" "

In previous blog posts I’ve highlighted the significance of Peter Block’s concept of Connection Before Content. It is important for teams to create patterns that prioritize and build in intentional time for team members to be connected. As I continue to work with this concept, it has become clearer to me that connection is our content! Clinicians comprehend this one easily. The client-therapist relationship is the single most important predictor of positive outcomes in treatment.

Sometimes it feels like connection practices have to be big and dramatic. Like we have to have all the fog machines and sequins in order for them to “work.” Let’s be clear. It doesn’t have to be grandiose in order to make connection a foundational aspect of your team culture. Often, the routine and repetition of 5-10 minutes of connection each meeting or the organic moments are the ones that have the deepest impact on building strong relationships.

I write a monthly newsletter for Miracle Heights Adventures which includes an experiential activity or resource that I’ve used with teams. We know it could be useful to folks in different contexts. If you would like to receive the MHA monthly newsletter, you can sign up here. Some of my recent favorite highlight activities include:

Postcard Appreciations

This activity write-up comes from Jenn Stanchfield, friend of the program, and reflection and facilitation mastermind. Appreciations can be such a vital tool to recognizing the contributions and gifts of team members. Providing space for team members to genuinely share those words can affirm and nurture a sense of belonging, worth, and purpose.

60 Removal

This activity comes from Chad Littlefield of We and Me. While in the video Chad talks about using the We Connect cards, you could use any list of questions that are thoughtful, open-ended, and would help you to understand your teammates better. In 60 Removal, you’re getting rid of any questions that you feel you could confidently answer about each of your teammates, and using the remaining questions to, “help shape somebody’s tomorrow.”

Two and a Crayon

This activity comes by way of Chris Cavert’s FUNDoing Fridays newsletter, and can originally be found on TikTok. While this one is described as being an activity for kids, there may be some really valuable reflection opportunities, regardless of your age. Maybe swap out a pen, if crayons are from a long-gone era. See what emerges through this silent problem-solving collaboration.

These three activities are low-prop or low-tech. Try them out!

What Others are Saying

I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this blogpost some of the people and teams that I have found most connection with. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with some absolute connection rockstars through my time at Crossnore, and polled some of them on their favorite connection practices, as well as what connection does for them and their teams. My deep gratitude goes out to these colleagues who have lived deeply into connection.

Kacy Carter, Director of Program Compliance

Kacy shares: I have a new team and I have prioritized connecting with each other, understanding roles, and also addressing how we can/will support each other. Genuine connections are critical for staff to feel safe and comfortable in their new environment. I want each of us to enjoy our work, but also have worthwhile relationships at work that provide a desire to flourish personally & professionally.

Some strategies I have employed:

  • scheduling time for the team to meet without interruption
  • establishing a shared vision
  • finding common interests through some non-threatening exploration questions (favorite pastime, funny nicknames, favorite vacation and why, etc.)
  • inviting them to share past work experiences; good and not so good, so we can learn from them
  • reading material relevant to our work (been working with our team on influencing change without authority)
  • enneagram or other assessment to help us think gain insight on self, perception, and relationships

Stephen Nakagawa, Director of Facilities on our Winston-Salem campus

Stephen shares: It is important for our team to be connected due to the fact they we interact all through the campus on a daily, 365 days a year basis. Keeping the campus in operating form includes repairs, ground keeping, upkeep of buildings (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) events, security, and cleaning. Our work covers all of the main campus, as well as the farm and trail areas. Our team helps each other with reporting, reminding, uplifting, and communicating everyday.

We occasionally have lunches, cookouts, and try to team build in our own way throughout the year.

Nelitza Gonzalez, Senior Director of Outpatient Service

Nelitza shares: Connection gives us the ability to build trust with each other. Trusting each other opens the door to transparency and vulnerability. These are essential for us as clinicians because we need to feel safe before we can be honest about the challenges we face when working with clients. It also provides us the opportunity to grow together and restore ourselves, which helps us reduce vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. 

We have implemented team building activities a few times throughout the year. These are wonderful opportunities to have fun together, and be ourselves around each other in a non-working environment. We also encourage the team to have lunch together, and find organic moments throughout their day to check in with each other. What has occurred naturally, is that morale has strengthened, and a culture of “we are stronger together” has emerged. 

Meredith Martin, Vice President of Programs

Meredith tries to rotate who leads meetings and connection activities in order to learn from different styles. She wants everyone to lead, regardless of job title. She says: I have learned that when the teams I lead are connected as human beings first they function much better and more efficiently in the workplace. Conflict is minimized and trust is built. Connection activities may take time in your agendas but I find this time investment pays off in dividends. 

I believe that it is important for people on teams to be connected because it keeps your purpose in the forefront. Connection is our reminder–in the midst of the chaos that is work and the world–that when we are connected, we share something. When you connect, you feel a sense of belonging and without that, there is room for discord, dysfunction and isolation.

Amber Rucker, Director of DEIB

Amber prioritizes connection through making space for us to share who we are, beyond our work titles and functions. She says: We focus on who we are after our workday – on the weekends and in our communities. In this, we can hear the intersections between us all and really create some alignment with who we are and our shared purpose. 

Beatriz Vides, Co-Founder, Senior Faculty, & Director of Program Development for the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities

Beatriz shares: Connection to other humans is a pivotal protective and resilient factor. The deeper the connection, the stronger my roots, just like the trees in the forest. I can withstand metaphorical wind, rain, thunder, lightning, earthquakes, etc. Others feed me, see me, nurture me, restore me and allow me to continue to find the best in myself.

Beatriz creates this metaphorical forest of connection and relationships through:

  • spending more time connecting and less time with task
  • creating a connection plan that is intentional and consistent 
  • making a plan as to how conflict will be addressed
  • SEEing each other by recognizing and celebrating what you do well

Remember – Connection is our Content. Make the time to be connected to yourself, your people, and your purpose.

If you have any regular connection activities that work for you and your team, or you don’t know where to start, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at aflorence@crossnore.org.