This post begins our series entitled “100 Ways to Connect.” The series highlights attitudes and behaviors that help you connect with others. Although the attitudes and behaviors focus on application in the workplace, you will see that they also apply to your relationships at home and in the community.
#1 Develop the Courage to Connect – It requires courage to make the effort to connect because not everyone will reciprocate. You may hold out your fist to invite a “fist bump” only find you are left hanging or you may say “hi” to a passerby and receive no response. When our efforts to connect are spurned it triggers “social pain” in our brains (the part of the brain that feels physical pain becomes active when we are left out of a group or our efforts to connect with someone are turned down). That’s why it’s necessary to be prepared by knowing that not all people will connect with us. In such cases, we need to recognize that we made the effort and had the courage to do so. Of the three core elements of a connection culture, this practice reflects “Value,” which is also known as “human value.”
Update: It’s been a busy beginning to the summer. I just returned from speaking at conferences and teaching workshops in Chicago, Dallas and New Orleans. People in attendance at the workshops represented a wide variety of organizations including Allstate, AAA, Blue Cross Blue Shield, FINRA, the U.S. Government Services Administration, Leo Burnett, Liberty Mutual, Northern Trust, and United Airlines. Recently, I also spoke with Jim Blasingame on his radio program entitled The Small Business Advocate. You can hear recordings of topics we covered during the conversation at the links below:
Who feels the most stress in the workplace?
Is there such a thing as good stress?
Practice the three V’s to reduce stress in the workplace?
Recently I was speaking at a university about the importance of connection and Connection Cultures to help students, faculty and staff thrive in institutions of higher education. After I spoke, the president of the divinity school came up to me and said I needed to see a great new comedy entitled Warm Bodies. He informed me that the movie is about mummies who are brought back to life by human connection. How great is that! Check out the trailer above. I plan the watch the movie on iTunes this weekend.
It’s been said that artists have their finger on the pulse of the culture. Warm Bodies is a case in point, even if its protagonist had no pulse to speak of.
Are you working in a “culture of connection” where you feel a sense of connection to your supervisor, your colleagues, your day-to-day job tasks, and your organization’s mission, values and reputation? A connection culture is life-giving as compared to a culture of indifference or culture of dominance that drain the life out of you. To learn more, check out the video interview I did with Michelle Pokorny of Maritz Motivation following the keynote speech I gave at the Recognition Professionals International Annual Conference in New Orleans.
It’s been said that attention is oxygen for relationships. That’s why it’s important when meeting with an individual, to develop the habit of being present by staying focused on him or her and giving your full attention. Be engaged and curious by asking questions and then ask follow-up questions to clarify. Listen carefully to words and observe facial expressions and body cues. Pause before you respond to make certain he or she has finished. Don’t check your smart phone, don’t look at your watch, don’t look around the room or let your mind wander. Develop the habit of being present during conversations and you will soon see how it improves your relationships and influence.
Update: Engagement Strategies Magazine just featured an article we wrote entitled “Do Leaders Need to Make Employees Happy?” This week I had the pleasure of giving a keynote speech on employee engagement at the Recognition Professionals Association’s annual conference in New Orleans. Later this month I’ll be speaking on inclusion and innovation at the Dallas Convention Center as part of the American Society for Training and Development’s International Exposition and Conference. We will also be exhibiting at ASTD so if you’re attending, please come visit us.
More astute observers who work with the poor see that “poverty is broken relationships” and a connection culture is required to restore human dignity, productivity and prosperity. Check out this insightful piece entitled “Restoring Broken Relationships” by Sean Dimond of Agros International. You can also hear echoes of what Sean described in Acumen’s Manifesto.
Many thanks to Riley Kiltz of Cephas Partners and Paul Michalski of the New Canaan Society for bringing these examples to my attention.
Here’s additional evidence that Connection Cultures help students thrive. Many students today are struggling with stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Tragically some students lose hope and commit suicide. A recent report by entitled Connectedness & Suicide Prevention in College Settings concluded: “in the wake of repeated suicide and suicide prevention efforts we have learned [a] valuable lesson: we should not be preventing suicide. Instead, we should be be promoting life. Research unequivocally shows that connectedness, belonging, and mattering are all linked to decreased rtes of mental illness including suicide… Colleges and university settings provide an invaluable opportunity to prevent suicide and promote thriving through active engagement in connectedness building efforts.” If you’re interested in helping prevent student suicide, check out this excellent report.
Greenwich High School (Greenwich, CT) was recognized in a New York Times article as a school in an affluent community that’s successfully integrating students from low income families. What the article misses is that a key contributor to Greenwich High School’s success is that it its Connection Culture.
The school’s headmaster, Christopher Winters, regularly talks and writes about the importance of connecting students, teachers, administrators and parents. He walks the talk, too. Chris greets students when they arrive in the morning and he easily moves about the student center connecting with students. He encourages camaraderie among teachers and administrators and encourages parental involvement.
Why do people react so strongly when they don’t have a voice in decision-making? Research suggests there is a rational biological basis for this reaction. It comes down to this: feeling that we have little or no control is detrimental to our health.
The famous Whitehall studies in the U.K. established that there was an inverse relationship between level of hierarchy, power, control, status and cardiorespiratory disease/mortality rates in members of the British Civil Service. More recently, a group of researchers found that participants in a Harvard Business School program for leaders had lower stress (as measured by cortisol levels and self-reported anxiety levels) versus people in the local community who didn’t manage others. The researchers also found that leaders with more powerful positions had even lower cortisol and self-reported anxiety. Here is a link to the published research and to a New York Times article about it entitled “It’s Easy Being King.”
Recently, I’ve sensed more people feel lonely and left out at work. With years of layoffs, those who remain carry greater workloads. This crowds out time to connect with colleagues. Managers are also stretched and have less time to connect with the people they are responsible for leading. When I ask people at the seminars I teach which element of a Connection Culture — Vision, Value or Voice — they would like to increase in their workplace culture, it’s nearly always Voice. One result of this is that there has been a decline of connection, community and the spirit of unity in organizations.
You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s why cultures in health care organizations need to be life-giving in order to energize health care workers who give so much of themselves to their patients. This is an important issue today. In some health care-related fields, as many as one-third of employees leave their jobs each year. What can be done? To learn more, read the article I wrote for the Fall 2012 Addiction and Behavioral Health Business Journal entitled, “Connection Culture: Creating a Life-Giving Environment in Health Care Organizations.”