World Vision Connects!


One of the relief organizations my wife and I support is World Vision. These people are AMAZING and they do remarkable work that Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times raved about in a
recent column he wrote.

What I love about World Vision is that they are a force for connection.  They connect their employees, volunteers and donors with people in desperate need around the world. The result is a fired up organization that is making a difference.

The last two evenings I served as a volunteer to help out with the World Vision AIDS Experience that is presently in Greenwich, Connecticut through next Sunday. The experience takes you on a journey to see the lives of four African children affected by aids. The stories are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Everyone attending said they were moved and inspired.  Many become child sponsors or purchase a kit or bycycle to help one of the 77,000 World Vision Caregivers in 20 countries. (You can learn more about attending at no cost, which I very highly recommend, by clicking here.)

IMG_1387While volunteering, I met Kristin, an enthusiastic, motivated, bright young World Vision employee.   Speaking with Kristen made me see how well World Vision connects its workers and donors with those who are in need, not only financially to meet their needs for clean water, health care and education, but also relationally. Here’s an example.  At the end of the World Vision AIDS Experience, donors can sit down in an area where materials are available to write a letter (or, for very young donors, to color a picture) that is sent to the donor’s newly sponsored child.  Notice in the picture at top, above the young girl writing a letter to her sponsored child is a sign that says “Connect with Your Child.” How great is that!  Our family has connected with our child in Rwanda by periodically writing and sending gifts to her, and we’ve received letters in return.

As you may know, my blog is primarily about the power of connection in organizations and in life as part of what I refer to as a “Connection Culture” that I wrote about in Fired Up or Burned Out. World Vision’s ways are relevant to all organizations, including for-profit corporations. World Vision is more effective because they are intentional about connecting people to a cause greater than self and in doing so the people who are part of World Vision want to give their best efforts and align their behavior with the organization’s goals. Just to mention it, another benefit from connection that accrues to philanthropic organizations was identified in recent research conducted by Indiana University.  The research identified the #1 reason people stop giving to a philanthropic organization is they no longer felt connected.

How is your organization doing connecting your employees and customers to a cause greater than self?  If you don’t know, get some of your most fired up employees together and ask them “when have you felt proud about your organization” and after they tell you ask them to explain “why they felt proud?”. You will hear stories that will help you identify ways you can fire up people by connecting them to a cause greater than self.

Employee Engagement Network Webinar and Slides

Employee Engagement and Connection from David Zinger on Vimeo.

Yesterday David Zinger and I held a webinar on Employee Engagement and Connection.  You can see a recording of the webinar above and here is a link to the slides used during the webinar.

The webinar was hosted by the Employee Engagement Network, a 3,500 member online community founded by David.  It was my good fortune to be the first speaker for the Employee Engagement Network’s inaugural webinar! If you are not a member of the Employee Engagement network already, I want to encourage you to join.  David will be the host for future webinars on employee engagement-related topics that you will not want to miss.

Video Interview: Employee Engagement = Connections

Here is a video from YouTube of a conversation I had about leadership, employee engagement, productivity and innovation with Dr. Homer Erekson, Dean of TCU’s Neeley School of Business.  Our conversation occurred as part of the Tandy Executive Speakers Series.

George Washington, Worthy of Praise?


Today is Presidents’ Day in the U.S., a day in which we primarily celebrate our first president, George Washington. After reading the article “George Washington’s Tear Jerker” in The New York Times, one might ask, was Washington really the great leader he has been made out to be?  I asked myself that question during the summer of 2002 and began a journey to unpack truth from myth.  I went as far as contacting and speaking with Edward Lengel, the foremost historian on Washington’s generalship.  After doing my own research I wrote the following which became one of the chapters on 20 leaders in Fired Up or Burned Out.

First in Their Hearts

Richard Neustadt, Presidential Scholar at Harvard University, observed the following about George Washington: “It wasn’t his generalship that made him stand out . . . It was the way he attended to and stuck by his men. His soldiers knew that he respected and cared for them, and that he would share their severe hardships.”

Coach Rex Ryan Connects with Jets


Check out this great article entitled “Channelling Churchill, Ryan Inspires His Team” on New York Jets’ football coach Rex Ryan  The article makes several important points that support the conclusion we came to from our research on leaders who produce sustainable superior performance.  Our research concluded that sustainable superior performance comes when leaders develop task excellence and relationship excellence.  Rex Ryan is doing this by connecting with his players on both emotional and rational levels. He connects rationally by communicating and leading his team to implement effective strategy and tactics.  This produces “task excellence.”  Ryan’s passion and authenticity helps him connect on an emotional level.  This helps produce “relationship excellence.” Ryan communicates simple, relevant and memorable themes with phrases such as “burn the boats” and “how dare you?” He tells memorable stories to illustrate his points.

The Jets are a decent team but not a great team, yet.  They just pulled off a big playoff win by defeating the Indianapolis Colts.  Given what I’m seeing, I expect the Jets are on the rise as Rex Ryan and team continue to develop a Connection Culture with Vision, Value and Voice.

How Solitude Shapes Great Leaders

Take time to read this thoughtful speech entitled Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz given to this year’s plebe class at West Point. He describes how great leaders develop the courage of their convictions, which includes moral courage. Reflection, time alone with one’s thoughts, interactions with trusted friends and reading great books, as Deresiewicz says, are part of the mix.  What he didn’t adequately include is the impact of one’s experiences in life including one’s family of origin and periods of adversity and suffering that breed humility.  Despite its shortcomings, it’s a fine speech and well worth taking time to read.

Many thanks to David Books of The New York Times for bringing this thoughtful speech to my attention.  Brook’s recognized Deresiewicz’s speech as one of the best pieces of long journalism written in 2010.

Connection Cultures on Gary Hamel’s MIX

Recently I was delighted to see two great case studies written by good friends of mine appeared on Gary Hamel’s MIX.  Both case studies reflect elements of the Connection Culture that I wrote about in Fired Up or Burned Out.  The first case study written by Deborah Mills-Scofield is entitled “The 160-year old Startup.” The second case study written by Drew Williams is entitled “Restoring Faith in the Institution: How Mission Shaped Communities Revitalized St. Andrews.”  I encourage you to check them out!

Pixar’s Competitive Advantage? A Connection Culture


At the Technical Academy Awards ceremonies held in Hollywood, the Associated Press reported that it wasn’t the host, actress Jessica Biel, who attracted the most attention. Instead, it was an understated, bespectacled, computer engineer named Ed Catmull. When Catmull’s name was announced to receive an Oscar for his lifetime of work in computer animation, the crowd went wild, whistling and whooping. And rightly so. The impact Catmull and his collaborators have had on Hollywood may last for decades to come.

Ed Catmull is the president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. He has rejected the traditional Hollywood star system and its often toxic work environment and replaced it with an environment that emphasizes community and long-term relationships. Catmull described it this way in a Harvard Business Review article he wrote: “[Pixar has] an environment that nurtures trusting and respectful relationships and unleashes everyone’s creativity…the result is a vibrant community where talented people are loyal to one another and their collective work, everyone feels that they are part of something extraordinary, and their passion and accomplishments make the community a magnet for talented people…”

What is it about Pixar’s environment that attracts talented employees and helps them produce outstanding movies such as the blockbuster hits Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E that have made Pixar the envy of Hollywood?

Free Linkage Leadership Webinars

Linkage Logo

Jason Pankau and I spoke on a webinar for Linkage about maximizing employee engagement and alignment.  You can see the 60-minute webinar
at this link.  You may also be interested in other free webinars offered by Linkage at this link.

Free Download: Best-Selling Book on Leadership, Employee Engagement

For those of you on today’s webinar and readers of the articles Jason Pankau and I write for, here is a link to sign up for our email newsletter and receive a free digital version of our book Fired Up or Burned Out. (Note: To save it on your computer you will need to click on your browser’s “file” and “save as” menu options.)