77: How to SPARK an Emotionally Connected Workplace

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What are the key elements of creating an emotionally connected workplace? What are the benefits of creating an environment of respect, alignment, and a positive future? Louis ‘Lou’ Carter outlines the five essential elements to emotional connection, based on discussions and research involving hundreds of CEOs and other executives. In this podcast, he talks about his research and explains when change works, why it is. He’ll share a couple of great CEO stories and offer advice to HR to earn respect today.  
Lou Carter is Founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, a benchmark research consortium, association, and management consulting firm. He has written 11 books, including The Change Champion’s Fieldguide; Best Practices in Talent Management: How the World’s Leading Corporations Manage, Develop, and Retain Top Talent; and his latest, In Great Company: How to Spark Peak Performance By Creating an Emotionally Connected Workplace.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Lou.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What prompted the writing of your latest book, In Great Company? All his previous books addressed best practices of leadership development and organization change in Fortune 500 companies. The question became, ‘what was bringing it all together?’ Why do these companies have successful change initiatives? The book focuses on why change really works. 
  • What did the research uncover? Most change efforts have an 80% fail rate. Sometimes it is due to lack of engagement. However, it was not all about engagement. ‘Connection’ is like falling in love.  There is a period of, ‘I love everything about you.’ Eighteen months later the very same things annoy you. The book is about enabling the ‘honeymoon’ period to be extended, the things that are core to our relationship – to ourselves, others, teams, and the company. Those core things are what emotional connectedness is about – the next step in emotional intelligence, keeping long term relationships to enable us to perform better and do more for our company. 
  • Lou Carter Quote on HR Studio PodcastIs emotional connection the same as corporate culture? Emotional connection is what happens when you bring everyone together and they actively co-create common outcomes. You can be in an emotionally disconnected culture where people are not psychology safe to provide innovation or creative thinking. In those environments, about 2% of people leave. They are the functional ones who leave when they feel abused. The other 98% stay and harm the fabric of an organization. Emotionally connected cultures are the optimal cultures in five specific areas. 
  • Why People Love Their Companies. People were asked what was important to them at their company. It was not about perks, ping pong tables, etc. Most people want to make a living, do well for their family, and get home at the end of the day. Executives said they are three to four times likely to perform better when they feel that emotional connectedness to their workplace. The research started with leaders, who provided their insight. It was then extended to about 3000 employees across different organizations and regions globally. 
  • When talking about ‘sparking peak performance’, what does ‘SPARK’ stand for? 
    • Systemic Collaboration 
    • Positive Future 
    • Alignment of Values
    • Respect 
    • Killer Outcome
  • A simple experiment was conducted that shows what happens when you have a ‘SPARK’ culture and what happens when you don’t. When you facilitate a ‘SPARK’ conversation in dyads (2 people) and triads (three people), and then within a group, you get a 100% rate of people who want to be together. In a non-spark culture, people not surprisingly check out. See: Do Team Members Naturally Become Dysfunctional When Unmanaged? 
  • What aspects of the experiment were most surprising or intriguing? The number one factor identified after a critical analysis was respect. What is respect? What does it mean to you? Is it earned? Do you just give it? Respect is a currency – how? It is very personal. The book defines respect as a currency – the more you give it, the more you get it. 
  • Respect: Is there a definition of respect within a corporate setting? In a corporate setting, respect changes every time. People can do four things within a relationship and within teams. They can mirror, challenge, support, and move to decisions. These come from David Cantor’s work on Family Systems Therapy. Effective relationships have these four elements or practices within meetings. They allow for equal, balanced air time. Another form of respect is ‘clearing withholding’ – ‘clearing’ any perception I may have about you and not withholding information about you that may harm you or me. The complaining and blaming effect has huge consequences inside companies. It festers and harms people. Respect can be the root cause of some organizational issues. 
  • Example of an organization where respect is the key driver. Morris Miller is an extraordinary entrepreneur and CEO. He was the co-founder of Rackspace where he created fanatical customer support. He was an over-the-top leader who was completely connected to his customers and employees who wanted to learn from him. He eventually sold the company and found his passion - saving people’s lives. He bought into a company called Xenex Disinfection Systems which makes robots that disinfect hospital rooms, achieving a 60-90% reduction in infection rates. He gave his robots to a hospital and helped them improve their operations. He has total, emotional connection with his customers. It is through his leadership, his purpose, his vision, and his love for wanting to save patients that makes it all worth it. 
  • What is the learned lesson, in terms of respect? Demand respect at the table. Take ownership. Ask the right questions. Explain what you want to do. Don’t do it behind the scenes. Don’t worry. Don’t allow fears to get in the way. Walk in, get an appointment with the CEO. CEO’s are lonely. Be their friend.  Understand them. They may not want a friend. Give them a reason to be their helper, give them advice, ask them if they need advice. Get to know them as a person. When you open yourself up to other people and who they are, you will always win. If you continue with assumptions and complaints about everything you do, you are going to destroy your relationships. 
  • Respect is a two-way street. Offer it and demand it, but do it diplomatically. If there is a total mismatch, move on. You need to establish core relationships. People talk about getting a seat at the table. Just go. There are perceptions about HR, even fears. Get out of your office. Ask the right questions. Become a part of the fabric of the company. Talk to the leadership and operational heads. Ask the questions your CEO wants and needs to hear. It is risk mitigation for your CEO. Find out what your CEO wants to know. Interview people. Let the CEO know what you’ve learned. Create interventions and design a system that is emotionally connected within your workplace where people can hold these kinds of meetings and create real outcomes. The result – your CEO will always listen to you. You will be doing real work with your CEO. 
  • What is Positive Future? Positive Future is a behavior, it is putting your feet forward rather than back. Tell someone what they should do in the future rather than making them feel bad about what they did in the past. It is also about CEO’s creating strategic relationships for the future, creating a legacy for the future before they leave. This is not about their name – it is about their title and the function. Ray Williams is the CEO of the Springfield Clinic. He recently created a strategic alliance, thinking 10 years into the future. He does three-dimensional chess – he sees the past, the present, and the future. He knows that every relationship he has with every stakeholder, shareholder and Board member has to enable their success, the Clinic’s success, and everyone’s success. Find your CEOs who are looking into the future. Tell them you understand they face challenges and be their partner. People don’t like change. If you don’t change, systemically the change over time will not be what you are striving for. You want something better. See the future, do the analysis, and make it happen. 
  • What if you don’t work for someone like that? How can you promote it? It starts and stops at the top. Work with that individual, get to the core or heart of the matter. Does your leader want to be known for creating a future for your company, your employees, and their families? It is about unearthing with your leader what their true legacy should be and what can and should be done.  Start now, today is the day. Make time with your CEO, unearth questions, meet, collaborate, enable and create that positive future.
Lou Carter HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Lou Carter HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 8:00am
Management Consulting
Fred Bunsa
Lou Carter
HR Studio Podcast