Event Date: 08/12/2015 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
SARAH SHAFER: Welcome to today’s webinar, Connection Culture: Boosting Employee Engagement, hosted by HRDQU and presented by Michael Lee Stallard. Today’s webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions you can always type them into the questions box. We will be answering these questions as they come in live at the end of the presentation or as a follow-up by email. My name is Sarah Shafer and I will moderate today’s webinar.
Michael Lee Stallard is president of E. Pluribus Partners, a leadership training and consulting firm. He speaks and teaches in a wide variety of business, government, healthcare, and education organizations. Michael is the primary author of Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity, and his most recent, Connection Culture, the Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work. He writes the CEO Advisor column for FOXBusiness.com and is a regular contributor to Smart Briefs. Welcome and thank you for joining us today.
MICHAEL LEE STALLARD: Sarah, thank you very much. It’s good to be with all of you. I appreciate you joining us. On this webcast we are going to talk about culture, the predominant attitude, language, and behavior of the group. And the type of culture we’re going to talk about a connection culture has several benefits: 1. It helps you connect. Connection has been called a super power. It makes us more productive, healthier, happier. It also produces a culture where people want to give their best efforts. They want to align their behavior with organizational goals, the leader’s goals, they also communicate better, they’re more cooperative, and they think about how they innovate, so, of that set of benefits I just laid out, it ends up being a pretty powerful competitive advantage. And this applies to both teams, it applies to departments, it applies to entire organizations, but it also applies to your family and organizations you are involved in in your communities. So you will find this very broadly relevant.
Let me start out with the story. I started out my first career was on Wall Street. I worked for Morgan Stanley and headed marketing for part of Charles Schwab, I worked for a money management firm, and I saw over the course of my career how many mergers did not work well after the merger was consummated. The was always a rational plan going into the merger but the failure of cultures to next and the failure of people to connect that sabotaged our postmerger performance. And, eventually I decided to leave Wall Street in 2002 and I founded a new firm called, E. Pluribus Partners, which has a funny name, it’s based on America’s motto e pluribus unum, and other words how to, e pluribus unum is a Latin phrase that means out of many one, and our focus is how do you get a group of people to act as one? To move in the same direction to get your best efforts, some of those benefits that I talked about earlier. About a year into starting the company I had a personal situation that really clarified the importance of this for me. My wife Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 at the end of 2003 and in 2004 she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Her chances of survival were less than 10% given she had those two cancers so close together. And she did in early 2004 six rounds of chemotherapy at our local hospital here in Greenwich, Connecticut. And we knew we had to be very aggressive to treat this. And so we signed her up for a program called Interperitnatal Chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. And I will never forget our first visit Sloan-Kettering.
We were walking down the street in midtown Manhattan on 53rd St. approaching the entrance and that guy you see in the picture on the screen Nick Medley was a doorman at Sloan-Kettering and he locked his eyes on my wife Katie and greeted her like a returning friend. Now this is in midtown Manhattan where nobody makes eye contact with passersby. So it really caught me by surprise. I realize that Nick was being intentional about reaching out and connecting with people he recognized were cancer patients because they were wearing wigs. And he locked his eyes on Katie, he greeted us we entered into the reception area, and there was a receptionist calling everyone honey. This also is very rare in Manhattan as you would imagine. Then the security people, the administrative people were helpful and friendly. We met with our oncologist Dr. Marty Hensley. She spent an hour with us and she laid out the treatment options, she answered a long list of questions, and she was upbeat and optimistic and by the end of the day I had two distinct reactions. First, I had done my research and I knew this was one of the best teams in the world to treat advanced ovarian cancer. But I had a second reaction that day that really caught me by surprise, I knew they cared because I could feel it. And you know what, at the end of the day I just came away more optimistic that even though the odds were against us, that maybe with this great team that cares about us that to get Katie through this season. And this year Katie celebrated her 11th year of being cancer free from advanced ovarian cancer. Now, she did have one recurrence of breast cancer recently but, that’s all the treatment is over and her prospects are very good. So she survived three different episodes of primary cancer. Really extraordinary.
Now, I remember you are at Sloan-Kettering there was one event that really caught my attention. Katie was having enter interperionatal treatment where they fill her abdomen up with chemo and it took several hours to do this and I had stopped to get something to drink at a gift shop and I came out and across the way there was a lounge area where employees from that location of Sloan-Kettering had gathered to talk about the results of an employee satisfaction survey. And I saw Nick the doorman in there and I stood and I listened and I heard them say how much they loved their patients, they loved the people they worked with, and they loved their mission to provide the best cancer care anywhere. Last year Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the number 1 Cancer Center in the US and you can bet they have a passion for task excellence and results, but even just as important as that they care about their patients. There is a culture that creates connection among the people who work there and with their patients and with their patients’ families and it really stood out in comparison to what I had experience for most of my career on Wall Street.
And the data support this, too. When you look at the data on employee engagement in general in the US about 70% of employees self-report that they are not engaged. That number is much higher outside the U.S. So it works out to be about three out of 10 employees are engaged by the average manager. But the extraordinary managers who I describe as leaders because people want to follow them, They engage double that number. It’s about six on average six out of 10 employees or more for the greatest leaders. So the data really support that all managers are not alike. Some lead from authority where people have to follow them because they control raises, hiring, promotion, etc. And then there are leaders who people want to follow because they feel connected to them. Now in our research we found that there are three types of relational cultures primarily in organizations. And this teams, it applies to departments. And you will find their cultures of control, cultures of indifference and I’m going to describe each of these in just a minute. But let me show you the three and finally cultures that we describe as cultures of connection or connection cultures. Let’s go through each of these.
And then were going to take a poll and you can tell us what type of culture you believe you are in. Now the first culture is a culture of control. This is a culture where people who have power, control, influence and status rule over the rest. And I probably don’t need to say any more than that. It creates a culture where usually the people with power, control, influence, and status comprise an average of about 20% of the organization in terms of people. And they rule over the 80%. In the 80% over time develop a sense of learned helplessness, it’s been described as that I think it also could be described as overtime becoming learned helplessness. They stick with the job because they want the paycheck, they have a mortgage, they have kids in college, perhaps in so they feel like they’re trapped over time, but they have to stand these cultures for their financial obligations.
The second type of culture is, and by the way see this growing rapidly today in our broader culture and it’s influencing our workplace culture, it’s a culture of indifference, where people are so busy with tasks and their smart phones and media and just all the distractions we have in life that they don’t take time to build relationships and so as a result, many people in the workplace feel unsupported, left out, which is particularly bad, or lonely.
And all of these have an effect on our biology, which we will get into in a minute. But the culture of indifference is growing rapidly today. Having come from Wall Street I would say most of the cultures on Wall Street are cultures of indifference where people are just so busy they don’t take time to build supportive relationships. And then finally there is the connection culture. Now, you probably knew this was coming, the picture where everyone has their hands together, I probably just need to find a picture where you see people smiling and energetic. It’s kind of hard to capture that in photo. But you get the idea, it’s a culture where people feel enthusiastic. They feel energetic. They want to give their best efforts. They cooperate, and you see they achieve sustainable superior performance over time. In other cultures, they are average performers over time. Now it’s not to say they may not be successful for a period, they just aren’t sustainable because they are not meeting inherent human needs that we will talk about in a minute.
Okay, so I’ve given you just a quick glimpse of these three types of cultures. We’re going to take a look at what type of culture you think you are in. So if you could select one of the three following control is A, indifference is B, and connection is C. So, if you could fill that out, we will take a look and see how those numbers turn out. And I will tell you what the averages typically look like that we see. Okay, we are going to close the poll now. All right, well, this is very interesting. This I would say is not typical from what we usually see. It looks like we see about 31% are in the culture of control, that’s a little higher than average. We usually see right around 25%. So, this is a little bit higher than the average. We typically see about 46 to 48% are cultures of indifference. So, this is lower than I would’ve expected for a sample of this size. It looks like we have almost 200 people online. That’s a little bit lower than the average 34%. And then we have 35% report that they are in a culture of connection. That is higher than we typically see. It’s usually a little bit below 25%. Okay so this population on our webinar has a little better, on average a better culture than the typical sample size that we see in our work.
I want to just explain something. I’m going to get into the science a little bit later. Let me just tell you one part of the science that is especially important to understand. Now, we think of cultures, work environments as falling into or having an effect on the human body that can be described in two ways one is a state of homeostasis. You might think of it as balance. When the body is in balance then blood glucose and oxygen flows to all of the bodily systems at levels that they need to maintain good health and operation over time. But when we feel threatened our body shifts to a state called the stress response. So blood glucose and oxygen is over allocated to the heart, to the lungs, to the big muscles like the thighs. It’s preparing the body to fight or flee the threat that it perceives in the broader environment. And at the same time the body robs Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. In other words it’s taking blood glucose and oxygen from other body systems including the brain so that it affects cognitive function and it has an effect on memory if we are stuck in a state of stress response for too long. It also affects the digestive system so that we become vulnerable to digestive disorders like acid reflux or colitis or other digestive disorders of the sorts. It also affects the immune system so that we are more vulnerable to sickness and disease. And, if we’re facing a mugger, and we need to respond with the stress response that is a over a short period of time, that’s fine. Today, as more people are affected by psychological stress and so the stress response is almost like the gas pedal on the car stuck to the floor board. It’s going to burn out the engine and that is effectively what is happening to our bodies if we are stuck in a state of stress response. Now, you see in this diagram that the stress response or homeostasis is really driven by subjective feelings or emotions. If we feel connected, if we feel supported, if we feel included it helps protect us even when threats exist in the environment. We feel safe because we have people around us who have our back. We feel connected to them. However, if we feel disconnected, unsupported, left out, or lonely, we are very vulnerable to stress, to anxiety, to depression and ultimately to addiction because when we don’t feel well because our body is stuck in the state of stress response, we start looking for behaviors that will make us feel better. Almost all of those behaviors other than connection are addictive and they require more of the same behavior over time to produce the same effect so they gradually take over our lives. Some of those behaviors include addictions to alcohol, to illegal drugs or abuse of legal drugs, addictions to sex, pornography, shopping, exercise, or even the addiction to a course work. So, all of these things are addictive. So that half of the academic research says there’s a set of about 8 addictive behaviors that over half of Americans are addicted to that has a negative effect on their health. And that’s something I actually source the research in our new book, Connection Culture the Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work. We cite our sources on that.
So I’m using this term connection, let me define it for you. We describe connection as a bond on shared identity, empathy and understanding that move self-centered individuals toward group centered membership. Now, certainly we have a mix of motives in us. At times we are self-centered, sometimes we have more of a service mindset, helping others, but often times we are in self-centered orientation. It requires a connection within a group a feeling of connection to the group that gets us to move towards group centered membership. I love the basketball coach Phil Jackson. He described it this way: surrendering the me for the we. Just a very quick story: Michael Jordan, when he graduated from the University of North Carolina, he was almost immediately on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. But then a number of years after that, the Bulls really didn’t live up to their potential. And the owner of the Chicago Bulls made a coaching change. They fired the head coach and they elevated Phil Jackson to become the head coach and Phil sat down with Michael and said you know, Michael, you’re the man. You’re going to one of the all-time greats by the time your career has ended. But you know, Michael, were not going to win any NBA championships unless you surrender the me for the we. He observed that Michael spent more time with his entourage then with his teammates and he really needed to be intentional about connecting with them and helping elevate their performance, getting to know them and by doing that, he would elevate the performance of the whole team. What I like about Michael Jordan is that he did that. He started showing up early to practice and working out the rookies. He started helping some of the more senior members of the team with their endurance and of course, after that the Chicago Bulls won 6 NBA championships. So, Michael surrendered the me for the we and, as a leader on the team, he connected with the rest of his team and it really made a difference.
Now, this is our model of a connection culture and what it looks like. Let me just walk you through this from left to right. Now, what we find is that almost all leaders are focused on task excellence and results. And we have to be, right, because we are being paid to deliver results. So, that is critical. But what differentiates the manager who gets the three out of 10 people engaged versus the leader who engages six or more is in addition to focusing on task excellence and results, they also are intentional about developing relationship excellence or connection. And they do this in three very productive ways. Number one, they communicate an inspiring vision and live it. They value people and give them a voice. And that’s what differentiates a manager from a leader so that people want to give their best efforts, align their behavior with organizational goals, fully communicate and cooperate and innovate so that the organization keeps improving its performance over time.
When people don’t feel connected, take for example new people in organizations. They want to make a contribution early on. They come in and expect the best of the organization, but within six months most people don’t experience connection and so their motivation, their energy, their engagement levels fall off dramatically when they don’t experience that sense of connection in the first six months. But the opposite is true too. If leaders are intentional about connecting with people, then we see them engage, we see that relationship excellence developed and that in combination with being intentional about task excellence produces sustainable superior performance. Now let’s contrast that versus the other cultures we talked about. The culture of control and the culture of indifference. In those cultures also managers are intentional about trying to achieve task excellence and results. However, they are not intentional about developing connection or relationship excellence. So, over time there is a failure of developing strong relationships and disconnection sets in. Disconnection isolates people. It isolates managers. It isolates individual contributors, other employees, and it creates as you can see on this graphic, it creates almost these brick walls among people. There isn’t trust, there is less cooperation. And when people are isolated and lonely they don’t perform real well as we talked about earlier. They are more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. And that sabotages their performance.
Okay, let’s go through the three elements that I talked about connection, culture, vision, value, and voice. I want to give you definitions and just talk about those briefly. The first element, we call this 3V leadership model, by the way, vision, value, and voice. It’s very simple, it’s very memorable, and it’s very actionable as you will see. Now vision is defined as when everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values, and proud of the reputation. So, take for example the example I used earlier was Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They are motivated by the mission, which I briefly mentioned, is to provide the best cancer care anywhere. It’s very aspirational. You will find a lot of people in that organization whose lives are somehow touched by cancer including Nick the doorman. Nick medley who I mentioned. Nick is a cancer survivor himself, who attributed his survival to the treatment he received at Sloan Kettering. And, united by the values. Those are the core values of the organization. And so in a place like Sloan-Kettering you’ll see a passion for excellence, caring about patients and their families and one another from an employee standpoint. So those are just some of the values that really connect with the people there. And finally that produces a reputation that people are either proud of or indifferent to our they are embarrassed by. In the case of Sloan-Kettering they are proud of it and certainly helps that they have been recognized as the No. 1 cancer center in the US by U.S. News & World Report. So they really have hit the trifecta at Sloan-Kettering when it comes to connecting with employees of that organization. Vision creates a shared identity that unites people, that brings them together.
Now let’s run a poll here on vision. I want to see how you feel the vision is in your organization. On a scale of 1 to 5, strong being five the highest four, better than average, three, average, two, less than average, or one, weak. So let’s launch the poll here and see how we look. Okay, let’s close out the poll now. People have voted. Okay, so we have 11% say strong, these are really good numbers. 36% better than average, 33% average, and then you can see about 21% less than average or weak. Okay these are pretty good numbers and that typically what we see versus the other elements you’re going to talk about, value and voice. Vision tends to be in the average organization pretty good. It’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement but these numbers are pretty strong.
The next element is value and let me say this about value. Value is the heart of a connection culture. Now when I use the term value, I’m not talking about values that we mentioned under vision. Those are core values. I’m talking about do people feel valued as human beings? Or do they feel they are being treated as human doings, that they are just there because they produce results? Or are they valued for themselves because they breathe and walk? So here is the definition of value, when everyone in the organization understands the needs of people, now I’m going to describe that in a little bit the six universal human needs at work, and secondly appreciates their positive unique contributions. So people are expressing that appreciation. And thirdly they are going beyond vocally expressing their appreciation to also actively help others achieve their potential. So, those are the three elements that create value. People understand the needs of people, appreciate their positive unique contributions, and help them achieve their potential. When value exists, it creates a sense of shared empathy where people care about one another and people can feel that. It’s what I felt as a family member of a patient at Sloan-Kettering. I could sense that empathy that they had for one another, their patients, and their patients’ families. And that’s a very powerful competitive advantage to have in terms of uniting people, so, they really care about the organization and want to give their best efforts.
Okay, let’s launch our poll and see how value is in your organization. Okay, let’s close out the poll now. Most people have voted. Okay, this doesn’t surprise me. We see that only 31% are better than average, so, there’s a lot of room to improve in terms of value. And as I said, value is the heart of a connection culture so this is especially important that employees in the organization, that people feel valued so we can see there is a lot of room for improvement.
The next element in a connection culture is voice. Let me define that. When everyone in the organization seeks the ideas of others, so in other words this reflects humility that leaders and people understand that they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and they need to seek the opinions and ideas of others. They also share their opinions and ideas honestly so that they are candid, they are open, honest and they tell people what they believe rather than what the person wants to hear even though that can be dangerous to do so because the person may not want to hear it. And then finally when you have voice in an organization or a team there are a lot of conversations and sometimes things are misconstrued and it results in a breakdown of relational connections. So, in organizations that have voice and teams that have voice, they are intentional about safeguarding relational connections and they understand just how important they are because if relational connections are broke it starts to create these traps of knowledge so that people become isolated and sabotages performance so that something I get deeper into in the book. And voice creates a shared understanding so that people know where we are going as a team, why it’s important to get there, how we get there, those types of things and it makes it easier for them to align their behavior with the team’s goals, with the leaders goals, with the organizations goals. And those three things together create that strong sense of connection. So let’s see how voice is in your organization. So we’re going to open our poll here. There it is. Okay, let’s close it out now. Almost ¾ of the people have voted. Okay, once again lots of room for improvement. This is where I was saying earlier that vision is pretty strong, but, in most organizations there’s a lot of room for improvement on value and on voice. And you can see that only 23% say that their organization has voice that’s better than average or strong. So, there’s a lot of room for improvement. A third say that’s average.
Now let me just share a little bit more about the research. In our book we go through and have a whole chapter on the science of connection and often times we are working with groups like the engineering section of the NASA Johnson Space Center or the doctors and scientists at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, we will spend a half a day on the research so this is just a flyby, but it will give you an idea of some of the, all these different areas that we look into pointed in the same direction just the importance of connection. So let’s just go through a couple of these. First of all from the psychology research and a lot of people are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but that was more than 60 years ago now, and we have learned some things since, and Maslow for the most part got it right, but there are some new things we’ve learned that are relevant to just feeling connected and motivation in the context of culture. So the first need that we identify that you see in the research is respect. And you think when you first come into an organization when people don’t know you, you at least expect them to respect you. At least be respectful. And if they are not, it makes you angry and it’s hard to perform at the top of your game if you are distracted because you are angry or you feel disrespected. And as time goes on you, and you get a chance to show what you can do in terms of your work, you are hoping to be recognized if your boss and the people you work with affirm your task strengths, or perhaps your character strengths like your persevering and you have a passion for excellence in your work, those types of things, it gives you energy. But if you don’t get that feedback, if you don’t get that recognition, and it starts to drain energy out of you. That’s a human need that we have. To be recognized for the work we’re doing in the workplace. And then finally, we need to belong. We need the sense of connection to a group of people who have our backs and I think of this in both a positive way in a negative way. Let me describe the negative way that we experience in difficult times in life, like for example I told you about my wife Katie’s three episodes of cancer and, during that time, we had our friends, our family members, colleagues who really stepped up and helped us get us through a tough time in life. People experience death of family numbers, sickness and disease, divorce, loss of jobs, etc., things like that, and we need people who have our backs in life to help us get through those tough times. Now, also on more of a positive note, will have opportunities to learn and grow. And we learn and grow best in a culture where there are mentors, where there are coaches who people who care enough about us to tell us when they see us doing something that is not in our best interests to help us learn and grow in an area where we need to develop. And so that sense of belonging, those people who support us, who help us achieve our potential, that is that need for belonging that we have. Now notice that the first three needs here are all relational in nature. And so it says interactions that we have with people that meet half of the needs in the workplace to thrive.
Now the next two needs are called taskmastery needs. The first one is autonomy, freedom, think of that as if you have an overcontrolling boss or you work in an environment where there’s too much bureaucracy or red tape, that slows you down, it’s hard to thrive in that type of culture where you feel like you are fighting those controls all the time. And then secondly we need to be in a role that is a good fit with our strengths. That’s the personal growth piece, when we are in a good role that’s a good fit with our strengths and provides the right degree of challenge, in other words it’s not over challenging so that we are stressed out, or under challenging so that we are bored, but it’s not sweet spot of challenge we experience what psychologists call flow or optimal experience. I think of it as we feel immersed in our work and the hours fly by. It’s like we have entered into a time warp. That’s experiencing personal growth and that’s good for us. That makes us feel connected to our work.
And then finally when our work meets the need for meaning, and I think of Nick the doorman, here’s a guy who is a cancer survivor working in the cancer center so you can bet that that job he has being on the front lines of a cancer center provides meaning for him. And when we have that in our lives, we tend to be more resilient. We tend to work through obstacles and it helps us thrive over a longer time in our careers.
Now, the neuroscience research also confirms the importance of connection. And I’ve told you about the endocrine system and how blood glucose, oxygen, and how it’s distributed through the body whether we are in a stress response or state of homeostasis. But let me tell you about some of the neuroscience research and what we know about neurotransmitters and are hormones in our brains or just hormones that work throughout our bodies. And what we see is that connection makes a difference. It helps us perform at the top of our game. It reduces stress hormones, the most famous being cortisol that’s talked about frequently in the management press. It boosts dopamine which is a reward chemical that when it makes us feel it enhances our attention, it makes us feel pleasure so it’s called part of the reward circuitry of the brain. It affects serotonin which reduces fear and worry so that we can focus on our work. It also boosts the trust hormone oxytocin. It just makes us feel more connected to others around us. So, we see that not only is the allocation of blood glucose, and oxygen affected by those feelings of connection and safety, but also these neurochemicals, the neurotransmitters and hormones that affect our body are also impacted by that sense of connection or that sense of disconnection that some people have. And we see this and other science that from the time we are born to our twilight years in life, connection helps us thrive. Babies who are held and feel connected are healthier. In fact on average they have a health benefit both mental and physical that lasts over the course of their lives versus children who have been neglected or abused. Elementary school students who receive positive affirming eye contact and head nods from their teachers, they perform better academically. Patients who have social support or connection recover faster. Adults with greater connection are more creative, they are better problem solvers. They are also more resilient. And seniors with greater connection live longer. So, you can see all the benefits here of connection and why some neuroscientists have called connection a superpower.
And we also see in other research that connection helps us not only in our lives in general as individuals, but also it affects connection in the workplace affects us. So this is a longitudinal study that was done in Israel. It was a 20 year study and what they found was over the course of those 20 years there was a 240% higher rate of morbidity for people who reported they were in disconnected cultures. Now, I took this quote right out of the report. What they said was only one main effect was found: the risk of mortality was significantly lower for those reporting peer social support. Or what I would call connection.
So, the relevant question is what kind of culture are you in? If you are a leader what kind of culture are you creating? Are you creating a culture that is life-giving to people both in terms of their productivity and the length of their lives and the joy the experience in life? Or is it a culture that is really diminishing them, that is diminishing their productivity and on average reducing their lifespan? And we see that other studies the Whitehall studies which many of you are probably familiar with were huge studies done in the mid-1960s and mid-1980s and what they did is they studied the UK civil service, which is very highly segmented according to rank. As you go up the hierarchy you are there are different numerical numbers assigned to that level of hierarchy. And what they found in their research was the inverse correlation between stress, mortality and hierarchy. So, in other words, the more responsibility you have in the hierarchy, the lower your stress level and the better your mortality numbers were. And they attributed this to just the effect of psychosocial factors and they concluded that and recommended that to reduce stress and improve mortality, greater autonomy and connection was needed in the cultures. And those recommendations have really been maintained over time. So, just to sum it up, there is also a competitive advantage I want to point out in the workplace that we see in other research shows that 20%, the employee who reports feeling more connected and engaged in the workplace has at least a 20% productivity advantage. In other words, an extra day of productivity a week. They are 87% less likely to leave, and, and this really comes from Gallup’s research, every measure they have assessed has moved in a favorable direction from a business outcome standpoint and business units where people report feeling engaged and connected. So, in other words, it’s rational to be intentional about connection. And to really sum up all this research that I have just gone through, connection equals thriving and disconnection equals dysfunction. And this applies both to individuals and to organizational performance.
So what should you look for in leaders who create connection cultures? Here is a simple way to think of it. Leaders who create connection cultures they communicate an inspiring vision and they live it, they walk the talk, they value people, and they give them a voice. Now to operationalize a connection culture here are some things you should keep in mind. Number one it really is a subculture by subculture battle because if you think about your organization you probably say you work on a particular floor, you can probably find teams that have subcultures that people feel connected. They are engaged, they are energetic, they are enthusiastic, you may be able to walk 50 feet down the hall and find a team that has a culture of control or a culture of indifference and it’s sucking the life out of them. So, it’s really a subculture by subculture assessment. And it’s important to provide training to help people understand and have a vocabulary for connection and for control and for indifference and what creates a connection culture. It helps for them to have examples in practice and as part of this I’m going to offer you a free e-book at the end it has 100 ways to connect. So you’re going to have plenty of things that are actionable. Accountability, we believe that every organization should have an annual employee engagement survey. Employee engagement measures connection when you look at the questions on most engagement surveys and that’s one way to hold managers accountable for creating connection cultures. And also, identify managers who need some help in order to create a connection culture. And then of course coaching and mentoring. I think one of our clients not long ago did a global engagement survey with us in 16 different languages and the CEO of the organization made a leader of one particular unit who just had phenomenally positive engagement made him the vice-chairman of the firm and now he is out mentoring other leaders around the world to help them to create great workplace cultures. So coaching and mentoring are a very important part of this. Now let me also just give you out of the 100 ways to connect, let me just share a few examples of that. You’ll get the document if you sign up for it. But here are just some examples. Number one, it’s important to recognize that people have different connection needs. And that really depends on there’s a biological effect that’s been passed on through their parents, through their grandparents, genes to them so whether there’s a sensitive connection in terms of their need for connection or they have a lower connection need is both genetic but also experiential. What they have experienced since the time of conception changes that set point and their need for connection. So just recognize that people have varying needs and you don’t want to treat everyone on your team the same because their needs are different.
Secondly it’s important get to know people. Your direct reports in particular. Know their stories. Understand what work experiences and cultures they were part of in the past. What really fired them up and what made them feel like they were burning out and by asking those questions and also getting to know more about their interests outside of work, you’ll gain some insights that will help you understand what type of culture and how you should interact with them in a way where they will be fired up. And also, I say this because in our day and age, our smart phones are so engaging and we see this in our employee engagement research that more and more employees feel like when they are interacting with their supervisor, that their supervisors are not present. And just the importance of putting the email away and the smart phone away and really focusing in the meetings that we have with our direct reports and others. It’s important to emphasize positives and we look at the research of John Gottman, psychologists who studied marriages, and came up with the positivity ratio of 5 to 1. In other words, he could, based on the research based on where interactions were had a ratio of 5 to 1 in terms of positive to a negative interaction in the context of marriage, those marriages tended to survive if the ratio was 5 to 1 or greater. If it dipped below 5 to 1, there was a greater probability that the marriage would not survive. Now there has been some research about the positivity ratio as it applies in the workplace, and there has been some controversy about what that ratio is, but I would say, just the key point is it’s really important to make sure that those interactions are overwhelmingly positive that you have with employees so they feel connected and you maintain the relationship and maintain trust. Providing feedback using constructive language, one of the things we talk about is just the importance of using practices of three pluses and a wish. You know, when you’re communicating with employees who you need to deliver a message that they need to improve in some way at least affirming them with three positive things. For example you could say, Tom, you know I think you are really great at this, and I really appreciate this about you, and the other thing, and you would be even better, Tom, if you did this or if you stopped doing this. But the whole point is to really make deposits into that relationship bank account in advance and to use positive language like Tom you would even be better if you did this or refrain from doing that, rather than saying Tom, you know, you really need to, sometimes being too direct can be very threatening to them and result in disconnection in the relationship so, that is something we talk more about at length in the 100 ways to connect that you can sign up for.
The next one, here’s a simple practice, when you go in and out of small meetings of the small number of people just taking the time to say hi and goodbye to everyone. It’s just a simple thing but if individuals in that group are especially sensitive to connection, if you don’t connect with them in that way, they will feel a lack of connection. And to some degree feel slighted that you haven’t taken the initiative to connect with them. So that’s a very simple practice. It’s a layup from a basketball standpoint because we have mirror neurons in our brain we have the ability to feel others’ emotions. And when we feel another’s emotion, it enhances their motion if it’s a positive emotion, and it diminishes their pain if it’s a negative emotion. So, for example, if a salesperson has closed a huge sale, to be able to experience that joy with them and celebrate that, that will enhance the emotion for them. If you have employees who are struggling in some way, just to be able to converse with them and just talk through some of those issues and feel what they are feeling will help diminish their pain and the end result of those two is when you feel others’ emotions it connection to them and vice versa.
Looking for ways to proactively help others connects us and we talk about that in the 100 ways to connect. And the attitude of just expecting the best in people. We see that some people go into relationships with a very negative attitude and so no wonder they struggle with connection. Really starting out on the right foot by expecting the best in people helps us connect with them.
And then another mindset, another attitude that is important is when we negotiate with others negotiating to solve problems rather than to win. Looking to identify what they are trying to achieve in the negotiations so that we can hopefully identify a solution that will make them feel like they got what they hoped for and we get what we are looking for. It’s almost like solving a puzzle rather than having an attitude of I’m going to win and they are going to lose. Just trying to beat them. So, attitudes play an important part in connection, too.
As we get close to taking questions I want to offer this to you and you can email me direct and we will pull this out of the email and what we’ll do is we will send you the 100 Ways to Connect e-book. And it’s a 27 page e-book that you can print out and it has 100 attitudes, uses of language, and behaviors both individual and institutional behaviors that will help you connect. And we hope you will also buy our book that really explains the rationale behind it, the book is Connection Culture; it’s available at all book outlets and we can open it up now, you can see the directions there, just email me at that address and put HRDQ Offer and include your name and email address and we will email you back a link to download the 100 Ways to Connect e-book. So, Sarah, I’d be glad to take questions now.
SARAH: Okay perfect, thank you so much. We do have about 10 minutes for that live Q and A, so attendees go ahead and submit those now to me. And while we wait for some of those to filter in I’m just going to tell you a little bit about how to keep in touch with us. You can always connect with us on social media. We are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. And also you can register for our weekly webinar Wednesdays at hrdqu.com.
It looks like we have a number of questions coming in. So, why don’t we go ahead and get started. Our first question is coming from Tom: How does this apply to different generations of employees?
MICHAEL: Well, Tom, that’s a good question. I find there is a lot of interest particularly in the millennials and what we see in the research is that in the generation that is up near retirement age, that that generation actually tends to be pretty good at connection. Now certainly there are exceptions, but we do find in the millennial generation in particular, and this was interesting, the McCann world group did a survey of 7,000 millennials a couple of years ago. They are actually redoing the survey this summer and what they found was their number one value is connection. It’s interesting to see that because, it doesn’t mean they are experiencing it, I think that’s where there is a great deal of frustration. That they have the expectation going into the workplace that they are going to experience connection, but they don’t experience it often times because the cultures they are in are not connecting and that creates this difference between expectation and reality that results in a sense of depression setting in. So, I would say just with the millennials in particular is a very high felt need for connection that is not being experienced. So, I hope that addresses, if you want to talk about that more, we can connect off-line.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. It looks like our next question is coming from Tina: Doesn’t connection have to start at the top of the organization?
MICHAEL: Well, I hear that question a lot. And, certainly that is ideal, Tina, to have the CEO, the senior leadership team that really believes in connection. One of the articles I, makes me think of an article I wrote about, the U.S. Navy in 2000 had a situation where they were not meeting their first term reenlistment goals, and Adm. Vernon Clark, the chief of Naval operations, he’s the chief of the Navy on the joint Chiefs, he was promoted from being commander of the Atlantic Fleet and within 18 months, first term reenlistment boosted from under 38% to 56.7%. The Navy had never seen anything like that in its history. It’s amazing to see just the number of things that Adm. Clark did that created connections. So, that’s one example that we see. I’d be glad to email that case study to you. But let me also point this out. That is certainly ideal, having a leader from the top who creates connections like Adm. Clark. But that usually is not the case. And when you think about the research, what we see is every organization has subcultures of control, subcultures of indifference, and subcultures of connection. And what that tells me is that it’s the subculture that matters the most. So my advice to you would be don’t worry about your CEO does. It’s certainly great if your CEO is going to create a connection culture. You want that. But the most important question culture for you is the subculture that you are in. That is the culture that you can influence and will have the greatest impact on your health, on your productivity, on your happiness at work, so, focus on improving the subculture that you are in and this 100 Ways to Connect document can really give you some tangible ways to do that.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. Our next question is coming from Cynthia: How do you encourage connections during acquisitions?
MICHAEL: Well, we actually do some post-merger culture work with organizations, and I mentioned earlier I spent a lot of my career on Wall Street and went through a number of mergers and acquisitions. First of all what we try to do in our work is number one, understand the cultures of the two organizations that are merging. We will sit down with the leadership teams and help them understand the difference and the three cultures of connection, control, and indifference, and then take their values, try to put them together in a way to cap vision for a new culture that is a connection culture. That’s the approach we take, and then also things like employee engagement surveys are important because there is going to be realignment, probably some responsibilities will change and you want to hold those managers accountable to create connection cultures. So that means you have to give employees a voice to let us know how they are doing, how their managers are doing, and then intervene in ways that are appropriate. If they needed additional training, if they need coaching or mentoring to help them create connection cultures, so be it, and in some cases just leadership changes may be necessary. So, that’s a very quick synopsis of some of the things that have to take place after a merger to result in really creating the best culture connection culture for the combined organization.
SARAH: All right, perfect, thank you. And it looks like our next question is coming from Ken: How have you been measuring or what metric have you used to demonstrate impact of connection?
MICHAEL: If you’re asking about metrics, I would refer you to the science of connection chapter in our book because it really has a very detailed articulation of how including quantitative data and peer-reviewed research that shows three things: number one, that connection does affect individual performance; number two, that connection has a positive effect on organizational performance and the number three, that our current state of connection of today is not good and getting worse. So, I would really refer you to that. There is a lot of research that supports this, but it would be hard for me to take you through that in a convincing way in a short time. So, I would really just encourage you to look deeper. And as I said that there’s a long chapter in the book that includes endnotes that would take you to the original research.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. And it looks like we have time for probably just one more question. And that one is going to be coming from Diane: What impact does ethics play in cultural connections understanding?
MICHAEL: Well, let me just say a couple of things about ethics. Number one, obviously organizations that are ethical, are, being ethical is a condition precedent to creating a connection culture. If you have leaders who are unethical it will definitely undermine connection in the organization just as it undermines trust. So, there is a high correlation between the ethics of an organization, trust, and connection. Now, the other thing, we didn’t have time to get in this webinar to character strengths and virtues, but in our work, we use 24 universal character strengths and virtues that are cited by the positive psychology movement. And what we found is that those are really components of the vision, value, voice model that I talked about earlier. And if you went to my company’s website, there are a lot of articles out there that go deeper into this, and of course the book goes deeper into it. But, there is a connection between ethics and values and character strengths that creates connection. So you’re getting a little bit deeper then we have time to get into and I think your mind is in the right place in terms of what is ultimately important is that we have character strengths and good values and ethics in organizations and that’s what creates connection. So, one piece you might take a look at that I wrote that is on epluribuspartners.com website under articles is a manifesto called Connection Culture, the Competitive Advantage of Connection Cultures. It’s the Competitive Advantage of Connection Cultures it’s the changes.com Manifesto that actually gets into that particular topic.
SARA: All right, great, those are some awesome questions. And, Mike, would you just like to add any final thoughts before I go ahead and close out the session for today then?
MICHAEL: Well, Sarah, thank you very much and thank you everyone for joining us. I really hope that people take advantage of signing up for the 100 Ways to Connect e-book because I think you’ll find that it’s very practical not only to help you create greater connection in your teams, but also it doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to think about how this will improve your connection in your family, in your community, and in other groups you are involved in. So I wish you all the very best.
SARAH: All right, Mike, thank you so much again. And, for the attendees, if we did not to answer your question, you will receive an email response probably about mid next week from those answered questions from Mike. So we appreciate your time and we hope you found today’s webinar informative. Thank you.
The low rate of employee engagement hasn’t budged in more than a decade. Why? Surveys and programs are not enough. Higher engagement is rooted in a culture whose language, attitudes and behaviors make people feel connected to one another rather than feel unsupported, left out or alone. Employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more productive, more engaged, more collaborative, and less likely to leave. In fact, research demonstrates that there is a set of learnable leadership behaviors that can ignite the workforce so individuals do more than survive- they thrive.
Join expert Michael Lee Stallard, as he describes the “connection culture” that every organization needs to boost employee engagement and to thrive for sustained periods of time.
Participants Will Learn
- 3 psychosocial cultures in the workplace
- The missing link that transforms managers into leader people want to follow
- How toxic stress sabotages performance whereas connection enhances performance
- 3 core elements of a “connection culture”
- A simple, memorable and actionable way to train managers how to create a connection culture
Who Should Attend
- Human Resources Professionals
- Organizational Development Professionals
Michael Lee Stallard
Michael Lee Stallard is President of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training and consulting firm. He speaks and teaches at a wide variety of business, government, healthcare and education organizations. Michael is the primary author of the book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity, and his most recent Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work. He writes the CEO Advisor column for FoxBusiness.com and is a regular contributor to SmartBriefs. Articles about his work have appeared in leadership periodicals worldwide. He is a faculty member of the Institute for Management Studies.
Prior to founding E Pluribus Partners, Michael was chief marketing officer for businesses at Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. Earlier in his career, Michael worked as an executive at Barclays PLC and Texas Instruments. Michael’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Illinois State University, an M.B.A. from University of Texas Permian Basin, and a J.D. from DePaul University Law School in Chicago, Illinois. He was admitted to the bar in 1991.