Four tools that have changed our workplace

Change is a constant process in our world. It’s happening all of the time. It’s as guaranteed as breathing and dying. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

When I say the word “change” you likely think of the outcome of the process of change. You think of the “after” shot. You think of the new job, or the loss of a loved one, or the introduction of a baby. Something shifts and is permanently different from how it was before.

At Javelina, when we say the word “change”, we think of the process itself – what has to happen to make the change occur. Spoiler Alert: The process of change is far less glamorous than the result itself. In fact, change is caused by consistent action over time. Little bit by little bit, step-by-step.

To create change then takes not only a grand vision but also the systems, tools, habits and skill sets to make it happen.

In our four-part series, we’ve broken down what the foundational ingredients of change are.

  1. First, we told you all about the systems that have changed our own Javelina world.
  2. Then we shared the four personalities essential to transformation.
  3. We followed it up by revealing four powerful habits we try our best to practice on the regular.

Last, but not least, we’ve come to tools.

Now, there are tons of amazing tools we use every day that most of you will be familiar with, or at least have heard of – Google Docs, Slack, Dropbox, Asana, HubSpot and more.

Here, I tried to dig into some of the lesser known ones we’ve integrated into our workflow. I also expanded the definition of “tools” somewhat to move outside of purely online platforms. The workplace is rife with in-person and non-technological tools. Labeling them as such helps you maximize them for your team.

Personality Assessments

You might be familiar with Gallup’s Strengths Finder assessment (a.k.a Clifton Strengths). It’s a personality assessment that each member of your team takes to help them understand themselves and one another better. Similar products include Myers Briggs, DiSC, Emergenetics and many more.

Having not conducted a comprehensive review of all personality tests on the market, I can’t fairly endorse one over another. Our team uses Strengths Finders and have found it to be super helpful. I have heard good things about the other ones too.

My point is not to support one particular personality assessment, but to shill for the concept of them in general. The key is to invest some time in figuring out which one is best suited for your particular needs.

Using Strengths Finder has been incredibly helpful for our team. Here’s why:

Better self-understanding. It has helped each of us understand what we’re naturally good at and the implications of those talents. Equipped with more knowledge of our natural abilities, we’re able to see more clearly the situations that will be easy for us, and those that will be more challenging – and help us know what to do in those situations. One thing that has been particularly helpful with Strengths Finder is understanding how we can use the things we’re good at to mitigate our weaknesses and challenges.

Recognizing others talents. Understanding what others are good at has helped us be more understanding and collaborative as a team. As people, our natural tendency is to assume that others are like us. If we are extremely good at something, we don’t necessarily recognize it as a talent – we often think it’s a character trait everyone possesses. Similarly, we can underestimate the talents of others. Since we have survived without that particular personality asset, how important can it be? Seeing and understanding the gifts of others leads to more all-rounded and successful projects.

Understanding the strengths of my team members has led me to treat them fundamentally different. For the person who possesses a natural curiosity and fact-finding personality as a strength, I assign them reading material ahead of upcoming projects and deadlines. For the person whose strengths all lie in the area of people and relationships, I invest time and energy in helping them understand their interactions with clients and teammates.

Stop taking things personally. Given that we view the world from our own unique perspectives, we have a high propensity for thinking everything is about us. I’m an analytical person, and I like to discuss and debate things that have happened and are about to happen. When quizzing one of my team members about their opinions, I would routinely get infuriating non-replies. Either one word answers, or an “I don’t know.” I took it very personally, assuming the team member didn’t care or was opposed to my questions for some unfathomable reason.

Completing Strengths Finder taught me that they are a deliberative person – they need to weigh, assess, mull things over. Being asked to generate a fully-formed and instant analysis of a situation does not play to their strengths – and in fact, puts them in quite an uncomfortable position. However, asking them to think about something and then get back to me later results in thoughtful, informative answers.

See where we’re strong as a team – and where our vulnerabilities are. Understanding how we all bring our own personalities to the table has allowed us to look at the big picture – as a team, where are we strong? And where do we have gaps? This has allowed us to understand our group dynamic in a better way, but also to be intentional when we hire new team members so we can balance our team.

There’s likely no perfect personality assessment tool, but using one for your team will improve how well you know yourselves and each other – making working together infinitely easier.

My one last pro tip for any personality assessment is to figure out how to integrate this into your team on a regular basis. Taking the test once and then letting the results gather dust in a file somewhere is a pretty monumental waste of time and resources. Before you take the test, figure out how you’re going to integrate the lessons learned into your day-to-day function as a team. Most assessment tools’ websites will give you tips on how to do that.

A time tracking tool

We use Toggl, but there are many great options on the market. Toggl is an online time tracker that helps you measure how much time you are spending on things.

Integrating Toggl into our team was no easy feat – it took several months and a few attempts to fully ensure everyone was using it comprehensively. But man, was it worth it. Here’s why:

  • Tracking your time forces you to work in blocks, rather than flitting between multiple tasks at once, which is a horrific drain of energy, produces results that are less than, and in fact, makes us miserable.
  • It gives you documented proof of what you spent your time on, because we are humanly incapable of accurately sensing how long things take us.
  • Over time, it gives you a fantastic data set of how long things take. This can help you make staffing decisions, give clients more realistic estimates of project timelines, and check in on whether you are spending your time on your organization’s priorities. Have you ever wondered why you never seem to have the time to get certain things done? Track your time, and you can find out.

Tracking your time is quite a hard thing to start doing, and persuading a whole team of people to track their time can be even more challenging. The reasons are plentiful: It’s another thing to remember, you can’t get into the habit, you’d rather multitask, and so on.

Take it from us: It is worth the struggle. If you’re considering introducing time tracking to your team, be sure to demonstrate why it’s essential. To help you along, here is the PowerPoint we used when first introducing this concept.

We’ve got some more tips on effective time management here.

Analytics

Be sure to look at the analytics for every online tool you use. Whether it’s your website, Facebook page, or Slack account, most online tools give you data on how that tool is being used.

For example, here is a look at how our team has been using Slack in recent weeks:

There is an endless supply of tools that make us better, faster and stronger. But using them is only part of the joy. The maximum impact comes when you understand why you use them, and how they can make you better.

Use analytics to find out:

  • Whether men or women like your company more. Look at the gender split of the users on your social media pages. Seeing the results could inform your messaging, who you target your events at, and so on.
  • How people find you. Website analytics can tell you how people locate your website and how they spend time when they get there. You can learn which pages are the most popular, and which ones people bounce from straight away.
  • How your team works. Do they open their emails right away or let them sit for a while? Do they utilize the tools you provide? What are their favorites? No matter what tools you use, looking at the analytics will tell you a whole host of things that will help make you become more efficient and effective.
Honorable mentions

I’m cheating. I found it impossible to limit the vital tools we use to a list of four, so I wanted to sneak in a laundry list of the best ones I’d recommend:

  • Boomerang, for making your emails easier to manage, more likely to elicit a response, and more responsive to your needs. Boomerang is an extension that allows you to auto-schedule emails, pause your inbox to prevent emails from interrupting your concentration on big projects, and much more.
  • Slack for team communication. This is essentially cloud-based instant messenger. Allowing group chat, direct messages, and simple file sharing, Slack has significantly reduced the amount of team-internal email traffic flooding our inboxes. Plus, gravy: Slack allows for the very easy sending of hilarious gifs on any subject in the world.
  • Canva for making decent-looking designs when you have no design skills.
  • Big Stock for downloading affordable stock imagery.

Tools – both the traditional and virtual – make the business of changing the world a whole lot easier. What are some of your favorite tools? Tell us @javelinaco.

Javelina Blog Author Ariel Reyes

Javelina Blog Author

 

M.D. Leto, Blog Writer

 

M.D. Leto writes blogs, poems, and stories for social change. She functions in the background of several incredible projects underfoot and underway. From time-to-time she is invited to read her poetry in front of people. She lives near the beeline highway with her wife, four chickens, two dogs and several experimental gardens.

 

Email Javelina Blog Author Catherine AlonzoFollow Catherine Alonzo on TwitterFollow Catherine Alonzo on Instagram

 

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