team building activities

Prior to starting my company producing team building events in New York City, Southern California & nationwide, I worked in the public relations industry. My life as a media professional began in graduate school, with a 6-month internship within the PR department of Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. It was a fun and relatively easy gig – I went in two or three full days a week and assisted with proofreading press releases, fact sheets and artist bios for upcoming concerns & events, as well as cut out and pasted press clippings from various media outlets which mentioned J@LC.

Fast-forward about a year, I used this experience as a means of getting my foot in the door at some PR agencies – working for a year at a boutique firm, followed by another year at Fleishman-Hillard, one of the major global firms with offices in NYC. My job at both of these organizations was entry-level, and I found out rather quickly that this meant I’d be doing one thing more than anything else: media monitoring.

What is media monitoring? What happens is, companies hire PR firms to not only represent them and do outreach on their behalf, but to keep a sharp eye on what’s being said about their brands – and their competitors’ brands – in the news media. This means that the news must be thoroughly yet efficiently scrutinized each morning, afternoon and evening, in order to provide each client with a summary of what’s being said and where. While there are tools like like news alerts and the like out there, in order to do the job properly and professionally, the job of “monitoring” the media must be done by humans. Which humans, exactly? You guessed it – the lowest ranking ones on the PR totem pole. And for a solid two years, this included me.

My daily routine began by showing up to work before anybody else, often between 7-8am. I would sit at my desk, fire up my computer, and start sifting through the 100 or so Email alerts which had been steadily coming in throughout the evening and early morning – each tagged with various keywords relevant to my clients, my clients’ products, their competitors, and their respective industries. I would then open up the Websites of “top-tier” consumer media outlets, as well as about 40-50 trade & niche Websites which might cover my clients. All relevant news articles which I found were summarily flagged, then manually copied & pasted into an Email template, which would be blasted out to each respective client by a set time.

The other junior folks and I repeated this process two other times throughout the afternoon & evening, providing our clients with three comprehensive media reports daily. When something big was happening – a major announcement of some kind, or a media “crisis” – we had to step it up even further, providing “continuous” monitoring. This meant HOURLY reports, as well as sending along anything significant in real-time. It was exhausting when this happened, as crises never lasted fewer than a week, and sometimes went on for a month or longer – including weekends and holidays!

Bottom line was, I had my finger firmly on the pulse of what was being said about my clients in the news – good, bad or otherwise. I knew what was happening, what the mood was and, to the greatest extent possible, what might happen next.

Can you say the same thing about the members of your team?

I’ve been a team building professional for over ten years now, and was an employee/team member myself for nearly ten before that. I can say without exaggeration that the vast majority of supervisors, managers, directors and organizational leaders don’t know what’s really going on with their staff as far as morale. Yes, they likely have a general understanding based on specific areas and roles such as “my people are go-getters,” (sales),  “they tend to be quite and keep to themselves” (IT and software), “they need a pep talk every now and then” (customer service), “they love to win” (attorneys). But besides these superficial monikers, when it comes to assessing how happy a team is, I know from firsthand experience that this is very, VERY hard to measure (for a list of clues that your workplace has a low morale issue, click here).

So my question to you, the leader of your team, is: how are you monitoring your group’s happiness? Are you checking in often? Do you “manage by walking around,” giving every one of your team members a personal “touch” throughout the day by stopping by their desks? Do you have a genuine “open door” policy, whereby any one of your colleagues can feel comfortable stopping by and sharing their concerns?

Or perhaps – and I say this in the most delicate way I can – you simply don’t care. You’re not a psychologist, after all, and your job isn’t to make people happy, but to get them to produce results. I get that. But you also probably know intuitively that happy people tend to produce BETTER results: improved quality of product or service, more efficiency, better communication and teamwork. Happy folks are more enjoyable to be around overall, making them easier to work with, easier to talk to, easier to trust. In the end, all of this means one thing: having happy employees in your office leads directly to more profits (follow this link for a case study demonstrating just that).

And so again, I ask: how are YOU keeping an eye on your folks? What steps, small or large, are you taking to ensure that you are keeping a finger as close to the pulse of what’s happening as you can, to make sure that you have a happy workplace? What could you be doing more of? How can you employ the help of other team members, to help you monitor what’s REALLY going on in your shop? As I tell my clients (and myself) often, we business leaders can always, ALWAYS be doing more. Don’t sell yourself or your teammates short – keep track of their happiness, and be prepared to do something about it if need be.

For another useful article on how to monitor employee happiness and morale in the workplace, visit