Q&A: Creating Conditions for Thriving Individuals and Organizations

Creating Conditions for
Thriving Individuals and Organizations
A Q&A with Magellan Federal’s Performance Coaches

By Maria D. James

Human connection is critical to improving performance and overall wellbeing in a sustainable way. This topic is the focus of the upcoming Magellan Federal webinar on Wednesday, July 19th. Leaders are encouraged to join Magellan Federal’s cognitive performance coaches for the webinar, Human Connection: Creating Conditions for Thriving Individuals & Organizations, to understand the indicators of thriving conditions, how connection drives those conditions, and learn strategies to help you implement them in your daily life.

Event panelists for this informative webinar include Dr. Jon Metzler, Senior Director of Human Performance; E.  Kruise, Cognitive Performance Specialist; and Meg Helf, Cognitive Performance Specialist.

Read the Q&A below for a few insights from our experts on human connection and wellbeing.

Q: Why do we need human connection? What are the benefits?

  • Kruise: Our brains are literally wired to connect and need connection for survival. Our brains will alert us when our need for connection is threatened. When we experience social pain our brains fire in the same way as when we experience physical pain, alerting us of the threat of disconnection. Just as pain alerts us when we are physically injured. When we are experiencing disconnection, we move into self-preservation mode and become self-focused; we are more likely in this mode to perceive others and the world around as threatening. As a result, we reinforce our feelings of disconnection. Furthermore, when we feel lonely, our sleep is impacted, our health is impacted. Loneliness increases our odds of an early death more than obesity, excessive drinking, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. When we feel connected or a sense of belonging, we not only improve our own personal well-being and performance, but we also increase group cohesion, creativity, innovation, and the well-being and performance of the entire team.

Q: What are a few ways to create conditions for thriving individuals?

Meg Helf:

  • Self-awareness of our mindsets and how our bodies operate is a first step in understanding that other people, with different backgrounds and upbringings, hold different mindsets, and their bodies may have learned to operate differently. This deep inner self-work takes time.
  • At a baseline, prioritizing a culture of connection. Creating a sense of belonging by truly seeing each other. We can do this by approaching others with patience, curiosity, generosity, and vulnerability.
  • Model Humility and Curiosity – Demonstrate situational humility. Identify and share where you have gaps in knowledge, skills, or abilities. Share your areas of development and plan. Ask for help. Ask a lot of questions about others’ challenges, ideas, concerns, and feedback.
  • Encourage and praise Input and Initiative – Acknowledge and appreciate questions, ideas, concerns, or challenges shared by people. Encourage everyone to share. Praise an individual’s willingness to assess and then act independently on tasks or projects.
  • Provide vision and the “why” – Paint a clear picture of what success looks like. Emphasize purpose, what’s at stake, why it matters, and for whom. When people are able to connect their values and purpose to the task, goal, or project, we see an increase in motivation. Keep the purpose top of mind, discuss, and ask for clarity if uncertain.
  • Seek and provide effective feedback – Provide caring, direct, and honest feedback in a timely and consistent manner. Ask for caring, direct, and honest feedback and model effectively accepting that feedback. This demonstrates that we care about each other’s success and believe in their abilities.

Q: What are the signs that there is a thriving organizational condition within the workplace?


  • People value other’s unique interests, skill sets and abilities. In turn, people feel valued and a sense of belonging. They are empowered to bring their full authentic self.
  • People take risks because they are not afraid to fail. Failure is only an opportunity to grow, get better, produce a stronger solution, etc.
  • People speak up, share, and challenge each other.
  • People listen to and tune into others, not just what they are saying, but also how others are feeling.
  • People are taking initiative, proactive, present in the moment, and emotionally interested in their tasks.

Q: In May, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory calling loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection a public health crisis calling it a “Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” Do you agree or disagree that this is a public health crisis? Why?

Helf: Absolutely! Although the recent COVID pandemic has brought the awareness of isolation and loneliness into the spotlight, levels of social connection have been declining for decades. Our need as social beings is innate and ingrained in our fabric. Our ability to support each other and work together is what has made the advancement of our society possible. Mother Nature has made the bet that the best thing for our brains to do, at any given moment, is to see the world socially.

Unfortunately, various changes within our society have changed the way we develop and maintain relationships, how often we engage in meaningful connections, and with whom. Unlike the sensations of hunger, thirst, and pain, which alert us that our bodies need food, water, or care for injuries, many individuals are not as attuned to or aware of the sensations of social pain. Social pain is a real pain, alerting us that social connection is missing. Social pain literally appears on brain imaging the same as physical pain. Many of us, however, may not intuitively connect what we are feeling to the social disconnection that is driving us. Even if we are aware of our social disconnection, there is still a stigma around loneliness and may be difficult for individuals to discuss openly. Furthermore, when we experience social isolation and loneliness for long periods of time, we see a diminished ability to foster what we need most: deep meaningful connections. Social disconnection causes real changes to our brains and bodies. These changes manifest in our performance, health, cognitive functioning, longevity, and wellbeing. We, as a culture and community, need to prioritize connection at work, in our communities, and at home to reorient to what makes us function at our best: connection to other people.

Q: How does a lack of connectivity negatively impact wellbeing and productivity in the workplace?

Helf: When we don’t feel a true sense of belonging, we hide our authentic selves, we create a filter for our behavior. This impression management leads to hesitation. Instead of sharing ideas and asking questions, our focus is directed toward how we should act based on how we think we will be perceived. A culture of holding back leads to less efficiency, less innovation, and diminished performance.

Kruise: A lack of connection in the workplace increases the likelihood of individuals operating in self-preservation, or at least self-interest, mode. Thus, people are more focused on themselves and more likely to perceive what is going on around them as negative or a threat. This can lead to more conflict, less growth and development, less creativity and innovation, less collaboration, and ultimately performance suffers.

Jon Metzler: Everyone! The concepts and strategies we discuss can be leveraged at any level of an organization in any environment or at home, with our families, hobbies, sports, activities, and social lives.

Human Connection Webinar

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the  webinar replay