Finding New Ways To Connect

This heartfelt community in Newton, Massachusetts has forged more than a tight neighborhood; they’ve embraced the power of true Connection. Driven by the desire to engage with a two-year-old deaf girl, Samantha, who loves to talk and interact with anyone, the neighborhood banded together to learn sign language to bridge the communication gap. The result is exemplary inclusion, immense gratitude from the family, and a more joyful young girl in a beautifully Connected neighborhood

When we are struggling to find a way to engage with our team members, providers, patients or guests, what new approaches or technologies might we try in an effort to build a meaningful Connection?

Great Connection Questions

You’re at a work function. You meet someone new. Instead of the usual, “So what do you do?” there’s a way to elicit a more thoughtful response and unlock insights about someone. 

HBR published 8 questions that open up conversation, create multiple ties, and lead to richer relationships. Next time try starting with:

  1. What excites you right now?  
  2. What are you looking forward to?
  3. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? 
  4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you?
  5. What do you love most about what you do? (This question is an Experience Lab favorite not yet on HBR’s list.)

These questions have been proven to help team members get along better, enjoy work more, and build meaningful Connections. Studies also show that team members with at least one friend at work have greater work satisfaction. Give the questions a go and see what it sparks.


Share a Cup

How do you get people to Connect and share success stories with each other? You set up a giant cup of coffee on the street and ask people to hop in and chat, of course! It’s incredible what you learn, over, and sometimes inside, a cup.


SPARK Volume 6 – Applying Connection as a Leader


Making a Magical Connection

It takes at least seven minutes to form a true Connection during a conversation. In an age where technology buzzes, pings, and interrupts us on a nearly continual basis, this finding by social psychologist Sherry Turkle inspires us to think about how we can practice Connection. She discusses conversation and gives us some ideas about how to make it happen in this podcast from the Note to Self series “Infomagical.”

What does it take to have a truly human, face-to-face interaction for seven minutes these days? Why seven minutes? It takes that long to get past the settling in – the initial chat – and really dig into the meat of the conversation.

As leaders, when we encourage our team members to truly Connect, and take the time to do it right, we create a Connection culture – a culture where Connections are sought after because they create valuable interactions. We know it’s not easy to remove all of the dings, mental distractions, and alerts urging us to read and reply. It seems so much easier to shoot off a quick note and be done with it. But creating human Connections opens the door to so much more – and is truly time well spent.

Try having a full seven-minute, face-to-face conversation with someone - no phone, computer, or device - and discuss something you've recently heard, read, or watched. What is the hardest part about this exercise? What did you discover that you would have missed if you had Connected for only a minute or if you had been distracted by technology?

Google’s Search for the Magic Team Formula

The folks over at Google launched an extensive project – codename “Project Aristotle” – to determine the magic formula for teamwork. After years of intense analysis, they discovered the key is just plain ol’ “being nice.” It’s not so much about who is on the team, but about how team members interact, what kind of environment that creates, and how it fosters teamwork.

Google shows us the incredible importance of taking the time to understand others – finding a way to relate and then making yourself understood. In other words, making a Connection. With Project Aristotle, the Google team thought it would surely be the mix of people on the team that determined its success, and then they spent several years proving themselves “dead wrong.” To test the project’s findings, one Google manager hosted a team meeting to talk about his recent cancer diagnosis. Initially, everyone was silent then eventually they began sharing their own stories. The manager had created a safe environment where team members felt comfortable sharing and Connecting. Once everyone shares the belief that it’s safe to take risks and contribute ideas, that’s when the magic happens.

How might we make Connections to create a sharing environment for our teams? How could we do a better job inviting people to Connect?

“I’m sorry. We’re out of snapper.”

When Experience Design expert and restaurateur Danny Meyer reopened his famous Union Square Cafe, he did so through the lens of Connection. Bridging the gap between dining and technology, Meyer partnered with a reservation system startup to create an Apple Watch app that pings every manager in the restaurant when there is a potential moment for service recovery. For example, if a menu item runs out in the kitchen, the managers can inform their guests ahead of time and provide them with an alternative suggestion so as not to disappoint.

This technology, aimed to enhance human Connections, also provides opportunities to create small moments of surprise and delight for diners; when the managers are pinged that the guests are signing their check, the host can retrieve their coats and have them ready when the guests exit.

If technology can create Connection in fine dining, how can it be applied to health care? We have so many opportunities to enhance the Connective Experience we create in our organizations – sometimes we just have to think outside the box.

Brainstorm! What could an app be programmed to tell team members that might enhance their daily Experience? How could it be programmed to enhance the patient Experience?

SPARK Volume 5 – The Power of Connection

Connection. It’s the energy that ties you to a person, a place, a memory – a relationship to your work, to your team members, and to yourself. It is one of the most vital aspects of our existence.

When we use last month’s principle of Intention as a guide and decision filter, something powerful happens – we are connected to a greater whole. It’s no surprise then that, as we wrap up our focus on Intention, we transition to the principle of Connection.

As leaders, we are the connective tissue and the bridge between people, between ideas, and between possibilities. Understanding and creating a Connection across all of the disciplines in our organizations ensures that each individual piece fits into a greater whole—contributing to a better Experience for our team members, providers, patients, and guests.

Connection, by definition, requires an “other” – another person, another team, another goal we’re trying to reach. When we make the Connection and connect-the-dots, we are bridging the gap of the unknown. We are the glue.

Healing requires Connections—between doctors and patients, between patients and family members, between the many members of our care teams. These are the Connections that define our patients’ memories of their Experience with us—our people and our places. When their loved ones think of our organizations, they remember the way a caregiver took the time to make a connection — holding their loved one’s hands and guided them through their time of need.

Write down the people and things you feel the strongest Connections with. What strengths are you bringing, and what sustenance are they providing you? How do you maintain this Connection over time?

Eyes on Connection

We LOVE this intense video by artist Marina Abramović. As part of a retrospective at the MoMA, Abramović created a live exhibit in which she sat and LOOKED into the eyes of a complete stranger without speaking for one uninterrupted minute. Strangers can form deep Connections with their eyes alone. What she didn’t know was that her former lover and fellow artist, Ulay, whom she hadn’t seen since the 1970s, was waiting to LOOK into her eyes again.

Without uttering a word, we can feel the sparks fly and the Connection crackle between Ulay and Marina, and this type of Connection has actually been scientifically proven. Researchers at Cornell University found that LOOKING into the eyes of another fosters a sense of Connection and “only actual eye contact fully activates those parts of the brain that allow us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions.”

*When we take a moment to truly see someone, we can understand the power of eye contact in making a Connection. Try it with your team. Pair off, LOOK into your partner's eyes, and see what kind of Connections you can make without words.

The Power of Human Connection

This beautiful and powerful thank-you note and subsequent New York Times article brought us to tears. In October 2016, Peter DeMarco wrote an incredible letter about his wife, Laura Levis, after her passing. He vulnerably shared their Experience at Cambridge Hospital by way of a thank-you note to his wife’s care team. What he shared underlined the importance of how the team treated her family and him, the grieving, frightened, madly-in-love husband and also a Connection that might be overlooked: the way the care team allowed Peter to Connect with Laura.

“There is another moment – actually, a single hour – that I will never forget… when I returned, they [her nurses Donna and Jen] had shifted Laura to the right side of her bed, leaving just enough room for me to crawl in with her one last time. It was our last tender moment as a husband and wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt… I will remember that last hour together for the rest of my life. It was a gift beyond gifts, and I have Donna and Jen to thank for it.”

Think of a time in your life that you made an incredibly powerful Connection. Did someone else help you make that Connection? How could you enable Connections for others in your everyday work?