SPONSORED BY UPSTREAM
Photo by Hillary Ehlen
What if you could get everybody in your company to understand each other and communicate the same way? Upstream, a new startup in Fargo, is working to create open and honest dialogue in businesses.
Troy White, Founder of Upstream, is on a mission to help people grow professionally and personally. Most small businesses are founded by someone who has a passion in their industry but might not have any experience in management or working with people. It’s very easy for owners to get so caught up in the day to day that they forget their most important asset: employees.
“I think that the most important thing to remember in any work environment is to not forget the human factor,” said White. “Employees are there not to just collect a paycheck. Employees are there because it fulfills them in some way. As a business, what is that fulfillment part? Us, as humans, we have emotion and I think, all too often, it’s, ‘Leave your feelings at home and you’re here to do work.’”
The Genesis of Upstream
While Upstream was only started in 2018, the history of it goes back much farther. In college, White majored in advertising to combine his love of psychology and marketing. After running his own marketing agency for years, White decided he was looking for something more.
“I enjoyed what I did but there was something more that I wanted to do,” said White. “I didn’t feel that I was getting the greatest satisfaction from what I was doing. I started to reevaluate things in my life.”
White, who grew up in an abusive household, started working with nonprofits, including the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota. He eventually went on to co-found Upstream to work with individuals and couples, nonprofits and businesses. They developed their own curriculum based on Cognitive Behavioral training as well as work from Steven Stosny, Daniel Goleman and other leading thinkers in emotional intelligence.
“Coming from a world of conflict, I was able to see and understand why conflict happened,” said White. “We have conflict in our society, our work environments, personal and professional lives and much of it is completely avoidable.
“If we work with businesses to provide leadership and emotional intelligence training for leadership and employees, how many people can you impact? Because, what we do not only changes the work environment, their personal lives change as well.”
How It Works
This is how culture is often created and defined in an organization. The leadership team decides on what behaviors they want in their team. (Let’s say it’s respect and kindness.) They then tell everyone to be respectful and kind. That message is added to their website and plastered on walls in their office. Everybody then lives and works happily ever after, right?
Wrong. What happens, according to White, is that our behaviors are driven by our emotions and our emotions are driven by our thoughts and our thoughts are driven by our beliefs. When beliefs, thoughts and emotions remain the same but we are forced to behave differently, we have compliance, not change. This increases frustration rather than improve culture.
“What we do is we work with people to change their beliefs, thoughts and emotions and to be in control of their state of mind so instead of reacting, they are responding and are in control of what they can control: themselves,” said White. “Now you don’t have compliance, you have a true culture that works together. And when you have an employee who has a positive work and a positive home environment, you have a much happier employee.”
Training Rather Than Replacing
According to the Society for Human Resources Management, a new hire costs about $4,129 and, on average, it takes 42 days to fill that position. Well, what if you didn’t have to deal with the cost of replacing somebody and could work with them to fit your culture and workplace?
Upstream’s “Employee Enhancements Training” is aimed at doing just that. They will take an employee you’re on the fence about keeping and work with them to increase their emotional intelligence and change their thinking habits and behaviors. They do this either as a one-on-one or in a classroom setting.
So how do you know if an employee is a good fit for this program and isn’t just the wrong person for the company?
“If they’re having a difficult time doing their work, they might be in the wrong seat. Finding them a new seat within the company might be the solution,” said White. “But, if their perceptions, negative attitudes and reactions are inhibiting their performances, or perhaps they lack confidence, are easily angered or cause conflict, these are signals that there is an underlying problem. This training will provide the understanding and tools to make significant changes. We see transformative results in people wearing three-piece suits, orange jumpsuits and everything in-between.”
Their next class will start in Fargo on August 6, 2019. They also work one-on-one with clients remotely.
The entire team at Spotlight is going through Upstream. Here’s what we learned.
“I’m humbled every week about how I can learn how to get better as a leader through understanding the psychology of how we all operate. Not only am I applying this in my professional life, but I’m also applying it at home with my family. It’s nice that Troy works with the management team and the rest of the staff and keeps it all confidential. This allows everybody to be honest and open. It’s also very cool to see how our team is applying these tools we’re learning almost every time I talk to them. I can’t wait to see how we continue to apply what we’ve learned.” – Mike Dragosavich, Owner
“One of my biggest takeaways from Upstream is my self-empowerment. I am making more positive choices inside and outside of work by thinking before I act or speak. It seems to be a simple concept but when Troy breaks it down, this approach truly takes practice. Through the dialogue in the sessions with the leadership team, I am able to identify my strengths and areas of opportunity and I am beginning to understand my limitations in my everyday life.” – Colleen Dreyer, Vice President of Human Resources
“I’ve learned that in developing my personal life and how I react to situations, I can also develop my professional life. While work-life balance is important, Upstream has helped me connect how my emotions and reactions influence life in and out of the office. Our whole team has learned how to see all types of things through a different lens and we’ve become better at identifying the whole picture of certain situations.” – Alexandra Martin,Fargo Monthly and Design and Living Magazine Editor