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On Connection

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In one of our Facebook Goups, where the 2015 spring Bootcamp persists triumphantly, someone asked this wonderful question:

“Connection is….?”

It was wonderful to me because Michele and I had spent a lot of time answering it earlier, and discussing it muchly elsewhere…If you open Software for Your Head in a copy of acrobat that has a search function, you can readily while away some time looking up a word of interest, like “connection”:

“Connection is a pattern that describes the process and benefits of mutual presence.”

“Not being clear about who is checked in and who is checked out indicates a lack of team connection.”

“When a person drifts away, whether remaining in the room or not, without telling the other team members, he is implicitly telling teammates that neither he nor the team matters. He is breaking the Core commitments.”

“Sustained, high-performance, collaborative connection among team members is impossible where such practices (e.g., the repression of feelings, tolerance of lack of thinking, and frequent loss of intention) prevail. Thus, connection is a prerequisite for the transmission and reception of desirable qualities among teammates.”

C O N N E C T I O N  A N D  R I C H   I N F O R M AT I O N

“Rich information is produced when a more open environment exists among team members. For example, personal weaknesses are freely discussed and team help is sought to remedy them. Personal gifts are acknowledged and accepted without fuss. Rich information carries more commitment, discloses more vulnerability, and clearly identifies more gifts and talents than does commonplace information. It carries more weight but does not consume more bits. Each bit counts for more because the team culture requires more significance and less obscurity in each exchange.

“It costs the same amount of time for your listeners to listen whether you say something trivial or something profound.

“If you do say something important, you use your “bit allocation” more effectively.

“Of course, both listener and speaker must be prepared to deal with units of greater significance than “normal.” This preparation, which resets expectations, establishes the higher bandwidth connection among the team members.

“Higher interpersonal bandwidth is characterized by more significance per utterance. In The Core, the additional significance derives from the personal integrity behind the utterances. For example, you don’t speak unless you have filtered your planned utterance through the Core Commitments.

“Human-human inefficiencies must be handled before you can expect to routinely make the best class of connection and achieve the resulting hyperprogress. Most people spend their working hours in the default human-human interface environment, created by no one, but affected by everyone. The default interface provides only the most rudimentary, often self-defeating, interpersonal connection.

“Preventing discomfort seems to be the highest value in the default interface.This is at the cost of achieving results. Being a part of this undesigned interpersonal world, day after day, people simply don’t connect, except by chance. Chance determines the most vital linkages. For your team to gain the capacity to perform remarkable interpersonal feats, you must implement (if not design) numerous new interpersonal practices, beginning with Connection.

“The problems addressed by the Connection pattern are easily stated:

• Initiate relationships with people and groups with whom you can have significant communication
• Ensure that you and other team members or groups can collaborate based on the continuous exchange of rich information

Once people are connected, the richer the information transmitted, the greater the team.”

“In The Core, a connection is made when two or more people explicitly decide to collaborate intentionally. They agree to disclose and receive information that, even at the start, is sufficiently rich to accelerate the process of collaboration.

“A connected team has the capacity to receive and transmit information according to mutually acceptable protocols. That is, it is positioned to communicate.

“Most teams fail to connect because they don’t define the vital preliminary tasks of Connection. They don’t “test the line” to see what speeds are attainable. They don’t invoke any communication protocols.

“You are much more likely to become connected when your team meets the following conditions:

1. Team members agree that the first goal is to establish a connection.
2. The state of connection has been explicitly acknowledged.
3. The effectiveness of the connection is constantly monitored.

“Obviously, explicit connection will always precede attaining the highest rates of transmission and reception. In The Core, you don’t bother to attempt communication without connection. As all of The Core protocols heighten the probability of sustained connection, no single connection protocol exists. CheckIn, however, is the protocol used most often to initiate a connection.

NOTE: It is essential to periodically “pop a level” when working with a team and to scrutinize the state of connection and the effective rate of transmission prevailing. Generally, simply diverting the team’s attention to this matter will cause the effective bit rate to jump to an acceptable level. The degree of innocuousness of the CheckIns is inversely related to the speed of transmissions that will follow. That is, deeper CheckIns mean faster connections.


Oddly, the biggest challenge to collaborative intimacy stems from defenses against the benefit of prolonged and increasing connection. The team crises that arise from this resistance occur early and persist indefinitely.


It is useful to reject exercises and quackery that is supposed to be touching and full of feeling, but isn’t. Just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is meritorious. Nor do failed efforts in support of connection condemn connection.

Engagement can be observed in one’s receptivity, focus, high valuation of efficiency, and connection to others. Of course, high-quality presence is intermittent, even with the most present individuals.

In The Core, passion is an experience characterized by an intensified and sustainable incarnation of one of the four feelings, plus a well-motivated, intentional response to this feeling. Table 4.1 describes the passionate instances of the four Core emotions.

In the passionate case, mad becomes transformed into a determination to do the most effective thing, drawing motivation from righteous anger. Sad enlarges to sorrow, shows vulnerability, and elicits connection. It accepts grief. Glad ripens to joy, spawning rejuvenation, creativity, and infectious fun. Afraid reaches all the way to courage. Courage, of course, is not the absence of fear. The passionate variant of afraid resolves into a bravery that incorporates fear and invokes behavior of unshakable integrity.

This simple mapping of emotions can help make passionate living become more accessible. Passion, after all, includes emotion.
It is also a larger and grander state that integrates the mature response: Sublime emotion plus mature action equals passion.


The profound caring of passionate engagement and the results that it brings will give you the power to achieve sufficient connection
with others. The high-bandwidth connection of those sharing a cause enables them to create something great together.

Passion insists that you pay more attention to yourself, as well as to the people, ideas, processes, and activities on which your efficient progress depends as you move together in the desired direction. You can’t avoid caring about yourself while caring immensely about something external. Passion inevitably radiates, and the passionate you is the radiant center.


Escalation of connection serves as the foundation for team alignment


With these realizations and the multiple new points of connection you begin to experience innocence, hope, commitment, and—something everyone hopes and believes will be the foundation of working life—inspiration.


AND SO ON. There are dozens more. “Connection” is one of the most notable words, in Software for Your Head…It may also have been one of the earlier times it was used as a conceptual tool in describing human relations.

Oddly, the one sentence I was looking for and didn’t find (but I only got through the first quarter of my search on the book) was this:

“You are “connected” when the people participating in the connection agree unanimously that you all are connected.”

We had a hard time coming up with that.

Jim McCarthy


Quotes from: Jim and Michele McCarthy, Software for your Head, 2001, Addison-Wesley


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