Conversational Intelligence Homepage
Judith E. Glaser researches, and studies leadership-culture and brand success and failure, and through her extensive work with clients, has learned how to capture, deconstruct and teach the conversational patterns of successful leaders. Having her engage your leadership team gives your organization the opportunity to explore and understand the power of conversations to change your world.
Judith’s life long goal is to help leaders build a whole new sensitivity for the words you use and the conversations you have with others. You will realize that words will either cause us to bond and trust more fully and think of others as friends and colleagues, or they will cause us to break rapport and think of others as enemies. Your mind will open up as you see the connection between language and health, and you will learn how to create healthy organizations through the conversational “rituals” that you establish. Working with Benchmark Communications, Inc. and our Creating WE Team, you will have a storehouse of very prescriptive things to do, or not do, to sustain organizational health and success. You will be able to see the impact of change, and you will learn how to design conversational rituals that enable people to embrace and navigate change in healthy ways, and prevent those rituals that become toxic over time.
Everything happens through conversations. Conversations carry meaning—and meaning is embedded in the listener even more than in the speaker. We communicate with each other through conversations. Conversations have the ability to trigger emotional reactions. The words we use in our conversations are rarely neutral. Words have histories informed by years of use. Each time another experience overlays another meaning it all gets collected somewhere in our brain to be activated during conversations. Understanding how we project meaning into our conversations will enable us to connect with others and, in so doing, let go of much of the self-talk that diverts us from Creating WE.
The National Constitution Center and The Creating WE Institute will launch a series of three live, multimedia conversational summits, which deconstruct the brilliance behind the talks that birthed our Constitution. These summits will bridge the lessons of history with the emerging discoveries of neuroscience to create a learning laboratory on Conversational Intelligence—the wisdom and practices behind great conversations.
Our multigenerational participants will engage with esteemed thought-leaders from interdisciplinary sciences (such as anthropology, neuroscience, and psychology), constitutional historians, media experts, and business leaders to apply Conversational Intelligence to key historical events as well as today’s global challenges.
We will draw upon the rich resources of the National Constitution Center (photographs, video, historical materials, re-enactments) to deepen understanding of how America’s Founders built trust, handled conflict, engaged in negotiation and compromise, and ultimately created a revolutionary form of government.
Reserve your seat at the live event today to engage in the thought leadership conversations and Town Halls. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to take part in these transformational conversations. Only select portions of the event will be streamed online. Attendees of the event get a complimentary copy of the book Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser.
For more information, fill out the form on this page, or contact Judith E. Glaser (212) 307-4386, email@example.com.
By Judith E. Glaser | huffingtonpost.org
Published: April 25, 2013
Many of us act as though we all see the same reality, yet the truth is we don’t. Human Beings have cognitive biases or blind spots.
Blind spots are ways that our mind becomes blocked from seeing reality as it is – blinding us from seeing the real truth about ourselves in relation to others. Once we form a conclusion, we become blind to alternatives, even if they are right in front of their eyes.
Emily Pronin, a social psychologist, along with colleagues Daniel Lin and Lee Ross, at Princeton University’s Department of Psychology, created the term “blind spots.” The bias blind spot is named after the visual blind spot.
Passing the Ball
There is a classic experiment that demonstrates one level of blind spots that can be attributed to awareness and focused-attention. When people are instructed to count how many passes the people in white shirts make on the basketball court, they often get the number of passes correct, but fail to see the person in the black bear suit walking right in front of their eyes. Hard to believe but true!
Blind Spots & Deniall
However, the story of blind spots gets more interesting when we factor in our cognitive biases that come from our social needs to look good in the eyes of others.
When people operate with blind spots, coupled with a strong ego, they often refuse to adjust their course even in the face of opposition from trusted advisors, or incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
Two well-known examples of blind spots are Henry Ford and A&P:
▪ Ford’s success with the Model-T blinded him to the desires of his customers. That gave the fledging General Motors an opportunity to capture a winning share of the automobile market with a broader range of models and options.
▪ A&P stuck with the grocery chain’s private label products even as their customers defected en masse to supermarkets that carried the national brands they saw advertised on TV.
The good news is that companies can recover from denial; even when they seem permanently wedded to their histories, their philosophies, or their belief systems. IBM, which had been caught up in its own “bureau-pathology,” learned to conquer arrogance and overcome its history and culture, under the leadership of Louis Gerstner.
Intel, DuPont, and Coca-Cola, are more examples of corporations caught in denial traps when launching new products. They demonstrated that when corporate management has strong convictions, or worse yet, hubris about their points of view, they can become blind to their customer’s needs – needs that are right in front of their very eyes.
Seeing the real truth is an art and a science. When we get the balance right between what we think is true and what is really true – we are managing our blind spots with integrity, and wisdom.
Fortunately, these well-known brands did not live in denial very long. It was only a passing phase, and they recovered from it by revisiting reality with an open mind. Blind spots explain why the “smartest people in the room” (as Enron’s top executives were famously called) can sometimes be very dumb. They do not see the light – they are not open to changing their minds.
The Power of Coaching to Dissolve Blind Spots
Denial and Blind spots are one of the primary reasons why Executive Coaching is so vital for leaders, and why peer coaching is equally important for employees to practice. Coaching can effectively uncover and deal with blind spots and denial and give the decision-makers a fresh perspective on how to handle executive challenges.
Coaching can also help individuals gain a broader and more ‘realistic perspective’ about situations and themselves. Executive, Team and Organizational Coaching can help leaders calibrate with the world around them, giving them reality checkpoints that position them to navigate the real world with wisdom and insight.
From time to time, we all need a wake-up call to be sure that we do not allow ourselves to confuse our denial maps with the actual territory.
Here are 7 Common Blind spots:
- Denial of Reality – Feeling so strong about our own beliefs that we deny the beliefs of others, or deny facts right in front of our eyes.
- Control – Seeing ourselves as being more responsible for things than we actually are, or having more control over things and events than we truly do.
- Made-Up Memories – Making decisions based on memories that did not happen. Often we confuse our imaginations, or our dreams, with reality.
- Reality Distortions – Distorting reality to conform to preconceptions.
- Know it All – Thinking that we know more than what we really do. (We simply don’t know what we don’t know.)
- Listening Only to Validate What We Know – Failure to listen to others.
- Undervaluing What We Do Know – Listening too much to others, and allowing others’ beliefs to talk us out of our beliefs; or in some cases cause us not to trust our instincts.
Neuro-tips: Removing Blind Spots
Tip #1 – It Takes Thought to Learn. The brain does not always allow us to hear all the facts if they do not fit our prior understanding of a concept. To learn new facts, you must be actively open to accepting opposition.
Tip #2 – Effectively Working Together. Partners who were considered controlling were perceived as critical and rude, and their advice was generally rejected and not trusted. When the same partners showed appreciation, a feeling of rapport and trust developed, creating a deep ‘WE-centric’ bond.
Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser (BiblioMotion – Forthcoming October 2013; Pre-order on Amazon May 1st)
You walk into a meeting late and people are already in huddles. Colleagues glance over ever so briefly then turn back to their conversations. You sit down in a corner and use your smartphone to check email. Once the group discussion starts, you want to offer an opinion but can’t seem to get a word in. Eventually, you give up, take a few notes, check more email and wait for the meeting to end. You stay at your desk the rest of the day but don’t get much done.
Rejection, or the fear of it, is a powerful social trigger — and, at work, it can be a debilitating one. When people feel left out of or excluded from important circles of influence at the office, they can’t be productive, innovative, or collaborative because their brains’ neurochemistry has changed. They feel threatened. Cortisol flows in. Their executive centers shut down. Behavior shifts from trust to distrust. And the effects can last for hours. I like to say that rejection alters reality: we Reveal less, Expect more, Assume the worst, Look at the situation with caution, Interpret the context through fear, Think others are taking advantage of us and Yearn to be included.
But managers who understand this vicious pattern can break it — in themselves and their employees. Here are some conversational rituals designed to help the people on your team regroup, and become part of the group — to alter their inner, mental spaces by changing the outer, social environment.
- Prime the room for trust. While long, rectangular conference tables promote hierarchy and give those at the head an advantage, round tables do the opposite, fostering inclusion. Meeting leaders can also explicitly point out that all colleagues at the table are equal. This should spur the production of oxytocin in everyone’s brains, ease fear of rejection and put people into a more collaborative state of mind.
- Start with a shared reality. Whenever possible, send agenda items out before a meeting and ask people for their input. This signals “I care about what you think”, rather than “I control this”. Another way to encourage a common mindset is to give team members an article to read and ask them to find something inspiring in it; have them share these thoughts at a meeting and encourage the group to listen for common themes. This will trigger everyone’s prefrontal cortex mirror neurons, which enable us to connect with others’ emotions and opinions, enhancing empathy and our understanding of different perspectives.
- Encourage candor and caring. Use open, non-judgmental language and listen with respect and appreciation in all conversations. Imagine that the words people use are like suitcases; you need “unpack” them to understand what colleagues are really thinking. Thank people for sharing, and make sure that there are no negative repercussions for doing so. Tell everyone you’re committed to a welcoming, collaborative environment, and that you don’t want anyone to feel rejected.
Remember, we all thrive on being connected to others. Don’t let your office become a place where people feel threatened by rejection. Instead, bring your conversational intelligence to work.
By Judith E. Glaser | huffingtonpost.org
Published: April 22, 2013
What if we could create organizations where change and transformation were exhilarating and natural? Where people were devoted, engaged, and accountable to act as leaders rather than blind followers? Where people worked with each other to differentiate their brand and capture the hearts, minds, and souls of customers?
Leaders are trying to make the shift from a top-down, control-driven style of leadership to a collaborative and engaging style that grows talent and attracts customers to partner in each other’s success.
Many companies are investing incredible time and resources into leadership and talent development programs, hoping to reap the benefits of a healthy, engaged, and inspired workforce.
At the heart of many leadership development programs is the desire to help leaders learn how to motivate and engage others to deliver results. Some companies focus on helping leaders become more self-aware. Other companies focus on developing their high-potential leaders to ensure an ongoing flow of talent in the organization.
The leader’s role is to determine the competencies required for success and to help people learn how to work together to expand their ability to handle complexity and change. How to think bigger and bolder, and how to use feedback.
Imagine that you trigger this potential shift, that you set the stage for growth, and shape the culture so that latent talent emerges. What would that workplace look like?
Ask yourself this question: Am I creating a culture that enables colleagues to create the future, form feedback-rich relationships for mutual success, make beliefs transparent, and collaborate and co-create positive CHANGES?
• Conversations and language. Are conversations healthy? Do people complain about others behind their backs, or do people have face-to-face discussions? Is there a lot of triangulation (people using others to tell someone what’s on their mind) or do people give direct feedback? Is there an ongoing conversation? Are people engaged in working out how to get to the end game, or are they distracted with conversations about why things are not moving forward? Is there a blaming/victim culture or an accountability culture? Is the enterprise being run by fear or hope? Do people share a common language and a common reality? Can people tell the truth?
• Heart and soul. Is there a spirit of appreciation or a punitive spirit? Do leaders complain about poor performance, or are they skilled at developing talent? Do leaders provide developmental feedback? Do they recognize good work and effort, or only look for what’s wrong? Do they look at the past and complain about what’s not happening, or do they focus people on creating the desired future? Do they focus on problems or opportunities?
• Actualization of vision. Are leaders providing direction? Often the vision is too far out for people to grasp the implications. When guiding principles are not practiced, breakdowns occur in the actualization of the vision and in relationships between leaders and employees. Leaders communicate a vision and expect employees to implement it. What’s missing is the interpretation of the vision down to the level of “what does it mean to me and what do I have to change to get there?”
• Networks. Are employees collaborating and bonding across boundaries? Clanning takes place when people support each other in the pursuit of their goals. Clanning customs either strengthen or weaken the culture. Some cultures form silos, where people are excluded from other divisions, departments, or functions. Healthy organizations form networks that allow vital information, innovative ideas, and best practices to be shared internally and with outside vendors and customers. The mental health of the culture depends on the “well-ness” of the factions and sub-cultures co-creating together in spite of their differences. When teams are in conflict, there may be excessive gossip. The remedy is to bring the groups together to harmonize or expand their common perspectives.
• Give and take. In what ways are colleagues engaging with each other for mutual success? An enterprise depends on the sharing of resources,
ideas, and practices to survive and thrive in the face of challenges. As colleagues learn to share and trust, leaders evolve the capability of sustaining trust in the face of challenges.
Cultures that encourage brainstorming with no support process create frustration. Employees lose faith in their leaders and in themselves. A mature culture puts in place support systems such as Ideation and Innovation Centers. The management team resources projects designed to test and experiment new ways of thinking and doing. People are rewarded for coming up with new products and services and turning their ideas into realities.
• Enterprise mind. Is there a feeling that “we’re all in this together?” Are employees and management linked as though they were “one mind?” Are people clear about who we are and what we stand for? Are they learning from past mistakes to find new strategies? Are they doing this in collaborative teams, or are individuals seeking credit for themselves? Is there an enterprise brand? Do employees live the brand? Does the brand engage the hearts, minds, and sprits of employees and customers?
• Spirit. Is there a spirit of discovery and inquiry in the enterprise? Are people learning from past mistakes and using them to work better? Can people let go of the past and embrace the new? Is everyone working to realize a common purpose? Are they developing leadership points of view? Are leaders pushing their ideas on others (creating a culture of compliance) or are they setting the stage for people to grow their points of view (take ownership and have strong commitment)? What forums exist for pushing against the current rules and culture and creating the next-generation of thinking and being?
What kind of leader are you? Unaware leaders blame others for what goes wrong. Self-aware leaders look inside and explore the impact they have on their culture. When you influence in positive ways, you create a culture that sustains commitment and enthusiasm to achieve audacious goals.
Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser (BiblioMotion – Forthcoming October 2013; Pre-order on Amazon May 1st)
By Judith E. Glaser | huffingtonpost.com
Published: April 12, 2013
You’re sitting in a meeting with your team brainstorming about the financial crisis, and what to do about it. Business is awful. People have stopped buying your products. Market share has plummeted. Everyone is scared and emotional. Some people express anger; others close down.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? You are trying to navigate through the conversation and be helpful. It’s confusing to keep track of what’s going on. When you hear an idea you like, or see an opening to something new, you jump in and share it at the moment it occurs to you. Then someone closes that door and says, “That’s a stupid idea — we’ve tried that before and it failed.”
When you hear the words stupid and failed, you have an emotional reaction to the situation and person. You tune out of the meeting and ruminate. On the outside, people think you are still there. Your body is present, and your face may show signs of listening, yet a big part of you has left the meeting.
Your attention is now turned inside to your silent conversation with yourself about being stupid, and failing. You remember other times when your boss or colleague said you were stupid. You get angry and find yourself in a movie clip of you and your boss yelling about something. You are getting emotional and feeling bad about yourself. You recall a conversation you had with Jason, one of your teammates in the room; you faced-off with Jason and lost.
When you return to the conversation, the team is on to something else. You feel lost and strange about asking for a recap, so you shut up. Later, someone comes and asks why you were angry in the meeting and then shut up. They made assumptions and projected interpretations because all they saw was your angry face and then your silence.
What you didn’t realize is that while you were recalling old angry memories of failing and being stupid your face became angry, and that is what others saw. While your “movie” only lasted 12 seconds, it had a huge impact on the meeting and the mood. But you couldn’t see what others saw.
Our brains disconnect during conversations every 12 to 18 seconds, as we get hooked on key words that send us back to emotional memories. Our movie-making mind brings up these old memories and edits them into a draft of the current situation, changing the meaning, from your perspective, of the meeting you are experiencing in the now.
Bringing emotion-laden memories into the present only amplifies the present. If the memories are “feel bad,” you bring more pain and feel bad into your interpretation of the present. If the memories are “feel good” you bring more pleasure into the present.
Behind the Neuroscience of WE is a model for seeing our brains not as one brain, but as five brains — each hard-wired to help us sort out and sort through our interactions with others.
- Reptilian Brain informs about threats (physical and psychological) to our safety.
- Limbic Brain informs us who is our friend or foe and how we can fit in– relationships;
- Neocortex sorts through data from our senses, memories, and experiences, and helps us make sense of our reality–understanding.
The other two brains work in concert to influence what it means to be human:
- Heart Brain our oldest brain, reads the biochemistry of our bodies and enables us to translate the energetic and hormonal messages that arise as we interact — sensitivity.
- Prefrontal cortex or Executive Brain engages us with the outer world and the future, helping us grasp inner and outer Truths. By translating current information, impulses, and biochemistry, it helps us make judgment calls, have empathy, anticipate the future– what I call Futuresite and Foresight.
Our brains are made to be social so when we aren’t paying attention to the work at hand, we are connecting with others–that is what our brain wants. Next time you are in a conversation, let the power of your five brains give you insight into how to respond.
Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser (BiblioMotion – Forthcoming October 2013)
By Judith E. Glaser | fpanet.org
Published: March, 2013
The decision to trust or distrust someone takes just a moment. That moment—whether it is a handshake, a telephone call, or an email—locks in a relationship trajectory that may last for weeks, months, or even a lifetime. Our brains, having evolved over millions of years, are conditioned to make snap judgments in identifying our friends and foes—those people that we trust to act in our best interest as opposed to those who seek to take advantage of us.
For financial planners, it’s vital to understand trust. Trust begins and maintains successful client relationships, and distrust, in some cases, ends them. Here’s what I mean by trust and distrust.
Trust looks like this: I trust that you and I share the same view of reality. I trust that you will have my best interests at heart (you care about me); that you will not cause me to fear you. You will allow me to speak my voice without fear of retribution so I can be open and candid with you and share everything that’s on my mind. (You demonstrate that you are my friend, not my foe.)
Distrust looks like this: You and I see the world very differently. We disagree on what’s important. I feel you have your own interests at heart and could care less about mine. I am afraid to share what’s on my mind for fear you’ll use it against me. (You act like a foe, not a friend.)
It is essential to recognize how these two forces drive so many of our personal interactions and relationships. To understand them in a different way, consider the simple analogy of a door that guards the pathway to our inner self. When we feel trust, we readily open that door, leading to an exchange of thoughts, feelings, and dreams with someone else. When we distrust someone, you can bet we will slam our door as quickly as possible as we begin to defend ourselves.
Neuroscience of Trust
Our level of trust is changed, in many cases, by the way we share information—that is, through conversations. Conversations trigger physical and emotional changes in our brains and bodies through altering the amounts of two of the most powerful hormones that affect social interaction: oxytocin, which enables bonding and collaboration, and testosterone, which enables our aggressive behaviors.
According to Angelika Dimoka, Ph.D., a professor at Temple University, the brain is where trust lives or dies. Distrust takes place in the lower brain (the amygdala and limbic areas) and trust takes place in the higher brain (prefrontal cortex).
In an interview, Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., a professor and head of the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University, told me, “Trust is a phenomenon that is enhanced by oxytocin, which gets people to be socially interactive. Then you have the amygdala, which is the sentinel along with the prefrontal cortex, paying attention to decide if the interaction is going to be rewarding or punishing. If the interaction is punishing we feel more aggressive and untrustful. We have to be wary and we move into protect behaviors.”
If the interaction feels good, you have more oxytocin and you relax. Under stress, testosterone levels are increased. Testosterone works against oxytocin as does cortisol, another powerful hormone that is increased by stress. It’s the balance between these hormones and the neural systems that they interact with that give us the feelings of trust or distrust.
Getting in Front of the Curve
Five characteristics of a conversation bring about a sense of well-being and connectivity with others. As you weave these conversations into your relationship-building activities, you’ll notice a positive shift in the openness and trust among clients and prospects. Focus on elevating the level of trust by:
Transparency: being more open and transparent with clients about the framework of your engagement, your intentions, and the kinds of decisions they will be looking at making helps create a stronger relationship built on trust. When clients don’t know where you are going or your intentions they feel you may have hidden agendas, even if you don’t. Share information and be open to discuss why you do what you do—this turns threats into trust.
- Encourage and have candid conversations that promote transparency and trust around the topics of intentions, financial frameworks, and decisions, and even “how we’re doing” and “what we need to do and not do” to mitigate against risks.
- Provide your honest insights and share your feelings—this actually strengthens the partnering bonds and minimizes the feelings you are out for your own self-interest.
Relationships: focusing on building relationships before working on tasks is paramount and provides a foundation for both handling difficult issues and identifying aspirations. Focus on getting in sync with clients’ needs and aspirations to create strong bonds.
- Decide on the core values that will guide your actions and agreements.
- Set and practice rules of engagement that foster open, candid, and caring conversations.
Understanding: appreciating your clients’ and prospects’ perspectives, points of view, and ways of seeing the world strengthens bonds of trust. Listen and ask more questions. Minimize fighting for one’s point of view and maximize exploring others’ perspectives creating bridges to what’s important to others.
- Make it a practice to ask for and listen to feedback from others who may not agree with your perspective and points of view.
- Ask “what if?” questions that open the doors to new ways of thinking without prejudging the ideas of others that may be different than your own. And really listen!
Shared Success: defining success with others creates a shared meaning about what is and isn’t important for us to work on together. By defining success together, everyone contributes to co-creating the future we believe in. Creating a shared view of reality shapes the future with others.
- Initiate conversations about mutual success and what success looks like for you and your clients.
- Encourage clients to communicate and discuss the shared view of success with others.
Truth-telling: speaking with candor and caring; and when misunderstandings occur, taking risks with courage and facing reality with openness to learn. Working and narrowing the reality gaps with others creates alignment and builds bonds of trust.
- When gaps between your truth and your client’s truth appear, discuss them with the intent to create bridges of understanding.
- Hold and encourage conversations that start with empathy and move toward a common goal or outcome.
If you build a foundation of trust to guide your interactions with clients, prospects, and peers, you’ll realize higher productivity and a sustained focus on achieving extraordinary goals.
The following is an article excerpt:
Second in a series on management tips for executives. Expert advice on how to make office arguments more constructive, deliver effective feedback, and build teamwork through positive conflict.
Ever been in a meeting when someone whose ideas are challenged proceeds to argue the air out of the room? The audience is deflated; the speaker is pumped. Problem is, holding forth can be addictive when adrenaline and dopamine flood the brain.
“I’ve coached dozens of incredibly successful leaders who suffer from this addiction. They are extremely good at fighting for their point of view (which is indeed often right), yet they are completely unaware of the dampening impact that behavior has on the people around them,” says Glaser in this post on the HBR Blog Network.
Some advice: Set rules of engagement at meetings in advance; practice listening skills one-on-one; and plan who speaks when. In the end, “Connecting and bonding with others trumps conflict.” More on that topic is in Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.
Read the full article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/01/executive-edition-managing-debate/2023281/
By Judith E. Glaser | www.huffingtonpost.com
Published: April 2, 2013
Through advances in neuroscience, we are can now see inside of the brains and minds of people who are experiencing different emotions. What astounds scientists is the dramatically different “brain landscape” for people who are in fear states, compared to those who are in states of joy, happiness and trust.
What this surprising difference in our brain’s activity is showing us is profound and is changing the very foundation for how leaders lead. Most leaders don’t realize that punishment and embarrassment is not only an outdated strategy for employee motivation — it is a harmful — with both short- and long-term unexpected consequences.
Once a person has been triggered by fear — let’s say from an angry boss, a yelling, or merely a passive-aggressive or blaming boss who is embarrassing that person in front of colleagues — a cascade of neurochemicals starts in the lower brain.This cortisol bath sends messages to the other parts of the brain and propels it into hyper-gear to protect the person from harm.
This triggered reaction is not momentary — it is sustained over a half-life of 13 hours or a full life of 26 hours. If the leader continues to irritate, embarrass or outrage the employee during the next period of time, the cortisol and associated chemistry continues its cascade and the person is now in a prolonged state of fear — what scientists call Amygdala Hijack.
Parts of the brain needed for building trust, for thinking clearly, for empathy, and getting along with others are now closing down and strategies for self-protection prevail. This includes talking with people who can console them or help them think through what just happened so they can make sense of and work through their bad feelings. This person needs to find solace with others to alleviate their fear and pain — and so begins their journey to find comfort from others who care about them.
What quells the brain’s fear state is trust, empathy and support. When someone shows concern for our state of mind, and our feelings, our chemistry makes a shift. We become calmer, we can gain composure, and we can think constructively..
The hormone oxytocin is a neurotransmitter associated with bonding behaviors. New scientific research is suggesting that oxytocin in the most prevalent hormone in the heart and the brain, and drives our need for social contact. This hormone’s power is the newest discovery in neuroscience and may explain why isolation is so painful (lack of oxytocin), why loners die young, and why rejection can be more painful than physical pain. Some scientists call oxytocin the “cuddle hormone” because its affect on making us feel cared for, and its power to create and restore a feeling of well being, is as good as a mother’s hug.
Leaders don’t need to physically touch another person or hug them to produce this caring affect. Instead they can touch someone’s heart with words of sympathy or support, or they can validate someone’s concern and trigger a more positive mental and physical state of mind.
What is most exciting about this new science of human behavior is the knowledge that our heart acts like more like an orchestra leader of our states of mind than as a solo musician. Capable of reading the chemistries of our interactions, our heart sends messages to the brain through a large number of pathways, instructing our brains how to interpret and respond to our moments of contact with others. With this information from our heart, our brain guides us to either reach out to others to connect, or to withdraw from others in fear.
Inspired leaders will be further inspired as they come to understand the neuroscience of we — how interactions with others lead to either protection or growth — to high levels of either distrust, or trust. These states of mind driven by our millions of minute-by-minute neuorchemical reactions, translates into how we build trusting relationships with others, how we communicate, and how we shape our relationships.
For example, when a leader trusts that an employee will be able to tackle a project successfully, and the employee does, something happens neurochemically in both of them. There is a shift in the employee’s confidence that can be directly connected to increases in neurotransmitters — like serotonin and dopamine. When the leader praises and supports the employee publically, this also unlocks another set of neurochemical patterns that cascade positive chemistry throughout the brain. Highly motivated employees describe the feeling as an almost drug-like dopamine state. When this state of positive arousal comes with appropriate, honest and sincere praise, employees will take more risks, they will speak up more and push back when they have things to say, and be more confident with their peers.
When employees are given honest feedback, it drives patterns of intrinsic motivation that energizes them or motivates them to access new skills and talents. Yet when the interaction feels judgmental, or embarrassing, a whole different cascade of neurotransmitters occurs, creating a very different brain landscape driving our future interactions.
How engagement and interactions impact us is a science that all business people must understand and practice. There is a neurochemistry behind praise that actually triggers neurochemical shifts, which have a ripple affect and impact our levels of “confidence” and “social composure.” Employees instantly become better and more competent..
Once these chemicals are released, they provide the ability to sustain commitment even under stress — which means that a person will have greater intention and attention to staying on target longer to get a result — rather than bailing out midstream and only achieving a fraction of what they could otherwise accomplish.
Rather than “replacing employees who aren’t cutting it” or punishing them for not achieving expectations, leaders can learn new practices to use with employees that help release or trigger skill-building — propelling mediocre employees to become better and ensuring good employees become even greater.