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.

At Google, Starbucks (and Life Outside of Work), Success = Connection


The New York Times has had a number of great articles related to connection and how it leads to success at work and in life.  In an article about what Google discovered from Project Oxygen, a rigorous study of its successful managers, Laszlo Bock, the leader of the study stated:

“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you…It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.” (italics mine)

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.”

Developing Connections When People are Geographically Remote

At the heart of building community is developing a bond of connection among the members of a group. In other words, when the members of a group feel positive emotions related to being understood, respected, appreciated, and included by their group’s leaders and fellow members, it forms a bond that strengthens cooperation and commitment among group members.

Emotions are important to organizational effectiveness. Research by the Corporate Executive Board has shown that emotional factors are four times as effective as rational factors when it comes to the amount of effort employees put in their work. Emotional factors include how an employee feels about his organization’s identity and the people he works with whereas rational factors include what an employee thinks about his compensation.

Typically, an organization’s managers and stars feel emotionally connected while three-quarters of all employees do not. What happens to those who don’t feel connected? They stop caring. They stop giving their best efforts. They stop fully communicating and, as a result, decision-makers don’t get the information they need to make optimal decisions. This disconnection results in a gradual spiraling down of performance that may eventually threaten an organization’s survival.

Connection is grounded in human needs. I’ve found that two of these needs, recognition and belonging, can be partially met through participation in online communities. The need for recognition is in our DNA. It’s almost as if we have a “recognition battery” that needs to be charged regularly but the curious aspect of this battery is that its plug-in is located at a spot on our back that we can’t quite reach. As such, we rely on the people around us to charge our recognition battery. If it’s charged, we are energized; if not, we become drained and lose energy.

In addition to recognition, we have a need to feel that we belong to a group — to be in a place where “everyone knows your name,” as the popular theme song of the old comedy television show Cheers stated. Positive interactions on a regular basis with members of a group bring about this feeling of belonging.

There are a number of online capabilities that organizations can put place to help meet the needs for recognition and belonging, and bring about feelings of connection.

Online Personal Profiles that allow people to express their personal identities through posting photographs, hobbies and interests outside of work provide recognition. When co-workers inevitably comment on these personal expressions of identity, it provides recognition and a sense of belonging that makes people feel more connected. Giving employees a place to express who they really are helps them avoid feelings of isolation that occur when they begin to feel like cogs in a machine. Also related to personal identity are affinity groups such as book clubs and alumni groups. These groups can be encouraged and supported with online intranet websites and social media that increase connection among people with shared interests outside of work.

Social Media can be used to inform employees and invite them into conversations about corporate issues. Leaders who mine the resulting body of content for good ideas, implement them, and give credit where credit is due will discover that this helps employees feel more connected. This practice will also improve decision-making and innovation as decision makers gain access to new information and participants to identify new business opportunities, process improvements and product possibilities.

Podcasts and Webcasts are helpful tools to facilitate connection by reaching employees who have visual and auditory learning styles. They can also be used to increase awareness of thought leaders and experts in an organization. For example, Polly Pearson, former Vice President of Employment Brand and Strategy Engagement at EMC, interviewed thought leaders and experts on an internal webcast entitled “Culture Talk.” Polly helped several EMC employees to become internal bloggers and eventually to blog externally. As a result, EMC developed more than 40 bloggers.

These are but a few of the online means that can be utilized to foster connection among the members of an organization. By helping everyone to feel connected, organizations will increase the employee engagement, strategic alignment, productivity, innovation and overall performance.

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.

Cartoon Boosts “Voice” in U.S. Military

Doctrin ManDoctrine Man,” a popular cartoon on facebook, has, in essence, become a means to boost the Connection Culture element of Voice in the U.S. Military.  It’s odd, I know, but it’s working.  To learn more, read this New York Times article entitled “Masked Military Man is Superhero for Troops.”

Earlier, Jason, Carolyn and I wrote an article about the element of Voice (also know as “Knowledge Flow”) for the award-winning Perdido magazine that you can read at this link.  Voice exists in an organization when everyone seeks the ideas and opinions of other, shares their opinions honestly and safeguards relational connections. Voice reflects a culture that values humility, open-mindedness, curiosity, continuous learning and experimentation.

Voice strengthens organizations in three ways.  First, it boosts employee engagement when people are informed and have their ideas and opinions considered. Second, decision makers make better decisions when they learn from the ideas and opinions of others.  Third, a culture that has a high degree of sharing opinions and ideas creates a marketplace of ideas that fuels innovation.

With those benefits in mind, I say to Doctrine Man, whoever he may be, live long and prosper!

Do Women Bring More Happiness to Families, Greater Effectiveness to Organizations?

A participant in a recent session Jason Pankau and I were teaching on Connection Cultures and employee engagement shared that she connects with her sons by talking about sports. She follows sports, not out of a love for it, but because it  gives her a language to connect with her boys. By contrast, her conversations with women tend to be about what happens in their day-to-day lives.

Her comments reminded me of a recent article in The New York Times entitled “Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier.” The article noted research has concluded families with sisters are happier.   The article’s author believes this is true because women initiate and sustain conversations more than men.

This is consistent with my own personal observations.