How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 5

As we approach the end of our five-part blog series based on the research conducted by Rob Cross and Rebecca Garau from the Connected Commons, it should be fairly clear at this point that personal relationships and networks at work are critical to innovation, execution and wellbeing at work. The research project that we’ve been exploring over the past four posts, however, is just one of many studies conducted by The Connected Commons. Having spent more than 20 years mapping networks and individual performance in over 300 organizations, the insights that the researchers at The Connected Commons are able to draw based on their findings across numerous projects are even more powerful than the conclusions they’re able to draw from a single study. Based on the two decades of research, the researchers at The Connected Commons have concluded that building a diverse network across location, roles, and expertise is, in fact, only the second biggest predictor of individual performance at work. Now, this isn’t to say that building a diverse network isn’t important. I mean, we’ve spent the past few posts covering exactly why having a wide and diverse network is important. The point here is that there’s a quality that high performers embody that predicts performance even more so than the diversity and strength of their networks. The number one predictor of individual performance at work, according to The Connected Commons, is being sought by others. Contemporary wisdom tells us that the best way to build our networks is by actively reaching out to others and extending our networks. The Connected Commons tells us something different: those who...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 4

“What we found in our research is that thriving at work often is as much or more about the relationships and quality of interactions with others as the type or pace of work.” Based on the research that has been reviewed in the past few posts, it’s clear that networks may be the key to successful innovation and execution in organizations. Building broad and diverse networks can help employees gain understanding, access information, create solutions, and accomplish important work. But today, we turn our attention to something that may have an even greater impact on the health and success of an organization – employees’ wellbeing. The financial impact of employees’ well being has been increasingly recognized by organizations around the world in recent years. As a result, companies are now investing more than ever before on their employees’ health. According to an analysis by IBISWorld, the workplace wellness industry has ballooned from $1 billion in 2011 to $6.8 billion five years later. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, almost a quarter of employers in the United States increased their wellness offerings last year. And guess how much employee wellbeing programs are costing American employers annually? Research by the Rand Corporation suggests that it’s $6 billion a year. Employee wellness matters – and employers know it. That’s the good news…but here’s the bad. According to new research published by the American National Bureau of Economic Research, workplace wellness programs aren’t working. This research looked at a program that offered employees biometric screening, a health assessment and various services and classes, such as chronic disease management, tai chi and...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 3

                            “You can’t think, how can I do this, how can I solve it? You have to ask, Who do I know who can do this? Where is the expertise? Who else can I bring in because they have the skill or the time or the resources? Who wants the opportunity or needs the experience?” Another critical insight that Cross and Garau’s recent research project revealed is that high performers’ ability to successfully execute a project or plan directly relies on their informal networks. Often, we hold the belief that execution is all about having the right plan, strategy, and talent to put a project into motion. Surprisingly, though, the research suggests that it’s not that simple – whether a leader fully leverages his/her network can determine whether the project is successfully executed. Let me give you an example to illustrate the idea here. Picture a highly connected leader in an organization, who regularly keeps up with her connections outside of her own company, and blocks time each week for network development. In other words, this is someone who regularly grabs lunch with a number of different people in a variety of roles in different companies, and often sends industry articles or blogs that she’s read to those in her network who would find it valuable. When her company wants to expand, taking over smaller organizations or forming partnerships with others, this leader is put in charge of managing the integration. With a solid network as a foundation, and relationships that have already been established with...

Learning – The Foundation of Team Performance

In my previous post, I explored why a learning environment is one of the most critical components of high performing teams, based on a recently published study by a group of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands. Today, I’ll discuss the one key ingredient to building a learning environment within teams – leadership. Alright, so we’ve established that according to research, high performing teams are teams that are always learning. This is a very nice ideal, I’m sure you’re thinking, but when it comes to the real world, it’s not always as easy to implement as it sounds. Well, I would completely agree with you. Taking the risk to share your personal ideas with the team can make you vulnerable, while ensuring that ideas and strategies are “co-constructed” often requires usual protocols to be modified. Seeking constructive conflicts means that we need to override our natural tendency to harmonize our differences, while offering honest feedback during reflections can harm team relationships. All things considered, it’s easy to understand why most teams struggle to create a culture of learning. Yet, it’s essential to team performance…so what do we do? We lead. According to the data from Koeslag-Kreunen and her associates’ study, leadership within a team positively influences the extent to which members engage in learning behaviors (e.g., sharing ideas, reflecting, taking action, etc.). It’s undeniable that leadership can facilitate team learning – at least, according to the research. Because team members usually don’t engage in team learning behaviour automatically, leaders have to guide their team as they pursue the process of learning. Leaders have to establish learning as a norm...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 2

“If I hadn’t bumped into Nick out of the blue that day, if he hadn’t been curious and taken interest, my project would have been just another project. Instead, it became a huge win…Literally, this fix saved us thousands of dollars every time we ran a similar process – when we scaled it, the savings were dramatic.” One of the most important insights that Cross and Garau uncovered in their recently published study is this: strong personal networks play a key role in the success of the highest performers across organizations because they produce innovative solutions and ideas. Now, you may have noticed that I phrased the above sentence in a very particular way. I could have said that “networks help produce innovative solutions and ideas”…but instead, I intentionally aimed to emphasize that it is these high performers’ networks themselves that generated the innovative ideas. Networks don’t just support innovation…networks are usually the source of innovation. When faced with major organizational challenges, such as cost reduction, leaders need innovative solutions. The traditional approach that comes to mind when we think about innovation is that a leader brainstorms and comes up with a brilliant solution to the problem, then implements it and the rest of the organization follows suit. Well, we may just be dead wrong in assuming, and perhaps expecting, that this is how innovation happens. Surprisingly, the high performers that were interviewed in this study tapped into their broad and diverse network early on to help them clarify the problem and explore solutions. They didn’t feel the need to perfect their ideas before exposing it to others –...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 1

“When asked about how the highest performers executed work effectively, how they produced innovative solutions or times when they were thriving in their career, they would quickly start to talk about the people involved. Without realizing it, they were describing their networks…” – Rob Cross and Rebecca Garau At Summit, we often run team building programs with large groups and companies that involve hundreds of participants. One question that we frequently get asked is why these companies should invest in these large programs that only span 1-2 hours, and what the return-on-investment for these programs will be. Over the years, we’ve learned that one of the most valuable outcomes of these programs is the opportunity that it provides for members of large companies to build their networks (hence, why we sometimes call them network building programs). In the corporate world of 2018, we intuitively understand the value of strong networks, but it’s often unclear how it will directly benefit a company’s bottom line. Fortunately, recent research by The Connected Commons addresses this exact issue. In a research project published less than two months ago, Rob Cross (Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College and frequent writer for the Harvard Business Review) and his colleague Rebecca Garau interviewed 160 of the most engaged and high performing leaders across 20 different well-known organizations in a variety of sectors, from financial services to life sciences. They took a deeper look into the strategies that these highest performers in these organizations used to build, maintain, and leverage their personal networks, and in the process, uncovered exactly how strong personal networks can significantly benefit the...

Research Update: Learning – The Foundation of Team Performance

For the next few posts, I’ll be drawing insights from a study published just over a month ago in the Small Group Research journal by a team of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands. This study was chosen because of its use of the meta-analysis procedure, which allowed them to statistically compile the results from 43 studies, making their findings more robust and trustworthy. Teams are a common part of everyday life at work. But how often do we step back to think about why we use teams so often? One of the main strengths that teams have over individuals is that it provides us with an opportunity to pool together the unique ideas, viewpoints, and expertise of every member of the team. By having a diversity of perspectives, teams are uniquely adaptable, and have greater potential for innovation. As Aristotle claims, the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. One of the most important characteristics of teams that are adaptable and innovative, according to Koeslag-Kreunen and her associates, is its “learning behaviours”. Amy Edmundson, who I referenced in an earlier post regarding her work on ‘psychological safety’, defines team learning behaviors as “an ongoing process of reflection and action characterized by asking questions, seeking feedback, experimenting, reflecting on results, and discussing errors or unexpected outcomes of actions.” In other words, researchers suggest that in order for teams to fulfill their unique potential to produce innovative and adaptable ideas, products, and services, it has to have a learning-oriented culture. The concept of ‘learning behaviors’ has been studied by team researchers since the early 1990s, and the...

Team Building…Ice Cream and Liquid Nitrogen???

Fun fact…did you know that it takes 12 gallons of milk to create one gallon of ice cream? Some of us prefer our gallon of ice cream to be from our local grocery store, while others would rather go out and grab ice cream from places like McDonalds or Dairy Queen whenever we get the craving. For most of us, though, ice cream is just something we purchase when we feel like it…it’s not usually something we whip up at home on a casual Saturday night.  I mean, making ice cream just seems like an unnecessarily tedious and complicated process. While buying (and eating) ice cream may be among my top hobbies, the mysterious task of making ice cream certainly isn’t. But who would’ve thought that making ice cream would be the ultimate team building experience? Over the past few years, Summit Team Building has been tapping into the power of this amazing frozen treat to create unforgettable team building experiences for corporations around the world. But recently, we’ve taken our ice cream game to a whole new level… Let me elaborate. In the past, we’ve provided teams with soccer ball-shaped tools to make bowls of ice cream that they can enjoy together. Teams get to choose between different flavours, including chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, and with the tools and materials we give them, they work together to create the ice cream of their dreams.  Every time we deliver this program, we’ve noticed that every participant seems to walk away with a smile on their face, newfound friendships with their coworkers, and (most importantly?) satisfied sugar cravings. But that...

Why Network Building Is Necessary for Employee Engagement

Networking is one of the most frequently thrown around buzzwords of our time. We know it matters, but why? I had the privilege of sitting through a keynote by J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network, last week. Hoey insightfully points out that at the core, networking is about building strong, genuine, and mutually beneficial relationships, which can transform careers, and she reveals innovative strategies to harness the power of our contacts. Evidently, it’s a skill that is critical to career success in the 21st century. The importance of networking in career advancement is something that we’re increasingly talking about in recent years. What we talk about less, however, is the importance of networking in enhancing our experiences at work. Specifically, I argue today that networking is necessary in order for us to stay engaged in our work. Let’s start with the research. According to a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, strong relationships with coworkers was identified as one of the key conditions to job satisfaction. They argue: Positive relationships with co-workers can foster a sense of loyalty, camaraderie, and moral support and engagement among staff. These bonds may boost overall results and productivity as employees are more likely to want to avoid disappointing their teammates and to remain a cohesive team, especially when faced with adversity. Creating a more pleasant working environment through relationships with co-workers can increase employee satisfaction. Gallup, which is another organization who has spent decades and millions of dollars studying work engagement, identified having a “best friend at work” as one of the 12 key elements of employee...

How Much Is Employee Disengagement Costing Your Company?

       This morning, I read an article that shared Amazon’s strategy to get rid of its disengaged employees – pay them up to $5,000 to quit. Although there are a host of reasons why Amazon offers, well, “The Offer” (yes, that’s its official name), one of its main objectives is to give incentive for disengaged employees to leave the company (and never come back). It makes sense, considering the decades of research that have concluded that people stay at their jobs for three reasons: (1) they have an emotional attachment to it, (2) they feel obligated to stay, and (3) it costs more to leave than to stay. To an extent, The Offer removes the third reason for staying among employees who have no emotional attachment or sense of obligation to the company. But why is Amazon so willing to spend money on weeding out disengaged employees who are not committed to the company? Reading about The Offer left me wondering about, first, why companies are so willing to spend money on employee engagement issues, and second, what the financial implications of employee disengagement are. So I did some digging. One of the most surprising things that I found was how prevalent the issue of employee disengagement was. In Gallop’s 2017 State of the Global Workforce report, which surveyed more than 70,000 employees from organizations in 155 countries, found that 85% of employees worldwide are either not engaged in their work, or actively disengaged. Employees that are just disengaged are those that are “checked out”, and going through their workday without passion or energy. Those who are...