(In parts one, two, three and four of this story, business owner Ted is trying to figure out how to run a business that’s heads above the crowd. Last time he latched onto the idea of pursing growth for each individual at TeddcoCorp. Today he’s finding out just how hard that might be.)
Committing to growth for each individual at TeddcoCorp sounded great.
But, Ted's head was swimming with questions.
What kind of growth was he talking about - personal or professional or both?
What would this growth initiative cost?
How would he measure it’s effectiveness / ROI?
Should financial payback / ROI even be a factor?
Was this growth thing about helping people, making more money, or just getting rid of his frustration?
Was he sure this path would bring back his old energy and excitement?
And there was one more biggie.
How was Ted going to make this “helping others grow” idea a reality?
BACK TO THE BOOKS
For answers, Ted dove back into the writings of psychologist Frederick Herzberg. He focused on an update that Herzberg had published back in 1987. And there Ted found a strong emphasis on Direct Feedback as a driver of growth and motivation.
And this feedback could come from yourself, your environment, other people, etc. With a large chunk of it coming from your coworkers. Something as simple as a nod or a frown - all the way up to a formal review of your work.
But, as we know, all feedback isn’t consumed equally. It has the most impact when it comes from someone who cares about us and our work - a trusted connection.
So GROWTH comes from absorbed feedback.
And absorbed feedback comes from trusted CONNECTIONS.
This was good stuff.
And all this focus on connection reminded Ted of something - a gift he’d received from Joy.
ONE MORE PSYCHOLOGIST
Last Christmas, Joy had given Ted a book that he recalled had something to do with connection. In fact, it was sitting within eyesight on top of his office bookshelf.
He dusted it off and read the cover.
“Daring Greatly” by psychologist Brené Brown.
Joy had sweetly dog-eared and highlighted a few passages for Ted. And she’d jotted a few other quotes from Brown throughout the book. Gee, he chuckled to himself, maybe she was trying to tell him something.
This was one of the highlighted passages…
“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
So Ted had already drawn the conclusion that connection, which leads to better feedback, was the key to growth. Now Brown was saying that connection goes much deeper than that. That it’s the key to a meaningful and purposeful life. And, even more compelling, if you suck at it - you’ll suffer.
Geez, this stuff was getting serious real fast. Now Ted wasn’t just trying to help people grow, he was saving them from a life of suffering. And, being an introvert by nature, Ted wasn't real sure he wanted to open this can of worms. He’d rather get some freaking work done and not have to worry about all this “soft stuff”.
His old way of doing things wasn’t working. He’d recently found himself sitting in his parking lot most mornings fantasizing about driving in the opposite direction.
MAKING CONNECTIONS VISIBLE
How big of a task would it be to create great connections and growth at TeddcoCorp? Ted decided to do a little math to answer that question.
Starting slowly, he wondered how many one-on-one connections existed on his five person marketing team? A quick search gave him the formula he needed to answer that question. N(N-1)/2 would tell him the total number of one-on-one connections - or potential sources of feedback - in a group of size N.
So the five person marketing team had 5(4)/2 = 10 one-on-one connections. And his 10 person sales group had 10(9)/2 = 45 one-on-one connections.
Wow, Ted thought, that number grows fast.
I wonder how many connections there are in the entire 100-person company?
The math was simple enough, 100(99)/2 = 4,950. Holy hell that was a lot of connections. No wonder it was so hard to keep everyone moving in the same direction.
And since Ted was a visual person by nature, he started doodling what these connections looked like in his 10 person sales department. He arranged 10 small circles around a circular perimeter. Then he wrote the name of a sales employee across each one of them. Next he drew the 45 lines that connected them. He drew green lines between people that he thought had a healthy supportive connection. He drew red lines between pairs that he thought had a poor connection - i.e. were not sources of trusted feedback for each other.
When he finished, he counted 30 green lines and 15 red lines. That meant 30 of 45 or 2/3 of the connections within the sales department offered trusted feedback. Ted figured it was correct enough to say that they were running at 2/3 or 66% efficiency.
So even if they were all working on the exact right stuff, they were “wasting” 1/3 of their growth potential. Then he thought about what this picture would look like if he included all 100 employees - which would mean adding cross department relationships to the mix.
Hmmm. If he did that he guessed the percentage of green lines - supportive connections - would go down even further. For instance, there was lingering bad blood between sales and accounting. Nothing terrible, just a lot of bickering back and forth over invoicing errors and timely collection. Enough friction that the lines between the individuals in those groups would likely include plenty of red.
So Ted assumed that 2/3 efficient was an absolute best case scenario across the entire company. Which meant all he had to do was clean up 1/3 times the 4,950 total connections in the company, or 1,650 connections.
Holy shit, that was impossible. There was no way he could personally intervene in that many red connections and long term keep them green.
As if the challenge wasn’t big enough already, as TeddcoCorp continued to add employees, things we’re probably going to get worse. Ted felt this way because he’d watched several of his business-owning friends grow more disenchanted as their companies had grown.
It was a frustrating reality.
You finally get what you thought you wanted - a growing business - but it doesn’t bring the joy you thought it would. Instead it feels like a car veering down the road without power steering. And it’s dark out with heavy fog.
At times it makes you wonder if you really belong in the driver’s seat.
As this helpless thought rolled over and over in Ted’s mind, his phone rang. It was Joy.
“It finally happened. It all came together!”
“What happened? What came together?”
“The band. They sounded fantastic this morning.”
Joy was a music teacher at the local high school. And she’d been stressing out trying to get her musicians ready for an upcoming concert.
“It was the drummers. They finally got the beat right and everyone else just fell into place. The rhythm came together and it was amazing!”
Ted was happy for Joy as she buzzed with excitement, but he was also lost in thought.
The answer to her problem had been the beat, the rhythm. Maybe this was also the answer to Ted’s problem…