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Connections Before Content

By: Keara Mascareñaz on September 20th, 2018

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Connections Before Content

Teams & Culture

One of the unspoken rules of The New School Rules is “make your organization human.” From the way you make decisions to the way you shape rules and communicate information, being responsive is at its core about making your organization value people over processes. There is no better way to start valuing people than starting to put connections before content.

I met Chad Littlefield a few years ago when he presented at our national education conference. Since then I’ve been following the work of We! Connect closely and last Friday our team was lucky to have a chance to learn directly from Chad about facilitation, relationships, and building trust.

Whenever I talk with Chad, he reminds me of this powerful quote from organizational designer Peter Block. “We must establish a personal connection with each other. Connection before content. Without relatedness, no work can occur.” It is, unfortunately, true that we often ask folks to do work together before forming any kind of bond. In this moment of political divide, authentic connections across people are more important than ever.

REAL LIFE: Skipped Connections

I understand the importance of connections and try to start every meeting with a check in question and every project with a chance to get to know each other. And yet, I recently launched a new project and, feeling crunched for time, asked our team to jump right into client context, project logistics, and team roles without taking the time to get to know each other’s working styles or personal context. I’ve immediately seen the impact on the team. We are wary around each other. We’re not sure how to gauge a comment’s intent. We haven’t built empathy for each other’s lives outside of work. This experience has been a stark reminder of the importance of building personal bonds before project roadmaps. I hope the visual and actions shared below will help both you and me continue to prioritize connections before content.

VISUALIZE IT: Questions for Connection

Connections Before Content Blog Image

Image courtesy of We! Connect

USE IT: How to Start Connecting

If you want to start building connections before content in your meetings and workshops, here are a few actions to try.

  1. Start your meeting with a check in that includes a simple connection question. You can have each person check in one by one whole group or have folks pair up and share just with each other.
  2. Need ideas for connection questions? Purchase a set of We! Connect Cards or check out this great list of questions.
  3. Join me in conversation anytime at @kearaduggan.

Join us at the NSR Leadership Institute in December for hands-on learning and collaboration on topics like change management, organization redesign, leadership development and more. Apply today!

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This blog post was originally published on The KikiBrief.

About Keara Mascareñaz

Keara is a Managing Partner at Education Elements who focuses on how to build and scale a culture of innovation in large systems, how to create national communities of collaboration, and how to keep laughing when pursuing daunting, large-scale changes. She was lucky to collaborate with co-authors Alexis Gonzales-Black and Anthony Kim to design the website and toolkit for The NEW School Rules: 6 Practices for Responsive and Thriving Schools.