The Connected Organisation

An organization’s culture reflects the predominant ways of thinking, behaving, and working. To appreciate the importance of culture in the workplace, consider your own experiences. During the course of your career, have you experienced times when you were eager to get to work in the morning, you were so immersed in your work that the hours flew by, and by the end of the day you didn’t want to stop working? What was it about the job that made you feel that way? How about the opposite? Have you experienced times when you struggled to get to work in the morning, the hours passed ever so slowly, and by the end of the day you were exhausted? Again, what was it about the job that made you feel that way? What type of culture are you in right now? As we explore what it takes to establish and strengthen connection cultures, it is instructive to understand how they differ from cultures of control and cultures of indifference. In cultures of control, people with power, influence, and status rule over others. This culture creates an environment where people fear to make mistakes and take risks. It is stifling—killing innovation because people are afraid to speak up. Employees may feel left out, micromanaged, unsafe, hyper-criticized, or helpless. Cultures of indifference are predominant today. In this type of culture, people are so busy chasing money, power, and status that they fail to invest the time necessary to develop healthy, supportive relationships. As a result, leaders don’t see value in the relational nature of work, and many people struggle with loneliness. Employees may feel like a cog in a machine, unimportant, uncertain, or invisible. Both of these cultures sabotage individual and organizational performance. Feeling consistently unsupported, left out, or lonely takes a toll. Without the psychological resources to cope with the normal stress of modern organizational life, employees may turn to unhealthy attitudes and behaviors, many of which are addictive and destructive. A distinguishing feature of these cultures is a sole focus on task excellence. Leaders may openly dismiss the need for relationship excellence. Others may give it lip service and occasional attention, or see its value without knowing how to bring it about. In order to achieve sustainable, superior performance, every member of an organization needs to intentionally develop both task excellence and relationship excellence. A connection culture produces relationship excellence. In a connection culture people care about others and care about their work because it benefits other human beings. They invest the time to develop healthy relationships and reach out to help others in need, rather than being indifferent to them. This bond helps overcome the differences that historically divided people, creating a sense of connection, community, and unity that is inclusive and energized, and spurs productivity and innovation. One of the most powerful and least understood aspects of successful organizations is how employees’ feelings of connection, community, and unity provide a competitive advantage. Employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged, more productive in their jobs, and less likely to leave for a competitor. They are also more trusting and cooperative; they are more willing to share information with their colleagues and therefore help them make well-informed decisions. Connection in the workplace is an emotional bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and esprit de corps among people. It is based on a shared identity, empathy, and understanding that moves primarily self-centered individuals toward group-centered membership. Without that sense of connection, employees will never reach their potential as individuals. And if employees don’t reach their potential, the organization won’t either. Connection is what transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled dog team that pulls together. When interacting with people, we generally find a connection with some, but not with others—“we really connected” and “we just didn’t connect” are common phrases in our daily conversations. Connection describes something intangible that we sense in relationships. When it is present, we feel energy, empathy, and affirmation, and are more open; when it is absent, we experience neutral or even negative feelings. Although we know what it’s like to feel connected on a personal level, few understand the effect connection has on us, our families and friends, and our co-workers and the organizations we work in.