11: Connection Culture Lessons from U2 & Sloan Kettering

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Michael Lee Stallard – Helping Leaders Create Cultures That Connect
In this episode, Michael Lee Stallard defines the meaning of culture within the organizational context. He describes three distinct types of sub-cultures and illustrates with two noteworthy examples of highly connected cultures – The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the band U2. He concludes with ideas on how leaders can build a culture of connection in their organizations. Michael Lee Stallard speaks, teaches and writes about leadership, employee engagement, organizational health, talent management, productivity and innovation. He is the Co-founder and President of E Pluribus Partners, a firm that helps leaders create cultures that boost productivity, innovation and performance.
Michael is the primary author of "Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work" and "Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team's Passion, Creativity and Productivity." He writes for numerous media outlets including Fox News, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. . He is a faculty member of the institute for Management Development and a guest lecturer at several universities in North America.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • Definition of culture: The term is used in many settings, but in organizational behavior, Michael defines culture as the predominant attitudes, language and behavior of the individuals operating as a unit. Could be a team, department or broader organization culture.
    • Attitude: Our feelings or ways of thinking that affect behavior
    • Language: The system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other
    • Behavior: The way people act
These three things are really critical when it comes to understanding what culture is. There are good attitudes, language and behavior that are effective and there are attitudes, language and behavior that work against performance.
  • Responsibility and sub-cultures: There is no one singular culture in a broad organization and sub-cultures can be very different. The primary responsibility of driving or creating a sub-culture rests with the leader of that unit. That is what’s going to have an effect on the performance of the group. That’s what they’re getting paid for, to organize the people and tasks and resources to deliver certain results. The culture is going to have a huge impact on whether or not leaders achieve results and whether or not it’s sustainable. Yet everyone in that sub-culture has a role to play. HR has some responsibility for employee engagement, which is closely linked to culture.
  • Three types of sub-cultures in every organization:
    1. Culture of control: In this culture those who have power, control, influence and status rule over the rest. Most of us know from experience that means those being ruled over are not engaged. They might be for a while but within six months they show up for a paycheck but don’t give their best efforts.
    2. Culture of indifference: That’s a culture where everybody is so busy, they don’t take time to build supportive relationships. It’s a culture that often makes people feel unsupported, left out or lonely. That’s not the best recipe for success, or to engage people to make them enthusiastic, energetic, give their best efforts, etc.
    3. Culture of connection: This is where people feel connected to the work they are doing. They feel connected to their colleagues, supervisor and their organizations mission, values and reputation. Those connections have an energizing effect on us and they make us more resilient.
  • Stress responses. Michael discusses the negative and positive impact of stress on the body and the brain, dependent on the type of sub-culture.
  • Examples of cultures that embrace connected culture
    • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has adopted an aspirational, simple, actionable and memorable formula for creating a connected culture. When a leader communicates an inspiring vision, values others and gives them a voice, it makes people feel connected and they thrive.
    • The Band U2 started when its members were 14 and 15 years old. They transformed from weak musicians to a band that has achieved incredible success. You see the formula of vision, value and voice in U2’s culture. Michael has written about U2’s team culture which you see in their music, the work outside of music and how the members take care about each other.
  • Techniques for building a connection culture in an organization:
    • If you’re in an HR or leadership role it’s important to understand what culture is - attitudes, language and behavior.
    • There are three types of culture: control, indifference and connection.
    • The essence of creating a connection culture: vision, value and voice.
    • It’s impossible for people to do this alone. You really need mentors and coaches and others to go on the journey with you. It just does not happen when you try to do it alone.
  • Michael wrote the book Connection Culture which lays out the arguments, data and tools for leaders and HR Leaders. Download the free ebook on 100 Ways to Connect to identify which actions are important.

“If you are in an HR role or a leadership role, it’s important to understand what culture is. Attitudes, language and behavior.” -Michael Lee Stallard

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

To Follow Michael Stallard

Michael Stallard's Question to HR Studio Podcast Group Members

Give some thought to your own experience at work.
  • Was there a team or group that you really felt connected to, that you felt fired up being a part of, and why was that?
  • Tell us a little bit about that team and the context.
  • What do you attribute that to?
  • Was it the mission?
  • Was it that you felt valued in some way?
  • Did you have a voice or was it some combination of all three?
  • Think about that vision, value, voice model and share with us why it was that you felt so connected to that particular group.

Michael Lee Stallard HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Michael Lee Stallard HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Monday, August 8, 2016 - 8:00am
Kyle O'Connor
Michael Lee Stallard
HR Studio Podcast