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The Powerful Emotion Connection to Productivity

By Jonathan McClellan | May 16, 2017 | Blog Posts | Engage Employees

Dr. W. Edwards Deming understood, probably better than anybody on this planet, the power of connections in business. More importantly, he understood the impact connections had on business productivity, success and prosperity. Deming was the architect of Total Quality Management and recognized for his instrumental role in Japan’s industrial recovery and growth after the devastation of World War II. His grasp of the principles of efficiency, quality, innovation, employee involvement and the critical role of management to guide, inspire and nurture productivity is legendary.

In today’s business world, Dr. Deming’s teachings are as relevant as ever, maybe even more so, especially in regards to the employee/manager relationship. The importance of “interaction with people” in the business environment seems obvious when it comes to enhancing productivity. But for some in business, their interpretation of “interaction” doesn’t live up to full Deming potential.

Let’s change the word interaction to connection. As most of us know, connection in the business environment greatly impacts productivity, quality and loyalty. Connection fosters employee engagement. For employees, the better connected, and thus engaged they are to the work they do and the business they work for, the greater their level of confidence, productivity and happiness.

So connection enhances engagement, and engagement influences joy. But wait…joy is an emotion. Who in their right mind would place an emphasis on or sacrifice resources and time to ensure a joyful work experience? You guessed it, Dr. Deming. And he wasn’t alone. In an interview conversation with Dr. Russell Ackoff, a renowned organizational thinking expert, Deming explained that from an employee’s point of view:

quotation mark

When one understands who depends on me, then I may take joy in my work.

To which Dr. Ackoff added:

quotation markIf there isn’t joy in work, you won’t get productivity, and you won’t get quality.

There you have it. But is it really relevant today? Consider this:

quotation markGallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year (1)

That’s a significant lack of joy. But it makes perfect sense…a disengaged employee takes little to no pride in performance and has no feelings of loyalty to the business or its leadership. All of this adds up to poor productivity, attrition, new hiring and training costs, time and most importantly, profit loss.

Connection and Engagement Start With Empathy

So how does a manager foster a stronger level of engagement amongst his or her employees? The answer begins with empathy. As defined by Merriam-Webster, empathy is, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”

The ability to empathize, to understand another person’s feelings, at least to a small degree, is critical to forming connections that enhance engagement. Think about it, the better one person can truly identify with and understand another person’s feelings, motivations, situation, fears and strengths, the better the connection between the two people becomes. And a strong connection fosters trust, pride, loyalty, advocacy and productivity…which are, of course, the first qualities a manager is looking for in an employee.

But here’s the rub, a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Empathy Is Still Lacking in the Leaders Who Need It Most,” revealed that the one major quality that is missing or in low use among managers is, you guessed it, empathy.(2) The article goes on to define empathy as, “…a deep emotional intelligence that is closely connected to cultural competence. Empathy enables those who possess it to see the world through others’ eyes and understand their unique perspectives.”

Emotional Intelligence, or E.Q., is a term made famous by author Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. E. Q. is generally defined as one’s capacity to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others and understand how to interpret and be sensitive to them in one’s thoughts and actions.

So, for managers and business leaders, empathy a.k.a. emotional intelligence, is the key to unlocking better engagement, connections and ultimately overall success in the workplace.

The Impact of EQ Leadership in the Workplace

A recent article on Fortune.com addressed the importance of empathy in business. In particular, the article featured a quote from the Harvard Business Review that studied the relationship between empathetic business leaders and their performance. According to the study:

quotation markResearchers surveyed employees from 84 U.S. companies about the character of their CEOs, using compassion and forgiveness as key indicators. Comparing the company’s financial performance against the employee’s judgement of the CEOs character, the researchers found that CEOs with a strong character outperformed their poorly ranked peers by nearly 500%. (3)

So, from the example above, it would be easy to say that the role good EQ plays in the workplace from a leadership perspective does indeed impact business performance. The questions on your mind right about now are, can you improve your EQ performance in your own business and how? Well, you can. But it takes practice.

What EQ Leaders Tend to Do

A 2008 article published by Hay Group titled Emotional Intelligence: Leadership prescription for tough times, detailed four common behaviors of good EQ leaders. They found that, “…highly emotionally intelligent leaders tend to:

  • listen more than they talk
  • emphasize the how’s and why’s instead of simply telling people what to do
  • engage team members and recognize their contributions rather than continually criticizing their mistakes
  • understand what energizes and engages people on their teams and create environments that foster that energy.”4

I think you will agree that the behaviors above are not out of reach for any business leader. Frankly, we all should be exhibiting them, and we must if we want to create more connected and engaged relationships in business.


When and Where to Use EQ

With billions of dollars in lost productivity per year due to disengaged employees, there really is no valid argument for not investigating solutions to enhance engagement and increase connections. Employing a better EQ approach is the first step, but the next question to ask is, when and where should you look to identify opportunities to engage and connect? I know that some people will roll their eyes and say, “Just look at your employees or co-workers.” Unfortunately, it’s not that obvious. If you could read minds, it would be. But you don’t have to be a mind reader, you just need to exercise your empathetic ability and sense the moments that matter where a kind word, congratulations or opportunity for recognition are needed and deserved.

People thrive on positive reinforcement. But the positive reinforcement must be tied to an action, event, struggle or accomplishment to create a moment that’s worth remembering. It’s also important to note that a positive acknowledgement doesn’t have to be in response to a positive action. Kind words of encouragement and support can be powerful catalysts in helping someone overcome a hurdle during trying times.

So what are the moments that offer an opportunity to engage and create stronger connections? Well, technically, all of them. Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman says that every day, we experience around 20,000 moments. Obviously, a daily barrage of attempts to engage and connect isn’t possible or productive for anyone. Plus, an overzealous effort would be counterproductive as it would come across as insincere and forced. The key is EQ.

Employing empathy allows you to create moments where positive input can truly make a positive impact in your employees’ lives. A sincere, authentic act of caring and recognition shows you have your employees’ well-being and interests in mind and at heart.

Receptive to Connection

Before you can make a connection, you must exercise EQ in a way that supports the employee, but also validates and helps maintain (or create) an environment or culture worth feeling connected to. It might appear to be a “chicken or the egg” scenario, but in truth, it starts with you. With that said, fostering a connection culture that helps make employees more receptive starts with three factors identified in the book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity. One of the book’s authors, Michael Lee Stallard explains that Vision, Value, and Voice are the keys:

Vision exists “…when everyone in an organization is motivated by the organization’s mission, united by its values, and proud of its reputation.”(5) When an employee can see, understand and believe in the vision of a business, he or she is more likely to feel proud and motivated.

Value, as Stallard explains, “…means that everyone in an organization understands the universal nature of people, appreciates the unique contribution of each person, and helps them achieve their potential.” When people feel valued, it is easier to feel more connected to their work, others and the world around them.

Voice refers to when, “…everyone in an organization participates in an open, honest and safe environment where people share their opinions in order to understand one another and seek the best ideas.” Think about that for a minute, an open, honest and safe environment that fosters communication, collaboration and respect. If that’s not the foundation to a win-win outcome for everyone involved, I don’t know what is. And as Stallard points out, when vision, value and voice are present, a culture of connection is created and thrives.

From Connection to Engagement

Okay, your employees feel connected in your workplace. Is that it? When do the results in enhanced productivity occur? Well, you’re almost there. The next step is engagement. Think of it this way, connection is sitting in the car of your dreams. You feel at ease, thrilled, excited. Engagement is buckling up, turning the key, putting it into drive and going forward.
Engagement is also what drives motivation. According to the article, “Inspiring Employee Engagement Through Emotional Intelligence” there are four keys to engagement that result in driving deep motivation:

  1. sense of autonomy
  2. feeling of competence
  3. relatedness to the broader work of the organization
  4. connection to the community of fellow employees (6)

As a manager, your use of EQ helps create connections that foster engagement and drive motivation that results in greater productivity, satisfaction and success for everyone involved.

Make Feedback and Recognition Your EQ MO

We’ve covered the who, what, why and where of using EQ for creating a culture of connection and engagement for your business; now comes the how.
Feedback and performance reviews are obvious areas where utilizing empathy can have a positive impact. A recent article on Gallup.com discussed that employees felt more engaged when they received feedback from their managers that focused on their strengths.(7) A positive and more empathetic approach can “empower employees to discover and develop their strengths and position them in roles where they can do what they do best every day.”

Gallup twitter post of 61% engagement stat

The article also pointed out that, “a strengths-based management approach is the best way to improve the employee-manager relationship.“

But what about recognition? Well, your employee recognition efforts and EQ go hand in hand. Recognition validates, celebrates and motivates performance. It helps create a positive culture of connection and supports long-lasting engagement. And when it comes to motivation, recognition is an EQ all-star.
Now, back to “how.” That’s where Hallmark Business Connections comes in to make your job more productive and empathetic.

EQ With More IQ

Hallmark Business Connections helps you enrich the connections in your organization in a convenient, efficient, effective and emotionally intelligent way. We empower you with real-time solutions that allow you to recognize employees and create more memorable moments. By uniting technology that integrates seamlessly and the emotional sincerity that Hallmark is famous for, we are helping create and enhance the relationships that help businesses thrive.

Whether it’s a real-time response to a job well done, a certificate celebrating an achievement, a gift card rewarding a performance or a sincere expression of support in the form of a card, Hallmark Business Connections enables you to easily express your EQ. The result helps create and maintain a workplace culture that is connected, engaged and successful.

Greater productivity from a strong emotion connection is what Hallmark Business Connections is all about. And I firmly believe Dr. Deming would approve.


  1.  https://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/162953/tackle-employees-stagnating-engagement.aspx
  2.  https://hbr.org/2015/09/empathy-is-still-lacking-in-the-leaders-who-need-it-most
  3.  https://fortune.com/2016/01/07/quality-leaders-lack/
  4.  https://www.haygroup.com/downloads/fi/emotional_intelligence_leadership_prescription_for_tough_times_final.pdf
  5.  https://www.michaelleestallard.com/wp-content/uploads/connectionculture-ebook.pdf
  6.  http://www.6seconds.org/2014/01/02/employee-engagement-emotional-intelligence/
  7.  https://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/167462/employees-strengths-company-stronger.aspx

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