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Why are you laughing?
“No idea is a bad idea” and other tips for team building
Adrienne Frank, managing editor
Maria Jacks...
15 signs of a toxic team
‣ Decisions are revisited after they’ve been made
‣ No common purpose or excitement around the wo...
15 signs of a toxic team
‣ No time to plan ahead, experiment or play—
too busy putting out fires
‣ Team is seen as isolate...
15 signs of a toxic team
‣ People backstab each other
‣ Good, productive workers flee
‣ Interactions are tense and
aggress...
We’ve been there.
And we know you have, too.
(Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.)
Exercise: What’s toxic about your team?
‣ What behavior, process,
dynamic or dysfunction is
inhibiting your team’s
product...
American magazine profile
‣ Published three times per year
‣ Circulation of about 130,000
‣ Produced within University Com...
Impetus for redesign
‣ Design was dated
‣ Magazine didn’t reflect brand campaign
‣ Division reorganization and several key...
Anchor pages: Why they work
‣ Set expectations
‣ Build anticipation
‣ Turn a 5-minute reader into a 15-minute reader
‣ Giv...
Six mantras of our magazine team
‣ Check your ego and
trust your teammates
‣ Challenge yourself
‣ Communicate
‣ Embrace fl...
Mantra No. 1: Check your ego
and trust your teammates
‣ “No idea is a bad idea” (and the
best idea might not be your idea)...
Mantra No. 2: Challenge yourself
‣ We collect stories, headlines, graphics and designs that inspire us
‣ We read a variety...
Mantra No. 3: Communicate
‣ Brainstorming is organic and extends beyond work hours
‣ Everyone has a voice
‣ Meetings have ...
Mantra No. 4: Embrace flexibility—and structure
‣ We make a decision and stick with it
▸… but we’re adaptable and agile wh...
Mantra No. 5: Complement each other
(compliments are nice, too)
‣ We are a three-legged stool:
we are all crucial to the
s...
Mantra No. 6: Have fun
‣ Don’t pursue stories about the “usual suspects”
‣ Get out of the office together
‣ Celebrate the ...
Takeaways: What you can do on Monday...
‣ Institute a “no idea is a bad idea” policy
‣ Have everyone on the team start on ...
… And over the course of many Mondays
‣ Create anchor pages
‣ Write a mission statement
‣ Develop (or refine) editorial ca...
Exercise: Let’s tweak your team dynamic
‣ At the beginning of this session, you shared some of the
problems plaguing your ...
As you navigate through the rest of your
life, be open to collaboration. Other people
and other people’s ideas are often b...
Thank you
‣ Adrienne: afrank@american.edu
‣ Maria: jackson@american.edu
‣ Mike: unger@american.edu
‣ Online: american.edu/...
American magazine - Why Are You Laughing?
American magazine - Why Are You Laughing?
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American magazine - Why Are You Laughing?

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Why Are You Laughing?
"No idea's a bad idea" and other tips for team building

Productive, creative teams aren’t born – they’re made, through hard work, sweat, and tears (not kidding about that last one). Four years after their award-winning internal redesign, the trio behind American magazine continues to turn out a handsome, intentional, and thought-provoking publication that’s raising American University’s profile among its Washington-centric readership. Their collaborative work style, camaraderie, creativity, and commitment to their craft are reflected in the pages of the magazine, which includes more than a dozen “anchor pages” or departments that make planning and producing a publication with such a tiny team possible. The American staff will detail how a few small tweaks (that you can make on Monday) and longer-term changes (that might take a couple months) will help your teams build trust, develop stronger lines of communication, become more adaptable and agile, and discover the fun in their work – and in each other.

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American magazine - Why Are You Laughing?

  1. 1. Why are you laughing? “No idea is a bad idea” and other tips for team building Adrienne Frank, managing editor Maria Jackson, art director Mike Unger, staff writer American magazine American University Washington, DC
  2. 2. 15 signs of a toxic team ‣ Decisions are revisited after they’ve been made ‣ No common purpose or excitement around the work ‣ Same two people do all the talking—and they don’t really know what they’re talking about ‣ Roles, expectations and processes are ambiguous ‣ Team avoids conflict—or revels in drama and crises ‣ Lack of trust
  3. 3. 15 signs of a toxic team ‣ No time to plan ahead, experiment or play— too busy putting out fires ‣ Team is seen as isolated or siloed by others ‣ Meetings are used primarily for information sharing ‣ Team members aren’t equally invested in the work ‣ Back channels are used to influence decisions ‣ More “me” than “we”
  4. 4. 15 signs of a toxic team ‣ People backstab each other ‣ Good, productive workers flee ‣ Interactions are tense and aggressive, resulting in: ▸name calling ▸personal attacks ▸tears ▸absolute misery for eight hours per day
  5. 5. We’ve been there. And we know you have, too. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.)
  6. 6. Exercise: What’s toxic about your team? ‣ What behavior, process, dynamic or dysfunction is inhibiting your team’s productivity and ability to achieve its full creative potential—and making everyone miserable?
  7. 7. American magazine profile ‣ Published three times per year ‣ Circulation of about 130,000 ‣ Produced within University Communications and Marketing ‣ Editorially independent—for the most part ‣ Fulltime staff of three (editor, designer and writer) ‣ Redesigned by a small, internal team in late 2012
  8. 8. Impetus for redesign ‣ Design was dated ‣ Magazine didn’t reflect brand campaign ‣ Division reorganization and several key retirements ‣ Organization was haphazard ‣ Production process was chaotic ‣ Magazine and staff needed to be reinvigorated
  9. 9. Anchor pages: Why they work ‣ Set expectations ‣ Build anticipation ‣ Turn a 5-minute reader into a 15-minute reader ‣ Give you a place for every kind of story ‣ Incorporate branding and strategic initiatives ‣ Provide a repository for news and other necessities ‣ Enhance your digital presence ‣ Engage readers and invite participation ‣ Streamline editorial planning
  10. 10. Six mantras of our magazine team ‣ Check your ego and trust your teammates ‣ Challenge yourself ‣ Communicate ‣ Embrace flexibility—and structure ‣ Complement each other ‣ Have fun
  11. 11. Mantra No. 1: Check your ego and trust your teammates ‣ “No idea is a bad idea” (and the best idea might not be your idea) ‣ No walls between editorial and design; everyone is involved in in most aspects of production ‣ We trust and value each other ‣ Everyone is equally invested in the work ‣ Comfortable enough with each other to be honest when something isn’t working
  12. 12. Mantra No. 2: Challenge yourself ‣ We collect stories, headlines, graphics and designs that inspire us ‣ We read a variety of books and magazines and are curious about the world ‣ We subscribe to several commercial magazines and receive dozens of other alumni publications ‣ We never say “this is good enough” ‣ Two-page spread in the front of the book enables us to experiment and play ‣ We tweaked several anchor pages and completely reimagined two departments since the redesign
  13. 13. Mantra No. 3: Communicate ‣ Brainstorming is organic and extends beyond work hours ‣ Everyone has a voice ‣ Meetings have a purpose ‣ No deadline surprises ‣ Conflict is squashed quickly ‣ Constructive criticism ‣ Good lines of communication with managers
  14. 14. Mantra No. 4: Embrace flexibility—and structure ‣ We make a decision and stick with it ▸… but we’re adaptable and agile when we need to be ‣ Anchor pages and editorial calendar streamline process ▸… but planning ahead gives us back-up options ‣ Our word counts for anchor pages and features are consistent ‣ We perform well under pressure—not chaos ‣ Sometimes we just have to “own it”
  15. 15. Mantra No. 5: Complement each other (compliments are nice, too) ‣ We are a three-legged stool: we are all crucial to the success of the magazine ‣ We fill gaps ‣ We play to our strengths ‣ We have 50 years (yikes!) of institutional knowledge “She’s got gaps; I got gaps. Together we fill gaps.”
  16. 16. Mantra No. 6: Have fun ‣ Don’t pursue stories about the “usual suspects” ‣ Get out of the office together ‣ Celebrate the successes ‣ We’re lucky to do what we love with people we care about— and that shines through our work
  17. 17. Takeaways: What you can do on Monday... ‣ Institute a “no idea is a bad idea” policy ‣ Have everyone on the team start on “idea book” with samples that inspire them ‣ Cancel pointless meetings ‣ Start identifying the personality of your institution (sounds like a worthwhile meeting topic to us) ‣ Do the StrengthsFinder exercise ‣ Plan a field trip
  18. 18. … And over the course of many Mondays ‣ Create anchor pages ‣ Write a mission statement ‣ Develop (or refine) editorial calendar and start planning ahead ‣ Build trust with key decision makers ‣ Break down the wall between editorial and design ‣ Celebrate your successes
  19. 19. Exercise: Let’s tweak your team dynamic ‣ At the beginning of this session, you shared some of the problems plaguing your teams. Each small group will be assigned one of those dysfunctional dynamics. Please identify the long term goal (better communication, for example) and something that can be done on Monday to begin remedying the root problem and help the team become more productive and creative.
  20. 20. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. —Amy Poehler Questions?
  21. 21. Thank you ‣ Adrienne: afrank@american.edu ‣ Maria: jackson@american.edu ‣ Mike: unger@american.edu ‣ Online: american.edu/americanmagazine ‣ Twitter and Instagram: @au_americanmag

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