Tag Archives: relationship building

The power of connection

After Day Two of the WorkHuman conference, I’m struck by how many people have walked up to me and said, “I wanted to meet you! We tweet at each other all the time!”

And the other person is right! We totally tweet at each other all the time. And we laugh together. And we end up having a lot in common, or many not that many things in common, but at least we get each other’s movie references…which totally counts.

I’ve gotten to meet so many fantastic people I’ve only known online – like Tamara Rasberry (my sister-cousin) – or reconnect with people I see only sporadically at conferences – like the Canadian contingent of Bonni Titgemeyer, Pam Ross, Kristen Harcourt, and Rob Caswell. And of course, I get to see the incomparable Victorio Milian (but I didn’t bring the good camera!). This is just a short list of the amazing people I connected with at this conference.

All around me, I saw people meet, engage in meaningful conversation, realize they “know” each other from social media, and share a good laugh. To me, this reaffirms that connection – no matter how it’s made – is a powerful thing.

I firmly believe I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now without my online community of friends. I have built friendships over Twitter and Facebook without having to meet the person face to face. And I don’t feel like these connections are any less powerful or meaningful than ones that would have been made at a networking event in my hometown. I even had a chance to meet Adam Grant face to face because of online interactions we’ve shared. (I try not to fangirl too much, but this was DEFINITELY a highlight of the conference.)

So my point is this – don’t discount a connection you make, no matter how virtual it may be. Cultivate your relationships if they are meaningful to you…even if it’s long distance or online or both. You ARE building relationships, even if you don’t have a chance to see that other person for another 12 months. The power of those connections don’t fade. In fact, they may grow stronger because you appreciate just how special they can be.

If I had a chance to connect with you in real life – THANK YOU! If I didn’t have a chance to meet you, but we connected online – THANK YOU! Let’s make these connections count.

Because THAT’S what it means to “work human.”

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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Personal Development


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It’s STILL about the people

[Continuing to hang with my HR homies at #SHRM16. It’s happening until Wednesday. So…yeah.]

Every year at the SHRM National Conference, you see all sorts of blog posts about how the content is great, but it’s really about the people you meet and the relationships you build. Hell, I’ve even written that blog post.

This year, I wanted to attend more sessions and see more of the content that’s out there. I went through the schedule and picked out a bunch of sessions that looked good (and there were lots) and was ready to session the heck out of this place.

And then I got to DC and that all went out the window.

shrm_ac2016_logoOver the past 12 months I’ve had the chance to connect with so many amazing folks online that once I arrived, it’s a constant scavenger hunt to find all the people who want to met in real life (that’s IRL for those of you in the know).

People like Jon Thurmond, Dan Cross and Wendy Dailey from SHRM’s NextChat (Wednesdays, 3:30pm Eastern – join!). Other folks like Micole Kaye and Chris Bailey, who are always great to see! And of course, all of the #SHRMBloggers!  (And if I haven’t seen you yet – what the heck??)

Anyway, it just goes to show that while these conferences have some fabulous speakers and helpful content, the reality is that most of us come because it’s like a great big crazy family reunion and we barely get to see each other face-to-face.

So forgive me if I don’t go to as many sessions as I wanted to. And if I don’t connect with everyone I meant to, my bad.

For me, #SHRM is STILL about the people.


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‘Do you want to play Questions?’ (your secret weapon)

Have you ever read/saw Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead?  It’s an amazing play turned into a very good movie about two of the throwaway characters in Hamlet whose claim to fame is that they are outwitted by the brooding prince and executed in England.

In one scene, the two play a game called “Questions” – they must, not so surprisingly, only speak in the form of questions. Hesitation, statements, or non sequiturs are not allowed.  If someone goofs, the other person scores a point (or forfeits, or however you want to play it).

In the play, the scene is meant to further illustrate the limits of language and futility in seeking existential knowledge.  But what it also does is remind us of the POWER of asking questions.

As leaders and as employees, we can benefit from playing our own version Questions when holding important conversations or when confronted with a potentially sensitive situation.  These conversations are filled with potential land mines – your innocent statement or observation could set the other person off because you didn’t know where they were coming from.If-you-ask-cp1weq

Forcing yourself to focus on questions rather than statements has a number of benefits.  You signal you’re willing to listen. Good questioning invites the other person in.  Questioning indicates you’re seeking understanding, rather than imposing your interpretation of events. When you ask questions, you actually have to listen to what the other person is saying, so that your next question makes sense in the context of the conversation.  And an added bonus, asking questions increases the chance that the other person might find their own solution.

There is, however, an art to using the questioning technique effectively.  After all, simply asking “How did that make you feel?” or “So you’re saying that customer was rude to you?” can sound condescending if that’s all you say.  Just follow the Questions rules:

  • No statements: Move the conversation forward with a question rather than your own statement. [And yes, I know that you will have to use SOME statements.  Just try to minimize them.]
  • No repetition: Stay engaged, pay attention.  If you find yourself repeating the other person’s words back to them, or ask the same question over and over, RE-ENGAGE.
  • No synonyms: It’s just a fancy way of repeating.  Show off.
  • No rhetoric: The intent of the questions is to seek clarity, not to stump the other person.  Does this mean every question you ask will be answered? No. But you should give them a fair chance.

So the next time you are in a scenario that could get messy, try following Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s example.  Give yourself a deduction every time you break the rules and see how it turns out.  You might be surprised that all it took to defuse the situation was a few good questions.

“Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.”
― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Clarity, Managing Up, Self-Awareness, Skillz


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Labor Day Reminder – (Co)Workers Matter

According to Wikipedia,

Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.

As you go about your preparations for a three-day weekend (hopefully), don’t forget to thank the people you work with and recognize the contribution they make.


Leaders, I know your employees sometimes drive you insane.

Employees, I know your leaders can make you want to poke your eyes out.

But the reality is we are all in this together.  No matter what kind of work you do, your organization, your industry, the people you work with shape your day-to-day experience.  They help determine whether or not you are in a good culture or a bad one.  They may lift you up when you’re feeling down, or help pop that ego when it gets a little too big.  They are your cheerleaders, your mentors, your sounding boards, your cranky neighbor who just wants those darn new hires to get off their lawn.

And yes…sometimes your coworkers are truly terrible.  And they contribute to an awful environment.  And they make you question whether it’s worth it.

But I wager that there is ONE person in your professional life who makes a difference.  That person deserves to hear from you.

So to everyone in my professional life – THANK YOU for your contribution to my strength, prosperity and well-being.


Now go eat some damn hot dogs.


Have a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend, everybody!

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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Teamwork


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Apparently your cat hates you…and your employees might, too

You may have seen it online or in the news lately – there’s a study that claims your cat hates you, or at the very least, doesn’t really care if you’re there or not.

My first thought upon reading the article…you needed a study to learn this?  Seriously, just own a cat.  [Full disclosure: I’m a dog person.  But cats have been in my life from time to time.  Hence the dog. :)] The level of disdain even the most “loving” cats have for their owners is remarkable.  Awe-inspiring, even.

Shortly after that, I thought how similar this behavior can be to employees.  I’m inclined to believe that employees also have an “anxious avoidant” attachment style – they really don’t care if their leader is present or not present.  Not in a positive way, anyway.  Sure, employees may care to avoid an abusive or incompetent leader.  But just like a cat who snubs the owner who feeds them and gives them a loving home, employees may turn their nose up at a leader who cares about his/her employees.


If you don’t know Grumpy Cat, you are missing out!!

Leaders, try not to take it personally.  There are a number of factors that play into this dynamic:

  • Employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”: Well, maybe not hate.  Perhaps “intense distrust” is a better term.  By and large, authority figures have it rough in the workplace.  Ask any popular employee who was promoted and then spurned as a pariah – it can be tough to be the king.
  • Leaders kinda feel the same way about their employees: Just like employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”, there are a number of leaders who look at the privilege of leading with a sort of resignation.  They know it’s important, it’s just….tiring sometimes.
  • Leaders struggle with boundaries: There are many leaders out there who just don’t get the balance between BFF and hard ass.  This can lead to credibility issues with the team that cause employees to wish “the man” wasn’t around.
  • Most employees don’t really need a manager: Of course, teams need a manager.  They need someone to help run interference, be their champion, set the vision, etc.  But on a day-to-day basis, not so much.  Think I’m wrong?  Next time your manager is out of the office, take note of how much work you get done.


So what do you do to combat this indifference?  We might be able to learn a lot from cat owners:

  • Don’t try too hard: Most cat owners know that when the cat wants to interact with you, he/she will do so.  Create an environment that is conducive to interaction, exercise some patience, and see what happens.
  • Catnip works: In this case, catnip can be rewards and recognition.  Make your employees’ interactions with you positive and you may see them more often.  Figure out what motivates your employees, help them achieve that, and you should see an improvement in your relationships.
  • Know what baggage they bring to the table: As anyone who has ever adopted a shelter cat knows, some of these guys come with serious issues.  Sometimes employees do, too.  Maybe they had a crappy manager 3 jobs ago and you’re paying the price.  Patience, positive reinforcement, and a good dialogue can help overcome that.
  • Some people just aren’t cat people: If it really bothers you that your employees don’t like you, or don’t think you’re cool, or don’t want to hang out with you…maybe you aren’t the leading kind.  Re-examine your motives for getting into a leadership position in the first place – if they are still pure and you just need an attitude adjustment, do it!  If not, that’s okay, too.  Just don’t subject your employees to a non-leadership ready leader.

Do you have any advice for the leader whose employees are a little too cat-like in their attachment?  Share in the comments below!

I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.
– Neil Gaiman


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Embrace your inner geek! (finding authenticity)

Can you name all 6 Star Wars movies (tag line and all)? Are you aware of the Star Trek “odd numbered movie” curse? Have you seriously debated Kirk vs. Picard, BSG vs. Firefly, Tennant vs. Smith? (That’s a Doctor Who reference, in case you didn’t know.)*

If you answered yes to any (or all…) of these questions, you’re a geek. Congratulations!  Geek-dom boasts a proud and varied host of members – intelligent, successful, overly friendly at conventions.  And yet, how do you react when someone pegs your geek cred?  Do you proudly proclaim, “YES. I. AM.”?  Or (like most people in corporate America who don’t work in IT) do you laugh it off, saying you must have seen the reference on SNL or something?

I bring this topic up because leaders (and the led) benefit from the ability to admit who they are to each other.  It touches on a level of transparency that is often missing from the office world, which in turn impacts our ability to see each other as individuals rather than archetypes that pepper business literature these days.  We must be professional, dress for the job you want not the one you have, network even if you’re an introvert, cultivate relationships, etc.  This is all good advice; after all, there is a certain expectations that leaders have.  Layered on those expectations, however, should be a willingness to show who you are.

“Leadership authenticity” is a popular topic these days (a current Google search listed 10.9M results) – strive to identify your core values and lead by them.  I also think it means to be true to yourself, letting your freak (or geek) flag fly.  When I think back to the leaders I’ve admired, they were typically people who knew who they were and weren’t afraid to show it.  There’s an immense level of confidence, and trust, in being willing to share your true self with those at work.  Not surprisingly, employees often respond to your willingness to share by lowering their guard and sharing something with you.  This pays off beyond simple relationship building.  I’ve found that teams who share something of themselves work better together, are more creative and productive, are willing to hold each other accountable, and feel comfortable with productive conflict.  But you can’t simply tell your team to share – you have to set the expectation…and lead by example.

Embracing your inner geek (or sports fanatic/car junkie/Kardashian stalker/whatever) might sound scary to some of you.  And for some of you, the culture of your current workplace means sharing your geekosity (shut up, it’s a word) would pretty much guarantee you never get that promotion you’ve been working towards.  If that’s the case, you have a choice to make – find ways to share who you are without jeopardizing your standing, or maybe find a culture that embraces the idea people can be who they are…and STILL produce quality work.

Still don’t believe in the power of the Geek?  That’s cool, I get it.  It took me awhile to get my geek on, too.  To help get you started, I’ve shared my top 4 reasons for why embracing my inner geek was beneficial:

  1. Builds credibility among the people who get work done: It’s important to connect to leaders in a company, I get that.  But how do you gain visibility with leaders?  By getting things done.  And you get things done by building relationships with the people who do the day-to-day – facilities, IT, help desks, copy rooms, studios, the guys in the field, etc.  To many of the, I was just another person from corporate (worse, HR from corporate)…until I showed I could hold my own in conversations about Star Wars, D&D, movie trivia.  I showed that I was willing to be myself, and that I was a real person.  As a result, I built informal networks that allowed me to get work done quickly.
  2. Forges a connection with employees: When I facilitate leadership workshops, I always tell the participants that they have to find a way to connect with every single person on their team.  It’s a reality of life that we won’t always “like” the people we lead – but it is our responsibility to respect them as a person, and find a way to relate to them on a human level.  Embracing my inner geek (which also includes a love of useless trivia) has allowed me to find ways to connect to my employees on a personal level, which not only builds a relationship but also gave me a chance to learn more about them.
  3. Annoys those people who refuse to admit they have an inner geek: You know who I’m talking about.  The people who claim they “don’t watch television”, and then want to talk about The Bachelor for 3 hours.  Sure, it’s a little petty, but I admit to a little giggle when I’m able to just be myself and they feel they need to pretend to be someone else because they think it will make them look cooler.  [Editor’s Note: it does not make you look cooler.]
  4. I’m happier at work: Listen, we are at work a LOT.  When you do the math to realize how much of your time is spent on the job, it’s a little depressing.  On second thought, DON’T do that.  Okay, the point is that it takes a lot of effort and energy to keep trying to act like you don’t watch Top Gear or have a basement full of Star Wars stuff or watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a marathon to prep for The Hobbit.  (Just for the record, I didn’t watch ALL of them, but I did reminisce about the animated version.)  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t have to apologize for who I am.  Do I adjust my topics of conversation based on who’s in the room?  Of course – that’s just being a smart person.  But do I shy away from my geek roots?  Heck no.

As a leader, I know my people look to me for permission to be themselves.  As a follower, I look to my leader for the right to be who I am.  This is authenticity.

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.   ~ Simon Pegg



*For the record, Kirk was cooler, Firefly kicks BSG’s butt, and Tennant is the only Doctor to tempt me away from Tom Baker.

**Image borrowed shamelessly from this cool post.


Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Authenticity


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