Tag Archives: connection


“In evaluating the health of any team, I need to look for states of connection and disconnection?” I asked.

Pablo nodded. “When you see a team in disarray, you will find disconnection. The team doesn’t go there intentionally, it goes there without thinking. Facing any dilemma, the team wants to remove the discomfort. The four typical responses of any team under stress is to fight, flight, freeze or appease. When they do, the group panics and fractures.”

“And the leader?” I asked.

“The inexperienced leader follows. In a meeting, you have seen it. A project is behind schedule because someone dropped the ball. Everyone knows who dropped the ball, but no one wants to call it out. People get defensive, engage in blaming behavior or avoid the subject altogether. There is silence, eyes look down. Then someone looks at the leader, who becomes the target for all eyes around the table. The body language clearly communicates that it is the leader who must save the team.”

“You said inexperienced, how so?” I prompted.

“The leader is being seduced,” Pablo replied. “The seduction is subtle, for the team is looking to be saved by the leader, but needs the leader to be complicit in the saving. And, the leader cannot resist the opportunity to be the savior. It is the hero incarnate. I know it sounds religious, but the mythology is there to illustrate the principle.”

“So, how does the leader prevent the seduction?” I looked sideways at Pablo.

“The team is attempting to put the issue squarely on the shoulders of the leader. The leader must resist and put the issue back on the team.”

“But you already described that the team is in panic, a state of fracture and disconnection?” I said.

“The leader must simply outlast the panic. The issue that has the potential to blow the group apart, has the same potential to weld the group together. It’s all about connection and disconnection.”

Give Them a Problem to Solve

“It’s all about connection,” Pablo said. “If a team member is connected closely with their manager, most likely they will remain engaged. If the team member becomes disconnected from their manager, or connected to a toxic manager, the job search has already begun.”

“Only the manager?” I asked.

“The manager relationship is the key, with a supporting cast of the team,” Pablo explained. “Conceptually, a manager’s accountability is simple (not easy). Create connection, prevent disconnection.”

“That’s the popularity of team exercises,” I said.

“The problem with exercises is just that. Exercises are exercises. They startup muscle memory, but if you really want to build a team, give them a real problem to solve. Stand back. Allow the team to struggle. In that struggle, you will see some things occur. Leadership will emerge, automatically. Leadership takes the form of restating the problem, clarifying the obstacles and laying down the challenge. If the problem is complex, it will require expertise in specific areas, team members will consult, rely on each other to help carry the burden. In essence, problem solving builds connection.”

Human Connection

“Why do you want them to come back to work, in the building, I mean?” Pablo asked.

“They have been away so long. Since I’ve seen them, they may be two inches taller and I would never detect that on Zoom,” I smiled. “Seriously, they are detached. I miss seeing them in person, that warm smile in the morning, finding out how their child is doing. On camera, there they are, but it’s all business. Hi, how are you? Fine. How are you? Fine. What are the numbers on the spreadsheet?”

“What do you care? As long as the numbers on the spreadsheet are correct?” Pablo wanted to know.

“If I just wanted numbers on a spreadsheet, I wouldn’t build a company. I need a team. I don’t know why it’s important to be face to face, I just know it is.”

Pablo’s turn to smile. “You are correct, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. Kurt Lewin declared that human beings are herd animals. For the purpose of our survival, on the Serengeti plain, we had to stick together, for safety. An individual, isolated, became quick prey for a lion, a tiger, in Dorothy’s case, a bear. When we are isolated, we are alone. When we are alone, our survival instincts go full alert. We are hard wired to not get eaten. We may be fishing, we may be planting wheat, but we are looking for the lion, not paying attention to the fish or the wheat. Our attention to the work suffers. We only do our best work when we are together and safe. We feel safe as a member of a group, in proximity. Hugs create endorphins and communicate, with me, you are safe. Spreadsheets are easy on Zoom. Human connection is more difficult.”