I could tell right away from her expression over FaceTime that my sister-in-law was not calling with good news.

“I wanted to let y’all know that Uncle Richard passed—…” she started, before the connection cut out.

We lost the rest of her sentence, but my stomach clenched as I anticipated what must be coming.

And yes, when we finally got WiFi to work again, our fears were confirmed.

A heart attack. Unexpected. While out walking.

Uncle Richard? But we just saw him!

Just over two weeks ago, in fact, the three of us flew from the West Coast — my husband and I from California, Heather from Seattle — to Atlanta to attend Benjamin’s wedding. Richard’s eldest child, and first cousin to my husband and his siblings.

Here we are, in our wedding attire.

I know, the masks kind of ruin the effect of our “black tie optional” attire, but ¾ of the Seattle contingent couldn’t make it because they were down with COVID, and the other 1/4 had been exposed, so we were being cautious…


Richard, the youngest of the elder generation, whose phone had rung in the middle of the ceremony, prompting laughter and a mock stern look from the groom (“Only my dad could get away with that and not be kicked out,” he quipped, to the delight of the gathered guests.)

My husband spent much of the reception (including the first dance) out on the porch, listening to Richard’s stories. Though the old guy did make it inside near the end, and it was fun to see him shake his bootie with the young(er) folks on the dance floor for a few songs.

The next day, the whole clan (the groom, his two sisters, we three cousins, and Richard) sat in a gazebo built by Richard’s father, and Richard shared family stories while someone captured the proceedings on video (because that’s the sensible thing to do when family elders share stories).

The foresight to take that video took on a much greater weight a few weeks later.

Nobody expected Richard would be gone by then.

So much can change overnight.

The Backstory

What makes all of this especially poignant is that my husband really only met his cousins recently.

Technically, he remembers meeting them once or twice, way back in the 1980s, when he was a kid, and the cousins were tiny tots.

But then, as sometimes happens in families, the cousins’ fathers had some kind of falling out.

I don’t know the exact details, but the upshot was that the cousins grew up without any contact. They never got to know each other.

Until sometime during the middle of the pandemic, when there was enough of a reconciliation (perhaps after the eldest brother died?) that everyone finally met over Zoom.

For my husband and me, it was like discovering a completely new branch of utterly delightful cousins on the family tree!

Which led to the wedding invitation.

And now my husband’s uncle, the youngest brother of that generation, is gone.

His dad is now the last one left.

I’m struck now by how many years were lost, because of an inability to connect and communicate.

And I’m equally struck by the gift we next generation “kids” were given: connection and communication.

So what does all of this have to do with your business team?

As humans, we hunger for connection.

When things aren’t running smoothly — when there’s unhealthy conflict, or people aren’t collaborating well, or creativity isn’t flowing — it’s a fair bet the foundations of connection and communication could use some bolstering.

It may feel easier to ignore it, put it off, pretend the problem doesn’t exist. But it turns out, that’s expensive.

According to a ZenHr whitepaper, effective team communication and collaboration increase employee retention by 4.5 times.

With the cost of replacing an individual employee ranging from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary (and that’s a conservative estimate), not to mention the ripple effect of the morale and energy hit from losing talent, the argument for strengthening your team is strong.

And it all starts with connection and communication.

Before you can collaborate to accomplish things together. Before you can innovate. First you need a foundation of connection and communication.

Or, to express it as a formula:

Connection + Communication —> Clarity + Creativity + Collaboration

Present Time

The beautiful thing about connection and communication is that when you foster and nurture it, it starts to grow.

Since Richard’s passing, the family has all been in touch, and is planning to converge on Atlanta for the memorial next month. (Another opportunity for deeper connection.)

This is how it works: connection + communication feeds deeper connection + communication in a virtuous cycle.

It’s also why the organizations that see the best results work with me for a year or longer: transformation takes time. And we need time to not only transform MINDSETS, build SKILLSETS, and develop TOOLKITS, but to create multiple touchpoints to deepen connection and communication.

And guess what? Teams and organizations (including families) with the strongest connections and most effective communication are best equipped to deal with unexpected crises, whether it’s the loss of a member, or any other challenge.

Because with that solid foundation, they have each others’ backs and can work together as a team to chart the path forward — changed, but still strong.

Are you ready to build a strong foundation of connection and communication for your team? Let’s connect!

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