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Your Brain On Music: Why Bosses Should Allow Headphones At Work

music comicMusic in the Workplace

If you ask people why they listen to music, you might get answers like: “It helps me escape my current situation,” “It makes me happy,” “I feel more energized or productive,” etc. With responses like that, it’s not surprising that most people listen to music while they clean the house, exercise or sleep. But how many of us listen to tunes while we’re working? I don’t mean on the radio; I mean music from our own playlists with headphones to cover outside noise.

At my first journalism job out of college, I worked as a copy editor at a local newspaper. My boss recommended I bring my iPod and headphones to work every day. I was baffled. Had I heard him correctly? Did he seriously recommend I bring in a device of distraction that was normally restricted in the classroom and looked down upon in public?

It was his belief that music stimulates the brain. And he’s not wrong.

I was thrilled to have a leader who allowed me the concentration I didn’t realize I would need while working in a room full of people. The typical atmosphere of a newsroom involves people talking on the phone, asking each other editing questions, cracking jokes, turning up breaking news stories on TV, listening to the crackling static of the police scanner, etc. Since that job, I have shared this information with all of my bosses. Most leaders agree with my first boss and also allow their employees to listen to music for focusing purposes.

Music doesn’t just enhance concentration, it also brings out creativity, and with a career in writing, music devices are important to income!

There are many other benefits to listening to music.

music note paper clipMusic Go-Tos

Now that you know music helps productivity, let’s discuss what types of music work for certain situations. For example, if you are editing, lyrical pieces might be more disruptive than helpful. When editing or writing technical pieces, my go-to music is strictly instrumental. It is still inspirational, but not cluttered with words.

Film scores are energizing and boost my creative wild side. One of my favorite pieces is the Alice in Wonderland theme song by Danny Elfman (from the Tim Burton movie). It does have lyrics, so I tend to avoid it when I’m editing, but purposely play it (sometimes on repeat) for writing assignments. I’m actually listening to it as I write this! :) Some of my other favorites are Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Slumdog Millionaire, The Lion King on Broadway and Across the Universe.

I also like listening to powerful classical pieces or theater musicals, such as Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera, for meeting deadlines. I get type-happy and punch my computer keys in a stream of consciousness-style until I run out of ideas when these songs play. Even if the writing starts out subpar at first, I can switch to instrumental-only later for editing.

When I’m writing fiction, I listen to different genres of music depending on the type of story I’m writing. Naturally, darker stories tend to draw me to listen to dark music, such as heavy metal or modern rock; lighter stories require folk or oldies; action stories need classic rock or film scores; thought-provoking, literary stories push me in the direction of concept albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

For those of you who don’t find music helpful at work, but are interested in trying sound-related motivators for other reasons, visit Soundrown. It is a website where you can find white noises: blowing fans, rainstorms, rushing water, TV static, nature sounds, etc. There are also handy phone apps, such as the iPhone’s Sleep Pillow app for sounds and combinations you can create to make your environment as comforting and creative as you need. There are many other great options for free music like Pandora, Spotify (my personal favorite, even though it makes my computer slow) or SoundCloud.

Genre and Personality

While headphones are great for jobs that require concentration, not all of us have the luxury of working in an office setting. Some of us work in factories, build houses, educate children, buss tables, etc. So how can you listen to music in a classroom setting or at a machine? And if you find time to listen, what do you listen to?

Obviously I do not recommend dangling headphone cords around a machine for the sake of drowning out background noise, nor do I think teachers should plug their ear holes and ignore a classroom full of children to get a little peace and quiet. But there is always the option of listening to music during breaks, whether you leave your work site or not. Utilize music to get you motivated for the next part of your shift.

A perk to not working in an office setting is you can listen to any type of music that fits your personality — lyrics or not. Studies show that your favorite genre of music is based off your personality. Does your personality match your favorite music genre?

What music do you listen to at work?

music genre and personality


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What Makes A Great Workplace?

office cubicles We’ve all worked jobs that we couldn’t wait to get away from. Food service, retail, seasonal work, etc. These jobs may have given us a paycheck, but there’s a reason why we left. As we progress through life and finish our schooling, we hopefully move into more professional jobs. Most likely, our past jobs didn’t have the essentials of a great work environment:

Open communication—Having open communication is essential in the work place. In a professional environment where everyone is busy and has conflicting schedules, it is important that everyone is on the same page. Communicating with others in the workplace will also help build relationships, which is great for employees and the business!

Meetings— When everyone is busy, objectives and tasks can be forgotten or get pushed to the side. Meetings can help keep everyone on track and should have clearly defined objectives. Reviewing objectives with the whole office, department or one-on-one will help keep everyone’s eyes on the prize. Office-wide, departmental or one-on-one meetings are all effective. They can vary in duration, but it’s about the quality of the meeting, not the time spent in the meeting. Employees who have a

Everyone knows his/hers role—The first two points lead to everyone knowing his/her role. If people are not communication and meetings run off track,, employees’ roles need to be clearly defined. When individuals in the office understand the tasks they should be performing, everything will run smoother.

Team chemistry— Getting your co-workers together for lunch, dinner, drinks, a movie, grilling out or anything else where everyone can interact and have a good time are great for team morale! Activities help everyone get to know each other a little better and it helps everyone to get along better.

Feng shui—The office design can play a role in company morale. If everyone in the office has his/her own cubicle, which is closed off from others, it can be hard to openly communicate, I can only imagine that it’s not too fun to be stuck in a cube all day. It’s beneficial for the company when employees can get up and talk with each other, shoot some garbage can baskets, putt on an office putting green and do other quirky things to get their minds off of work for a few minutes. Getting away and getting your mind off things can also help you be more productive.

When you spend 40 plus hours of your week in your workplace, you want it to be somewhere you enjoy! Try to find an environment that offers these things and you’ll be a happy employee!


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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Brainstorming Session Part 1

brainstorming

I have said time and time again that my absolute favorite aspect of working in marketing is the creative process. There is something about being involved in the evolution of ideas that excites me to no extent. During my time at Candeo Creative, in countless brainstorming sessions, I have seen what works well and what doesn’t work so well. Here are some of the key attributes I have learned in conducting the most effective brainstorming session.

It’s All About Perspectives

The key to creating a successful and innovative campaign or project lies within its team members. It is not necessarily about each team member’s aptitude for creativity, although creativity is more than welcomed. It is about working together to find a balance among many different perspectives and utilizing those individual insights for a higher purpose. No two people think the exact same; use those different mindsets to push the level of creativity. Although a variety of perspectives is vital, there is such a thing as too many perspectives. If you have too many people in your brainstorming session, you will not get anywhere. Keep the group small enough so that people will not fall into the background but large enough that a variety of ideas will be presented.

Strategize Your Time and Team

You can’t have every team member involved with every step; that sort of manpower is rather costly. Instead, strategize the steps of the process to your team members’ strong suits. I find the variety of perspectives are most valuable at the beginning of the creative process. Make sure team members are prepared to share all of their insights and tactics at the initial meeting, so those thoughts can be gathered and recorded. As the process evolves and becomes more specific to the project, assign certain team members to the steps where they will shine the most.

Conversate

Don’t hesitate to bring up your experiences in the related field or industry. This is another reason why having diverse perspectives is important to the process. Don’t be afraid to go a little off topic in order to gain some understanding of a personal viewpoint. Not only does it help you get into a consumer perspective, but you never know what may spark that metaphysical light bulb above your head.

Devil’s Advocate vs. The Nitpicker

There is a difference between a devil’s advocate and a nitpicker. It is important to hear ideas through before before jumping the gun on why it won’t work. If you don’t have probable reason to veto an idea, don’t just say it for speaking points. This isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration. It’s important, especially in a group setting, that if you disagree with another team member on an idea, you have valid reasoning to naysay a suggestion. There is also a proper way to play devil’s advocate, by being polite and gracious about your response. There is no reason to make someone feel bad about proposing an idea; it is vital that everyone feels comfortable in this kind of setting. Every team needs a devil’s advocate. There is nothing wrong with a strong voice in the team that can explain why a proposed idea may not work. It can be easy in the midst of a brainstorming session to lose sight of the objective, but the devil’s advocate usually does a good job of reinforcing that. Don’t feel bad for saying that something won’t work, just make sure you can explain why.

Equality Among Members

Although there needs to be someone in the brainstorming session who takes these ideas to the execution level, there is no need for a dictator. It is important that everyone feels like equals in a group brainstorming session. There will be times when a brainstorming session can go off topic. That is just the way it is, just don’t let it get too out of hand. There should be enough trust in the group as a whole to get back on pace. There is no need for someone to be in command in the midst of a brainstorming session, let the creative process take its natural course and let the free flow of information and ideas surge. Having someone try to control the brainstorming session may just end up blocking that flow. Know that there is a difference between a facilitator and a totalitarian.

Follow our blog and stay tuned for Part 2! 


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How Coaching Soccer Makes Me A Better Leader

jamie's soccer team

In our society, being a young leader has been proven to be a challenge. How do we approach younger or older generations with intentions that will help them be successful? As I grow in my leadership position, I find myself constantly seeking ways to be more encouraging and motivating. Being a leader isn’t only about critiquing people on what they are doing wrong or
what they are doing well, but inspiring and coaching them to be the most successful person
they can be.

I love to be transparent when it comes to my leadership style. Transparency is allowing people to view the human side of you. I don’t see myself as a “boss,” but as a teammate. While I believe respect is important in leadership, I also want to be seen as open, understanding, honest and human. Openness and honesty leads to a happier staff and colleagues. And for one, helps me sleep at night.

I never realized how some of my favorite hobbies relate to my growth as a leader. One of my absolute favorite pastimes is soccer. After playing soccer throughout elementary to high school, I have always had an excellent connection and love for the sport! After my years of playing, I wanted to continue being involved in the sport so I took on a coaching position. I was assistant coach for a few years alongside my father, who has also been a huge part of my soccer career, and this year decided to take the head coach position.

jamie's soccer sketchIn a lot of ways, coaching and leadership go hand-in-hand. I am there to inspire, guide and motivate using my past experiences and knowledge. Coaching is also a great way to learn more about being a team player. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative tactics and working as a team to see success.

Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” – SEAL Team Saying

As a leader at Candeo Creative, I need to learn to balance feelings and emotions with tasks and feedback. Working with a bunch of emotional, dramatic teenagers has definitely prepared me and given me the chance to experience different situations and how they can be best handled. Whether it’s a girl who didn’t show up for the game, or a girl who is bringing too much negativity to the field, it has really help me balance how to approach situations and how, as a team, we can work together to create an answer.

Another key quality in coaching, as with leadership, is passion. I see this growing in me every day. As a coach, I know I am passionate about the game and the strategy behind it, but how can I use that as a leader? Understanding that passion is contagious and showing that you love doing what you do will create positivity and pride in people’s work. This makes the end result much more rewarding.

So whether I am with my team on a rugged, muddy field or in an inspiring office where creativity is a forefront, I am grateful.

What do you do to be a better leader?


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Courage: Face-To-Face Conversation For The Generation Glued To A Screen

evolution of manIt’s 8:30 on a Monday morning; what have you done that involved a screen today? If you’re like 4 out of 5 people 18 to 44  years old, odds are you started your day by opening your eyes and reaching for your phone. Next you probably got cleaned up, dressed, ate breakfast (aka had a cup of coffee) and checked your social media on a tablet or laptop. From there you drove to work and possibly read some emails on the drive (heaven forbid), made it to your office and turned on your computer. Here you may sit for the rest of the day until it’s time to disembark, but are you prepared to interact with a human being once you leave?

women in cafe using phones

Many of you will head out to meet friends for a drink or maybe even dinner if it’s late enough (or supper if you’re from Wisconsin). If you’re an average American, you probably went home and spent 2.8 hours watching TV, among other things, after you finally got home. Sure, you spent time with friends or family, and naturally you talked to them, but can you say that you talked with them? After how long did your attention fade before you decided to fill silence or boring conversation with the dull comforts of your favorite technological vice?

Now, take this average employee and put him/her  in a meeting with a group of people or an important prospect and what  happens? Mediocrity or even chaos! Aside from underdeveloped small talk  skills, there’s a good chance that this employee has little experience managing their body language. According to regularly (mis)quoted statistics from studies conducted by Albert Mehrabian:

7% of communication is word choice

38% of communication is tone of voice

55% of communication is body language

Now you’re 93% up that famous creek without a paddle. Fear not though, for I will share with you my top four tactics for talking face-to-face within the business world! These are straight-forward, simple notions that, with practice, will make you more comfortable in intimate conversational settings with new acquaintances.

elvis and nixon

Shaking Hands

First, be consistent in your grip so that your hand is never a variable. Given this you’ll be able to tell a lot about the mood or personality of the person you’re meeting with. For example, someone with a usually firm handshake who shakes your hand weak or quickly may be having a bad day full of distractions. Another specific example of handshake insight is the dreaded ‘dead fish’ shake. If someone gives you this, they are potentially pompous with deep insecurities. Understanding this will allow you to cater your conversation to their personality.

Object Cues

Humans play with things to manage their nerves–watch what they’re playing with! A bouncing / clicking pen is often a sign of boredom. A shaking foot is regularly a sign of nervousness, and if they light a cigarette or start fidgeting like they need to go to the bathroom, then you know they’re looking to escape the situation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a down-turned cell phone signals respect and interest in your conversation, and the spinning of a pen around a thumb often coincides with someone increasing their concentration. Remember these notions for yourself to make sure you’re giving off the right signals to the person you’re talking with.

Posture

So much goes into the subconscious psychology of posture that it’s impractical to go over it all in this short blog, but there are a few powerful poses to remember. Leaning forward in a chair with arms on the table signifies engagement and getting down to business. Leaning back in a chair signifies ease and relaxation. Open arms encourage open minds.

Active Listening 

You don’t regularly have to listen actively to a computer screen, but you do have to listen and respond to a person. Listen for words and their tones that indicate particular feelings, and adjust your posture appropriately to control their mood. Remember not every statement needs a verbal response; a head nod or facial reaction subconsciously indicates to the speaker that you have vested interest in the conversation. By listening and keeping good eye contact, you can get through any conversation with confidence.

There’s much more that could be said for building face-to-face relationships like surveying the environment, researching the person you’re meeting with and taking note of what clothes they’re wearing, but these are topics for later blogs. For now, go forth with courage and practice, practice, practice!

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