The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

March 27, 2017

7 Ways to Connect with Your Coworkers

If you believe that productivity, engagement, and success in the workplace is all about relationships – and you should – then you know that staying personally connected with your boss and with your coworkers isn’t a waste of time; it’s truly a strategic priority.  Jim proposes the top 7 ways to forge these critical personal connections.

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Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. Now a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim Hessler: Today on The Boss Show we’re going to talk about that challenge of staying connected, both with your boss and if you’re a boss, staying connected with your employees. I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development and the author, along with my cohost, of the book Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face.
Steve Motenko: And I’m the cohost.
Jim Hessler: Oh, I’m sorry – I’m The Business Guy. Did I say that?
Steve Motenko: I don’t think you did.
Jim Hessler: I didn’t, I’m The Business Guy.
Steve Motenko: Boy, we are so polished.
Jim Hessler: Yes we are.
Steve Motenko: I’m The Psychology Guy, Steve Motenko. I’m a Harvard-educated leadership coach right here in the Seattle area where we record The Boss Show in the shadow of the Space Needle. I like saying that, it’s really kind of true depending on where the sun is.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, I don’t think actually the shadow of the Space Needle actually ever hits this building, but it still sounds good.
Steve Motenko: I think it does.
Jim Hessler: Well here’s the way I would say it.
Steve Motenko: Oh, because it’s north of us.
Jim Hessler: If the Space Needle fell down, it has like a one in four chance of like hitting this building.
Steve Motenko: I’m looking forward to that.
Jim Hessler: Another way of saying it.
Steve Motenko: What a claim to fame that would be.
Jim Hessler: One of the things that you’ve heard me talk about on the show, Steves is how important it is for us, obviously we talk about this all the time, how important it is to stay connected. One of the things I want to present today on the show is seven ideas I have about how do you stay connected with each other at work, but before that I want to talk about a way to not stay connected. I recently went to a networking event, very professional. One of the people there was wearing I think it’s called a HoloLens. This is one of these things that fits on your head and you’re looking through a pair of goggles.
  The guy’s at this networking event, wearing this thing and while the speaker was speaking, I guess there’s a way to take photographs with this thing and you put your hand up in front of the screen and make like a little swiping motion. Here he is looking through these goggles, holding his had about a foot in front of his face making these little flicks with his finger. I wanted to deck the guy.
Steve Motenko: He wants to strangle him.
Jim Hessler: I just wanted to walk up and slap the hollow lens off of his head and watch it you know, scurry into the hallway or something. I remember saying this years ago on the show and maybe it’s time to say it again. If you ever plan on having a conversation with me as a human being, while you’re wearing one of those things, forget about it. I just will not engage with anybody who’s wearing that sort of a device on their head. I mean is that unreasonable of me?
Steve Motenko: No, it’s very much you and I get a chuckle out of it. No, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all. It’s an extension of screen time. You know, how addicted we are to our screens and how, I mean we’re old fogies but we criticize I think appropriately, a lot of the younger generation, millennials often you’ll see them sitting around in a group, not talking to each other but talking to others through Facebook messenger or Twitter or whatever and there’s something big missing there.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, and here’s the context that I put it in, which is that good or bad, and I don’t want to get off on my concerns as much as just to point out that we’re engaging in an enormous experiment in human sociology and human intelligence right now. We are playing with the essence of human intelligence.
Steve Motenko: What it means to be human.
Jim Hessler: I hope everybody gets that. I mean I hope that people realize that this is a civilization shifting time. This is as significant as any change in human culture I think that we’ve ever seen. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, is the way that these devices both connect and disconnect us from one another. The theme of the show today being how to stay connected with employees and coworkers, you know we always have to think about the role that technology plays in our ability to connect or disconnect with one another. I had my little hollow lens experience the other night.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, and as you say, it’s the tip of the iceberg, the worst or best, however you frame it is yet to come because technology, the change of pace of technology will continue to accelerate.
Jim Hessler: So Steve we like to say this is the show for anyone who is or has a boss. I’m going to talk about seven ways to stay connected. Some of it is going to be a little more directed at the boss, but I think most of these seven concepts in some way also …
Steve Motenko: Apply?
Jim Hessler: Thank you for that very complicated word that I couldn’t find. They apply to the relationship that we have with our bosses as well, so you can push these ideas in both directions.
Steve Motenko: And coworkers I assume?
Jim Hessler: And coworkers, peers absolutely. Number one, wander with a spirit of curiosity.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, god I love it. Yeah, I don’t know who came up with the concept of management by walking around, and it doesn’t have to be management. It’s a great idea, it sounds kind of what, simplistic but it’s a great idea.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, backtrack just a little bit. One of the reasons I wanted to do this subject today is because just recently I’ve talked to a couple of young, entrepreneurial people who have companies that they’ve built and doing quite well, but they’re having trouble staying connected to their employees. Some managers see this as wasted time, they see this idea of being socially engaged with their employees as wasted time, and it’s not.
Steve Motenko: It almost feels to me like you are limiting your leadership capacity, your leadership potential if you do see that as wasted time because if you see that as wasted time, it’s truly strategic effort to really get to know your people.
Jim Hessler: It is.
Steve Motenko: The job of a leader is to not to get the work done, but to get the work done through other people. If you don’t have healthy relationships with them, then that work is not going to get done effectively.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, I mean the premise here is people want to work in a place where the people they work with care about them as human beings. It’s a big workplace satisfaction issue. When we say wander, number one of the seven concepts here, wandering with a spirit of curiosity, that’s just getting your head out of your computer, out of your whatever, out of your room, out of your cubbyhole, out of your computer and prairie dogging and getting up there and looking around, seeing what’s going on and connecting with people. The reason why the curiosity is so important is if you don’t approach it with a spirit of curiosity, people are going to feel like you’re out inspecting the troops. You’re looking for something wrong, or you’re trying to see if they’re working hard or something like that. Step into a meeting and just listen, ask a question, oh that’s interesting.
Steve Motenko: Don’t give an answer and don’t fix.
Jim Hessler: Don’t give an answer, yeah. Wandering with a spirit of curiosity, and you’ll learn a lot about your company and you’ll learn a lot about your people if you do that. The second idea is I call it the stop byer, the personal inquiry. There’s so many small opportunities to ask a person that you work with a personal question about how did your kid’s soccer game go last week, or what did you do over the Thanksgiving holidays, or just something, it’s an inquiry. Way back in the day when who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People?
Steve Motenko: Dale Carnegie.
Jim Hessler: Dale Carnegie, you know he pointed out people love talking about themselves.
Steve Motenko: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Jim Hessler: Give people a chance to talk about themselves.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, how’s the new baby doing?
Jim Hessler: How’s the new baby doing and you know, for so many hard charging business people, this feel forced, it feels artificial but if you do it as a habit it becomes the norm, and it becomes an important part of your day. Actually, all of these seven ways to stay connected are in my mind pointed towards having more joy and more pleasure in your leadership.
Steve Motenko: Part of the message that I like to convey to leaders on this last piece is it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
Jim Hessler: No.
Steve Motenko: A lot of leaders think oh, if I get involved in a personal conversation it’s going to suck up a half an hour, a critical half an hour of my time. It can be two minutes worth of time. It’s demonstrating that connection, demonstrating that you care.
Jim Hessler: You do it on your feet so you can end the conversation and walk away from it when the timing works for you.
Steve Motenko: You can even go into that conversations saying you know, I’ve only got two minutes but I really wanted to ask you how your event went this weekend or whatever.
Jim Hessler: Here’s idea number three, which I know you’ll love Steve, be vulnerable. If you want to have relationships with people you’ve got to let your passion, your sorrow, your excitement, your disappointment, your confusion show. You’ve got to be a real human being and not hide your emotions behind a wall.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, it’s really hard for most people to do in large part because our culture generally doesn’t support it. I mean the workplace culture doesn’t support it, on top of the overall, our culture at large not supporting people being expressive of their emotions, and being expressive of their weaknesses and their vulnerabilities. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but somehow biologically, psychologically we feel that it’s a threat to our very survival to show up as vulnerable.
Jim Hessler: Well I think there’s also maybe some fear that’s created when your boss is acting in an emotional way, and they’re showing their emotions clearly, it might create a little fear, a little uncertainty like this person might be out of control, this person might not be in full possession of their faculties at this moment. I’m not talking about rampant kind of physical displays of emotionality. I’m talking about I’m upset right now, or you know talking about your emotions is really more what I’m referring to here, acknowledging that they exist.
Steve Motenko: Right, as we say in the model that I created called The Shock Treatment, which is a model for effective challenging communication. I talk about speaking about the emotion, not speaking from the emotions. From the emotion is like raging or sobbing, speaking about the emotion is taking yourself at a bit of a distance from the emotion but being honest and authentic about what you have been experiencing.
Jim Hessler: Being in relationship with the emotion that you’re feeling, and naming it and putting it out there so people can deal with it. It’s really interesting how you led right into the next point, which is the fourth point of the seven ways that we talk about to stay connected. That is to have feedback sessions. To have a good flow of feedback between you and the people you work with. This to me, and you just mentioned your Shock Treatment, which is a great model, this to me maybe in some ways it’s the most important of the seven to me, because if we can’t learn to really be honest and open in our feedback with each other, up and down the hierarchy from boss to employee, from employee to boss, out to peers we can’t develop the relationships that we need to have to run our business.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, I mean it’s true in personal life as well.
Jim Hessler: Yeah.
Steve Motenko: The more authentic we can be, the more honest we can be, the more connected we can be and connection is the foundation for everything, business or personal.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, and the ability to speak honestly and truthfully to one another about what’s working, and what’s not working in our relationship. If you can learn to go there with people, you’ll find that the relationship deepens in really significant ways. One simple tool that has worked for many, many of our clients over the years is what we call Stop, Start, Continue. It’s not an idea we came up with, it’s an old idea. The thing I really like about Stop, Start, Continue is you just put those three words up on the board and you say, hey Steve, tell Jim what you’d like him to stop doing that he does. Tell him what you’d like him to start doing and …
Steve Motenko: Okay, stop monopolizing our radio show.
Jim Hessler: Okay. What I like about it is that they’re all actionable. All three things are described actions.
Steve Motenko: Mm-hmm (affirmative), behaviors, yep.
Jim Hessler: Which as a coach you know how important that is.
Steve Motenko: Yep.
Jim Hessler: Stop, Start, Continue, play with that. It’s a good idea. Number five on our list is show gratitude. It’s a relationship builder. How do you feel about this Steve? I know that there’s some dangers to giving too many positives, and there’s some way that you should not praise people. There’s some sensitivity about that, but in general, I want to know that the people I work with are glad that I work there.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, there are some dangers. There’re ways that you should not positively praise people in those ways, quite simply are very generally. Don’t praise people very generally. It’s not useful to say to somebody good job, without their having an understanding of what it is specifically that you appreciated in their work. As one of my favorite authors, Alfie Kohn who wrote the book called Punish by Rewards, which is a groundbreaking book on motivation, said the proper response to the comment good job is woof, woof. Praise specifically but I mean that’s a small point in the context of the much larger point that we’re biologically programmed, as I’ve said a million times on this show and in workshops, to focus on the negative.
  It’s what we do in our business cultures. Sit a group of CEO’s down and paint a corporate scenario and without even telling them what to do, they’ll immediately go to the problems and how to fix them. They won’t go to gratitude, they won’t go to an acknowledgement of what is working, which is critically important for any employee. I as your direct report or as your peer, I need to know what I’m doing that’s working for you, for the team, for the organization so I can keep doing more of that. It’s not just a matter of me being patted on the head, it’s me getting solid information about what you appreciate.
Jim Hessler: In this context of saying connected, I think there’s another important point here, which is when you come to me and say something like Jim, it’s such a pleasure to do The Boss Show with you. I’m just so glad we do that together. There’s a connection that forms between us when you say something like that.
Steve Motenko: Right.
Jim Hessler: It just tells me that you treasure and value me as a friend, and as a colleague and that’s a relationship builder. That’s a connection that’s formed from that positive affirmation.
Steve Motenko: It’s a morale booster for both of us.
Jim Hessler: It’s just nice to know.
Steve Motenko: Yeah.
Jim Hessler: You know it’s like that Fiddler on the Roof song you know, do you love me? You know and it’s a wonderful song because it’s just that whole idea of it’s just nice to know. It doesn’t change anything, it’s just nice to know.
Steve Motenko: Right, and the point that I’m trying to make is we tend not completely to misunderstand how important it is for building that connection, for creating enjoyment and satisfaction at work, and in our personal lives. Gratitude is huge on so many levels that it’s a coaching practice that I’m constantly trying to get my clients to engage in, because it help to counter all the negative things that our minds are programmed to pay attention to.
Jim Hessler: As a boss, if you walk up and show your gratitude and show your appreciation for another human being’s presence in your workplace, and the work that they do they’ll take that home, they’ll talk to their family, they’ll remember it for years and years. Trust me, I know that from personal experience it’s true.
Steve Motenko: If you’re not doing it, start doing it.
Jim Hessler: Number six on my list of Seven Ways to Stay Connected with workplace people. Anytime you get an opportunity to connect with the person’s family, I think it’s a good idea. Be careful about that, but if you have events where you can have them bring spouse, girlfriend, friend, children, significant other, I find that, that’s helpful.
Steve Motenko: As an introvert, playing Devil’s Advocate, I don’t want to go to the company picnic. I don’t want to interact with all these families and these children.
Jim Hessler: Yeah, well so what. Do it anyway, I mean my wife, just a quick example. I go down to Phoenix once a month to work with a client down there. My wife has gone with me on several of those trips because Phoenix is a nice place to go, especially this time of year. The gentleman who runs that place of business in Phoenix is so gracious and he’s met her, I brought her into the office to meet him. Now, every time I go to Phoenix he’s like say hi to Nick for me. It just makes her feel more connected to my work and the things that I do here. If you’re a boss and somebody’s bringing their kid or their spouse into the place of business, get to know the, shake their hand, tell them how much you appreciate the support that, that person gets at home from you and make that family feel like they’re part of the person’s experience at work, not just them. Believe me, it creates connections. It’s another reason for the person to stay there.
Steve Motenko: Maybe it goes without saying, but if you can say some nice things to the family about your coworker.
Jim Hessler: Exactly, exactly, right on.
Steve Motenko: You win lots of points.
Jim Hessler: Absolutely, so number seven on the list, and this is more directed at the boss. I’ll call it the brown bag lunch idea, which is just find as many ways as you can to sit in kind of an unstructured Q & A format with your employees. I’ve seen people do this to great advantage, and even if it’s a large organization and you have thousands of employees, you can still select 10 or 15 of them to sit and have lunch with you, and have kind of a no holds barred, almost a press conference, you know so the employees can ask you anything about what’s going on in the company, and you give them the best answers that you can.
Steve Motenko: You rotate that group of people, obviously.
Jim Hessler: You rotate that groups of people, so you may not be able to get to everybody in the organization in a year, but you’ll get to enough people that you kind of virally your answers and the ways that you responded to them will get back to the community.
Steve Motenko: I suggest that you plan ahead and allow written questions in advance, for those people who are afraid to speak up in groups of people.
Jim Hessler: That’s a good idea, yeah what would you like to talk to me about and here’s a form to submit those ahead of time if you’d like to. It’s also a good opportunity, just put up a little PowerPoint. Remind people what the strategic plan is, what the top objectives of the company are at any given point in time. Your role as a teacher, as a leader to go out and remind people what’s important, to deliver that news in an informal and personal way rather than through the company newsletter, or something like that. Just in general, stay connected to each other at work. It increases productivity, engagement, everything about it is good. When we feel good about each other, we feel good about the company that we work for, and we feel good about the leaders that we serve.
Steve Motenko: Yeah, the cost of turnover is enormous. If you can increase retention in your company, you’re doing your company and your mission a huge favor.
Jim Hessler: Right to the bottom line. We’ve talked about it being in service to others, this idea when you stay connected with other people that’s in service to them. It’s also in service to you. If you really want to enjoy your job and reduce your stress level, increase your enjoyment level, the amount of joy, the amount of time you spend at work smiling and feeling good about things rather than feeling bad about things, these simple tools to go and connect with people will enrich your day and enrich your work life in significant ways.
Steve Motenko: Well said James. The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions. Our sound engineer is Keven Dodrill.
Jim Hessler: If you missed any of the show, go to, yes that’s three s’s in the middle, and that’s also where you can go to subscribe to the podcast, or contact us for any reason at all.
Steve Motenko: Maybe you want to bring us into your workplace, maybe you want to comment on the show, we want to hear from you,
Jim Hessler: Don’t forget, rule number six.

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