Michael Lee Stallard - Connection Culture

The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work

Michael Stallard President of E Pluribus Partners and Primary Author of Connection Culture - TotalPicture Radio interview with Peter ClaytonMichael Lee Stallard

A 2016 Gallop report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, revealed that "only 29% of millennials are engaged at work, with the remaining 71% either not engaged or actively disengaged. What's more, six in 10 millennials say they're open to different job opportunities, and only 50% plan to be with their company one year from now."

"Millennial workers currently make up 38% of the U.S. workforce. Some estimate that they will make up as much as 75% of it by 2025." If you work in HR or recruiting, I'm sure these statistics are no surprise to you. Engagement is not much better with Gen X or Baby Boomers.

Another 2016 study, titled Data Proves that Culture, Values, and Career are Biggest Drivers of Employment Brand, Josh Bersin writes; "...detailed analysis of Glassdoor data among more than 6,000 companies and 2.2 million employees... If you consider 'Would you recommend your company as a place to work?' as a NetPromoter question from all these employees, by far the biggest work factor related to employment brand is 'culture and values.'"

He continues, "An employee's rating of 'culture and values' is 4.9 times more predictive of a company recommendation than salary and benefits. The second most important factor is 'career opportunities,' which is 4.5 more important than salary and benefits."

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. I'm your host Peter Clayton. Joining me is Michael Stallard President of E Pluribus Partners and Primary Author of Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work


Michael welcome back to TotalPicture.

I know prior to forming your company you were a chief marketing officer working in financial services - tell us about your background.

While you worked on Wall Street you led a team that doubled revenue in 2 1/2 years. How did you do it?

Back to the gloomy statistics from Gallop I sited in my open. This is nothing new, Michael, employee engagement has been a glaring and expensive problem for years. Costing companies billions of dollars in lost productivity and employee turnover. So why do so many companies choose it ignore it? Have you ever figured that one out?

Describe what you mean by a connection Culture. What are the attributes?

Base on your research, what are some of the financial benefits of a Connection Culture - in areas such as productivity and profitability?

As you know, many people are working in global autonomous teams, or working virtually, how can you create a Connection Culture with folks who rarely, if ever, are in the same room together?

What are some strategies leaders can use to connect with employees geographically spread across the country, and perhaps the world.

In the opening of your book you share with us the very personal story of your wife's treatment for both breast and ovarian cancer. Can you relate some of that for us and how that experience influenced your book?

You write about vision, value and voice. Expand on those concepts for us.

One specific company you write about is W.L. Gore Associates - a company that has no titles?

Michael, you write "Organizations Have Character." I'd like to read a company's mission statement and values: "Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence." Its "Vision and Values" mission statement "We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves....We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here." that's from Enron. In just about every annual report, you'll find something like this. However, how many employees actually embrace, let alone believe their company's mission statement?

Chapter 4 of Connection Culture is titled "The Scientific Case for Connection" which start out with "Connection is a Superpower." Let's unpack this, and some of the research that scientifically supports the importance of connection on the health and bottom line of businesses.

What did you learn, or what surprised you in writing Connection Culture?

"Interview Transcript"

Michael Lee Stallard - The Connection Culture

TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Welcome to TotalPicture Radio, I'm your host, Peter Clayton. Today's leadership channel podcast featuring Michael Stallard is sponsored by Jobs in Pods, the cleverest way to advertise your jobs and employment brand through social media. Jobs in Pods is a podcast, a jobcast, a blog and a YouTube video all on one platform. Visit jobsinpods.com where real employers talk about their jobs and tell you how to get them. Recruiters and HR managers, mention TPR when you book your first jobcast for a $50 discount. That's jobsinpods.com.

A 2016 Gallup report how millennials want to work and live reveal that only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work, with the remaining 71 percent either not engaged or actively disengaged. What's more, six in ten millennials say they are open to different job opportunities and only 50 percent plan to be with their company one year from now. Millennial workers currently makeup 38 percent of the US workforce, some estimate that they will make up as much as 75 percent of it by 2025. If you work in HR or recruiting, I'm sure these statistics are no surprise to you. Engagement is not much better with Gen X or baby boomers. It's stats like these that keeps CEOs, CFOs and HR leaders awake at night.

Another 2016 study titled "Data Proves that Culture, Values and Career are Biggest Drivers of Employment Brand." Josh Bersin writes, "Detailed analysis of Glassdoor data among more than 6,000 companies and 2.2 million employees. If you consider, "Would you recommend your company as a place to work" as a net promoter question from all these employers; by far, the biggest work factor related to employment brand is culture and values." Josh continues, "An employee's rating of culture and values is 4.9 times more predictive of a company's recommendation than salary and benefits. The second most important factor is career opportunities which is 4.5 more important than salary and benefits."

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. I'm your host, Peter Clayton. Joining me is Michael Stallard, resident of E Pluribus Partners and primary author of Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work.

Well, Michael, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Michael: Thanks, Peter. It's good to be with you.

Peter: I know prior to forming your company, you were a chief marketing officer working in financial services on Wall Street. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Michael: Sure. I began my career with Texas Instruments, and then I made my way to Wall Street over time where I worked initially in investment banking and then in money management, and toward the end of my career as chief marketing officer for the private wealth management businesses of Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. I saw on Wall Street that most mergers were not working well, and this really piqued my interest. It was because there were culture clashes before and after the merger. So in 2002 I decided to leave Wall Street, I turned down an offer to join Goldman Sachs and instead wrote my first book, which was called Fired Up or Burned Out, which I'm grateful to you that we did the interview on the book.

Peter: Yes, we did.

Michael: Then it was about that time, 2002 when I started E Pluribus Partners, which is based on America's motto, "E pluribus Unum" or "out of many, one."

Peter: Bringing up the topic of mergers, when Citibank and Travelers merged, Citibank was my largest client for many years. And talk about a culture clash, when Sandy Weill came into Citi and started replacing all of the management there. Originally, it was called a joint CEO thing, but those things never work. John Reed and Sandy Weill co-running Citibank; I don't think so. And it was very interesting because as soon as this was announced, a lot of the really top people at Citibank left immediately because they just knew it was not going to work. One of the interesting things that happened at Citi is, a lot of people were let go when Sandy Weill's people came in and started running various divisions and parts of the bank, but then they realized that there was a huge gap in knowledge because the people who were brought in to run these businesses really didn't understand them.

There's Time Warner and AOL. There's so many of these mergers that just absolutely blow up because culture is so important and they just don't mesh. It's like oil and water, right?

Michael: That's so true, Peter. You and I have seen it first hand. I imagine most of our listeners have too.

Peter: Absolutely, yeah.

Michael: So often, it's the employees of one of the companies - one company wins out to some degree from a power, control, influence, and status perspective, and it's the valuable employees of the other company who didn't win out that end up leaving within six months or a year because they don't feel connected to the new leadership team. I've seen that time and time again. So we created E Pluribus Partners to really help organizations understand what is culture in a definable, clear way, what are the types of cultures you need to be aware of, and what's the best culture that will bring about high performance and be healthy for your employees as well so that it's sustainable.

Peter: Talking about your new book, Connection Culture, you write that while you worked on Wall Street, you led a team that doubled revenue in two and a half years. Can you sort of unpack that for us and explain how that whole thing happened?

Michael: Well, in short, I had worked for a money management firm in Chicago called Van Kampen American Capital. It was a leverage buy out, we sold it to Morgan Stanley and I took an offer to join Morgan Stanley to be chief marketing officer for the private wealth management group. One of the things we did in a nutshell was to create a connection culture by communicating an inspiring vision. Particularly in this context, showing people we valued them and giving them a voice. Let me just explain that.

So a lot of the people who worked on the frontlines with clients - and this was a very high net worth oriented group. I mean our average client had an excess of $10 million in investable securities. So, it was a very high net worth group. One of the things I did was I went to and I met with people who worked on the frontlines and met with them all around the world and I'd say, 'here's what I'm thinking. I'm new to this particular business because I'm coming out of a different business and here's what I see and what I think. But I don't have monopoly on good ideas and you're on the frontlines and you have insights. Tell me what's right, what's wrong, and what's missing from my thinking.' And I'd just shut up and listen and I had someone take very copious notes. They basically had great ideas. But what surprised me, Peter, was not only did I get some great ideas to implement, but also I saw enthusiasm and energy that was created in the process. So that really started to pique my interest about culture and how powerful it is to value people, to give them a voice and to communicate an inspiring vision. So that was a catalyst that really got me going on the importance of culture.

Peter: Let's talk a little bit about the title of your book, Connection Culture. Can you describe what you mean by that and what are the attributes of a connection culture?

Michael: So connection culture is - I think it's helpful to step back and define what culture is first because there's a lot of confusions about culture because it is used in a lot of different academic areas and the definitions are somewhat, or in some cases, extremely different. So there's confusion about what culture is, it almost means everything now, and so it's not as constructive. But in the context of teams and organizations, and I would say families as well, really any group, the most relevant definition for culture is the predominant attitudes, language and behavior of the group. Those attitudes, language and behavior produce one of three types of social cultures.

The first is a culture of control where those who have power, control, influence, and status rule over the rest. In time, learned helplessness starts to set in among those who don't have much power control, influence, and status.

The second culture is of culture of indifference, and that's growing very rapidly in the western market democracies of the world. That's a culture where people are so busy chasing money, power, status that they don't take time build supportive relationships, and we are hard wired to connect as human beings. When we don't have that, we're very vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression and just dysfunction on general.

The first culture is, just to review, control, and the second is indifference. The best culture is a culture where people feel connected to one another. This is a culture where people feel connected to their supervisor, the people they work with but also to their organization's identity, its mission, its values, its reputation. They have a supervisor who cares about them and cares about results. And their supervisor tries to understand their career aspirations and put them in a role that's a good fit with their strengths, so they also feel connected to the work they're doing on a day-to-day basis.

Over the last century, there's been a progression of research that shows how important it is for - if you think of it as a continuum, on one end of the continuum where people feel unsupported, left out and lonely versus the other end where they feel included, connected, part of the team. Those feelings of feeling like part of the team, feeling connected, feeling included have a profound effect on our performance as human beings and on the performance of our organizations.

Peter: I want to return to this concept of the indifference for a second because something that you said triggered me to think about how social media has really transformed how we interact and communicate with people and so much of it. Especially on like Twitter and LinkedIn, it's so transactional and it really isn't creating relationships so much as it is, I'm trying to sell this course or I'm speaking here, or I'm doing this or I'm doing that and kind of skipping over the whole, real human interaction piece of what people really need.

Michael: Right, that's true. You know it's interesting when you step back and look at just connection in society - and there have been a number of great articles, I could send you links that perhaps you could share with your listeners.

Peter: Absolutely, please do that.

Michael: I think of recently in The New York Times, in Slate, in The New Republic - I think there are four that I've seen recently that are all good articles about the epidemic of loneliness in America. There are a number of factors that really contribute to that. After World War II, families started to spread out geographically to pursue economic opportunities. You have the creation of the Eisenhower Interstate System and also people started working longer, overtime; they moved further out from the city center where their employers were so they were spending more time commuting. Robert Putnam in his book, Bowling Alone, and more recently, continues to focus on the impact of media and television, how we're spending more time engaged in media. When you look at the number of hours people spend a week engaged in media, it's surprising how high it is.

There is research coming out of Stanford University that shows for every additional hour we spend engaged with media, we spend on average 20 minutes less in face-to-face engagement. Now, that has a profound effect in that when we spend less time interacting face-to-face, our brain doesn't get the benefit of learning how to distinguish between different non-verbal cues that are communicated primarily through the face but also through other body language. So we become less skilled at connecting with other people and interpreting what they're saying. And that I think has had an effect on just rising loneliness in society and of course just the explosion not only of television but now of our smartphones and - gosh, I love the apps on my Apple iPhone. It's a challenge for me because I find it so engaging and I really have to put some guardrails in place in my life, my wife in particular, I've given her permission to just tell me to knock it off and put my phone away, and she does regularly I'm sad to say; she tells me that.

Technology is a double-edged sword, let's put it that way. It's a great thing in terms of just amazing access to knowledge and communications. But if we don't manage that well and it diminishes our ability to connect with people, then it's going to have a very negative effect which we're seeing already in the data on our physical and mental health.

Peter: Obviously, the overarching concept in your book has to do with employee engagement. Back to the gloomy statistics from Gallup I stated in my open, this is nothing new, Michael. Employee engagement has been a glaring and expensive problem within corporations for years and costing companies billions of dollars in lost productivity and morale and employee turnover. So, why do you think so many companies choose to ignore this issue? You travel all over consulting with organizations, have you ever figured this out why some companies just seem to choose to ignore it?

Michael: Well, I think it's a couple of things, Peter. I think one is that many leaders wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to engagement, so they don't really see how much opportunity there is to improve engagement in their organization. For that reason, I'm a big fan of employee engagement surveys or even better because culture drives engagement; a survey that assesses your culture including, are you living up to your values. I find that is invaluable to really help managers be intentional about creating a healthy culture that leads to employee engagement.

The second reason is, just change can be hard and I think often times you'll find individual leaders who are trying to self-help their way to become better leaders and it's impossible. It does not happen. We are social species and we change through social interactions.

One piece of research that I cite is - this came out of Gallup's work on wellbeing. There was a study, it was a weight loss study over 10 months. For those individuals who try to self-help their way through the program, only 25 percent were successful in completing the 10-month program. If they were coupled with one individual that they didn't know, then that doubled the completion rate to in the ballpark of 50 percent. If they were coupled with someone they knew, so they had an even stronger connection and support with who could hold them accountable but also encourage them and give them constructive feedback, that boosted the completion rate to about two-thirds. So I find that's true with just about any change effort that's not a lay-up and that requires some work, that it really needs to be done socially so that you'll have a number of people that you're working with to accomplish that change.

Peter: Now that's a very interesting study, and I think it goes to the success that organizations like Weight Watchers have had because of the human interaction and getting together as a group to work on a common problem, right?

Michael: Absolutely. Or you think of Alcoholics Anonymous or - I mean alcohol or just the addictions in general, and that's a big issue in our society - about almost 50 percent of people -Steve Sussman out at UCLA did a survey, I want to say it was in 2011. I actually cite it in my book where Sussman and his colleagues concluded - they've reviewed research of, I believe studies of over 500 respondents and concluded that 47 percent of Americans have one or more addictions that are having a negative effect on their mental or physical health. So it's a big issue, addiction - change to addiction doesn't happen if we try to do it alone. It really is social in nature.

Peter: I want you to talk about some of the research that you've done in your book. What are some of the financial benefits of having a connection culture in areas such as productivity and profitability for organizations?

Michael: Well, you know, it varies dramatically, depending upon the industry. Say for example, what you'll see - and I do a lot of work in healthcare or versus say a global advertising agency client that we had, very different contexts. But in general, there's research that supports - you'll see on average, a team of people who report feeling connected versus feeling unsupported and left out or alone, they will experience an additional day of productivity a week. So that's huge, and it doesn't take much thought to imagine how that has a positive effect on profit as well. And I think when you think of those who are closest to profit generation, say salespeople, a lot of salespeople work remotely and they really need that social support because being a salesperson is hard work and...

Peter: A lot of rejection.

Michael: It is. It's threatening. It requires resilience. And if you have that social support, you are more resilient, you're more optimistic, you're more energetic. I love what Matthew Lieberman, the neuroscientist out at UCLA, a social neuroscientist, says, "Connection is the super power. It makes us happier, healthier and more productive." That kind of sums it up.

Peter: Bringing up this idea of the salesperson who works remotely, so many people today are working in autonomous teams or working virtually. So how can organizations create a connection culture with folks who rarely, if ever, are in the same room together?

Michael: Yeah, that's a huge issue. Peter, I'm glad you brought that up because I'm finding that's an issue not only in for-profit corporations but even - one place I've done some work, the government accountability office, which I love in Washington DC and it's 3,000 scientists and engineers who were assessing the efficacy of federal government programs.

Peter: I wonder if they're going to be around in six months.

Michael: I sure hope so. By having that fire power to really assess all the money that goes into federal government programs and I think they really bring rational review to the process and help as a result, make federal government programs more effective, but that's a group. They do have quite a few remote workers and to get the best talent, you have to do that, and so they're really committed to that. It's becoming important to make people feel connected who are working remotely. I think there are two pieces of advice I would offer on that. One is, it's important for those remote workers to understand that they are at risk in terms of feelings of loneliness that would undermine their performance.

So it's important for them to be intentional about going out to lunch with friends, with family members. They need that human need for connection met, so that they will perform at the top of their game or they're going to start become lethargic. They're not going to be as energetic. They're not going to be thinking as rationally. They're going to be more susceptible to the negative effects of fear and threat because from just the neuroscience research. But just a quick practical thing that managers can do who are managing remote workers is to be intentional about calling them at least once a week if not more.

Another thing you can do is what I call a knowledge flow session. I would encourage your listeners to go to my blog, michaelleestallard.com and download the Free 100 Ways to Connect eBook because that would give them a lot of practices. But here's one of my favorites because I think it really can have a huge impact. It's called the knowledge flow session which, if managers or leaders, if they have an issue that they need to make a decision on, if they have remote workers, they can go out to them with the great technology that's available, they can do a webcast and just present, 'Well, here's what I'm thinking on this particular issue but I want to know what you think, I want to get the best thinking of our team so let me present where my head is on this issue.' And then share with them that they don't have monopoly on good ideas and they want the best thinking; so what's right, wrong, what's missing from my thinking and then just be quiet and give people an opportunity to respond. Take notes, record the feedback they're giving and then reflect on it and make decisions. And then follow up with people to say, 'here's what I heard and here's what I'm going to act on. The other things are on my radar screen now and I may act on those later on, but these are the things I'm going to focus that I heard' and thank people for providing their feedback. And especially for people who communicated a dissenting opinion that's out of favor with you as the leader or with the team because it takes courage to do that. And you want to encourage those truth-tellers to speak up. And research show that the consensus is usually right, but it's not always right. It's important to listen to those minority dissenting points of view because at times they will be right and it could have a profound effect on your performance.

Peter: I think that's some great advice because obviously there are so many leaders working today who need to connect with employees who are geographically spread all over the country or even the world, and that's a very hard thing to do.

Michael: It is. And I think if you do those two things, stay in touch with them just to share 'here's what I'm doing, what are you working on, can I help you in any way? How are you doing personally...' Just kind of social conversation. That just makes people feel like part of the team. And then if you do that knowledge flow session that I just described in brief, which is one of the things that I outline in that 100 Ways to Connect list; that's a great way to give people a voice, and by doing that you also make them feel valued. And those two things - it's vision, value, voice is our simple formula for making people feel connected.

Peter: In the opening of your book you share with us a very personal story of your wife's struggle and treatment for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer and really scary stuff. So could you relate some of that for us and how that experience has influenced your career?

Michael: Well, it was one of those - people ask me what led me to write Fired Up or Burned Out and move in this direction. It was several things. It was seeing mergers not working well. It was that process I implement, which is basically a knowledge flow session when I was at Morgan Stanley heading marketing for private wealth management. But a third thing that happened really opened my eyes too, Peter, and that is Katie, my wife was - after I formed E Pluribus and left Wall Street, it was about that time within a year that Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer. And then the following year, she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, and we knew we had to be aggressive to treat it because her chances of survival for more than five years was in the single digits. Our daughters were just 12 and 10 at the time, so it was a time of anxiety and stress for us and I certainly felt that.

Katie had six rounds of chemotherapy at our local hospital, Greenwich Hospital, part of Yale New Haven system. And then we knew we had to be aggressive, so we signed her up for - at that time, it was a more experimental treatment called intraperitoneal chemo, where they put chemo in her abdomen and it was being done at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. I'll never forget our first visit to Sloan Kettering because we went in the city, we're walking down the sidewalk and this wonderful doorman who's now become a friend, his name is Nick Medley... ABC News did this great video on him that I'd give you a link to, you could share with your listeners.

Nick locked his eyes on Katie and greeted her like a returning friend. Now, as you know because we both live in the New York City area, people in New York City and Manhattan don't really make eye contact on the street. So it surprised me that Nick was being intentional about making eye contact and I later learned that he can spot people who are cancer patients because they're wearing wigs, they often times look anemic if they're currently in chemo. Katie fit that description but he just made us feel so warm and welcome. Then we entered the lobby, the receptionist was calling everyone "honey" which is also very unusual in Manhattan, as you know.

The security people, the administrative people were helpful and friendly. We met with our oncologist, Dr. Martee Hensley. She spent an hour with us, educating us about the treatment options and this particular treatment that Sloan Kettering was recommending for someone in Katie's case and we signed Katie up for it. Earlier this year, we celebrated Katie's thirteenth year of being cancer free from ovarian cancer. She's a survivor and she did have another breast cancer, a different type of cancer but she's a long-term survivor. And now, we actually do some work with Sloan Kettering. So, they've become a client which is exciting for us.

While we were at Sloan Kettering, there was one other incident I haven't described that really caught my attention. Katie was having one of those treatments and I went to get something to drink, and when I came out of the gift shop, there was an open lounge where people from that particular building, 53rd street, they call it the Rockefeller Pavilion, had gathered to talk about the results of an employee engagement survey. I spotted Nick, the doorman in there. And I just stood in there and I heard people say how much..." I'm going to get choked up saying this because I think back to it... how much they loved their parents and their mission to provide the best cancer care anywhere and the people they worked with. It occurred to me, Peter, that it was such a contrast to what I had seen on Wall Street.

Now I'm not saying that all subcultures on Wall Street are bad because they're not, and I was fortunate to be in some great ones, but also some not so great ones. But this was the best subculture I had ever seen anywhere quite honestly. And I just decided I don't want to ever go back to anything that's not close to what I was seeing in this gynecological oncology group at Sloan Kettering. It's no wonder that they have been rated the number one or number two cancer center in the US for the last almost 30 years now. They really have created a great connection culture and it had a profound effect on my understanding of how culture affects people.

Peter: Thanks for sharing that with us, Michael. That's quite a story. I recently interviewed Craig Fisher who's head of employer brand at CA Technologies. He speaks all over the country, he's a great guy. And sort of the headline of his LinkedIn profile is "I believe your company's most unique feature is your people, give them a voice." When you were talking recently about vision, value and voice, that sort of popped into my mind. So can you kind of expand on those concepts for us and why they are so integral with this whole idea of a connection culture?

Michael: Yeah, vision, value, voice is - there are other words to describe it. Identity, empathy and understanding, there are other alternatives. Like I said, it goes back to the importance of connection. When we share aspects of identity with others, that connects us. For example, it could be we have the same mission, we're on the same team trying to win an NBA championship, or we share the same values, the importance of, say, respect for individuals or openness and sharing ideas. There are lots of values that organizations have, and when we share those values that also helps connects us. And when we're working for an organization that has an attractive reputation, that also unites people. So that all falls under the vision part.

The second is value. When people feel valued as human beings, then that makes a difference. For example, if they're disrespected, maybe it's patronizing or passive-aggressive behavior, it irritates us and we don't perform at our best level when we're irritated that way. Also, we need recognition. That's another way of making people feel valued. We need that. It's a need. If we don't get it over time then we dysfunction. We also need personal growth and autonomy in our work. So, when we have the freedom to figure out how to accomplish the goals of our work, then we perform much better than if we're micromanaged. And if we're in a role that's a good fit with our strengths, this is the whole concept flow or optimal experience, then that also helps us feel more connected to our work. So that's just a brief description of the value part.

Voice, of course, is when leaders have the humility to seek the ideas and opinions of others and consider them and then implement those that are good ideas and give people credit where credit is due.

Those three things really create a powerful sense of connection among the teams so that everybody feels like part of the team. This is true in families, this is true in sports team, it's true in healthcare, it's true in NASA, government, business, education. It's very profound from a scientific standpoint.

Just one thing I didn't mentioned in the research that really caught my attention when I was working on this last book was that when people feel connected, they feel safe. And so blood glucose and oxygen flow to the bodily systems at levels that are needed to maintain good health and performance. But if they feel unsupported, left out or alone, there's a much higher probability they'll be in stress response where their body allocates their pituitary gland, the master gland in the body communicates with the other adrenal glands and over allocates blood glucose and oxygen to the heart, the lungs, the big muscles so that we can fight or flee the threat, and it diminishes the flow of those resources to the hippocampus, which is where memory resides in the brain to the digestive system so that we're more vulnerable to digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or colitis, et cetera. It affects the immune system so we're more susceptible to sickness and disease and it affects the reproductive system.

So this is a big issue and I think it's one of the reasons why we're seeing the health of Americans under 50 decline. The Institute of Medicine did a study of Americans under 50 and benchmarked versus 16 other wealthy countries in the world and reported that Americans under 50 now have the lowest life expectancy versus their peers in the 16 other wealthy countries in the world.

Peter: Sort of to the burned out portion of your previous book, right?

Michael: Yes, absolutely. I just spoke to a couple of hundred doctors and medical practice heads in Pennsylvania about this very issue because the AMA and the Mayo Clinic teamed up and did research that showed on average over - well, it's about half of the physicians show at least one sign of burn out. It's a culture that makes people feel connected. My advice to the physicians was make sure you take the time to connect to yourself, for taking care of the physical needs of your body but also recreation. At least take one day off work a week and do something you enjoy with people you enjoy being with. So connecting with your friends and family, as well as connecting with yourself and then connecting with your colleagues at work and those you work with and your patients. When you do that, that helps protect you from burn out.

I won't get into all the details of that but it really has a powerful effect on making us more resilient so that we can handle a more challenging environment, which healthcare certainly has these days with the move to electronic medical records. And now with the new presidential administration, probably major changes ahead once again.

Peter: One specific company you write about is WL Gore Associates, a company that apparently has no titles and operates using what's called the lattice structure. Can you expand on that for us a little bit and tell us what you learned about this company?

Michael: Let me share a couple quick examples. WL Gore, they're - I think some of the things they're doing are less applicable to other organizations. But just to point out one that you raised, which is not having titles. What they're trying to do with that is remove the negative aspects of hierarchy. There are two aspects of hierarchy that have negative effects on organizational performance. One is, when people are labeled leaders and those who are not labeled leaders are therefore non-leaders. There's a risk that those who have that power and control can order people about or become patronizing or kind of dissenting, all behaviors that are devaluing to people and make them feel less connected and engaged.

The other aspect, Ed Catmull the CEO of Pixar and Disney Animation wrote a great story about this in his latest book about how they discovered that despite his efforts to create a very healthy culture, there was a point where people were using the chain of decision-making authority or hierarchy. And they were viewing that as, "We can only communicate by following the hierarchy." So it's creating this tremendous frustration and backlash and disengagement. So that's the other risk, people say, "I can't go to Joe who's in another department because he's a supervisor and I am not, even though I have something valuable I need to share with him." So that creates knowledge traps in the organization, where the knowledge is there, it's just not getting to the right person. And sometimes hierarchy gets in the way of that.

So, Gore is trying to address some of those issues and I think - these things, they're complex as you get deeper. I think vision, value, voice is a high-level way of thinking about it that's very helpful, but it does get into a lot of - to create a connection culture, it's important to understand the attitudes that are necessary, the uses of language and have a vocabulary for it and a framework, and the behaviors, the practices themselves.

One story example I often use and I think I've probably used this before when we've spoken, Peter, so I apologize for that, but it's been a while so maybe I could bring it up. That is just the rock band U2. Here's a band that people laughed at. In their early years, they really did not look very promising but those guys stuck with it. They were just 14 and 15-year-old boys when they started. I think a lot of credit goes to Bono, who's their de facto leader. He communicated an inspiring vision, he values people, he gave them a voice. The inspiring vision is their music is about human rights and social justice. Those are important matters to those guys, and they know they're - Bono says 'we're more than musicians and performers. We have an agenda and we're promoting it through our music and our influence outside of music.' And you certainly see them doing that.

Secondly, Bono is always talking, he values his bandmates, almost like family members. I think they were his family in the early years. You see that in about a year after the band was formed, Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer, his mother was hit and killed in a car accident, and Bono had lost his mother a year before when she died at her father's funeral. She had a cerebral hemorrhage, collapsed and died. So Bono knew what it was like to lose a parent and he reached out and connected and supported and helped Larry get through that. And it was a few years later when they start to become successful and they got their first offer for a recording contract, but the recording company executive told Bono that you have to replace Larry because he's a non-conventional drummer and you need someone who's more conventional. And Bono told him to shove it, it's like, "We are a package. It's all of us or none of us."

They ended up getting an offer from another recording company. And now, today, they've gone from a band that people laughed at to winning more Grammy Awards than any band in history and they have the highest revenue-producing concert tour in history.

The other piece that I didn't mention is, Bono also gives his bandmates a voice. The way they make decisions is, if anybody strongly opposes a particular decision, then they won't go there. It forces them to move toward consensus and they know that that produces the best results and who's to argue with their results? They've been wildly successful.

Peter: Absolutely, and that's a great story. I started this whole interview talking mainly about millennials. We all know one of the things millennials really value is organizational transparency, right? Do you write that organizations have character? I'd like to quickly read a company's mission statement and values which is, "Respect, integrity, communication and excellence, its vision and values, mission statement. We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment, ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here." That's from a company called Enron.

In just about every annual report and you bring this up in your book, you'll find something like this where we value our employees and we blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yet how many employees actually embrace, let alone believe their company's mission statement?

Michael: Yeah, it reminds me that almost everywhere I teach seminars or workshops, I'll ask the question, "Okay, so who can tell me your organization's mission and values?" There's maybe one person, it's amazing - when you look at them, it's amazing one person could remember because they're not very memorable often times or they just have become words on paper that don't have a life.

One of the things I recommend organizations do because I'm a big believer in what I call vision phrases. Don't have a long corporate mission essentially that people can't remember. Keep it simple enough that it is memorable and often times it becomes a motto. So I think of TCU, Texas Christian University, a school about 10,000 really on a roll right now attracting a lot of students from around the country for its academic and sports success. They have a longer formal vision, but when you ask the students and faculty, I think what really inspires them is the motto, which is "learning to change the world." It's simple, it's memorable and I think that's the way vision statements need to be.

When it comes to values, values leak and unless we bring people back to the importance of the values and celebrating - a lot of people talk about Southwest Airlines and here's certainly a best practice that they do. They actually communicate I think it's two stories a day on their blog about employees who are living out their values. Now, a lot of organizations couldn't do that. I think they have something like 150 culture ambassadors around the organization who are sourcing these stories and writing them and a central team that edits them and posts them.

Peter: That says something in itself.

Michael: It does.

Peter: Right? I mean how many companies would commit to having those kinds of resources?

Michael: To have the commitment to values. I've never seen an organization - it's other things that you can do, whether it's circulating stories like that or bringing in customers or patients who've benefited from the work you're doing, celebrating employees who - just by sharing their stories or maybe creating videos of them and sharing those. Even if you did it once a month or once a quarter, that's better than not doing it at all.

Peter: Right. And back to my friend, Craig Fisher. CA Technologies has about a thousand videos up on their YouTube channel and a lot of them are just personal profiles of day in the life of one of their employees, which are very well produced. And you think about the overflow of what that creates for that employee, his family, his coworkers or her coworkers. It really spreads the message.

Michael: It does. I've seen that Pfizer is now doing this and just some good things happening at Pfizer. It's exciting to see that. So yeah, it's a best practice and those organizations that are intentional, that really take the time to define their culture and what they're trying to achieve and then they reinforce it by sharing stories that are supportive of that culture and celebrating those people who are bringing the culture to life. Those are the organizations where the mission and values and culture really are meaningful and have a positive effect on performance.

Peter: Michael, what did you learn or what surprised you in writing Connection Culture?

Michael: Well, there were several things. I think one was certainly when I went out and talked to more leaders about culture that I found such a disparity and diversity of opinions about what culture was. And it was very soft and feely and not very actionable. So, this book and the work we're doing now is really a very conscious effort to bring a vocabulary, a framework that's practical, that's memorable, that's actionable to managers so they can be intentional about creating a culture. And that was an aha for me that there - and I really reviewed all the articles on culture that I could find in places like Harvard Business Review. And I just didn't find - I didn't feel they were very practical or helpful for managers. And so, hopefully we've taken a step in that direction to really provide that resource to managers so that they can create healthier cultures that will boost employee engagement. That's what we're seeing and we're rolling out a new connection culture inventory now that will assess subcultures in organizations and show managers whether it's culture of control, culture of indifference or connection culture and provide actionable recommendations that they can implement to make improvements.

Peter: That's fantastic. Well, I've really enjoyed our conversation today. It was great to reconnect with you. So how can our listeners connect with you, Michael?

Michael: I will point them to my personal blog because I have a lot of resources on that. It's michaelleestallard.com and they can download that free 28-page 100 Ways to Connect eBook. That's just a great resource. It has research and practices and it will give them plenty of things to think about how to improve their cultures. And it doesn't take much stretch of imagination to think about how some of those things apply to your culture at home as well.

Peter: Michael Lee Stallard is the author of the Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work, which is published by ATD Press and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever you like to buy your books and I highly recommend it. I really appreciate your time today, Michael. It's been a great conversation.

Michael: Peter, it's a privilege to be on your great program and thank you for the work you're doing.

Today's Leadership Channel podcast with Michael Stallard was brought to you by Jobs in Pods. It's a podcast, it's a jobcast, a blog and a YouTube video all on one platform where real employers and staffing agencies advertise their jobs and tell you how to get them. Recruiters and HR managers, if you're looking for a mobile first employment branding and social recruiting marketing solution where your job posting will have a real voice, talk to me about Jobs in Pods. Mention TPR when you book your first jobcast for a 50 percent discount. Join the conversation on our Facebook page, facebook.com/realjobcast and follow us on Twitter, @jobsinpods. Thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the current topics and awesome guest contributing to this podcast.

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