skip to main content
Called to Coach
Coaching People to Connect
Called to Coach

Coaching People to Connect

Webcast Details

  • What does Gallup's research tell us about friendship and how pervasive loneliness is globally?
  • What are the personal and organizational benefits of having a best friend at work?
  • What can coaches do to encourage relationship-building in their coachees and help organizations create a "culture of connection"?

Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 11, Episode 13

Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.


Loneliness is a global problem -- one that has only worsened as a result of the pandemic. Loneliness has a profoundly negative effect on people's wellbeing and sense of thriving, and this includes the workplace. Gallup's research shows that there is great power and benefit -- to individuals and organizations -- when coworkers have a best friend at work. What are those benefits? And how are coaches uniquely positioned to address this issue? Join Gallup's Dean Jones for a look at loneliness, friendships in the workplace, and practical steps coaches can take to encourage people and workplaces to embrace "a culture of connection."


330 million people in the world are so lonely, they don't talk to a single friend or family member for 2 weeks at a time.

Dean Jones, 4:00

I think it's important that leaders and managers are explicitly fostering an environment that is about connecting. They're intentional about creating a culture of connection in their organization.

Dean Jones, 43:45

Our findings have shown that even since the pandemic started, there's an even stronger relationship between having a best friend at work and employee engagement and employee retention.

Dean Jones, 19:38

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 17, 2023.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Jim Collison 0:19
Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, and you don't see the chat room, there's a link to it right above me there. We'd love to have you, have you and your questions in chat. If you're listening on the podcast or on YouTube after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe to Called to Coach on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube, so you never miss an episode. Dean Jones is our host today. Dean is the Global Talent Development Architect and Senior Learning Expert for Gallup, as well as the chair of our Diversity Council. And Dean, always great to have you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!

Dean Jones 1:02
Yeah, thanks. I'm glad to be here. I'm, I have a little bit of a froggy voice today, so I hope I don't, I hope I sound like myself.

Jim Collison 1:10
I think you, I think you sound great. We have a great topic. We're spending time talking about connecting, right, coaching people to connect. And I'm intrigued by this topic, and we have some new data on it. So why don't you kick us off and get us started.

How Many Friends Do You Talk to Each Week?

Dean Jones 1:26
Well, you know, it's for, as you all probably know, we this year, this past year released the book Blind Spot. So Jon Clifton, our CEO, wrote the book Blind Spot. And he did it with a number of folks, and particularly a number of folks in our World Poll area. And one of the statistics that we, that we shared in the book just really jumped out to me. And I think it's one of the most profound statistics, I think, particularly as, as somebody who is a coach and works around people's development, that there were over 300 million people in the world who don't have a single friend. And I, that, that statistic just, just grabbed me. And I started to get really interested in it and thought it would be a great conversation for us to have, and particularly to have with strengths coaches, because I think there's an opportunity for strengths coaches here. And I'd love to, I'd love to talk about that a little bit. So I thought today, one of things we'd start, we'd start to do is talk a little bit about the data from the book and some of the other sources and, and review that, and then kind of talk about what is kind of the implications of that for strengths coaches.

Jim Collison 2:36
I love it, Dean. Let's get started.

Dean Jones 2:38
Great. So the first thing we, I thought I'd do is just kind of talk about the state of friendships. And if you read Blind Spot or some of the, some of the articles that we wrote around Blind Spot, I think this will be relevant for you. But it starts just really with a simple question: How many friends do you talk to each week? I don't know if you, if you want to just think, think about yourself, and think about the last couple of weeks of your life. And think about how many friends did you actually talk to? How many people did you connect to that were friends that you were able to kind of share your life with, and to have them share their life with you? If for you, if it's one or two friends, then you're like 23% of the world -- 23% of the world has one or two friends that they would have connected with. If you said three or four friends, you're about 20% of the world. So about 20% of the world has three or four friends that they would have connected with. If you said five to nine, you're like 23% of the world, right. And if you're really popular, if you've got a lot of friends, if you said 10 or more friends, you're like 28% of the world.

Dean Jones 3:44
But here's the thing that I think is really powerful is 6% of the world, about 330 million people, are so lonely that they don't talk to a single friend or family member for 2 weeks at a time. Think about that: 330 million people in the world are so lonely, they don't talk to a single friend or family member for 2 weeks at a time. They're essentially friendless. And so it's just, as you think about that, and particularly for people like us, people who are coaches, people that spent all day relating to other human beings, it, you know, it seems like the most kind of desolate way to live that you could possibly think of.

Dean Jones 4:27
The other thing, the other point around this is just because someone has friends doesn't mean that they're good friends. While 6% of people are lonely -- they don't have a friend, right? -- 23% don't have friends or relatives that they could count on whenever they need them. Right. So in an emergency, if they were having an issue, 23% of people in the world say that they don't have friends or relatives that they could count on whenever they need them. So, and this, this was exacerbated by the pandemic. So, as we went through the course of the last 3 years, it intensified really global loneliness. According to the Survey Center on American Life, 10% of women reported having no close friends in 2021, up from 2% in 1990. And men have it even worse: men, over the same time period, 15% of men reported having no close friends, up from 3%.

Dean Jones 5:24
So it just, it's one of those things. And again, that's in the United States here, right? So if you look at the data, there's areas that are essentially friendship deserts, you know -- areas of the world that are, are, are have a much more difficult time than other areas. The United States tends to be a little better relative to that, but you still 10% of women, 15% of men having no close friends. So really remarkable data.

Having a Best Friend at Work, Social Wellbeing, and Thriving

Jim Collison 5:54
Dean, in our Q12®, we've got that Q10 question, right: Best friend at work. And I think oftentimes that question gets, gets it on the chin for that, this idea of Best friend, and then it, by itself, you kind of, you kind of start to wonder. But then you look at some stats like this, and all of a sudden, it starts to become really important why we're asking that question, right?

Dean Jones 6:19
That's right. It's, it's, and we've known for literally decades the importance of those kinds of social connections, how those social connections make a difference, not just in the quality of people's lives -- and I want to talk about the quality of people's lives -- but not just in the quality of people's lives, but the quality of people's wellbeing, the quality of people's work, the quality of people's performance. Right. And so I think, and I think it's just now -- it sounds funny to say -- but it's just now that I think, not just psychologists and therapists are seeing this, but business leaders are seeing this, and seeing the impact and the importance of caring about, Do people have those kinds of social connections? Are we supporting people's social wellbeing?

Dean Jones 7:05
One of things we know, you know, in the area of social wellbeing, we know that if you have at least one friend that you talk to a minimum of once every 2 weeks, it in, it increases your chance of living a thriving life by over 50%. Let me say that again: If you have one friend that you talk to a minimum of once every 2 weeks, it increases your chance of living a thriving life by over 50%. In fact, 6 hours of social time each day doubles your chance of thriving overall. So living a life that's really well, right, where you have really high wellbeing. We know that having five close friends decreases your chance of living a life of suffering by more than 50%. And in fact, there's a researcher at Brigham Young University that reviewed 148 studies globally and found that people who will have adequate social relationships -- these are not even deep social relationships, just adequate social relationships -- are 50% less likely to die, compared with those who have poor social connections. It's, this increase in the survival rate is equivalent to quitting smoking, right?

Dean Jones 8:18
So we know that it's, there's this profound connection between having good social wellbeing, being connected to other people, having close friends and relating to them on a regular basis, that it, it, it has this profound and, profound effect for us on all of our wellbeing, including and especially our physical wellbeing. So we know that this is an important piece, right? We also know that it's an important piece at work. And Jim, you were talking about the Best friend question. It's one that people have asked about and pushed back about. There's, you know, almost certainly, every organization that we start working with around employee engagement says, Hey, what's up with this question, right? And we have to be able to explain. And if you've read our book Vital Friends, you know a little bit of the background around the importance of that and the data and the research that we've done around that. But we know that, that, that creating those kinds of connections at work has a dramatic impact, not just on quality of life, but also on performance. There's a, there's a clear connection there.

Dean Jones 9:24
But one of the things that we see is, is that still, organizations are struggling to create the kind of environment where people are able to connect with each other. There's a lot of workplaces that don't foster friendship-friendly environments -- environments that are supportive of friendship. In fact, only 15% of people say that they have a real friend at work, what they would describe as a real friend -- only 15%. In fact, in the U.S., two in 10 workers spend the day feeling lonely. And this has been exacerbated by moving from the environment where everybody's in the office to hybrid work environments -- remote work environments or particularly hybrid work environments. What we've seen is, is among people that work in those kinds of hybrid environments, we've seen a 5-point decline -- that's a significant decline -- in those people who say they have a Best friend at work since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019. So we know that, that everything that we've been through in the last 3 years has put pressure on this and put pressure particularly on organizations that weren't emphasizing this to beginning, in the beginning.

Dean Jones 10:32
So, and at the same time, again, we know this has a significant business impact. There's an interesting study, I don't know if you, there's an article, I don't know if you read Jon Clifton's article in Harvard Business Review. And maybe, Jim, you want to share that article. I love this article. It's, it's, it talks about the power of work friends. And one of the things that Jon references in the article that I found just so incredibly useful was he references another article where, that, that talks about the importance of having a buddy when you're going through onboarding. And, and it talks about the, one of the things they share in the article is that Microsoft® found that when its new hires met with their buddy, their onboarding buddy, more than 8 times in their first 90 days in the job, 97% of them said that their buddy helped them become more productive more quickly. And when new hires met with their buddy only once during the first 90 days, that number was only 56%. So we know that just, you know, for, for many of us who are working in organizations, I'm directly responsible for our onboarding here at Gallup, we're working in organizations where we want to get people up to speed quickly. We want people to be connected. We want people to get into their role quickly. And we know that, that having somebody that's going to help them foster those kinds of social relationships are going to make a difference.

Best Friends at Work and Onboarding

Jim Collison 11:57
Dean, do you think, like, friendships in organ-, it's hard, right? We know that from our data. It's, it's hard to do that. Do you think the make-or-break point is in the onboarding process? In other words, if you don't get it right there, it could be difficult to correct that down the line as, you know, in, or, or vice versa: if you're getting it right on, in the onboarding process, would that help continue that momentum going forward? I don't know. Any thoughts on that?

Dean Jones 12:24
Yeah, I do. You know, I'm gonna say too kind of, this is like, I'm gonna say something a little paradoxical, right? It's a little contradictory, right. So sometimes, you have, sometimes people get concerned. They look at our Q12 data, and they get concerned, particularly when you brought a lot of new people into your team and to your, or to your organization, and they see a dip in the "Best friend at work" question. And they think they gotta go to work on Best friend, right. And in fact, we know that that tends to be a little bit of a lagging measure; that the work to do is, is more at some of the fundamental needs, engagement needs that we have. And, you know, when you're, when, when you got a lot of new people on the team or in the organization, the focus should be on clarifying expectations and getting people equipped to be able to do the role. And that we know that, that those kinds of deep relationships, those Best friend at work relationships, are going to, are going to, are going to develop, but they're going to develop over time.

Dean Jones 13:19
So it's not, it's not a problem if you, if you don't see those relationships in the beginning. But during the onboarding process, part of, I always say that there's two things that happen during onboarding. One is, is that you're creating self-efficacy for people. You're helping people to be able to navigate the organization. The other thing you're doing is enculturation. Right? So you're getting people connected to your culture and in your culture. So you're building self-efficacy, and you're doing enculturation. Right. And so, as you're doing both of those things, getting some, having somebody who's in the culture and who can navigate the organization who's good at that, and can help you, can introduce you to that, makes a difference. Right.

Dean Jones 14:07
And particularly, I will tell you, just, just from everything that I, I would say that I've learned over the last 3 years about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is particularly that's true, if you're, if the new associate, if the new employee is from an underrepresented community, right? If you're a minority, and you come into an organization, you may have a, some hesitation about how to get connected. Typically, what we see is, is employees that come from underrepresented communities typically connect better, it's easier for them to connect with the formal structures in the organization than it is the informal ones. And, you know, a lot of the culture is informal structures -- the way we, the way we operate, the way we behave around here. So having a buddy that can get someone connected to those informal structures is really going to make a difference. So this is particularly useful for, for new, for new employees that, that may not come from a majority group, right?

Jim Collison 15:09
Love that. Yeah, I think so. And it gives us some, to Ken's question, he asks, you know, How much onboarding needs to be personal? -- and I think you've addressed this a little bit -- versus that teaching of, here's your job. Here's your role and responsibility, right?

Dean Jones 15:23
Yeah. Yeah, I, you know, it's, it's, the old model, I think it's from CCL, of 70, 70/20/10. Right? Is for learning in organizations, there's, there's some reason that that model has so much traction, which is 10% kind of formal, formal training time; 20% kind of coaching and mentoring; and 70% of time that's just on-the-job training. I think that learn, that kind of model applies to onboarding as well is we do need, we do need some, it's just, just for efficiency's sake, we do need modules that people go through. And just like every other organization, at Gallup here, we have modules that people go through, right? But, but you need to have some, you need to have somebody who's connected to that person that's doing kind of coaching or mentoring with them, particularly as they get into the organization. And then a lot of it's going to happen on the job. It's, I will tell you, you know, we wrote the book on it. But it's also, it's also really the power of having great managers in your organization. Is in our organization, you know, we put so much emphasis on managers, and it's having great managers that are really connected with people and, you know, Ken, are really committed to them and really will get up under them, from even before their first day. Go ahead, Jim. Sorry.

Jim Collison 16:41
We, no, we, at the beginning of the pandemic, I immediately reached out to some key contacts on my end to say, Hey, we need to still continue to meet all the time. Right? If it's going to be Zoom or Teams or whatever we're going to do. We, we, so we set up weekly connects. I mean, there, there are people I met with through the entire 2 years, regular meetings, because I knew we couldn't meet in person. But to keep that connection, and it had some benefits, I think you're gonna outline here in a second; it had some benefits to me and those individuals, to just keep that constant. And it wasn't just all work. Like, there were a lot of times we got together just, So how was your week? I mean, I had a regular Friday happy hour with, with a, with a buddy. We didn't work. I mean, we kind of, we maybe complained about work. But we also just, right, it was that time to connect. Can you talk a little bit about that -- the benefits of, of maybe some of that, you know, in some of the findings that are, that we have found since the pandemic?

Dean Jones 17:39
Yeah, I mean, not to replay the past, but I think we all know that, that the pandemic hit in early 2020. And one of the things we were concerned about is people being isolated. And all of a sudden, everybody's working out of their home and people being isolated. And I think still, we saw, you know, we're relating to everything that, Hey, the pandemic's over, right. But we know that the workplace is now different. And that one of the things we're seeing in organizations is managers are dealing with this hybrid work environment. And the kinds of things that we learned about the importance of social connections carry forward now in this hybrid work environment. So we've shown over the, over the, over decades, literally, that, that having best friends at work is key to employees being engaged and to them being able to perform to have job success in their role.

Organizational Benefits of Having Employees With a Best Friend at Work

Dean Jones 18:26
Our data has, have also shown that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to key business outcomes -- things like productivity and profitability; things like safety; things like retention of associates; and things like inventory control -- shrinkage. So if you look at some of the key business outcomes that we've studied, that we, that we've looked at relative to engagement over decades, we know that having a best friend is really strongly linked to those things. People that have a best friend at work are significantly more likely to be able to engage customers and their internal partners. They're much more connected, and they have those more powerful connections. They're more likely to get more done in less time -- their productivity is better. They're better able to support a safe workplace that has fewer accidents. They're more innovative. So what we see is they're more likely to share their opinions and share their ideas. They're actually more likely to have fun at work, which creates a positive and constructive work culture.

Dean Jones 19:29
So we know that if you, that there's all these benefits that accrue to organizations, to teams when employees have a best friend at work. And our findings have shown that even since the pandemic started, there's an even stronger relationship between having a best friend at work and employee engagement and employee retention. Right. We, we've studied this; there's a great article that was published on -- yes, I'm promoting this article -- it was talk, and it was written by my friend Alok Patel here at, at Gallup. But one of the things in this article they talk about is how employees are much more likely to be satisfied with their organization as a place to work if they have a best friend than if they don't: It's 32% strongly agree that they, that they're satisfied with their organization as a place to work if they have a best friend, compared with only 15% if they don't.

Dean Jones 20:27
People are much more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work. Right. So 44, 44%, if they strongly agree they have a best friend, compared with 21% if they don't. They're much less likely to be looking for a different job. They're, or they're more likely to stay at the organization: 37% if they strongly agree they have a best friend at work, compared to 49% if they don't. So being satisfied with their organization, recommending the organization as a great place to work, less likely to be looking for a different job -- those have all increased as a function of the pandemic. And so we know that in these hybrid work environments, that having this, having a best friend at work is really critical to build a strong environment where employees are engaged, and where you're more likely to be able to retain employees. And we know, everybody I know in Talent Acquisition now, right now is, is under pressure. It's a, you know, it, that's a tough job right now. And has, has been tough over the last several years. Organizations are more competitive than ever before, particularly as everybody removes, goes remote and the, we've removed the kind of geographic barriers for talent. It's a tough, it's a tough gig. And so being able to retain people that you've spent so much time and energy and so much money trying to recruit is absolutely critical.

How Coaches Can Help Organizations "Create a Culture of Connection"

Jim Collison 21:52
I, it's always interesting when we see Gallup employees who have been remote come back. And it's like a reunion here. Like, and you can say, like, Yeah, you know, hybrid's great and working remote. I get to live wherever I want -- some of those kinds of things. Yeah, but the proof's in the pudding, right, when they're, when they're back in person, and hugs, and it's great to have you here. The, the I watched this team, as a few people came back to be in person, they immediately went to a room and then spent a whole bunch of time with each other in person. Like they could have done it hybrid, but it's different. Right? It's different somehow, at least in the, in the N of 1, what I watched happen yesterday here. And I've seen this happen over and over again -- that amazing personal connection that works when everybody's together. Right? They're just excited to be around each other. Well, Dean, you got an, you got an audience of strengths coaches, right, with this, and, and a nice setup for, and a great explanation for the "Why" on this Q10 idea. But what can, what could, how could our coaching community, like, take this and move it forward?

Dean Jones 22:54
Well, I think this is, this is really why I wanted to have this conversation here is I think that, that strengths coaches are in a unique position to be able to start to impact this. By virtue of the work that our strengths coaches do, I think there's an opportunity to be able to start to impact this. And I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things I think directly strengths coaches can do, and also some of the ways that coaches, I think, can work with people to, in order to be able to connect. So one key thing I think that strengths coaches can do as they work with organizations is to reinforce the power of best friends at work with managers and leaders in the organization. I think it's important that leaders and managers are explicitly fostering an environment that's, that is about connecting. They're, they're intentional about creating a culture of connection in their organization.

Dean Jones 23:50
And I don't think it's enough to say, Hey, we know people are friends here, or Yeah, sure, of course, we want people to be friends. I think you have to, as a leader, I think in your communication, in the, you have to be somebody that's explicit and intentional, to be able to say, Hey, we want people to connect. We're building an environment where people collaborate together. We all work together, and we want people to, to have those meaningful connections. I think some of the things that leaders get worried about is the stuff about, Hey, are people really working if I don't see them? Right? Or are people as productive if they're not in the office? A lot of that takes care of itself if everybody is connected to one another, but it means leaders and managers have to start to really explicitly and intentionally foster this kind of culture of connection.

Dean Jones 24:43
We know, through our research, that doing productive work with other people and working in the area of your talent actually builds those social bonds, right. One of the pieces of data we've got is that only 50 -- only 15% of those people who strongly agree that they have the Opportunity to do what they do best report feeling lonely. Only 15% of people who strongly agree that they've had the opportunity to do what they do best, only 15% of those people report feeling lonely. So we know that, that that's sig-, that just having an opportunity to work in an area of your strength, to do productive work with others where you're using your talents, it reduces loneliness. How do we know that? We know that people that strongly disagree around that, that they have the opportunity to do what they do best, 40% of those people report being lonely. And people who disagree, not just strongly disagree, but just disagree with that, 32% of those people report being lonely. So significant reduction in loneliness just by working in an area of talent, you know. So if you're a strengths coach, and you're fostering an environment where people can use their talents and connect with each other in meaningful and productive ways, that has a huge, that goes a long way, in terms of reducing loneliness.

Dean Jones 26:04
We also know, and I think this is part of the case that strengths coaches need to make with managers and leaders, that a lot of times, leaders and managers are looking at the wrong things when they go to invest in their culture. They think that the coffee bar is going to make a difference in the culture. They think that the ping pong table is going to make a difference in the, difference in the culture. Those are things, those are certainly nice, you know, but they're not things that are going to make an, make a meaningful, tangible impact on the culture. Right? The, fostering a culture of connection is, is the place that you want to make that kind of investment.

Coaching to Foster Employee Engagement

Dean Jones 26:40
Now, if you're, if you're -- I said this earlier, but if you have difficulty with engagement on your team or in your organization, it's not the first place you go. Sometimes we see, you know, one of the things you see sometimes with rookie managers is they look at their Q12 Report, and they, they see that Best friend at work question is, is, is low, and so they think, That's the first thing I'm gonna go work on. No, that's not the first thing you need to go work on. Right? We want to make sure that some of the fundamentals in the environment, we know, and this is the way we coach managers is, we know that you want to start with the first three, then the next three. You want to make sure those are really solid, right? Do people know what's expected of them? Do they have the materials and equipment to get their job done? Does everybody in your organization have the opportunity to do what they do best? We want to make sure those are solid, completely solid.

Dean Jones 27:31
And, you know, that, that, that question about Opportunity to do what I do best, we know that strengths has a huge impact on that. People, people that know their strengths are able to say what they do best. And they're able to teach their manager in their environment what they do best. So we know, and that goes a long way toward being engaged. And then things like Recognition or praise for doing good work, knowing that I've got a Manager that cares about me as a person, and Somebody who's encouraging my development -- we know those are important as well. So solidifying those things are the first place you go. But part of what we know is, for leaders and managers is, as you start to invest in the culture, building, creating those opportunities for people to connect, reinforcing those connections and explicitly talking about that is, is, is super important. Our data has shown that managers have a disproportionate impact on that. We, you know, I feel like we've hammered that statistic home so hard that there's nobody that doesn't have it tattooed on their brain, right?

Dean Jones 28:30
You know, we know that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is, can be directly attributed back to managers. So we know managers have a disproportionate impact in organizations -- and even more so, given hybrid work environments. Managers are the glue, right. And so investing in managers and having good managers that know what they're doing and know where to focus is super important. And leaders and managers have to model this kind of behavior. They have to be people that connect, that are connected and want to be connected. They -- modeling that behavior is super important for them. So those are all important pieces of it, I think, in terms of, you know, making sure that we're reinforcing the power of best friends with managers and leaders. So that's the first piece I would say that strengths coaches can go to work on.

Building Relationships, Tackling Loneliness

Jim Collison 29:19
I love that, Dean. That's just, that's a clinic right there, I think, in coaching leaders and leadership teams on where to focus. How when we think about, you know, that Question 4 of, Have I received praise or recognition last 7 days for doing good work? How important in this recognition of getting teams -- I think sometimes we think, Well, if we gotta get best friends, we've got to create happy hours or we got to find places for them to get together. And yet they're spending most of their time working together. And I think what I heard you say is, it's really important that they can work effectively together. That builds relationships. Is that what I heard?

Dean Jones 29:56
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It's really two things. It's, Hey, do I have work that's, that I, am I working in an area of my strengths, right? And obviously strengths coaches have a direct impact on that. So helping people to make sure, Hey, do I know what my strengths are? My, do I understand my talents? Have I identified them? Do I know what my talents are? Am I developing them into strengths? Am I working in an area of my strengths? And am I doing productive and meaningful work? So we know that, I want to make sure that I'm, you know, as I'm working with others and connecting with others, that's an important piece.

Dean Jones 30:31
The other aspect of this is that we know -- and this is something I think that strengths coaches can do -- if we know that work environments that have high accountability, where there's respect among coworkers, can also serve to reduce loneliness. Because coworkers are more likely to respect each other's work, and so there's that kind of mutual respect, that environment of mutual respect. I can't tell you the number of organizations I know where, that, where teams are siloed or functions are siloed in the organization, or where literally, you see functions at war with each other. And, and creating an environment, it's so critical to create an environment inside the organization where there's mutual respect and mutual collaboration. We found that only 16% of employees who strongly agree that their coworkers are committed to quality work reported feeling lonely. So if I'm strong, if I would strongly agree that My coworkers are committed to doing quality work, I'm much less likely to report being lonely. We know that people that strongly agree -- 40% of people who strongly disagreed that their coworkers were committed to doing quality work, 40% of those people reported being lonely. So we know having respect among coworkers and having those connections is so critical.

The Role of CliftonStrengths in Addressing Loneliness

Dean Jones 31:48
The last piece, and, and I think this is an obvious one for, for strengths coaches, is helping people really discover and use their strengths, right. So we know that loneliness is much less likely when employees are aware of their strengths and able to share them with each other and able to leverage another's strengths. So we know that, that, it sounds funny, but I think it's, and it's something that we've all experienced, I think, as strengths coaches is, one is, I, if I'm, if I'm aware of my talents, if I'm aware of my strengths, I'm much more likely to be confident in myself, right? I'm also equipped with a language where I can talk about who I am.

Dean Jones 32:31
One of the powerful aspects of CliftonStrengths is it gives people a shared language for talking about individual differences. This is who I am. And I can talk about myself in a way that's respectful, that's, that's positive, that's constructive. I can also talk about others' differences in a way that's respectful and powerful and constructive. This is one of the places where, where you can see friction created between employees. You see this, this is also an area where managers fumble the ball a lot, because they don't have a language to talk about individual differences in a way that's respectful and constructive. Right? You see, when you're dealing with diversity in organizations, not having a language to talk about individual differences in a way that's respectful and constructive can, people can end up coming across, you know, you can end up coming across as microaggressions, because they don't have the right language to be able to talk about individual differences in that way.

Dean Jones 33:32
So it also creates kind of hooks in the culture. I think of, like, you know, it's the Velcro® in, in a culture, where people can start to connect with each other. You and I have similar strengths, or you and I have different but complementary strengths. Those are the places that we start to get connection in the culture, I, and it allows people to be known. And so people are able to use strengths to be known in the culture. Now one of the things that we do, and I will tell you, I'm really intentional about, in onboarding in our organization, is you really have to encourage people, as they learn about their strengths, that they have a responsibility to train other people. So they have a, it's like, this is how I'm wired. People are not intuitively going to know that. Right? I might have my Top 5 posted outside my office, but I don't have it posted on my chest. Right. And I, you know, and I don't, you know, and the only way people are really going to know, even if they read my strengths, they're not going to know how those strengths manifest themselves uniquely in me. And the only way they're going to know that is if I can open my mouth and teach people about who I am and how I work.

Dean Jones 34:41
And so part of have, of a strengths initiative in organizations is not just have people identify with their strengths, but are we encouraging people to teach the people around them about their strengths? Are they teaching their manager, This is how I work. You know, This is who I am; here's the owner's manual for me, right? Here's, here's how I work. Right? And, and are they teaching the teams? Are they training their environment, This is how I am? When, when employees are training their environment, when they're equipped to train their environment, This is who I am, that leads to better connections in the environment. And that's something directly that strengths coaches can be doing. Right? It's not just, Can you tell me what your strengths are? It's, Who else did you tell about your strengths? Who'd you share that with this week? Right? What was the conversation you had? What did you learn about how you work? And who did you share that with? Right? Go ahead, sorry.

Jim Collison 35:32
No, we've had a lot of new, we've had a lot of -- like a lot of organizations, we've had a lot of new folks roll through the halls of Gallup here, especially on the Riverfront. And I've really made an effort to get in those, like at lunch, get in, sit at the tables with new people, and just start asking questions, right, about who they are and what they do. And what do you do best? And tell me a little bit about your Top 5, right, to start facilitating those conversations -- and regular conversations, too. I mean, we do have regular conversations at Gallup. We gossip a little bit, you know, we do some of those kinds of things, right? We're regular people. We do those, we do those kinds of things, too. But it's been interesting. I'm having way more, Dean, I'm having way more -- maybe this is a testament to the work you're doing with onboarding in general, but I'm having way more of those strengths conversations, not initiated by me but by them. They're saying back to me, Hey, my, or, Hey, tell me a little bit. They're asking me those questions. Right. They, they are.

Jim Collison 36:33
And so it's creating, it starts creating this culture, folks I don't even really work directly with but it's, it's weaving the teams together. It's, it's making a more complete body, I think, for us as a whole on that, in making those connections actually work. And I've found, I'm wanting to come to work more. Like I want to come into the office more, because I'm, I can only do that at lunch when I'm meeting with them in person. Right? It's, it's driving -- the other day, I was thinking about it. In fact, I was gonna stay home today. And I thought, No, I'm going in. And I know nobody's gonna be here today. But some, some will. And it was just, it, it was a natural, kind of a natural draw. Is that what you're talking about? I mean -- ?

Dean Jones 37:14
Yeah, 100%. And I think it's so funny, because I think that oftentimes, when we think about creating a strengths-based culture, what we think about and what we measure is, is the stuff that's programmatic, right? How many coaching sessions did we do? And how many training sessions did we do? How many strengths got posted on the walls? Right? Those are the kinds of things that we, that we tend to say, Hey, can I point to all that stuff? And that's evidence we have a strengths-based culture. No, a strengths-based culture is the one, is, is the thing you just described, right? It's, Hey, do we have, do we have a culture where people are using their strengths to form those kinds of collaborative connections? Are, do we have a culture where people spontaneously are saying, This is how I'm wired. This is who I am, right? And I want to know a little bit more about you. That we have the kind of culture where the, where, are we measuring those kinds of conversations? Those are the kinds of conversations that we want to, that are indicative of having a strengths-based culture.

Dean Jones 38:15
And there's ways that you can kind of prewire that into your organization. And certainly, it's helping people to make sure that everybody's done CliftonStrengths and is equipped with that from the beginning, you know, but, and, and a lot of that kind of programmatic stuff ends up getting kind of front-loaded as part of onboarding or early in the employee lifecycle. But once you've got that stuff, once you've kind of prewired that for folks coming into the culture, then, then the culture is not about the programmatic stuff. It's really about, How are we using, using CliftonStrengths as our social grease? Right? How are we using that to create those connections and manage those connections and to collaborate together to work together and to resolve conflict? Right? How are we using all those things? How are we using CliftonStrengths as a tool that we use on a day-to-day basis? That's a, that's a strengths-based culture.

Jim Collison 39:07
I found an interesting stat the other day, this lunch group that I meet with pulled seven tables together, you know, in the atrium.

Dean Jones 39:14
Yes. I saw that.

Jim Collison 39:15
You see that picture? That's how they, that's how they measure the engagement is, this was a record. We pulled seven tables together to have lunch, right. It's interesting --

Dean Jones 39:25
These are people that want to be together.

Jim Collison 39:28
It's interesting, though, we would never from, we would never say, you would, a manager would never say, "It's my goal to get seven lunch tables together," right. But the natural outcome of that work that had been done of every day making an environment that's inviting for people to come and spend time with each other and have lunch and talk about what's going on and talk about strengths, right, in that in what they're doing. The outcome of that became a record of, and we took a picture, and we put, we posted it to Instagram®, I think, and some of those things. But what a great way to celebrate that kind of strengths-based culture through an unusual, again, I think some, you know, some people want to pull measurements that, that may or may not matter. In this case, this mattered to us -- seven tables, right? Seven tables.

Dean Jones 40:14
Absolutely. Absolutely. I also think, you know, there are ways that as strengths coaches, and this is the last piece I'll give you today, but I think that there's ways that strengths coaches, particularly, in the work they're doing with individuals, can really be helping people to form these connections. And I think we think about it, I think, for a lot of us -- and I think this may be a little bit of a blind spot -- I think a lot of strengths coaches have a lot of Relationship themes, right. And you kind of see that with strengths coaches, and they kind of traffic in relationship. So there's a, because of that, I think that that's a little transparent for us, you know what I mean? It's like, Hey, this is, this is the oxygen we swim in every day. So we don't think, Hey, I need to ask that, or I need to think about this. Right. And I need to think about this. We also are working with a lot of managers and leaders who have people on their teams that have difficulty connecting, forming relationships like that.

4 Ways to Incorporate "Best Friend at Work" Into Your Coaching

Dean Jones 41:12
So I came up with 4 things I think that would be useful things if I was a strengths coach, you know, and I wanted to really incorporate this into the work that I was doing, right. I came up with 4 things that I would recommend that strengths coaches incorporate into their work, right. And so I'd love to, I'd love to just share these, because I think that that may be useful. The first one is, is I think it's useful for strengths coaches to be explicitly asking the questions in their coaching session, "Who are your best friends at work? Who are the people that are your best friends? And when you look at your team members, do you know who their best friends are? So do you know who are the best friends at, who are they connected to around that?" Right? So, and you're looking at, OK, who, like, who do you traffic with? And oftentimes, you know, when you've got new associates, new employees on the team, or you're working with somebody who's relatively new, it's like, Well, I really like Jim, and Jim and I have started to talk. I don't know if I'd call Jim my best friend yet. Right? But I'm talking to Jim on a regular basis. And I just really, yeah, that's great. We're forming connections, right? And those, those are the kinds of connections that can, that will, that will blossom into best friends at work -- those important connections that help us to navigate through the difficult parts of work and the challenging parts of work.

Dean Jones 42:33
So I think part of it is we got to explicitly be exploring this area -- Who are you connected with? Who are your best friends at work? Who are you, who are the people that you're using to talk to, to work things out with? When you've had a bad day, who's the person that you call? Right? And so, and it is different; it sounds funny. Sometimes people will say, Well, I talk to my wife, right? Or I, you know, or my significant other, right? It's like, yeah, that's good. But you've also got to have somebody in the work environment that you're going to work things out with. We all know that, you know, you come home from work, and you talk with your spouse about, Hey, what happened at work, and you can kind of explain to them what it's like, but it's not the same as being in the culture with them. Right? You're not in the same tank, right? You gotta get in the same fish tank with them, you know, so you gotta have people in the same fish tank around that. So one is kind of asking the question around that, right, and asking those questions.

Dean Jones 43:31
The second thing is, I really think, you know, this is where strengths coaches have so many distinctions, have so much insight into the way that people's talent is wired, that I think there's a real powerful gift that strengths coaches can give people to help them to form connections. And it's by really listening for and thinking about, as they're working with, somebody, to be able to examine and explore, How does this person build relationships? Because we all do it differently. And we all do it different, and if you put it through the lens of strengths, it starts to really make sense. You know, people that lead with their Thinking themes, you know, do they form connections with those Thinking themes? A lot, you know, you coach a lot of people that lead with Thinking themes; how they connect is through their ideas, through the analysis that they do, through their visions of the future, through their plans, by sharing information or sharing knowledge, by learning together, right? They, it's the, they're doing thinking together, and how they connect with others is through their thinking. Right? So are you helping people to lean into that, right? And to understand, to be, to be self-aware: Hey, I form connections by, by ideating together; I form connections with people by planning together. I form those connections by sharing information, sharing knowledge, or by setting up, these are my learning partners, right? Those are relationships that are founded in thinking, right?

Dean Jones 45:04
If I have Executing themes, right, I, you know, with all my, I have, I'm all Influence and all Executing, right? So, one of the things I think is funny, you know, like, I used to tell people, you know, I have comrades, not friends, right? You know, I have people that I work together, you know, I work on projects with, I solve problems with, right. So people that lead with Executing themes, you know, a lot, you see that a lot -- they work together, and they're, and those, they're best friends with their friends that they're going to work with, right? You know, for years at Gallup, Shari Theer and I were like, we used to laugh, because we were, like, joined at the hip, like Siamese twins, right? You know, and, you know, together, we would solve problems together. Together, we would work on projects together. You know, that was the thing that we did, right? And having, you know, so people that lead with a lot of Executing themes, it's having shared projects or shared beliefs or shared goals, being aligned with shared loyalties or commitments, right. It's using those Executing themes and connecting through those shared Executing themes, right.

Dean Jones 46:08
People that have Influencing themes, I will tell you, I do, I think this is anecdotal; this is not based on our research, but I do see a lot of people who have a lot of Influencing themes who are lonely human beings, right? Because they, they lead with a lot of Influence. And they often have difficulty connecting, right. But you can, you can see people that lead with those Influencing themes connecting with others through the energy and the camaraderie of initiating projects together, or even through shared competition. You know, we like to compete with each other, right? Or we like to compete with a team, or we're on the same team, and we love the, the joy of competing, right? That's a big thing, right? Or being able to build relationships by talking, sharing, storytelling, all those Communication talents. Or being center stage, if it's my Significance, right? Or even just through the pursuit of perfection -- Hey, I can see how we make this better. Can you see that too? Right? Those are ways of connecting. And how are we helping people use those Influencing themes to connect and to use them to connect?

Dean Jones 47:15
And then through Relationship themes. This always feels like a gimme; it always feels, but there's also people, I will tell you, that, that, that lead with Relationship themes that are, that are lonely, right? And how are we helping people with Relationship themes that, you know, are connecting through the joy of being connected or including others? Or by understanding each person's unique value? Or by feeling their feelings? Or by going deep, and understanding what makes other people tick? Those are all ways that people who have Relationship themes might connect with others.

Dean Jones 47:47
The goal here is, is to think about, What's the unique configuration? What's the unique formula or algorithm that you have uniquely, that the person you're coaching has uniquely for connecting with other people? How do they form those relationships? And thinking about that, and then being able to use those strategies intentionally. Right? We could take a page from Don Clifton's book, where we study our successes, right? So Don, Don said famously: the, one of the ways we see our strengths is study our successes. How did you build those relationships? What are those meaningful relationships? How were those relationships built? Where did you connect with those people? What was that like, right? And understanding that, because that gives us a clue to how we used our strengths, to be able to build those important connections that we have with other people, and particularly other people inside the workplace. So I think, strengths coaches working in this whole area and using their incredible insight into the, into the individual strengths and the domains to be able to do that. Right.

Dean Jones 48:55
Then two other things I think are useful, right? And where strengths coaches can actually incorporate this into their coaching. One is, I think, to start to look and see, How does, you know, for some people, the challenge is initiating relationships. For some people, the challenge is not initiating relationships, it's deepening those relationships, right? So it's, how are we helping people? It may be, Hey, I've got a lot of great acquaintances at work, or I know a lot of people at work, but I don't really have friendships with them. Right? I don't really have those people I can call on a bad day. Right? You know, I was just laughing, you know, I was, a friend of mine at work, said, pinged me, and I said, "Hey, what's up?" And he said, "Hey, I want to come cry on your shoulder." You know what I mean? It's like, we all, we all need those people. So some of the challenges is looking to see, with some people, it's listening for, Do they have difficulty initiating relationships, right? Or do they have difficulty deepening relationships? And then how can we help them to do that? Right? How can we help them to be able to apply their strengths in that way? Right? Sometimes it means by finding those areas of shared, shared strengths, where we can use our strengths together; sometimes it means finding complementary strengths, where together, we're stronger. So it's finding, figuring out, How do we collaborate, right? Where are those areas of mutual areas of interest or commitment that we can do? But it's listening for that.

Dean Jones 50:27
Then, the final thing I would just really, that I'd really encourage strengths coaches to be doing is looking at the constellation of relationships as you're coaching people. And this is a great activity, particularly with leaders. Jim and I were talking earlier about executive coaching, leadership coaching, and I think this is a particularly useful exercise to do with leaders is to be able to look at, What are the, the constellation or the gamut of the work relationships they have, right? Who is your manager? Who are your mentors? Who are the advocates for you in the organization? Who are your friends? Who are your confidants? Who are the people that you go to for coaching in a particular area? Might be, Hey, for coaching around financial or budgeting, I go here, right? For when I have to manage my cost center, I go to this person to coach me. When I have to navigate tricky management issues, I go to this person for coaching, right? And thinking through, What is that network or that constellation of relationships? You know, who are the all those people? Who are my resources inside the environment, you know?

Dean Jones 51:35
And I've seen different leaders, I've seen different leaders map this in different ways. You know, people create network diagrams. People create lists. Jane Miller, who was our, for many years was our President and Chief Operating Officer at Gallup, and just one of the most extraordinary leaders I've ever been around, used to have something she called a Bullseye List, where she would, literally lists of people that, in the organization that she would connect with, and that she would periodically review to make sure she was connected with all the people who were doing all the different areas of our organization. It was one of the most interesting structures and strategies that I've seen -- it, really, really simple, and really powerful. So helping people to explore, What are those gamut of relationships? Right? So it's not just our best friends at work. And certainly, those are important; we've talked about that today. But do I have advocates in the culture? Have I cultivated mentors in the culture? Do I have my coaches in the culture? Right? So am I, am I really exploring that gamut of work relationships?

Dean Jones 52:43
So I want to review these 4 things again, just because, and then we'll wrap. And if we've got some time, we can take a question or two. But are, as a strengths coach, am I asking the question, "Who are your best friends at work? Who are you connected with in the work environment?" That's the first one.

Dean Jones 52:59
The second one is really examining and exploring, How does this person build relationships? How do they connect? And using all of the insight that we as strengths coaches possess around the 34 themes and the 4 domains to really use those, those distinctions, those, to use that, those insights that we have as, as fuel for that, to be able to help people.

Dean Jones 53:24
The third one was really looking at, Where is that, where's that person need help? Is it initiating relationships? Is it deepening relationships? Where is that person getting stuck, in terms of creating those really meaningful connections? Right?

Dean Jones 53:39
And then the fourth thing is really exploring the constellation or the gamut of work relationships. You know, it's not just, Hey, my best friends at work, but do I have all of those different relationships at work that are gonna make me both successful, but also somebody that's able to contribute and really make a difference for others in the organization as a whole? So those are four areas, I think, would be useful, valuable, powerful areas for strengths coaches to go to work with their clients.

Jim Collison 54:06
George says it's a masterclass. So Dean, thanks again for putting on a clinic. I think very well thought out. I've got a question for you. I guess I would say, too, you know, we, sometimes we get so focused on this idea of Best friend. We need lots of, we need to continue to have lots of partnerships and friends in the organization as well. You don't all have to be the best friend, right, to get that, Dean.

Dean Jones 54:27
Yeah, that's right.

Jim Collison 54:28
Mark asks this question: How do you, how do organizations ensure these friendship connections effectively not become negative echo chambers or gossip groups or, right, some of those things? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dean Jones 54:42
Yeah, it's, so one is it's creating a, you got to be intentional about creating the culture. It's not just social for the social's sake. One of the, again, I'm reminded, we were just talking about Jane Miller, I'm reminded that one of the, part of the coaching Jane gave us was, you know, when we would create social activities at work, there was always a component of it that was about How are we using our connections to be productive? So there was always, it was recognition or, or, or reward? Are we recognizing contributions? Are we recognizing extraordinary performance? Are we awarding or rewarding extraordinary performance, holding up the people that are being most productive? Are we using this time to think about our mission and our goals together, the difference-making that we're doing, the accomplishments we've had or the goals that we have for the future? So it's not just social, it's not just social for social's sake; it's about, it's connected to why we're all together as a community, right?

Dean Jones 55:43
That's -- one of the things I do, there's a class I teach about our culture; we call it Trek to Excellence. It's a class I teach about our culture, and we give it to all of our associates at about the 6-month mark. And one of the things we talk about, and one of the questions I ask in the class is, What's the difference between a community and a crowd? Right, you know, and, you know, and I love this question; it's such a brilliant question, Mark. You know, is we're not just a crowd of people, right? We just didn't end up at the same place by happenstance, right? We're a community. An organization is a community, and it's pointed towards certain things. So our social gatherings are pointed toward those things, right. And so we want to make sure we're injecting mission and purpose and, and, and, and performance, we're injecting that into those social gatherings, I think that's one way to make that, to make those that is effective.

Dean Jones 56:38
You're always going to have in any culture, you know, I, I laugh, because, you know, the informal communication network in every organization is gossip, right? So you don't, even if you could, you wouldn't squeeze out the gossip, right. That's how, that's how information travels most efficiently in or, in organizations, right? And in communities, right? So you're not going to squeeze that out, right? It's going to happen. But you want to make sure that it's, it's, it's gossip, you know, there's gossip that's productive. Hey, did you know that Jim is sick, right? Hey, hey, you know, or, Hey, I want to make sure that you know that so-and-so's father just passed away? Right? It's, that's productive gossip. That's like, that's the, that's gossip that's about the caring of an organization for the people that are in it, right, you know, versus malicious kind of gossip. And so, you know.

Jim Collison 57:28
We're going through some system changes here. And some of the best information I've heard about the system changes has been somebody complaining about it. I'm like, Oh, I didn't know about that. OK, hold on. So tell me more. Tell me more. I want to know, cause, cause I'm hearing about this for the first time or whatever, right, in that. I do remember, Dean, 14 years ago, being in a meeting with Jane, and wanting to do something, an event. I can't even remember the event. And so I'm talking about this, and she said, "Yeah, but why?" Like "Why are you doing the event?" And, and I knew at that point, well beyond just whatever we were trying to get done from a fun perspective, or whatever it was, but she was trying to get to the heart of the matter of like, what you just talked about is, What's the purpose of this beyond just the event itself? How else can it be used as recognition? How else can it be used as productivity? How else can it be used as best-friend building or friend building? Right? And these, these kinds of things? She was always, it was always, it couldn't just be one thing. It always had to be, it always had to be this plus in what you're doing. So Dean, let's, let's put a bow on this thing. Any final words as, as we wrap it up together?

Dean Jones 58:38
No, I just, I want to go back -- I guess I'm going full circle here. But I think that, again, strengths coaches are in a unique position. I think, you know, it's like Spiderman's uncle Ben used to say, right: With great power comes great responsibility. I think we got this army of now 23,000 people in the world who have been trained, and trained to use this tool to have insight into human beings and their talent. And I think having that training is, gives you, gives you an extraordinary power, right, to really understand who people are and to help them understand who they are. And I think there's an investment that, you know, it sounds funny -- this is, I think, the charter for strengths coaches; this is the challenge is how are we using that? How are we pointing that against all of the lonely people that we know are in our midst; all the people that are challenged to find connections; the significant part of our population that doesn't have friends and doesn't have meaningful connections? We need to be pointing our talent at those. And those people are sitting right down the hall from you. It's, you don't have to go far. Right? Those people are right down the hall from you. So it's really thinking about, How are we pointing our talent and pointing our knowledge and pointing our insight at this, at this important need?

Jim Collison 59:58
Thanks, Dean. Very meaningful today. I think we've got a lot of comments in chat that would reflect that. Thanks for using your talent, your, your connective tissue to make this work for the -- and thanks for caring about the community as much as I do and just to come out here and help them continue to grow. Appreciate that.

Dean Jones 1:00:14

Jim Collison 1:00:15
With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we do have available now in Gallup Access. Head out to Sign in; they're all there. For coaching, master coaching or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, you can send us an email: Don't forget, speaking of connecting, you might want to connect during the 2023 Gallup at Work Summit that is live and in person and virtual this year. Lots of options for you. Details are available right now: As we're recording this, we have less than 90 days. So make some actions, get there. We'd love to see you there. Find us in all the social networks by searching "CliftonStrengths," and we want to thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed it -- and many of you did -- let me encourage you just to share it. We'll be posting this, the live version out on Facebook. We'll make an edited version, a podcast version. Share it, share it with someone who might find value in it, and maybe learn around it and build a relationship. Thanks for coming out, if you're listening live. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Dean Jones' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

Gallup®, Q12®, CliftonStrengths® and each of the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are trademarks of Gallup. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Copyright © 1993-1998, 2000 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030