Making Virtual Connections Easy Part 2

EPISODE 64: Prioritizing connections over the content is a crucial component of an organization's success. Connecting to each other and to the broader purpose. These connections foster trust and success in an organization.



[00:00:09] JL: Welcome to today's edition of DHG’s GrowthCast. I'm your host, John Locke. At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence, and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser-focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG's GrowthCast provides insights and thought-provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Thanks for joining us as we discuss tomorrow's needs today.

[00:00:42] ANNOUNCER: The views and concepts expressed by today's panelists are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult the advice of your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


[00:00:58] JL: Welcome back to part two in our GrowthCast series with Chad Littlefield, Co-owner of We and Me, and my co-host, Bob Kunkle, DHG’s Director of Coaching and Development. Our topic, how to make virtual engagement easy.

Chad, in our previous GrowthCast episode, we had a great discussion around the importance of establishing intent. Would you share with our listeners how important it is to establish connection before content?

[00:01:26] CL: Yeah. That idea, even if your headphones were to stop working right now and just that phrase, connection before content. Assuming you're a brilliant individual, you could probably just take that and run with it. I’ll explain the why behind it first and then I’ll give you three ingredients that I would say are required to actually be a part of connection before content. Anything without those three ingredients might be nice, but it wouldn't qualify in my book as connection before content.

The why real quick, Johns Hopkins did a study about a decade ago where they took surgical teams and were aiming to reduce the number of medical errors and deaths. Noble effort, right? We don't want gauze sewn up in our stomach when we go in for surgery, and we certainly don't want to die on the table. They're aiming to reduce medical errors and deaths. They piloted all of these different interventions with different teams. One of the most impactful interventions with a team was they didn't call it connection before content, but what they did was they gathered the entire medical staff from the surgeon to the tech, to the nurses. They stood in a circle beforehand, and they all went around and quickly introduced themselves by name and also shared any concerns they had for that particular surgery.

Medical errors and deaths were reduced by 35% in that group. Just from that quick little connection before content, that quick little check in. Now, most of you are listening to this. Bob and John and me, we're not doing surgery. We're not at risk of killing people, but I would say that our meetings are at risk of dying if we don't connect before content. The idea behind that is typically and especially in a work context, we dive right into task mode. We're paid to actually be task-focused. The problem is that people aren't tasks. People, and the dynamics between people, are relationships.

Connection before content gives you a tool and language and permission to be able to focus on relationship while also blending it with purpose and task. The three ingredients to actually be connection before content, number one, it's got to connect people to each other. Let’s just say for concrete's sake, let's take an example where you've got a five-person meeting that's happening on a Monday. You would typically go, “Here's what our agenda is. Let's jump right in.” Connection before content would say, “Let's start with a question that allows us to connect with each other.”

Second ingredient, it's got to connect to the purpose of why you're there and this is what most – When people hear connection or icebreaker or team building and get hives, they do that most of the time because icebreakers and team building and connection stuff like that is usually not connected to the purpose of why you're actually there. You don't even know actually the purpose of why you're doing it in the first place. The intention isn't even clear, and so that lots of resistance tends to show up. Connecting to purpose, so the question that you come up with is connected purpose.

Then the third ingredient at least has to create choice for authenticity and vulnerability. Part of that comes from a ton of research that Google did a nice little small company with 100,000 plus employees that found the number one characteristic of high performing teams at Google was the degree of psychological safety in that team, which is a PhD language for interpersonal trusts, inclusivity. When I show up, can I speak my mind and trust that others, even if they disagree with me, will construct and build up that idea and not gossip behind my back? That psychological safety, a large portion of that interpersonal trust is built off of social relationships.

Sure, there's like a reliability. You do what you say you're going to do. Do you show up on time when you say you're going to show up on time? There's always elements of trust, but a huge element is like, “Do I trust this person?” It's just like the feeling. Do I trust this person? That comes from knowing about globes on the top of Bob's shelf and pictures in John's background and about kids and family and personal things.

One of my favorite questions as a question template for connection before content to meet all three of those criteria is what is one of your favorite stories about blank? In the blank, insert something that helps people connect to the purpose of your meeting because stories meet that criteria number three and criteria number one. Stories people can connect with really well, and they also offer authenticity and vulnerability because it's people just telling the truth. That's all you have to do. You don't put on a mask. You're just recounting something that is true for you. Authenticity and vulnerability doesn't have to be deep necessarily.

Then when you insert purpose into that meeting, you really can drive in and get really specific with why you're actually there, which warms people up and starts people and actually speeds up the pace and cadence of your meeting because you've already actually made some progress. You haven't just connected beforehand.

[00:06:45] BK: Yeah. That's awesome. You used the word intention several times, and I’d like to hear more about that when you think of the context of running a meeting and the group as a whole. Can you explore a little bit with us this idea of intent?

[00:07:01] CL: Yeah. It’s the first chapter in Ask Powerful Questions, and in some way it has nothing to do with asking questions. The book about Asking Powerful Questions, the first chapter is not about asking questions because I could ask you the most phenomenal question. But if my intention was to harvest information from you and to report or tattletale on you to my boss, you would be very unlikely to answer that question honestly. I could ask you the same verbiage. With the same verbiage, I could ask you the same question. But if my intention isn't clear and other-centric, it's actually a waste of time and breaks down trust. The idea of intention, just to get nerdy for a quick minute, the Latin root of the word intention means to stretch or stretching. I love that because I think the way I think about intention is like a rubber band or an elastic that stretches over you and whoever else the intention affects and pulls people together.

Let me take that out of metaphor land for a minute. As human beings, we're very reactionary. When you pick up your phone, you look for red notification bubbles and you go down this rabbit hole of replying, responding, clicking, scrolling, whatever it is that somebody else told you to do. You're not very intentional about that. When we do actually pause long enough, which is rare, when we do pause long enough to get intentional, even more rarely do we share that intention with the people that it affects. I would argue that when we have intentions that affect other people and we don't share them, that is actually manipulation.

In a work context, in my consulting with companies, I have not met very many people who like to be manipulated. The idea of intention is stating what you want out of that meeting in the context of somebody else's needs. Oftentimes, we state objectives at the beginning of meeting of like, “Here's what we want to get done.” As a leader, as you're stating those objectives, that's what you want. They want to get paid every two weeks. They want to make sure their kids are happy. They want to get home because their mom's sick. They want to get – They have all these other wants and these, which may be personal but they also may be professional too sure. A really good intention statement incorporates the needs of others. I’ll give you a potent example of one.

I was working with a big insurance company a couple weeks ago, and there were a handful of people on the call that probably weren't excited about learning new things. I knew that my intention needed to hook them in and be very much framed in their context. I was leading a workshop on how to make virtual engagement easy, and I started off by saying, “Let me be really clear. My intention in our time together is to be a pain killer for the next 100 plus virtual meetings that you're going to be in, whether I’m here or not. So whether I’m here or not, you're going to have 100 plus Zoom meetings, WebEx, Microsoft team, however you're meeting. If that's like the last six months of your life, you're going to leave those fried and exhausted and can't wait to look away from your screen.”

My intention is to be a painkiller and share a bunch of tools and ideas to make those meetings less painful. I can't promise to remove it completely like a Tylenol or an Advil. But like a Tylenol or an Advil, I can dull that pain to the point where you can enjoy yourself and create impact and not be so worked up about the suffering taking place.

[00:10:48] BK: That's so good. I’m thinking about the meanings that we've all been part of that there are different people with different intentions in the room, and they're participating in different ways. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between the – I think there's three if I remember correctly that you cite. Can you talk about that?

[00:11:07] CL: Yeah. If you want to get specific and actually create your intention. The tool that we share in the book is to get clear about your intention and share it with the group. Because when you do that, they get to choose to be on board, so three different types of intentions. There's outcome-focused intention. By the end of this meeting, I would love for us to make all the decisions we need to for this project so that you leave here with no other work to do or no other decisions to make or no other meetings to have. You see how that intention totally incorporates the needs of everyone in the group because nobody wants to leave a meeting with a bunch of extra stuff to do, for example.

Then you got future-focused intention, which is more of like a future state. This might be my intention is that over the course of the next five years at DHG working virtually and in person blend so much that they feel like the same thing. When we're in the middle of the flow of a meeting, we forget whether we're in person or virtual. That’s just kind of that very like aspirational state in a future state. Usually, it’s a little bit bigger as well.

Then the third type of intention that we talk about is a commitment-focused intention. This is a really powerful one, especially for new leaders or leaders who maybe need to put a little bit of trust in the bank with their team is what is your commitment to the group. That might look like right now and it might acknowledge a dynamic that you've noticed in yourself that you're working on too. Knowing myself that I tend to steamroll meetings and just like blow through things and dominate meetings, my intention is to listen for the first 15 minutes of every single meeting wherever gathered in. If I don't do that, I would love for you to help me keep that commitment by just giving me a timeout symbol if I go to interrupt you as the team in the first 15 minutes of our meeting.

[00:13:17] BK: That's so practical. That's awesome.

[00:13:19] JL: I love that. Well, I –

[00:13:21] CL: Practical and also that was a bold one too, so I wouldn't – That's a pretty aggressive one. One of the reasons I shared that example is then research and listening. I think a lot of leaders would be well off by me setting some intentions around listening. In the ER on average, doctors interrupt patients in the first 11 seconds of them sharing why they're there. 11 seconds. What would happen? Is it possible for a patient to feel heard and really seen and accepted and valued in 11 seconds? I would say no. One of the reasons people don't like going to the ER is you kind of meet that person who's already got the answer, so to speak.

[00:14:05] JL: That's incredible. Chad, I knew that we could take this subject and talk to you about it for hours. We've already got I think another whole segment teed up as a result of this. But for the sake of our listeners and to keep them wanting more, I think we're going to end there. I just can't tell you how much I appreciate you, the work that you're doing, and you taking the time out to be with us today.

Bob, thanks for being a great co-host today on GrowthCast and being a part of some exciting and practical tips I think to share with our listeners and all those within DHG as well. Thanks to you both for being here today.

[00:14:48] BK: Absolutely.

[00:14:49] CL: It was a gift to be here. Would have been really boring if it was just me on the call.

[00:14:52] JL: Yeah. That's right. Just as a reminder, is the website. There are some amazing videos that Chad does that takes these tips to a whole another level, so I would encourage you to do that. Where can they find your YouTube channel that just launched, Chad?

[00:15:12] CL: Yeah. We invested a whole heap of money in putting out – I believe information should be free, so I’m coming out for the next year daily YouTube tutorials. If this was interesting to you and you want some more practical tips, you can just search We and Me on YouTube, and that will come up. But we also give a whole bunch of free stuff away, so there's a free segment of Ask Powerful Questions, a free digital version of our deck of cards all at as well. If you type that in, a whole bunch of free stuff there, and you'll get videos as they're released as well.

[00:15:49] JL: Well, and I’m a great walking testimonial to the value of both the cards and the book, and I would encourage our listeners to check it out. Thanks again for being here.

End of Interview

[00:16:02] JL: You’ve been listening to the DHG GrowthCast today with DHG's Director of Executive Coaching, Bob Kunkle, and our special guest, Chad Littlefield, Co-founder of We and Me. We hope that you have learned a few practical tips on how to create meaningful, memorable, and productive virtual meetings. I’m your host, John Locke, and I look forward to reconnecting with you again soon on another episode of DHG GrowthCast.

End of Episode
About DHG's GrowthCast

At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG’s Growthcast, provides insights and thought -provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Join us in discussing tomorrow’s needs today.

Disclaimer: The views and concepts expressed by today’s guests are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult with your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


Bob Kunkle
Director of Executive Coaching and Development

Chad Littlefield
Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer, We & Me

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