Cup of Joe


Connection…Like Food & Water

I have long been acutely interested in the topic of leadership. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to say that the topic of people is really what garners my attention.

2 October 2014

I am forever intrigued by the seemingly endless number of personalities, characteristics, traits, emotions and reactions that are all woven into the tapestry of a person, a group or team, a company, a country. And my level of intrigue is further heightened when people interact – Connect – with one another.

There have been countless studies performed over the centuries that have placed people – individuals and groups – under the microscope. More recently, a wave of studies are breaking new ground when it comes to the topic of connecting. In short, contemporary studies are conclusively finding that humans are genetically wired with the need for social connection. In fact, a new study conducted by scientist Matthew Lieberman, presented in his book, Social; Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect, Dr. Lieberman found that social pain (a snub, or, cruel word) causes a feeling that is as real as physical pain. In short, Lieberman concludes that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for water and food!

Further underscoring this point is Lieberman’s amazing discovery of brain activity relating to social connecting. Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI), Lieberman found that whenever we finish doing some type of non-social thinking/task, the area of our brain used for social thinking (understanding the thoughts and feelings of others) gets immediately turned on like an instant reflex. Our brains are geared in such a way as to know that in any spare moment, we are best served to see the world socially. As Dr. Lieberman said, “I think this makes a major statement about the extent to which we are built to be social creatures.”

When consuming this type of information, it’s impossible not to think in terms of family and workplace. After all, in terms of connecting, are there any other more important venues where we are forced to interact with others?

With respect to the workplace, it seems to me that leaders and companies would be far better off if more time were spent understanding the realities of social interaction and how people are motivated. Companies spend a good deal of time and energy around the topic of money. Yet, more and more research shows that what we humans truly desire is to be meaningfully connected:  to receive peer encouragement and sincere compassion. To know that we work in an environment that fully respects and embraces what Dr. Lieberman and others now know to be true – that what we really want is to be valued, respected and accepted by others.

As a leader of a company whose product is people and whose value is driven by assisting other people, I find this data to be incredibly enlightening and powerful. There are no limits as to how we can apply this information within our company in ways to enhance our culture and the degree to which our associates feel connected. The same applies to the relationships we forge outside of our company, with our clients, their relocating employees, and our supplier-partners!Companies spend a good deal of time and energy around the topic of money.— ,

I am further comforted by the fact that several years ago we had the foresight and the courage to adopt a relational philosophy we coined, Connect versus Control. At Bristol, our culture and the many relationships we develop and manage around the world are rooted in this concept. As the leader of what has become a truly remarkable organization, I find great enjoyment spending half a day, five days a week in a company that has clearly invested for the long term, in the realities associated with connecting.  

People need others as much as we need food and water…WOW! What a world it could be if every person in every nation simply accepted this fact. But, for now, I look forward to building stronger, tighter, more meaningful connections with all whom I routinely interact.

If you would like to directly connect with me, please feel free to do so, or my office number – (602) 586-3800. 

Thank you and happy connecting!


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