To Reinforce Connection, Replenish the Vision

Group of People Raising Arms in Excitement #18 Replenish the Vision - Vision leaks, so look for ways to keep your organization and team’s mission, values and reputation in front of your team. Take employees out to visit customers or bring customers in to talk with employees about how they use your products or services and how it benefits them. Keep up with articles and press releases on your organization then circulate those that reinforce the mission, values and reputation.

This is the eighteenth post in our series entitled “100 Ways to Connect.” The series highlights language, attitudes and behaviors that help you connect with others. Although the language, 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.

Leaders: Use stories to help achieve sustainable superior performance

Franklin D. Roosevelt TIME Man of the Year 1933 Color PhotoDuring World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt traveled to Seattle, Wash., to meet with 18,000 aircraft workers at Boeing Corporation. FDR brought with him a young airplane pilot named Hewitt Wheless from Texas.

The pilot had escaped death, thanks to the resilience of the bullet-riddled B-17 plane he flew out of harm’s way. His plane had been built at that very Boeing plant.

Do you think seeing and hearing that young pilot thank them for saving his life connected them to a common cause? You bet it did.

Although the work required for America to catch up to the output of the Nazi military-industrial complex was daunting, Americans rose to the challenge by persevering through long, hard hours of menial factory work.

FDR’s visits helped transform welders and riveters into freedom fighters. From 1941 until 1945 American aircraft companies out-produced the Nazis three to one and built nearly 300,000 airplanes.

People remember stories. Effective leaders like FDR identify and communicate stories to inspire people. Here are three key points to consider when using stories to enthuse, engage and energize people.

1. Connect People with Your Vision

Identify and tell stories about the people your organization serves. This keeps people focused on the importance of your vision. Many healthcare organizations do this by sharing the stories of how their work helped former patients and their families. To see examples, check out the videos of patient stories on New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s website. The stories you’ll see don’t always have happy endings but they are very effective at communicating the importance of their work.

2. Connect People with Your Leadership Values

Leaders should be open about telling their own stories to connect people with their leadership values.

Once when I was teaching a leadership workshop in Manhattan, a dozen or so leaders from New York-Presbyterian Hospital were present. I learned that New York-Presbyterian employees knew a story about the hospital’s longtime CEO Dr. Herb Pardes (now retired) that explained why he was passionate about valuing people and being intentional about connecting with patients and their families.

As a seven-year old boy, Pardes was hospitalized for several months with Perthes disease. During this time he underwent medical procedures administered by aloof healthcare professionals. Hospital policies during those years restricted the time young Herb could spend with his family, time that would have reduced the stress, anxiety and sadness he felt. The trauma he experienced from a period of hospitalization that isolated him from warm, supportive and loving relationships transformed Pardes’ life and instilled in him a drive to reform the delivery of healthcare.

The people at New York-Presbyterian knew Dr. Pardes’ story. His passion inspired them and it reinforced why valuing and being intentional about connecting with people is so important.

3. Live Your Leadership Values

Make sure you live your leadership values to reinforce them. Think of it this way: With words and deeds you are adding to or diminishing the narrative of the story that supports your mission and values.

Through his words and deeds, Dr. Pardes sent an unambiguous message about a paramount value at New York-Presbyterian. He was regularly seen making bedside visits to patients and their families. Although many CEOs of huge organizations would see this as inefficient, Dr. Pardes understood that walking the talk sent a powerful message.

In addition to taking time to connect with patients and their families, Dr. Pardes said in interviews with publications and in presentations that he wanted to be sure that the doctors and nurses at New York-Presbyterian are caring individuals and that they are happy at work. He advocated that everyone should have personal and professional mentors and he strived to help his employees balance their personal lives and professional growth. To extend the feeling of connection outward, he encouraged staff members to memorize the names of not only patients but the patients’ family members as well.

Led by Dr. Pardes from 2000 until 2011, the inspired people of New York-Presbyterian propelled their hospital to be recognized as one of the top hospitals in America for patient care, management and consistent profitability.

When you: 1. Connect people with your vision, 2. Connect people with your leadership values, and 3. Live your leadership values, it engages, enthuses and energizes employees so they give their best efforts and do the long and hard work necessary to achieve sustainable superior performance.

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Your career will soar if you avoid leaders’ #1 blind spot

Many leaders unknowingly sabotage their careers by wrongly assuming their employees are actively engaged in their work.

This lack of understanding about engagement — enthusiasm, effort and enjoyment at work — will eventually affect the bottom line and make the leader look ineffective.

Here are the facts: The average leader engages only three out of every 10 employees. The best leaders engage six or more out of every 10 employees.

Your customers clearly see whether your employees are engaged or not. Engagement affects the quality of their work, their productivity and responsiveness, all of which affect your customers’ experience.  They feel employees’ enthusiasm and energy — or lack thereof — and recognize the bad results of an organization with overall morale problems. Employee engagement matters. 

Neutralize “Killer Stress” to Boost the Bottom Line

Who experiences greater levels of stress: management or employees? Managers seem to think they do, but hard research data makes it clear: Employees experience greater stress, and that affects the company’s bottom line.

It doesn’t have to be that way: Effective leaders can create an organizational culture that reduces “killer stress” and encourages “challenge stress,” which produces gains in productivity and performance.

Despite its reputation, all stress is not bad. What we call “challenge stress,” actually stimulates people to perform at their best.

“Killer stress,” is the kind that comes from feeling like you don’t have control over your work. Killer stress is unhealthy and in many individuals triggers fight, flight, freeze or stalking behavior — not what good leaders want to find in their organizations.

Here are three actions you can take to reduce killer stress, increase challenge stress and boost your company’s bottom line. 

Say “Hi” and “Bye”

#5 – Say Hi and Bye - When you enter a room and it’s appropriate given the context and number of people present, greet people by name.  When you leave their presence, say goodbye.  Not saying hi and/or bye, runs the risk of giving someone the impression that you are indifferent to them.  (This practice reflects the Connection Culture element of Value.)

This is the fifth post in 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.

Update: Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks North America and Starbucks International, and I co-authored an article entitled “Leadership Myopia” that appears in the August edition of Leadership Excellence alongside articles by well known leadership experts Gary Hamel, Marshall Goldsmith and Patrick Lencioni.    On October 10, I will give a keynote speech at the Retailing Summit held in Dallas, Texas.  The Retailing Summit is a premiere event for senior leaders in retail.  This year’s conference includes Karen Katz, President and CEO of Nieman Marcus, Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop, Duncan Mac Naughtan, EVP, Chief Merchandising & Marketing Officer for Wal-Mart U.S. and Graham Atkinson, CMO & Chief Experience Officer of Walgreens.

French Hero of the American Revolution


Since today is Bastille Day, I’m posting the chapter from
Fired Up or Burned Out entitled “French Hero of the American Revolution.”  The subject of the chapter, Lafayette, was a key figure in both the American and French revolutions, and by his action he helped create and sustain Connection Cultures where cultures of dominance or indifference formerly existed.

French Hero of the American Revolution

Visiting historical sites in the state of Virginia, you might be surprised to see recurring tributes to a Frenchman whose name and story remain unknown to most Americans today.1 At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s hilltop home near Charlottesville, you’ll find a portrait and sculpted bust of the Frenchman. At Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home on the Potomac River, you’ll learn that Washington thought of him as a son, and you will find the key to the Bastille on display, sent by the Frenchman to Washington after he ordered the notorious Paris prison torn down during the French Revolution. Perhaps most surprising of all, in the Hall of Presidents beneath the rotunda of the Virginia capitol where a statue of George Washington and busts of the other seven Virginia-born presidents reside, you’ll find a bust of the Frenchman who was neither a president nor born in Virginia.

Across America hundreds of landmarks are named after him. Every year on Independence Day, the American ambassador to France travels to his gravesite in Paris to replace the American flag that flies over it. The gravesite is unusual in France for the Frenchman’s casket and that of his wife lie beneath soil taken from Bunker Hill outside Boston, Massachusetts, the site of one of the first battles in the Revolutionary War.

As you might guess, this Frenchman was far from ordinary. His name is Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, more commonly known as the Marquis de Lafayette. 

100 Ways to Connect: Develop the Courage to Connect

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?

Former Cab Driver Helps Liberate WWII France

After American and British troops took control of the beaches on D-Day, they got stuck in France’s hedgerow country. Sergeant Curtis Cullen, a former cab driver from Chicago, came up with an innovation that General Omar Bradley, commander of America’s First Army, credited with helping to liberate France.  Watch the video to learn about this extraordinary story of innovation and the leaders and culture that made it all possible.

Your Work Culture: Live-Giving or Killing You?

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.

Attention is Oxygen for Relationships

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.