This one change could increase your teams productivity by 32 percent!

I speak to many leaders and owners of companies that tell me projects are not getting completed as quickly as they should.  It could be a variety of different things that are slowing them down.  Things such as lack of communication, ego, no sense of urgency, to just having the wrong people on the team.

However, recently I started sharing another thing that could be preventing their teams from accomplishing the goal. And it doesn’t have to do anything with the personalities of the team.  It is instead the distance of the team from each other while working on the project.

At the height the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both, had teams of engineers working on multiple projects trying to develop and create more more weapon systems and satellite systems.  Between the government projects and private enterprise projects, teams of engineers spent countless hours working trying to develop something that had never been done before.

And like in most organizations, there were teams that consistently outperformed other teams in developing and implementing new things and completing projects. The government commissioned a study to determine why some teams were just better at doing this than other teams.  So they called on Thomas Allen who was a MIT Professor.

Allen started off his research by locating what he called “twin projects”, which was when two or more organizations, either private firms and the government were both working on the same problem.  Or it could have been two groups with the government or two groups of private firms.  Allen then measured the quality of their solutions and came up with a list of success factors that two teams had in common for completed projects.

What Allen determine pretty quickly was that the most successful projects were driven by individuals in groups that were very good communicators. After determining this, he wanted to see where these good communicators learned the skill.  Did they all go to the same school?  Did they have more experience?  Were they better at basic leadership skills? Were they just smarter IQ? Did they know each other better?  Allen looked at all of these factors and none of them gave any significance to being the reason for their superior communication skills.

Then he discovered something unique about where and how the teams of engineers were placed in their working environment. At first Allen didn’t think proximity of these teams had anything to do with their ability to get the jobs completed. But after looking at it further he determined that the most successful teams worked closer together physically.

“The ability to see each other everyday” Allen said, “is more important than you think.”

After determining this Allen researched it further by looking at the frequency of the communication between the teams.  They started looking at this across all teams and determined something very interesting. The further away people worked from each other, the frequency of their communication rapidly decreased. Allen said “It is really a serious thing, if you’re on a different floor in some organizations, you may as well be in a different country.”

Allen plotted the frequency of interactions against distance, and he ended up with a line that resembled a steep hill.  It was almost vertical at the top and flat at the bottom.  This became known as the Allen Curve.

As you can see by the curve that the steepness starts right at the eight meter mark. At eight meters or less that communication rises off the charts.

In today’s world with digital communications research has also found that teams still obey the Allen Curve. One study found that workers who shared a location emailed one another four times as often as workers who did not, and as result they completed their projects 32 percent faster (Daniel Coyle; The Culture Code, Bantam Books 2018).

As a trainer I work with organizations daily on the importance of communication in the workplace and how do it more effectively. One of the biggest things I will now share with them is the importance of proximity amongst the team.

The fact is that if we see each other and we know we have to face each other, we will communicate more effectively and more often, these two things determine success on projects and in the workplace.

To your success and your future.

Notes:  I originally read about the Allen Curve in Daniel Coyles book The Culture Code.  I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants to create a better working team. Proximity matters.  Google has also understood the importance of this and have designed all of their facilities accordingly to create the most opportunities for teams to collaborate and work together. 

Did you know that is tweetable?…What is that?

At times in our lives we all have a chance to talk to and be around people who are much wiser than we are.  Sometimes acknowledging and noticing this, and then trying to use this information to your advantage, can lead to more success for you. You just have to be aware when you see this.

I recently had this opportunity. As the manager of Dale Carnegie Training for Kentucky, Southern Indiana, and Southern Ohio (Cincinnati), it is my job to insure we have a pipeline of people interested in attending our programs. Recently I sent out an email promoting our programs and I received this response back. With this response, I had to know more, so I asked the gentlemen if he would meet with me over the phone and allow me to ask him a few questions.

Here is his response to my email:

Dear Brian,

I have been most interested in the recent emails I have received from Dale Carnegie. About 45 years ago I was a graduate of your “general” course, which was 12 or 14 weekly courses in length, and was based on Dale Carnegie’s book “How To Win Friends and Influence People”. I attended these sessions at your offices on Paddock Rd. in Cincinnati, OH. I found the entire course a great eye-opener, and it influenced me so greatly that I often divide my life into Pre-Dale Carnegie and Post-Dale Carnegie eras. I gained so much, and – even to this day in my retirement years – I find myself, conscientiously or not, applying many of Dale’s principles.

I have a granddaughter, recently graduated from college, who I think would benefit greatly from such a course. and I would like to forward this email to her, but first I would like to ascertain three things:

1. Is this type of course still available from your Institute? (I can’t help but think that it must be.)
2. Does this introduction session described below cover such a course and its benefit?
3. What is the cost of this course? I would like to assist in sharing that cost, but have no idea how much this is currently.

Thank you. I look forward to your response.

Donald G. Engelhard

Come on.  After reading this email you would have to call and ask him further questions, Right?  So I did.

Here is our conversation.

Me: Mr. Engelhard tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Your profession? And anything else personal.

Mr. Engelhard: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois.  I attended and graduated from the University of Illinois as an Architectural Engineer.  After I graduated, I got a job offer from a company in Cincinnati, Ohio. So my wife and I moved to Ohio.

Me: What prompted you to take the Dale Carnegie course?

Mr. Engelhard: The firm I was working for. Everyone in the company, including the partners, had to take the course and suggested that I take the course as well.  So in 1969, or 1970, I took the course.

Me:  What did you think about the course from what you can remember?

Mr. Engelhard: I found it to be very beneficial immediately.  The stuff we were learning and practicing weren’t things that were taught in college.  In college you learn technical things, but you don’t really learn how to treat people and how to talk to people.  I am sure in some college classes it may be an effect of the course, but no college course has a main objective in doing so.

Me: What specifically were you learning that made you a better communicator and a better person as a whole?

Mr. Engelhard: I learned the art of listening to people.  To keep my mouth shut and to genuinely care about others, which means allow the other person to talk about themselves and their problems. You impress people more, when you allow them to impress you. 

Me: You impress people more, when you allow them to impress you.  Mr. Engelhard, you know that is tweetable.

Mr. Engelhard:  What?

Me: Nevermind

Me:  What else did you learn in this course?

Mr. Engelhard: Get out of yourself, work around, and learn about someone else’s needs.

Me: How did this help you to be more successful in your job?

Mr. Engelhard: When I talked to our clients, and they wanted to build a new building.  I would just let them tell me exactly what they wanted, instead of me talking, I would just let them do all of the talking. This is what allowed me to build good rapport with them, and   this, in turn, allowed me to know exactly what they wanted. Then we would deliver what they wanted.

Me: You said in your email that you break your life in to two parts: Pre Dale Carnegie and Post Dale Carnegie.

Mr. Engelhard: I may be overstating a little. However, the course taught me the principles from the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  Those Human Relation Principles helped me in the job as well as in my personal life. Re-reading the book and other books over time really ingrained the principles in my life.

Me: Could you place a value on the course?

Mr. Engelhard: That is hard to do. I do know it allowed me to be more successful in life and on the job, and whatever the course costs is well worth it. You just don’t get this information in school.

Me: Some people think this a public speaking course. What do you think?

Mr. Engelhard: I believe that is a secondary benefit in the course.  The primary objective and benefit of the course, and what I got out of it the most, was the confidence in myself to do what I know needed to be done.  I also learned to enjoy people more. And this is what makes you successful in life.

Me: Why do you want your granddaughter to take the course?

Mr. Engelhard: I just know how valuable it was to me.  She is a recent college graduate, and she doesn’t know what she really wants to do just yet.  It could provide her with some clarity on what she wants to do in her life and where she wants to go.  I am willing to pay part of it for her, but I also want her to pay for some of it herself.

Me: Well, Mr. Engelhard thank you for your time.  I really appreciate your testimonial.  Do I have permission to use your name and share this story with your name?

Mr. Engelhard: Absolutely.

Dale Carnegie and the methodology we use in our courses have been delivering these kinds of testimonials for over 100 years.  For me, they never get old.

How many people can remember a math course, english course, or any other kind of course they took over 45 years ago? The answer is probably not very many.

Contact me if you want to have results individually or in your company, just like Mr. Engelhard.  

To your success and your future.

5 Things you can do and computers can’t

The last twenty years has been really interesting for all of us.  Technology is rapidly taking over many of the things we as humans used to do.

In Geoff Colvin’s book “Humans are Underrated” What High Achievers know that Brilliant Machines Never Will” he describes what jobs and high value skills cannot be replaced by computers and technology and why.  You can access the book here

So what are the high value skills that humans have that computers and technology don’t have and never will?

Empathizing: Throughout the book the author looks at research and data that shows time and time again that we as humans seek empathy and we as humans seek to give empathy.  When you can empathize with someone you connect on a deeper emotional level that allows you to show someone you really care.  Technology and computers don’t have the ability to empathize.  A computer will eventually be able to give you a bad test result on your health.  But it wont be able to deliver that result with an empathic side that gives you hope that it will be ok.

Collaborating:  A computer can only provide information and perform specific tasks.  Both of these are actions that we need.  Sure the computer can perform these two actions, but they can’t take the information and work with that information with a group or team to come up with a solution that makes sure all angles are looked at to meet all of the needs from all of the involved parties.  Only humans have the ability right now to collaborate and make necessary changes as needed.  In business things change all of the time.  Conditions change and even people will change along the way in a big project, only humans have the ability to collaborate with each other and ensure these changes are handled and the project still gets accomplished.

Creating:  There are computers that are currently successfully creating art and providing possible solutions to problems.  However, where computers fall short is where things are not black and white.  Only humans have the ability to create.  Only humans are able to look at problems and say “There has to be a better way.”  This is a high value skill that is needed in the marketplace right now and as things change it will continue to become a sought after skill.  How good are you at creating solutions for problems?

Building Relationships: One of the basic cores of all humans is the want and need to have interactions with others.  It is ingrained in our DNA to have interactions with other people.  Look around everyone belongs to a Facebook group, Alumni association, a club, or something similar.  Why do we belong?  Sure we appreciate the group for what it is, but we also seek to be a part of something and have interactions with others. Children are a good example of this basic need.  Go to a playground and look around.  Children don’t even know each other, but they will be playing around with each other and trying to build relationships.  It is ingrained in us, it is something a computer can’t do, only humans can do.  How can you continue to work on building better relationships to make yourself irreplaceable?

Leading:  Leadership is one of the most needed skills in the marketplace.  Look around when you think of good leaders who really comes to mind?  Maybe a coach?  Maybe a politician?  Are they really the best example?  There are some.  However, the marketplace needs leaders now more than ever.  It is a skill that can be learned and a computer cannot do it. Do you want to be a leader?  Are you working on that skill?  

Which one of the skills above do you need to work on?  If you continue to develop the above skills the sky’s the limit and your work will never be replaced by a computer.

To your success and your future.


5 Things you can do to ensure you are fully present

This is something that is on my mind today and at times it is something I struggle with as well.  How can we be more present?  Fully present with our minds, attention, body language, eye contact, etc. when we are with other people? According to Wikipedia here is a link on some of the research and studies that have been conducted in the area of attention span:

According to a study conducted by Microsoft, we as humans have lost our ability to focus on something by 4 seconds in last 15 years.  Here is a link to that study:

So that is the data and the facts, so what do we do about it?

Here is what I say:

Actually Care:  Yep, it’s not much more difficult than that.  Care enough to give the person you are talking to your full attention.

Put down the damn smartphone: You are addicted to your phone.  Turn it off or put it away.

Ignore it: If you are so addicted to your phone you can’t put the damn thing down, at least ignore as your text messages and emails are rolling in if you are talking to someone.

Respect: “But some people are boring!”  Yep, I know they are.  In some cases they know they are.  Regardless if they are boring or not, let’s be human and show them the same respect that we would want ourselves.

Multi-tasking is BS:  If I am told one more time that “I am a multi-tasker and I am listening to you and sending a text.”  Let me pontificate on this a little more for the sake of argument here.  There have many studies conducted in the area of multi-tasking and the ability of someone to do this effectively.  IT IS IMPOSSIBLE!  There is no way your mind/brain can focus on two things at once.  You are either paying attention or you are doing something else, PERIOD.  The proper term in the area of multi-tasking is actually called “switching”.  Which means you are switching from one task to the other, which in most of the research it states that you are less productive when you are switching.

So to sum it all up.  When you are with other people, be fully present.  It really goes back to the golden rule, “treat others how you would like to be treated.”

To your success and your future.