US Navy and U2: What Connection?

The US Navy and U2 in the same article! Huh?

That’s right.  It’s true. Check it out for yourself.

The Leader to Leader Institute just posted an article on its website that Jason Pankau and I wrote for the Summer edition of the Leader to Leader Journal. The article features the stories of the US Navy’s former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Vern Clark, and Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2.  The article is about the topic of connecting with “core employees” to boost strategic alignment, employee engagement, productivity and innovation.  Here is a link to the article entitled “To Boost Performance, Connect with the Core.”

Develop Loyalty: Connect with Your Customers

Now for something completely different! InDesign magazine asked me to write an article about what I might do if I owned a jewelry store. I would be following a similar article written by Ivanka Trump (who actually owns a jewelry store).

It should come as no surprise that I immediately saw this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of the force of connection and how it contributes to the success of retail businesses. Here’s a link to the article entitled “If I Owned a Jewelry Store.”

Friedman, Seidman on Character & Connection

Here is an outstanding session from the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival where Dov Seidman and Tom Friedman discuss the importance of individual and corporate character in a connected world. I was fortunate to attend the first Aspen Institute Ideas Festival some years back where it seemed all the speakers touched on the issue of connection. In a future blog post, I plan to share some of my thoughts related to connection that I recorded in my personal journal following that event.

Trifecta: Top Leadership Blogs, Top Online Influencers on Leadership, Alltop Leadership

Top Leadership Blog
Online MBA Rankings

Forgive me for this self indulgent, celebratory post. Recently, I learned that was recognized as one of the top ten blogs on leadership by an organization that ranks blogs. Earlier this year, our blog received a similar honor from
Jurgen Noop.  It was my good fortune to also recently be recognized by HR Examiner as a “Top 25 Online Influencer on Leadership.” (You can learn more about it at this link as well as in a podcast about the online influencer list with Peter Clayton of Total Picture Radio.)  To top it off, was just added  to Guy Kawasaki’s Leadership Blogs List.   (I would do a dance over all this good news but my teenage daughters would laugh up-roariously at the ridiculous sight of their father dancing.)

Obama’s Good Call: Replacing Disrespectful Leader with One Known for Competence and Character

We teach leaders to hold “Knowledge Flow Sessions” to hear the opinions and ideas of others; doing so will help leaders make optimal decisions. We also teach leaders that disrespectful behavior is intolerable because it reduces “Human Value” in a culture, and leaders and/or individual contributors who exhibit disrespectful behavior need to be removed from the organization if they fail to change.

President Obama’s recent action to replace General Stanley McChrystal is an excellent example.   Here is an article about President Obama’s decision-making process and here is the Rolling Stone magazine article entitled “The Runaway General” that brings General McChrystal’s character into question.  Replacing McChrystal with General David Patraeus was also wise. Whereas McChrystal’s leadership style brought compliance out of fear, General Patraeus by all accounts appears to have the competence and character necessary to inspire the best efforts and aligned behavior of the soldiers he now leads.

If you are a leader or aspire to be one, ask yourself if you have developed the competence and character necessary to inspire others to follow you? In terms of character, you should reflect on whether or not your behavior reflects the following character strengths:

  • Persistence
  • Perspective/Wisdom
  • Purpose
  • Work Ethic
  • Hope/Optimism
  • Citizenship
  • Love of Learning
  • Bravery/Courage
  • Integrity
  • Prudence
  • Curiosity
  • Open Mindedness
  • Kindness
  • Love of People
  • Fairness
  • Self-Control
  • Forgiveness/Mercy
  • Gratitude
  • Humor
  • Humility/Modesty
  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence.

Which of these character strengths are most important to your success?  Which character strengths need more focus?  Now take action by finding a mentor or coach you respect and who will help you develop these character strengths.

For more on Knowledge Flow and Human Value see articles we published entitled “Encouraging Knowledge Flow” and “Strengthening Human Value in Organizational Cultures.”

The Role of Business in the Pursuit of Happiness

Delivering Happiness is the rare book that gives us an inside look at one individual’s journey to find happiness and as a leader in business. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, has written a thoughtful account of what he has learned from experiences in life, in business and from his studies of the fast growing field of positive psychology.

I highly recommend this book to leaders and others who want to see what an engaging work environment — or “Connection Culture” as I’ve described it in my writings — looks like. Not only will you learn about Hsieh’s thinking, you’ll see how he puts ideas into action.

Research: Employee Engagement = Connections


This month Jason Pankau and I will be speaking to leaders at
NASA’s Johnson Space CenterJohnson & Johnson, the Internal Revenue Service and to church leaders at LifeSpring Network’s Conference on Connection Culture & Discipleship.

In recent presentations, we’ve emphasized the importance of research from The Conference Board that concluded after studying 30 definitions of employee engagement used by consulting firms, the best definition is as follows:

“Employee engagement is a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or coworkers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”

This definition is consistent with our research at E Pluribus Partners where we frequently heard respondents use the terms “connect” or “feel connected”  to describe the emotions they experience in relation to their organization’s identity, the people they work with and their day-to-day work.

In our book Fired Up or Burned Out and in The Connection Culture Manifesto, we identify and describe the “force of connection” as

“a bond based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves self-centered individuals toward group-centered membership.”

After defining connection, we identify the “Connection Culture” as an environment producing emotional and rational connections that, as The Conference Board’s definition says, “influences [people] to apply discretionary effort to [their] work.”

The Connection Culture meets universal human needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth and meaning. When these needs are met, people thrive individually and collectively. The Connection Culture is ultimately grounded in character strengths and virtues.  Learn more by reading the manifesto or go even deeper by reading our book.  For the latest developments and examples about how to boost connection, stay tuned to blog posts here and consider following my tweets on

Sustainable Organizations: The Ideas of Martin Seligman

In an earlier post, I wrote that the ideas of thought-leader Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN and author of How, are likely to have a profound effect on organizations in the years to come. In this second post on thought leaders affecting the evolution of organizations, I highlight the work of Martin Seligman.

Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, founded the positive psychology movement when he became president of the American Psychological Association.  There isn’t adequate space in this post to provide an overview of positive psychology, so for those who are interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading an article co-authored by Seligman entitled “Positive Psychology: An Introduction” and a New York Times’ Magazine article entitled “Happiness 101” that describes how the positive psychology movement is growing.

Positive psychology has identified 24 character strengths that it believes — and a growing body of research shows — affect human flourishing. These character strengths are universal. Religious thinkers and moral philosophers throughout the ages have advocated them. Political, social and economic cultures that have been sustained for long periods of time have these values and systems that don’t (i.e. coercive utopian systems such as communism and fascism), fail because the  values they promote work against human flourishing.

Our research at E Pluribus Partners identified a “Character > Connection > Thrive Chain” (see below)  that posits organizations and individuals thrive because they are comprised of people who embrace and behave in ways that reflect the character strengths and in doing so create “Connection Cultures” which meet universal human needs such as meaning, respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy and personal growth. Learn more about positive psychology and the Character >Connection>Thrive Chain on pages 116-130 of the free digital book download of Fired Up or Burned Out.

Recent research from The Conference Board and the Corporate Executive Board make it clear that employee engagement is at dismal levels but eventually leaders will discover that embracing and behaving in ways that reflect the 24 character strengths creates Connection Cultures and develops the corporate character strengths necessary to produce sustainable organizations.

(To enlarge the diagram below, click on it once until it appears then click on it a second time for an enlarged version.)