intranet and website, and any recent marketing materials. While it may sound painful to thumb through old files, reports and presentations from years past are valuable tools to help someone get acclimated before she gets off and running. (Just make sure you’re not providing too much at once, or you may get a deer-in-headlights reaction.)

5. Be Available

Finally, remember that it’s natural for anyone to get confused or frustrated when they’re faced with a steep learning curve. So make yourself available a few times a day to check in, and encourage her to ask questions. The more comfortable you can make your employee feel in her new environment, the faster she’ll feel like a part of the team (and the faster she can start really diving into her work).

Starting a new position is stressful for anyone, but as a manager, you can make the transition a whole lot smoother. Take the time to help your new employee feel welcome and comfortable and support her as she learns the ropes of her new gig. Remember: the more time you’re able to invest in the beginning, the faster you’ll have a dynamite team member—and the better off you’ll start your relationship with her.

5 Team-Building Activities Your Employees Won’t Hate

Published on The Daily Muse: July 25, 2012

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If you’re like me, the words “team builder” or “ice breaker” cause you to break out in a cold sweat. Sure, the intent behind these activities is usually good, but they often end up feeling forced and awkward—like something you participated in as an 11-year-old at summer camp.

As a manager, there’s no doubt you want t oproactively build morale and camaraderie within your team—but how do you do that in ways that people are actually excited about? To help you out, we’ve pulled together a few secrets for leading successful team activities and making the process a lot more productive and a lot less painful.

1. Take a Field Trip

Sometimes, the best way to get to know the folks you work with is to just let everyone interact freely, without a formal plan. One company I worked for had an annual field day, complete with food, silly games (that were all optional), and prizes. At another job, my team went on quarterly trips to the movies. Depending on how much time you can allocate to an activity, consider getting offsite and encouraging your team to get to know each other free from the confines of their cubicles.

2. Get Together to Give Back

Working together on a cause that the people on your team care about is a great way to bond. My company facilitates a lot of volunteer outings with local non-profit organizations that employees love. Around the holidays and back to school seasons, we spend days collecting and delivering school supplies for children in need, and we’ve also participated in programs to build bicycles for kids and have taken part in Habitat for Humanity builds. These types of activities create an opportunity to do something meaningful for others and provides a break from the typical work routine.

A great way to kick off this process is having the team decide, as a group, what type of volunteer activity they’d like to participate in. Take suggestions from your employees, and have everyone vote on which they’d like to do—you’ll get a chance to learn about what causes people care about before you even get started.

Can’t get out of the office for a full day? Try setting aside an hour for a simple charitable act, like writing letters to service members.

3. Professional Development

Learning and growth are important parts of your employees’ professional success, but they don’t have to happen individually. Have your team participate in a professional development activitytogether, and use it to encourage people to learn collaboratively. This type of activity can take on many forms—guest speakers, online seminars, and relevant publications are all great educational opportunities. You might consider inviting one of your company’s leaders or board members to present to your team, or have an executive from an outside company who can share advice and insights on your industry come in to present.

4. Share Your Strengths

There are tons of well-known team compatibility programs available that can team your team members about themselves, each other, and how to work best as a group, like Strengths Finder,Emergenetics, and even the Myers-Briggs Personality Index. These are fantastic tools to promote open communication and respect of different personalities and work styles. This kind of exercise often involves very focused learning, so it’s helpful to find fun ways to share each person’s results, like having people predict results for their colleagues, or asking everyone to suggest a celebrity or famous character who best represents them.

5. Show and Tell

It might seem like a flashback to elementary school, but when done with a bit of finesse, show and tell can be a fun, low-pressure way to help people learn about each other. I once worked on a team where, at each month’s staff meeting, everyone was asked to bring in something that reflected herself—whether it was a favorite recipe, an interesting article, or even a family photo. At the start of each meeting, we set aside 10 minutes to go around and have everyone share what they had brought. It was quick, non-cheesy, and a cool way to learn about your co-workers that didn’t require much heavy lifting.

Leading an engaging team activity doesn’t have to be stressful, and can be a lot of fun if you apply some creative juice to your plans. So don’t be afraid to try something new. Chances are, your team will appreciate a break from their typical routine and leave with renewed energy and a more positive attitude.