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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

How Are You Cupcake-Connecting at Work?

High Quality Connections

90,000 is a big number.

For $90,000 you and a companion could take a luxurious, 4-month cruise around the world, room and board included!

90,000 steps is the length of almost two marathons!

If you had 90,000 cupcakes (which would weigh over 8 tons!) you’d need to eat 3 every day to finish off the pile in your lifetime. Oh, and you’d need to start munching the day you were born because it would take 82 years.

So when I tell you the average American adult works 90,000 hours in their lifetime, it sinks in. That’s a ton of time spent at work.

Which is why I’m so passionate about helping cultivate workplaces in which people thrive.

If we’re gonna spend 82 years worth of cupcakes at work, we may as well enjoy it!

Research has taught us several things that help work feel less “work-ey”. One such thing is developing High Quality Connections at work.

High Quality Connections are relational connections at work that energize the people involved. Think of them as genuine little "cupcake-moments" between people on a team. By contrast, low quality connections at work deplete us of energy and “leave damage in their wake” according to researcher, Jane Dutton.

Not surprisingly, research tells us that High Quality Connections (HQCs) result in loads of benefits to the people involved, and the organization. People who experience more (or deeper) HQCs at work:

  • Are healthier

  • Think better and are more creative

  • Learn more

  • Are more resilient

  • Are more motivated to do the work

  • Are more engaged

And workplaces that foster more HQCs across the organization, including between leadership and team members:

  • Have better engagement

  • Are more efficient

  • Are more productive

  • Are more innovative

So how do we cultivate more High Quality Connections at work?

There are several ways. One effective approach is to ask high-connection questions.

High-Connection Questions

Many (most?) of the questions we ask at work are for information gathering (eg, what’s the status of a project, who’s the next client, has the pre-anesthetic been given, etc.).

Information gathering questions, in terms of human connection, are typically neutral in quality. They don’t energize us like HQCs and they typically don’t deplete us like low-quality connections.

High-connection questions, on the other hand, are all about relationship building. And they have a special recipe that tends to contribute to energizing the people involved.

These kinds of questions tend to fall into one (or more) of four categories:

  1. Showing a real interest in another person

  2. Focusing on positive emotions

  3. Providing assistance to another person

  4. Intending to shine light on common ground

When we approach a conversation with authenticity and curiosity, focus our attention on what’s good (or what can be good), offer help and/or look for commonality, we vastly increase the potential for a High Quality Connection.

What do these questions actually look like? Here are a few examples:

  • What’s been the most meaningful part of your work this past week?

  • What’s something new you learned at work this week?

  • In the past week, what’s given you the most joy at work?

  • What are you most proud of accomplishing this past week/month?

  • In the past week, when did you feel most valued in this team?

  • What has someone on your team done to help you succeed this week?

  • What’s the biggest need at work right now?

  • What are you most looking forward to doing during your time off?

  • What’s a favorite vacation you took and why?

  • What’s a dream vacation of yours and why?

  • What would you be most proud of accomplishing at work in 3/6/12 months?

Think about your work BFF or, as my wife might say, “work-wife” or “work-husband”. You may already know what their answers to these questions would be. That’s because you’ve likely developed a High Quality Relationship with them in the past and dug a bit deeper into who they really are.

The goal here is to do a little bit of that with more and more people in your work team. And if you’re a manager or leader, the goal is to cultivate this throughout your organization.

In the end, high-connection questions are about practicing authentic, interpersonal curiosity. And curiosity is a workplace powerhouse, conferring all sorts of personal and organizational benefits.

90,000 hours.

May as well make them high-quality.

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