So. Rules are there for a reason. But sometimes there's a good reason to ignore the rule and step forward, boldly, where you've been reluctant to step.
One rule I have is I never review a book until I've read it, the whole thing, cover-to-cover. I'm going to break that rule today for Michael Stallard's new book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work.
I've only read the two (TWO!) forewards, the introduction and the first chapter. He sent those to me in an email that Gmail, in its algorythmic wisdom, hid in an obscure folder. Michael persisted in reaching out to me, I found the email and read these first pages. Boy, am I wowed.
First off, how many books deserve two forewards? Yeah, not many.
The first is by Victor J. Boschini, Jr., Chancellor of Texas Christian University. Many books have forewards written by university chancellors. But not many of those chancellors use their foreward to announce:
In an effort to strengthen our culture of connection even further, TCU is partnering with Stallard to create a Center for Connection Culture at the university. Through the leadership of Chancellor’s Associate for Strategic Partnerships Ann Louden, who is also the Center’s director, we are committed to embracing connection cultures in higher education
Holy smokes. I mean ... there are forewards and then there are FORE-WORDS. That signifies a major endorsement of his work with a platform to further research into ... everything to do with creating a connection culture. (Or not.) There's research possibilities not only into the business economics of a connection culture but the personal economics that come as employees respond to rewards in a connection culture and the stresses in a disconnected culture.
For this art major, the changes in our brain chemistry and physiology reaped by either culture are fascinating. I imagine that will be an area of research too. Too abstract? Think about our rising healthcare costs and how much of those costs are being born by businesses now. Imagine a connection culture where those stresses are minimized on the employee so you see a corresponding decline in heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and a corresponding rise in healthy living and healthy relationships at work and home. Imagine that and compare it to ... the current culture of disconnection and focus on task excellence at the expense of relationship excellence. Michael talks about that in this book.
The second foreward is by Ted George, MD, Clinical Professor at George Washington School of Medicine and Senior Investigator at The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and author of Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave the Way We Do. (I haven't read that book but the title says it's something leaders and managers should read. And, leaning towards the emotional ... I should, too.) Besides the deserved words of praise for Michael's book Dr. George writes:
Steps need to be taken to change the status quo ... Michael Lee Stallard's Connection Culture not only ventures into research about the positive influence a connection can have ..., it also offers practical approaches.
Okay, good. We've heard that and I'm sure Michael's book will do that. But here's what caught my attention.
These feelings of disconnection make people more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction.vii Only recently has modern technology allowed us to understand the profound effect that feelings of exclusion have on the nervous system.
A group of scientists at the University of California placed participants in an fMRI scanner and examined how the blood flow in their brains changed when they were excluded from social interaction. One interesting observation was that in some of the individuals the rejection activated the part of the brain that processes pain. Connection Culture builds on these ideas, highlighting findings from other researchers to champion the importance of connection within the workplace.
BOOM! That's exciting. That's why people behave the way they do. Different areas of the brain are kicking in, or shutting down, blood chemistry changes for the better or worse and we engage or withdraw, we accept a challenge or grow sullen at the extra work, we accept feedback or feel attacked.
In his Introduction Michael profiles the band U2. I remember reading about this small Dublin band with a single album. This guy names Bono claimed they'd be bigger'n the Beatles. I thought cheeky band from Ireland going to be bigger'n The Beatles. Why not? (Aside: I spent fifteen minutes on Rolling Stone scanning through their early reviews hoping to find it. Didn't. But it was fun reading some of the scathing, snarky, reviews of their early efforts. Reminds me to 'Never listen to the critics.') Michael shares some of the ways the band's four members have connected with each other, over and over and over the years and well, they're pretty big. Bigger'n the Beatles? Hard to say, different times, different music industry and ways we listened and followed bands. But ... they're huge.
Sure, they're a rock'n roll band. But what if your team connected with each other in the same way?
Michael titles his first chapter: The Competitive Advantage of Connection. Good. All this blood chemistry and why people behave the way they do is vital. So is rock n' roll. But for a business it's well, kinda irrelevant if there's not a bottomline ROI for their attention to it. Michael starts off with this, maybe as a reminder too for those who read those forewards. The bottomline for engagement, for connection, is huge ... a veritable bottomless pit of goodness and achievement and possibilities we haven't begun to explore fully judging from 70% disengagement rates among employees.
So ... what now? First I need to stop. You need to go buy the book because it's out now. And you need to follow Michael on Twitter and subscribe to his newsletter and connect with his business, E Pluribus Partners, on LinkedIn and find him on G+. Oh and you can download a free copy of his Manifesto, How Organization Culture Affects Employee Wellness and Wellbeing, on ChangeThis.