Where were you when you first heard the news of an airliner striking World Trade Tower One on the morning of September 11, 2001? I was in my office near Times Square in Manhattan. At first I assumed it was an accident. Then came the unbelievable news that a second plane had hit Tower Two.
That night I hardly slept, concerned about the fate of people I knew who worked at the World Trade Center. In the days that followed I learned of those who did not survive the attacks and others who lost spouses, siblings, or parents.
Much has been written about September 11 since that day. One piece in particular moved me, although it came from an unlikely source. The humorist Dave Barry wrote a column about the heroism of the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 who organized the first resistance to the terrorists and the grief of those who lost loved ones who were passengers or crew on that flight.
In memory of all the innocent victims and first responders who lost their lives, and to their families and friends, here is “On Hallowed Ground.”
Check out technology critic David Pogue’s “How Ballmer Missed the Tidal Shifts in Tech” which appeared on the New York Times’ website on August 24.
I believe the most relevant question to ask in assessing Ballmer’s leadership and why Microsoft missed the tidal shifts in tech is: did Ballmer and his leadership team develop a culture of control, a culture of indifference or a “connection culture?” (These are the three types of psychosocial cultures in organizations.) Connection Cultures are required to maximize innovation, employee engagement and productivity, a case we made in our book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity.
Connecting with people requires empathy i.e. you feel the emotion another individual feels. This is different from sympathy where you recognize the emotion but don’t feel it.
In Fired Up or Burned Out, I wrote about the company Cranium and how it designs “high five moments” into its games. High five moments are times when people connect via the shared empathy of joy (remember that we define “the force of connection” as shared identity, empathy and understanding). When you are interacting with people you want to connect with, feeling and expressing emotion helps. When you feel someone’s joy or pain, it connects.
In the news
Here are a few recent articles related to connection that you might enjoy:
Walter Isaacson wrote about leadership lessons from Steve Jobs’ life for Harvard Business Review. In the article, Isaason addresses issues relevant to Connection Cultures including the elements of Vision, Value and Voice. Jobs was brilliant when it came to Vision, terrible when it came to Value and mixed win it came to Voice. Fortunately, there are other members of Apple’s senior leadership team whose strengths helped overcome Jobs’ weaknesses.
David Brooks just wrote a column for The New York Times entitled “The Relationship School” that touches on aspects of Connection Cultures in schools.
The Atlantic had a piece entitled “Stress Makes You Sick: Exploring the Immune System Connection.” The article explores how stress weakens the human immune system and mentions the link between stress and connection. (Remember I shared with you that recent research over a 20-year period showed people who work in cultures with supportive relationships had mortality rates that were 2.4 times lower than people who worked in cultures with weak relational support. This supports the longstanding view that lifestyles with little relational support produce chronic stress will kill you.)
While teaching seminars on leadership and Connection Cultures at the Darden Graduate School of Business, Professor Marian Moore introduced me to the work of her colleague Jonathan Haidt, a social psychology professor at the University of Virginia. Haidt just wrote The Righteous Mind. Here’s a well-written review of the book entitled “Why Won’t They Listen?” The book review clearly shows it addresses issues related to the Connection Culture elements of Value and Voice. I’ve ordered a copy but not read it yet.
Finally, I recently spoke with Jim Blasingame about the competitive advantage of culture on his nationally syndicated radio program entitled “Small Business Advocate” that you can hear at this link. Also, I wrote an article on the “Science of Engagement” for Training Industry Quarterly.
My friend David Burkus at LeaderLab is working with the University of Oklahoma on research to assess ethics in the workplace. Please consider participating in David’s survey by clicking here.
I’m encouraged to see more leaders recognize that individuals and organizations need connection to thrive. Here’s a video of Polly LaBarre at MIX interviewing Ivy Ross, Gap’s Chief Innovation Officer, about the need for connection to innovate. To learn more about “Connection Cultures” download the Connection Culture Manifesto published by changethis.com. You can go even deeper into Connection Cultures by signing up for my new quarterly email newsletter after which you will receive an email that contains a link to a free download of Fired Up or Burned Out, the book that introduced Connection Cultures.
“…while there are indeed great, often unfathomable forces in history before which even the most exceptional of individuals seem insignificant, the wonder is how often events turn upon a single personality, or the quality we call character.”
— Historian David McCullough
“Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there.”
— Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This morning I’ll be a guest on my friend Jim Blasingame’s Small Business Advocate radio show. Jim and I will talk about developing character strengths in your business such as passion for excellence and beauty, kindness, persistence, creativity and citizenship. Strength of character makes us better leaders in business, government, education and the social sector. It also makes us better human beings.
On the show I will mention downloads available on my blog. Here they are below:
List of the Character Strengths and Virtues
Character > Connection> Thrive Chain
Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity.
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.
…it takes character to keep you there. John Wooden, the late legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach once stated this in so many words.
Wooden’s observation came to mind when I read a New York Times‘ article today entitled “The Day the Patriots Empire Began to Crumble.” The article argued that the Patriot’s lost their lustre when its coach, Bill Belichick, was caught cheating.
Over the years, the leaders of the Patriots, Coach Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, did so many things right. I wrote about many of them in a chapter Fired Up or Burned Out. Belichick’s cheating, however, diminished one of the three elements of a Connection Culture: the element of “Vision.” The element of Vision exists when everyone in an organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values and proud of the reputation. Belichick’s cheating was not in keeping with the Patriot’s core values. It also tarnished the organization’s reputation. the cheating caused players and fans lost some of their respect for Belichick and the Patriots. They were not longer felt as proud to say they were members of the Patriots’ organization. Pride in one’s identity is emotional in nature and research shows that emotional connections are 4X as important as rational factors when it comes to the amount of effort people put in their work. The Patriots lost some of that emotional connection and as a result their players have not been as fired up as they once were.
Hopefully, Belichick learned a lesson and in time can gain back the connection, respect and trust he once had.