Connect With People Frequently

In 2015, Vestalia Hospitality (we weren’t called that then) officially adopted a leadership style and model that we continue to live into everyday.  The style is shared, facilitative leadership.* The model highlights seven concepts that weave together brilliantly to make shared, facilitative leadership possible: Power, Communication, Environment, Collaboration, Accountability, Mindsight, and Personal Mastery.  There are philosophies and tools to guide you and other leaders along the path of realizing shared goals within each concept. Practicing these will help us create the conditions that allow our whole team and our desired culture to thrive. There is SO MUCH great material in there that can contribute to our personal growth, strengthen our capabilities as leaders, and help us create a great environment to work and thrive in.   We are continually developing new ways to introduce it all to you so you can absorb it and make it your own.

Photographs of Pizzeria Lola in South Minneapolis. All images by Eliesa Johnson and The Restaurant Project.

In early 2019, Vestalia’s Culture Team introduced a list of 5 things you can start or continue doing every day that, when consistently practiced, engages each of the seven concepts in the model: it’s called the Leadership Essentials.  They were distilled from our original Leadership Guiding Principles that also described the model, which are still incredibly useful (scroll down to end of article to read them).  Why revamp them?  We simply wanted to create a concise list of actions that are easy to remember and directly applicable to everyone’s day-to-day routine.  

Each essential defines a single action that causes a variety of things to happen, all of which contribute to the well-being of individuals and teams.  They all get us closer to fulfilling the expectations we have for ourselves to:

  • Create a psychologically safe environment for everyone
  • Foster team member development and engagement
  • Sustain high performance teams
  • Collaborate as a way to innovate
  • Empower teams and individuals


This month we are going to dig into the first one: Connect With People Frequently.  Here is the essential as it appears on the Leadership Essentials document:



Leaders take the first step to create and cultivate relationships. Getting to know your team members as individuals, knowing and responding to what they need, and continuously showing that you care about who they are is the easiest way to foster trust and safety (the building blocks of high-performance teams) between you. Everyone wants you to know something about them; find out what that is and dig deeper to discover your common bond. Let them know you, too. If you’re nervous about boundaries, ask for feedback and find a partner to help you develop them. Otherwise, be yourself and keep it real. After all, we’re people before we’re co-workers.


Why is this an essential?  What can it do for you and your team?  What’s an example that you’ve experienced of it making a difference?  What happens when you don’t connect with people frequently? How can you strengthen your practice of this essential?  What’s going on with you or your team when you’re not doing it? Those are the questions guiding us, we hope you’ll take time to reflect and answer them for yourself.



*Shared, facilitative leadership is a style rooted in collaboration and empowerment. Choosing it was an intentional business decision based on real-world evidence that this leadership model outperforms the traditional command and control model not only by producing better business decisions, but also by contributing to a creative and vibrant culture.  Some basic tenets of this leadership style are:

  • Teams develop and implement a shared vision
  • Teams determine a set of shared values on how they want to work together and reach their goals
  • The vision and values define a strategy about what the team wants to focus on and what they can let go/not pursue; they can also use them to hold themselves and others accountable
  • While team members have specific roles and responsibilities, they share power; decision-making doesn’t belong to one person 
  • Everyone has an opportunity to connect their personal purpose to the work they are doing and can find meaning in their work

Leadership Guiding Principles

In an effort to provide some clarity regarding how what shared leadership looks like in practice, we have created a list of principles to help guide your leadership in our organization.


  1. We strive to create an environment where people feel free to contribute their thoughts and speak their truths
  2. We actively encourage participation and welcome all possibilities
  3. We are aware of how our positional power affects communication: those with more positional power listen first, speak last, and ask questions before making statements.
  4. We use supportive language (e.g. “Present and Missing” vs. “Right and Wrong”)
  5. We proactively look for conflict and facilitate the process for its positive resolution
  6. We take time to achieve mutual understanding
  7. We trust one another’s abilities and intentions, and allow each other room to fail
  8. We value collaboration as the best way to navigate situations where creative solutions are required: e.g. when we don’t know what to do or there is no system or rules in place. Collaboration is not appropriate in all situations; for example, if existing systems/rules apply, compliance may be preferable to collaboration.
  9. We believe collaboration is effective only when the participants are selected based on their relevant qualifications, experience, and ability to commit to the process
  10. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for how we are showing up

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