Sections of this topic

    Last week I worked with a group of telecom executives navigating Adaptive Change, change that is complex and unpredictable. During the check-in and check-out the challenge of connecting came up. So, close your door, ignore the phone, and let’s explore connecting.

    Connecting with others requires that we first connect with ourselves. This means being present and mindful, fully embodied in the moment. When connected to ourselves we tap into our positive core – our strengths, positivity, and deep trust – which allows us to engage with the world from a stance of curiosity, inquiry, and experimentation. In a mindful state we are open to new ideas and perspectives[1]. Positivity broadens our perceptions so that we see more possibilities and are able to imagine solutions to challenges that arise[2]. Being present and embodied we are in touch with our emotions and intuition as fleeting internal and external signals help us make meaning of the situation[3]. In this way we are poised to embrace the future rather than relive the past.

    If connecting with ourselves leaves us aware, resourceful, and resilient connecting with others allows us to do something exceptional with all that energy. Connecting with another person is fundamental to creating WE[4]. Without the inclusiveness of connection we operate as two independent agents, able to coordinate our activities and cooperate but little else. Connection generates interdependence, a sensitivity to bidirectional feedback, and the ability to collaborate (literally, to work with another, especially in joint intellectual effort). So connecting with others creates a space for doing, thinking, and relating that did not previously exist. Without connection interactions collapse into WIIFM- What’s In It For Me.

    What happens when teams connect?

    The Tuckman model of team development – Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing – has lost its usefulness. The world of work is too fast paced, change is continuous, and performance is the context not the outcome of teams. Two pieces of research on group dynamics and performance fill the vacuum created by this conceptual loss.

    Team Dynamics – Synthesizing the research of Kenwyn Smith and David Berg[5] we can replace the Tuckman model with a virtuous cycle of team development that operates in the context of performance: Connect-Engage-Act. Connection creates the relationships that are strong and healthy enough to withstand the strain of opposition and conflict (most often of ideas) within the group. Connectivity reflects how attuned and responsive team members are to one another[6]. Strong, healthy connection with another person(s) promotes openness, empathy/compassion, and the integration of differences, which ultimately leads to trust. Connection allows the diversity within the group to be used to achieve goals, perform different functions, and survive as a coherent system over time.

    Team Performance – Connectivity also drives performance. Based on the research of Marcial Losada[7] team performance has three bipolar dimensions – positivity/negativity ratio, self-focus/other-focus, inquiry/advocacy – all driven by a single control parameter, connectivity. High-performing teams (determined by profitability, customer satisfaction ratings, and 360o evaluations) had higher connectivity (they were more attuned and responsive to each other), focused their attention on the needs of others as well as self, asked questions as often as they defended their personal point of view, and had positive interactions three times more often than negative interactions (positive language included: support, encouragement, or appreciation; negative language included: disapproval, sarcasm, and cynicism). Low and moderately performing teams all had lower connectivity and, as a result, imbalance in the other three dimensions of performance.

    Leadership Learning

    Everyone has the opportunity to practice connection thousands of times a day. Use these to become Masters of Connectivity. Here’s how:

    • Before getting out of bed connect with your body, your feelings, and your intentions for the day. Get out of bed feeling connected and grounded rather than scattered and rushed.
    • Quick Connections: At the grocery store, toll booth, gas station, or restaurant connect with the person serving you. Really see them, connect with a comment that lets them know you see them, watch for feedback, that they suddenly see you, and see if they connect back. Feel the link between you spring into being. How did your body respond? How did theirs change? What nonverbal cues did you pick up that indicated the connection? Don’t evaluate your connection, that makes it a performance and not a true connection, just keep doing it and watch what happens over time.
    • Deep Connections: Take a moment to reflect on your comfort zone for connectivity. How deep can you go – with yourself and with others? What is your response when someone tries to connect more deeply than this? What would allow you to go deeper? How can you practice this?

    [1]Langer, E. J. Mindfulness. Perseus Books, Reading, MA. 1989.

    [2]Fredrickson, Barbara. Positivity. Crown Publishers, New York. 2009.

    [3]Strozzi-Heckler, R. The Leadership Dojo. Frog Ltd. Berkeley, CA. 2007.

    [4]Glaser, J.E. Creating WE. Platinum Press, Avon, MA. 2005

    [5]Smith, K.K. and Berg, D.N. Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987.

    [6]Fredrickson, Barbara. Positivity. Crown Publishers, New York. 2009.

    [7]Losada, M. and Heaphy, E. (2004) The roles of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(6), 740 – 765.