May 21, 2020

One of my favorite reality TV shows is Project Runway. For over 15 years the series has revealed amazing creativity (albeit, specifically of the fashion variety), the winning results of personal confidence, as well as an insight into the complexities of the group work dynamic. Invariably, whenever the “team challenge” arises nearly every contestant groans. Loudly.

For Project Runway competitors — and for many of the rest of us, I’d wager — there seems to be an active dislike of working on a team. The frustration that develops between the designers creating a 2-piece mini collection on TV are remarkably similar to what happens in workplace teams: often there is ambiguous leadership, misunderstanding of the group’s mission, team members’ communication styles are misinterpreted, shared work isn’t equally shared, the extroverts usurp their share of recognition and the introverts feel unacknowledged. 

To get multiple perspectives on teamwork, I reached out to a few Twin Cities’ executives with a legion of experience in the corporate, retail and non-profit sectors. I wanted a counterpoint to my own experience with interpersonal dynamics — after all, my kindergarten report card was once notoriously marked with “Elder John doesn’t share his toys and slaps other children.” Perhaps I’ll dive into the issues around greed and anger management in a later blog post.

To begin, simply enough, every team needs a sustaining leader. Much like a levee, leadership channels and contains the group work to stay on task. Without the levee’s walls, a runaway flood of ideas and inefficient use of time and resources can occur.

Roberta Bonoff, Partner at EnvisionIt! Wholesale Management, advises that “one of the first tasks is for the leader to establish agreed upon ground rules for the group’s communication; such as not talking over each other, or that judgment and wrong-making of others are not allowed.” It can also be the declaration of an intangible spirit of communication and thought, such as “we don’t know, what we don’t know.” Once the rules for communication are understood, everyone is held accountable and brought back to the agreement if needed.

Good leadership also ensures everyone in the group shares their ideas publicly — and that everyone is allowed to shine. Collective minds are more creative than any single contributor. Some team members may need additional coaxing to join the conversation; but the group trust, and the fulfillment of the team’s objective, are better for it.

Leadership aside, what about advice on how to be a good team player? One of the most important characteristics of being an effective team member is to leave your ego at the door. Everyone can’t get their way, every time. And no matter how right, or how relevant you think your opinion is, more than likely you will need to choose to accept someone else’s choice. Functioning in a team is less about the individual and much more about the group goal.  

Learning to listen is also paramount. Partly, that means trying not to interrupt conversation, and not prejudging a team member’s opinions based on your previous experience with them. Instead of automatically assuming you think you know what the purpose or intention of someone’s idea is, and responding accordingly, listening means asking questions until real, mutual understanding has occurred first — and then responding.

Fear can limit a team’s effectiveness. When trust within the group is established, no one should be afraid to go against the grain and offer a strong, differing opinion, even if it directly contradicts the group majority. And for the leader, after truly listening to even a popular idea from team members, they can’t be afraid to acknowledge what is wrong, to sort through what works and what doesn’t work, and ultimately, they can’t be fearful to be contrarian and oppose the popular idea if it is not in the best interest of the team’s objective.

In the words of Project Runway’s mentor Tim Gunn — challenges are often filled with “make it work” moments.


May 18, 2020

For many of us, the feelings of stress and anxiety often ebb and flow depending on external circumstances. But the circumstances we are living in now; the compounded negative effect of stay-at-home orders, unemployment, and the threat of illness for ourselves and our families, is creating a constant barrage on the efficacy of our body’s biological response to fight anxiety. 

In an April 20th, 2020 article published by The American Journal of Managed Care, “nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career” and that “88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past 4 to 6 weeks.” That translates into a loss for employers through declines in productivity, creativity and effectiveness. Not to mention the impact on employees’ personal lives.

Already, even in our pre-COVID-19 era, a lot of mind-share was devoted to awareness of the negative impact of stress on our health and well-being. And now that we’re in a new paradigm of a global health threat that currently doesn’t have a cure, or even a preventative, the knowledge of the impact of stress, I think, is even more timely.

When we experience a stressful event like physical trauma or even the mere rumination of a potentially stressful event in the future, our body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated. It’s commonly referred to as our “fight-or-flight” response. The activation of that system releases a variety of chemicals and hormones like cortisol into the body. Chronic, continued activation of the sympathetic system, and those accompanying hormones, is associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

In contrast, we also have a natural system in place that restores our body to a calm and relaxed state — the parasympathetic nervous system. And just as various physical and mental triggers activate our stress response, we can also intentionally shift our body into its relaxation response.

Each of our body’s five senses provide a variety of opportunities to relax and manage stress.


Immerse yourself in the natural world — gaze intently at the landscape, the park or even just the clouds and sky above. Stare for a few minutes at a single tree and really notice the colors and texture of the bark and leaves. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported experimental results that demonstrated a lowered level of stress after just looking at photographs of nature. 


Many of us listen to music while working to help us stay focused and relaxed. As an alternative, try listening to Gregorian or Buddhist chant. Simple, natural sounds like falling rain can also be deeply relaxing. One of my newest finds has been listening to the sounds of “singing bowls” made from brass or crystal. YouTube is a great source for these.


Light a scented candle, apply fragrant hand lotion or diffuse essential oil into the air with atomizers or nebulizers. Lavender, vanilla and lemon are some of the typical scents that provide relaxation. But any particular scent you love, makes you happy or that brings back good memories can help reduce stress. For me, the scent of clover immediately reminds me of my childhood — specifically the summertime laundry that was dried outdoors on the clothesline and took on the scent of the surrounding hayfields of my family’s farm.


As a response to stress, it’s common to compensate with eating — we naturally crave salt, fat and high calorie foods. But eating these foods can create imbalances and spikes in blood glucose that cause irritability and ultimately a cycle of even more stress through increased cravings. Specific nutrients and chemical compounds found within particular foods, however, can actively assist in stress reduction. Salmon, yogurt, oatmeal, nuts and berries are all good choices. And perhaps the ultimate win-win just might be dark chocolate — at 70 percent cocoa or higher, 1.4 ounces of chocolate per day can lower levels of cortisol. 


Another great tutorial to walk through on YouTube is “tapping”, also known as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It’s a series of gentle taps of your fingertips onto specific points of your face and upper body that help relieve tension and stress. It’s a technique that has even been adopted by professional golf, football and baseball athletes.

An important fact to remember is that any one of these techniques can make a difference in stress management. Don’t give yourself an additional burden by committing to too many. Try just one or two. When it feels right you’ll enjoy the process and more likely continue, and ultimately feel the better for it.


May 16, 2019

Tad Ware & Company welcomes you to the launch of our new blog! This year marks the 40th anniversary as a Twin Cities agency, and it seems appropriate that we are publishing our blog after 4 decades filled with a proud heritage that has provided us a wealth of real-life and story-telling experience. These 40 years have generated a well of inspiration, wonder and creative “magic” for everything from food marketing to photography and video, medical product launches to brand creation, digital strategy to content creation for multiple channels and so much more.

Our primary reason for finally creating a blog was to bolster two things we take very seriously – strengthening our ability to make strong human-to-human connections and by taking the time to offer our perspectives through our creative passion and energy. By offering up the experiences that we have had with our clients and the community, we hope those connections help to generate original ideas, spark more exciting creativity, and allow new experiences that showcase our own unique personality.

Our passion shows up everywhere; in our debates on creative strategy for a customer product launch, on-set photography discussions on the placement of a pan sauce on a plate of food, brain-storming social post ideas to help build a customers brand. It comes out in our pot-luck lunch discussions about client projects as well as the 10-15 minutes that typically start our internal/team meetings. We love our work. What we love even more is knowing that energy has helped our clients reach their goals.

We’re looking forward to a new journey that will hopefully give our readers a new window into who we are – and hopefully spark some engaging conversation along the way.

On a personal note, blogging is the boogey-man rattling under my desk. I have never had a problem expressing my opinions during meetings or hallway discussions but to post your thoughts and ideas for the entire world to read, respond and share, makes that boogey-man rattle even harder. What if I am wrong? What if what I say doesn’t connect? What if nobody cares!

As a creative, we walk a path that requires us to hear feedback from everyone we pass. We take that feedback and either push forward, adjust our step, take a step back, or hold our ground. In the end, those decisions are all based on listening and thinking. I have always believed that listening is the first and most important step in creative thinking.

I believe writing from a personal level simplifies that path. It allows me to take all the conversations I have heard, articles I have read, professional and personal experiences I have had and put them into stories for others to read and add to those conversations. It encourages me to express myself at my own pace, and that is truly a unique path for me. The route may be difficult, but that makes the destination all that more exciting to reach and will allow me to learn and broaden my mind.  

Learning and broadening your mind is what I believe is the crux of what most blogs are about. If we never express ourselves and share our thoughts or face tough discussions, how will we ever know we are on the right path? Diving in to thoughts and opinions allows us to learn much more than if we decide not to engage.

Reading and listening to feedback that might take us down a different path, will help us create a more deep understanding of our own story and how we express our ideas and thoughts to our customers, colleagues, friends and family.

In the end, I hope this first post gives you a feeling of the direction we at Tad Ware & Company are heading and we are excited to bring you along on our journey.