Book Review: Connection Culture

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Full disclosure. I’ve admired Michael Stallard and his work since I read his first book, Fired Up or Burned Out. The first chapter of that book was “The Case for Connection at Work.” In the years since that book, Michael has developed his ideas about connection culture. Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work is the most recent complete expression. It will show you what an effective business culture looks like and demonstrate how you can make it happen in your team.

There are three parts to the book. Part 1 describes the seven universal human needs that people have at work. Stallard then uses those needs as a basis for describing three kinds of business culture. The definitions are clear and usable. No need for an extensive instrument or expert help.

There are cultures of control, where the people with the power rule. There are cultures of indifference. There, people are so busy with tasks that they don’t invest in the time to develop healthy and productive relationships. This is the most common kind of business culture today.

In cultures of connection people develop both task performance excellence and relationship excellence. That’s what this book is about.

Part 2 is about the superpower of connection and the dangers of disconnection. Stallard shares research the shows two things. Connection is vital for individuals to succeed and thrive. And there are six benefits for organizations that have connection cultures. They are:

  • Superior employee health and cognitive advantage
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Tighter strategic alignment
  • Superior decision-making
  • Higher levels of innovation
  • Greater agility and adaptability

In this part of the book, Stallard introduces what he calls “knowledge traps.” Without connection, knowledge gets trapped in pockets within the organization. When that happens, decision-making and coordination suffer. So do productivity and morale.

Part 3 is about making connection culture work where you are. This part of the book had special resonance for me. There are several findings on the way culture works. One of my favorites is from James Pennebaker. He found “When you get people to talk, they feel more connected to you, like you more, and believe they learn more from you.”

That echoes the finding in my own research of top-performing supervisors. I studied 36 top-performing supervisors over a period of three years. Each one was rated highly by his or her boss, peers, and team members. They were all kinds of people. But they had one thing in common. They all touched base with their team members a lot and had wide ranging conversations.

Those top-performing supervisors led teams that had both high productivity and high morale. Connection Culture is about how you get to that point Much of this is not new. In 1986, Daniel Goleman wrote that good bosses “create an atmosphere in which it is easy to talk.”

This book goes beyond anything I’ve seen or read about effective and healthy business cultures. Extensive examples and “Making It Personal” sections will help you put what you learn to work. A wealth of examples will show you what others have done.

In a Nutshell

Michael Stallard has spent more than a decade researching and refining his ideas. He brought research, case studies and analysis together to form a usable framework. Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work
is a must-read if you want to recognize, understand, and implement a connection culture on your team.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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