A couple of weeks ago I was hosting a session for managers here at Root’s Corporate Headquarters in Sylvania, Ohio. We got to a part of the program where we talk about the importance of managers being able to connect their teams to the big picture of the business. And we’re not talking connectivity by way of an org. chart here, but connection in the sense that every team member understands exactly what their company is doing and how they contribute to that broader purpose. Our view is that the sense of belonging and ownership that comes from this is essential to employee engagement, which in turn is vital to creating customer (or patient, or client) satisfaction – and this is what most companies are in business to achieve. Right? Happy and loyal customers.

At this point in the proceedings one of our participants – a self-professed reality TV junkie – spoke about MTV’s “Diary of a Facebook,” which had aired back on March 30. It was a beautiful and topical example of just the kind of connectivity that we think is so important for managers to understand and promulgate, but is sadly so rare. In the show, Facebook executives make very literal connections by flying in guests from all over the country to share their stories of how Facebook has touched or changed their lives.

I watched an excerpt from the show last night and was incredibly moved by the impact these stories had on Facebook employees. The emotion was palpable.

Among the guests on the show is a woman named Holly, who received a reminder from a Facebook friend to conduct a breast self-examination, only to discover that she indeed had a lump – one that would later be diagnosed as breast cancer. “Facebook saved my life,” the cancer survivor says.

There’s Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, who speaks eloquently about the way Facebook allows soldiers to connect with family members, no matter where in the world they’re stationed. And there’s Tracy, a woman who was put up for adoption as an infant and tracked down her biological siblings through the site.  “I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry,” she says, as she meets her brother and sister for the first time.

What the Facebook employees in this show feel is precisely what every employee needs to know and to feel – why what they do for 40+ hours a week, sometimes in splendid isolation from other people and at some distance from their ultimate customer, matters. Not all organizations can fly in customers to provide tear-jerking testimonials, but all companies have managers whose primary role is to create these connections and ensure that everyone in their teams understands the end game and what it feels like when you all succeed. Thanks to Facebook, MTV, and our reality TV junkie for putting the spotlight on this really important issue.

April 29, 2011


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