From Boston, to West, TX to the NCAA Final

Connection is the bond among individuals in a group that moves them to care for and help the group and its members.  The power of human connection to unite, inspire and heal has been on full display of late in West, Texas; Boston; and at the NCAA men’s basketball final.  To learn more, check out the articles below.

West, Texas’s Small Town Values — and People — are Anything But Small (USA Today)

Boston Bombing Followed by Stories of Kindness and Heroism (Washington Post)

Brothers, Champions: The Secret Sauce Behind Louisville’s Third Title (Sports Illustrated)

To the people of Boston and West, Texas and to Kevin Ware, Louisville’s reserve guard who suffered a devastating injury, our thoughts and prayers are with you.



One Easy Way to Be Happier

Americans are connection deprived. A quarter of Americans live alone and the number of Americans who haven’t had a conversation with a best friend over the previous six months has tripled since 1985 to nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population.  This also likely means Americans are running low on oxytocin, a molecule that is associated with empathy, trust, morality and connection.

To learn more about oxytocin, check out Paul Zak’s fascinating TED lecture.  Here are just a few interesting points he makes:

  • Oxytocin is found only in mammals
  • Massage, dancing, sex, social media and praying boost oxytocin
  • Empathy boosts oxytocin and, as a result, increases moral behavior
  • Con artists learn to manipulate oxytocin levels in people
  • Sexual abuse, stress and testosterone inhibit oxytocin production
  • Weddings cause the release of oxytocin, especially in the bride and her mother
  • The easiest way to boost oxytocin is to hug someone
  • Zak prescribes eight hugs a day boost your oxytocin levels and make you happier

Hopefully, one of the above points catches your attention so that you’ll take time to watch the lecture.  It’ll be 20 minutes well spent.

When a Psychopath Inhabits the C-Suite

This post is a continuance of my prior post on evil in organizational cultures.

The “dark triad” — psychopaths, narcissists and machiavellians — represents a small part of the population. What unties this group of destructive personalities is that they lack empathy for other human beings and care only about themselves. Some end up in correctional institutions while others end up in leadership positions where they create dog-eat-dog cultures or cultures that are indifferent to human beings (this is opposed to Servant Leaders who create “Connection Cultures”).

For some interesting thoughts on psychopaths in the C-suite, see this post by Larry Kahaner of the McGowan Fund and the link in his post to an article entitled “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” that appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics.  The book and movie entitled The Corporation make the argument that organizations that care only about profit have effectively become psychopathic.

The way to keep members of the dark triad out of positions of leadership and out of organizations is to educate everyone so that they understand what a healthy culture is, how it’s based on character strengths and virtues, and how organizations develop people with both character and competence.  One project we are working on with Scotiabank is creating a monthly piece for leaders entitled Leading with Character. Each month’s piece highlights a particular character strength, explains how it’s relevant to the organization and how to strengthen one’s leadership in ways that reflect the character strength.  If you are interested in learning more, please email me at or call me at 203-422-6511.

Five Languages of Appreciation at Work

Five languages of appreciation at work

Let me tell you about a new book that I’m recommending to leaders. It makes a great book for your leaders to read together as part of a book group.

Human Value is one of the elements of a Connection Culture that I teach leaders to create if they want to engage the people they lead to give their best efforts.  The definition of Human Value is when everyone in the organization understands the needs of people, appreciates them for their positive, unique contributions and helps them achieve their potential.  As the definition states, appreciation is essential.

Unfortunately, appreciation is frequently expressed in a language that is foreign to the individual on the receiving end.  This is a source of frustration when one individual expresses appreciation in his or her language (which is usually the case) and the recipient experiences appreciation in a different language.  Learning to express appreciation in ways that resonate with people is an important skill for all human beings, and especially for leaders.

Recent Media Appearances

Here is a link to the article I wrote about Starbucks. The article is entitled “Have a Heart.”  It was published in Outlook Business for Decision Makers, a leading business magazine in India. In addition, below are links to three segments of a radio interview I did yesterday morning with Jim Blasingame, host of the nationally syndicated Small Business Advocate program.

The Heart of Starbucks’ CEO

A leader I know and much admire is Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks North America and Starbucks International. Howard tells about the time 14 years ago this month when he received a call in the middle of the night at his home in Seattle alerting him that three Starbucks employees at the Georgetown store in Washington, D.C. had been shot and killed, including an 18-year who had just recently begun at Starbucks, his first job.   Behar immediately called Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, who was in New York on vacation at the time.

What Schultz didn’t do, says a lot about his character.  He didn’t call Starbucks’ public relations people or lawyers.  Instead, Schultz chartered a plane and headed straight to Washington, D.C.  When he arrived, he spoke with the police then proceeded to the store to get the addresses of the three murdered Starbucks employees. He went to each of their homes, told their families he was sorry and shared in their tears.

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.”