Lessons in Connecting from a Black Bear Encounter

I kept bees for a few years but gave up after the bears found them. Occasionally I sat beside the hive just to watch them work. One summer day, while working the hive, I looked up to see a black bear walking toward me.

Adult black bears usually weigh around 200 pounds. Some weigh up to 600 or more pounds and occasionally individuals weigh up to 900 pounds. “My” bear was definitely a 900 pounder!

Bear fact: Bears look larger when they’re moving toward you.

Black bear etiquette:

When you encounter a black bear, the Pennsylvania Game Commission suggests:

  1. Make some noise.
  2. Back away while facing the bear.
  3. Stay calm.

I forgot ALL bear etiquette and bolted. The reason you don’t run is black bears can run up to 35 miles per hour.

I found the courage to look over my shoulder after about 100 yards. “My” bear was running in the opposite direction. She was as scared of me as I was of her.

I was relieved that my furry visitor didn’t want to connect.

Fear, anxiety, and stress prevent connection.


Connection is the fundamental ingredient of leadership success. (Mintzberg)

You can’t lead teams when they’re running from you.

Connect by answering fear.

  1. Do you like me?
  2. Do you seek my best interests? (Are you willing to harm me in order to serve personal interests?)
  3. Will you respect my talent, progress, and achievement?
  4. Will you speak the truth with kindness, even if it’s difficult to say?
  5. Will you stand with me?

Empathy enables connection.

Empathy conversation starters:

  1. I wonder if you’re feeling ________? (Frustrated, anxious, worried, upset.)
  2. This must feel _________ for you? Am I getting this right?
  3. How _______ is this for you? (Insert emotion.)
  4. How could I help?

How might leaders answer fear and anxiety in team members?


11 Highly Effective Ways to Connect with Employees (CNBC)