Three Ways Managers Can Encourage Team Building

Rejection at Work

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: September 25, 2013

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 smart phone 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.. Rejection alters Reality and 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.

Effective Leadership Skills DVD video training

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.

  1. Prime the room for trustWhile 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Encourage candor and caring. Managers can 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.

Lawyering Is Mostly Talk: “Conversational Intelligence” by Judith E. Glaser deconstructs applying neuroscience


by Jane Genova

As a 1L we all took legal writing.  But success in most niches in the legal sector depends on our oral skills.  That extends from how lawyers present themselves to prospects to the performance art during a jury trial. 

Most lawyers have heard about many of the findings in neuroscience.  Those range from how mirror neurons represent an efficient Wi-Fi system to the mental clarity from mindfulness.  However, they rarely had an easy way of integrating those discoveries into their menu of public relations skills.

The good news is that there is a new book which does the job on integration. It’s “Conversational Intelligence” by Judith E. Glaser.  She’s a heavy in public relations.  That includes being chief executive officer of Benchmark Communications and chairman of The Creating WE Institute.  

Glaser explains, for example, how to trigger the fear reaction as well as the willingness to collaborate.  The more oral communications skills in the lawyers’ tool box the better the odds for success.  It is downright useful, we know, to scare the jesus out of the other set of lawyers sitting across from you.  That’s exactly how hefty client settlements happen.  It can also make lawyer brandnames, such as that of Michael Pohl at Jones Day, to be able to be the good cop with the expert witness for the opposition.  That tactic tends to resonate with jurors. 

“Conversational Intelligence” could also be a game-changing read for law students beginning their search for clinical internships, summers, and actual jobs.  Applying discoveries from neuroscience hands newbies a distinct edge in getting some breaks.




Go Ahead Actions for Vision Clarity


by Mike Gammill

Judith Glaser’s Conversational Intelligence can help take your leadership to the next level by showing you how to increase the quality of your conversations. Moving from conversations from the amygdala (fight, flight, freeze, or appease) to the prefrontal cortex (share, discover, partner) can make the difference between the relational distrust that can sabotage productivity and the corporate trust that can generate new horizons of productivity.

Download the complete book summary and review PDF

Oliver Demille “Family, Freedom, Prosperity”

Conversational Intelligence takes leadership to a whole new level. For decades we have been taught about the Intelligence Quotient (C-IQ), and more recently Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence revolutionized the leadership and self-help industry by showing us how relationships matter deeply and how relationship skills are more important than IQ for effective leadership. Goleman called Emotional Intelligence EQ.

Howard Gardner taught that there are seven core intelligences, including musical intelligence, mathematical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, and spatial intelligence, among others, and Stephen Covey reframed the idea of intelligence to habits, things we do (or don’t do) that bring most success–especially if we do them automatically, without having to think about it.

Together, these understandings of human knowledge, skills and habits have had a huge influence on business, education and political leadership in the past several decades.

Enter Judith Glaser and her new addition to the whole field of leadership: Conversational Intelligence (CQ). This is as revolutionary as the contributions of Golemen, Covey or Malcolm Gladwell.

Conversational Intelligence, according to Glaser, goes beyond using words to communicate, share important ideas, or influence people. Indeed, it is advanced beyond mere communication like calculus is advanced beyond simple counting.

The crux of Conversational Intelligence is knowing that the words we use, and how we use them, has a direct impact on the brain neurochemistry of the people who hear what we say. This is real power, and those who understand the incredible influence of words are able to use them more effectively to lead, sway, and impact other people.

This can be used for good or ill, so it is essential for leaders to understand it–both to use it to effectively serve and help others, and also to avoid being negatively swayed by others who may use words and their neurochemical impact for the wrong reasons. This is deeply important, a new level of wisdom for leaders in all sectors.

But while the book is based on deep science and cutting-edge research, it isn’t boringly technical or dry. Quite the opposite, Conversational Intelligence is a fun read, full of interesting examples and engaging stories. For example, Glaser teaches about the STAR Skills–Skills That Achieve Results, how our brains respond to threats and how to have real control over our emotions and responses, and how to “turn adversaries into partners.”

It also teaches leaders how to use neuroscience to be better speakers, mentors, and how to improve their relationships. Consider the following important lessons from the book:

* How to shift the mind (and organizations) from the mentality of I to the mentality of We

* How to create space (and therefore room for change) in any conversation or relationship

* Why the words we use in conversations are rarely neutral, and how to recognize this and utilize it effectively

* What we can learn from our worst conversations

* How leaders can understand conversations, words, and speeches in a multidimensional (rather than linear) way

* Why many leaders fail to connect, and what to do about it

* How our conversations with people either trigger trust or something else, and how to recognize and understand the neurochemistry of both

* How to be an open, candid, caring leader–using words

* What words and speaking patterns cause mistrust, and trust

This knowledge is simply vital for leaders. Those who don’t know this material will always be operating from behind. Not reading and understanding this book will be like refusing to use social media or a cell phone–it’s a true revolution in leadership.

Once we know how all this works, Glaser teaches the reader how to apply the trust model to everyday life, in 5 incredibly powerful steps. Again, these may be as essential as knowing and applying Covey’s 7 Habits. Those who don’t know the 5 Steps of Trust are limiting their own leadership abilities.

Everything I’ve mentioned here is found just in the Part I of this excellent book. Part II teaches readers how to master the techniques of great conversations, and Part III helps leaders apply them to organizational and large-scale leadership. This book is a must read!

I loved Glaser’s earlier books, Creating We and The DNA of Leadership, and Conversational Intelligence is even better.

One of the most powerful parts of the book is a section titled, “The Roadmap for Building Conversational Agility.” This is the highest level of Conversational Intelligence, where a person understands how the brain and words work so well that he or she can use words with agility–to drastically empower, uplift, motivate, and serve people.

This is profound. Top leaders learn to use words to create genuine, authentic trust and five important mindshifts:

1-From fear to Co-Creating

2-From power (and politics) to genuine Relationship Building

3-From uncertainty to Understanding

4-From a need to be right to Mapping Shared Success

5-From groupthink to Group Cohesion and Partnering

How can you make these shifts? Well, you’ll have to read the book.

This book reminds me of the astute wisdom of works like Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward. In short, every leader should read Conversational Intelligence.

And every person should understand Glaser’s seven types of conversations. Each is vital to success at home, in relationships, school, career, and leadership.

Finally, the four stages of any successful conversation–between individuals, a few people, or large crowds and even entire organizations–is downright exceptional. Readers will be changed–improved–just by reading it.

Needless to say, I’m really enjoyed this book. I learned so much. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I wish it were allowed to give it 6 Stars! Read it! You’ll become a better person and leader with every page.

“Conversational Intelligence” by Judith E. Glaser: Bundles PR and Neuroscience (including mindfulness)


By Jane Genova: Speechwriter-Ghostwriter |
Published: September 24, 2013

“Conversations are multidimensional, not linear.” – Judith E. Glaser, “Conversational Intelligence”

Many of us in communications have been catching bits and pieces of the breakthrough discoveries in neuroscience.  At the top of the list are mirror neurors or those Wi-Fi transmitters among humans.  We wonder how mirroring can be hammered into competitive advantages for clients.

In addition, we, along with those Silicon Valley geniuses, are practicing mindfulness or focusing on the moment.  We are finding that our work performance is better after some time on the cushion. But we don’t understand why.  Here is Noah Schachtman’s article in WIRED about leveraging mindfulness to get ahead. Yes, we are separating the tactics of meditation from their foundation in eastern religion. Hello Western Capitalism. 

Judith E. Glaser’s new book “Conversational Intelligence” pulls that all together for us.  It’s a good resource both for professionals in public relations and for laypeople who want better results from interacting.  What psychologist Dan Goleman did in the 1990s for deconstructing the dynamics of emotional intelligence, Glaser is doing for how we talk with each other.  And she rolled that out in a way which simplifies the ongoing scientific findings.  Yes, she should be writing the articles for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. 

For example, Glaser writes in the “Introduction”:

“By understanding how conversations trigger different parts of the brain, and how they either catalyze or ‘freeze’ our brains in protective patterns …” 

From applying that understanding, she introduces her system – STAR Skills. The best practices are:

1. Bulding rapport

2. Listening without judgment (Mirror neurons pick up when we’re assessing the speaker)

  1. Asking discovery questions

4. Reinforcing success,

5. Dramatizing the message (Many of us who discerned the value of the tactics of Creative Non Fiction have already been doing this).

Glaser is the chief executive officer of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute.  Her clients range from American Express to Exxon.

Land Your Next Job with Conversational Intelligence


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: September 16, 2013

Knowing how to have an effective conversation is not just an inherent talent — it’s a skill backed by science that anyone can learn. In my new book CONVERSATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, I translate complex scientific material into adaptable practices for anyone to master and apply to getting a job and rising in a company.

Conversational Intelligence™ is what separates those who are successful from those who are not — in business, in relationships, and even in marriages. Conversations have the power to move us from “power over” others to “power with” others, giving us the exquisite ability to get on the same page with our fellow humans and experience the same reality by bridging the gaps between “how you see things and how I see things.” Conversational Intelligence is learnable, and it is necessary to build healthier, more resilient organizations in the face of change. By understanding how conversations trigger different parts of our brain, and how they either catalyze or “freeze” our brains in protective patterns, you can develop the conversational skills that propel you toward your goals and, once you are part of an organization, propel your whole team and company towards shared success. We all hear about the importance of expressing positivity. But what does that really entail? It’s all about creating trust and a sense of shared goals, and the feeling that you and those you are talking to mutually “get it.” Elevating your Conversational Intelligence can be a life-changing experience that not only yields business results, it also create new energy for ongoing transformation and growth.

What are five ways in which Conversational Intelligence can help you land a job or promotion?

1. Focus on how to be inclusive. Indicate that you are a person who is not afraid to turn to others for help, ideas and input on decisions. Indicating that you are inclusive shows that you have an awareness of how your decisions would affect others on your team, and the outcome of your team’s efforts. Example of an “exclusive” statement that you might think makes you look like a self-sufficient employee but that could backfire is, “I am comfortable handling things myself.” A better, more “inclusive” way to direct your conversation would be “I like to see how my co-workers feel about handling a difficult situation, and to find out what resources they feel they need to get the job done.”

2. Be expansive rather than limiting. Rather than discussing bottom-line thinking and cutting waste, talk about how you would create a sense of excitement and ambition around the issues important to the company you want to work for. Instead of talking about managing customers’ expectations, talk about “if our customer could have absolutely anything at all, what would it be?” Talk about how faced with a tough problem, you are a person who can coalesce a team around finding a fresh perspective and a new approach. Women are sometimes viewed as being more timid than men and choosing a “safe” route rather than a riskier one that could yield more exciting results. Make sure you express no fear of coming up with big ideas and encouraging others around you to feel comfortable share their wildest thoughts on how to tackle a goal.

3. Avoid “Groupthink”! Demonstrate that you are not a person who follows the crowd and takes their cues from the existing culture, but rather someone who is always looking to experiment, try and discover new ways of doing things with the input of your co-workers, and to encourage your team to do the same. Emphasize a positive attitude about taking risks and experiencing possible setbacks.

4. Show that you have a voice and are especially attuned to the voice of others. Ask about the perspective of the person you are interviewing with. Find out what kind of support they would like to have. Discuss ways to galvanize a group to make something happen.

5. Be a “celebrator,” not a “complier.” Savvy companies don’t just want someone who will get the job done and follow the rules, they want someone who truly celebrates success and the accomplishments of those around them — as well as their own. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and be open about the excitement you feel about shared success. Share your vision for the short and long term!

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. Glaser has served as an Adjunct Professor at Wharton and a visiting guest speaker at Harvard and various other institutions. Glaser has appeared on NBC’s Today, ABC World News, Fox News, CBS Morning News, The Martha Stewart Show and the Family Network. She is frequently quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Crain’s, Harvard Management Review, and AMA World, and is a contributing editor for Executive Excellence Magazine.


Why We Need Conversational Intelligence


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: September 16, 2013

Sponsored by the Creating WE Institute

I have two questions for our readers for which I do not have the answer. First: How satisfied are you with the overall quality of conversations you have? Second: What can you do to make your conversations more productive?  And a third bonus question – does this sound at all familiar:

  • 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark
  • We talk past each other
  • We talk over each other
  • We trigger each other
  • Then we stop listening

Why?  The answer may be shown in this encounter: as I worked in my back yard yesterday, a garden snake slithered out beneath my feet.  In principle, I like snakes, but in less than a nanosecond, my nervous system leapt into the air, and ran screaming, bringing me with it.  That snake wasn’t trying to trigger me, but he (or she) did. I don’t know about you, but conversations often take on that quality of nerve-ending, gut tweaking SURPRISE. As for conversations that truly matter?  I think I’ve found an alternative response to the work-world version of snakes slithering in the grass and triggering the  #$*!$# out of us.

Why We Need Conversational IntelligenceWe are excited about bringing Conversational Intelligence, Judith’s newest book, and culminating body of decades of work in the C-Suite and research labs, to the world.  While its lessons are universal, we are especially pleased to share it with innovation practitioners – it’s our newest addition to our Books as Tools family of killer books – a small yet growing body of work we believe has the catalytic ability to be used for good, not just read. To join Judith in a live conversation on Sept. 26th, register here.

Because, we know that innovation is one part imagination, and two parts enrolling; that collaboration, innovation’s most profound verb and the key to creating new stuff, is one part getting the right people in the room or online, and much more about creating an environment where ideas can really be heard and built upon, or said another way, developed in a climate of trust, where it’s less about being right, and more about producing the best results.

Because we know, that actually launching something new in the world or transforming anything, is by definition, an exercise in mind-shifts, and that those are usually, naturally because we’re human and hard-wired, accompanied by fear and frustration, balanced only by commitment and need.

Remember when Emotional Intelligence (EQ) popped into our collective consciousness?  It took Daniel Goleman drawing that distinction to confirm for us what we already, intuitively and it turns out, emotionally, knew: that we make decisions instantaneously first emotionally, then rationally.  That we read people and situations, develop trust, make life-altering decisions like where to work and live, whom to love, using a form of native intelligence we only knew tacitly, silently.  That might have been OK, unless we wanted to summon our EQ and apply it at will to solve problems.

Here comes Judith E. Glaser, her lifetime research and her offer to be our guide in the adventure called developing Conversational Intelligence.  Depending on the day, you can either view it as an owner’s manual for building trust, or perhaps, the best therapy you can get on Amazon.

So What Exactly Is Conversational Intelligence?

It is a deeper understanding that conversations are not only the exchange of information.

  • They are multi-dimensional experiences…
  • They have:

–     Space

–     Time

–     Dimensions

–     Influence Ripples

–     Conversations keep us connected with others and enable us to successfully navigate our ‘inner and outer’ realities together.

  • Conversations activate our next generation DNA

DeMille on Glaser

“The crux of Conversational Intelligence is knowing that the words we use, and how we use them, have a direct impact on the brain neurochemistry of the people who hear what we say. This is real power, and those who understand the incredible influence of words are able to use them more effectively to lead, sway, and impact other people.”


Are there Cliff Notes?


  1. There are always Cliff Notes.  These take the form of LAPS, and here they are:

L – Listen to Connect, Not Reject

A – Ask More Questions For Which You Have No Answers

P – Prime Conversations for Mutual Success

S – Sustained Conversational Agility; And we need to approach this as a long-distance sport in which we take multiple laps


How Will Conversational Intelligence Help You?

Understanding how using different words and communication styles impact the brain chemistry, aka, the hard-wiring and receptiveness of the people you work with, will help you build Conversational Agility, which Glaser describes as the ability to navigate at will, or toggle, between the three levels of Conversational Intelligence.

Conversational Agility is a secret power within your grasp.  It enables you to toggle at will between the three innate levels:

Level I – Confirming What We Know, Asking & Telling

Level II – Defending What We Know, Advocating & Inquiring

Level III – Discovering What We Know, Sharing & Discovering

– See more at:

Breaking the Code of Silence: Creating a Trusting Workplace


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: September 16, 2013


There are 5 characteristics of a conversation that bring about a sense of well-being and connectivity with others. As you weave these conversations into your team-building and relationship-building activities, you’ll notice a positive shift in the openness and trust. Focus on elevating the level of trust by:

1. Transparency–being more open and transparent with colleagues about what’s going on in the department, what decisions are in play, and what’s on your mind. Share information and be open to discuss why you do what you do … breaking the code of silence.

• Encourage and have candid conversations that promote transparency and trust around the topics of “how we’re doing” and “what we need to do” to create accountability and success throughout the organization.
• Provide feedback for aligning words, actions, and deeds.

2. 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 people’s 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.

3. Understanding–appreciating others’ 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 into 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 pre-judging the ideas of others that may be different than your own. Really LISTEN!

4. Shared Success–defining success with others creates a shared meaning about what’s important and what is not 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 each of us.
• Encourage people to communicate and discuss the shared view of success with others.

5. 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 my 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.

Neuroscience of TRUST!

Most of us would acknowledge that trust is a key part of our lives. We may even think we know how to size up whether to trust someone at that moment of contact when we first meet, perhaps in whom we choose to hire or work with.

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.

In addition, when we distrust people we also activate our fear hormones — cortisol, which triggers our primitive brain and cause us to move into protection mindsets and behaviors with others.

You can elevate the levels of trust in your environment by focusing on being more mindful of the tone and actions you live every day. Introduce higher levels of transparency, by focusing on relationship before task, by spending more time understanding others perspectives, by creating a picture of mutual success, and by being willing to “tell the truth” — or Break the Code of Silence when things feel out of sync. Then, you are able to create and sustain a highly productive trusting workplace.

Judith E. Glaser, CEO Benchmark Communications, Inc. & Chairman of the Creating WE Institute; Author of Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (BiblioMotion) October 2013. Order now on Amazon; visit us at;

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The Right Way to Rally Your Troops


By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: September 13, 2013


Leaders face enormous public and employee scrutiny when their companies are failing. Many have to measure their success in terms of stock price and market share, and when those slip, everyone sees it happening, reads about it in the business pages, watches it on CNBC. How do the best CEOs confront that challenge? When the heat is on, and pressure intense, how do they rally their troops?

For 10 years, I worked as a consultant to John Emery, CEO of Emery Worldwide, now part of UPS. Every six months, we produced a video to update employees around the world on how the company was doing. At one point, the stock had taken a dive and when John and I shot his usual recording soon after, he stared into the camera, frankly explained what had happened and asked everyone for their help reversing the trend. I wanted to edit what he’d said and do another take, but his response was: “I’m one-take John and I know when telling the truth is vital to our success. We’re all in this together, and I need everyone on board now more than any other time.” When we released the video, I was blown away by the response. There was a buzz across the organization, with everyone talking about what they could do to fix the problem. I’d never seen a leader be so boldly truthful — nor had I ever seen such a positive impact. We weathered that storm, and John’s leadership set the bar for me on how to effectively engage employees to overcome a crisis.

Recently, I watched two CEOs handle similar situations. One followed John’s example; one didn’t. And I think there are lessons in both stories for us all.

This spring, after disappointing first-quarter earnings, IBM’s stock plunged 8.3% in one day, its biggest drop in eight years. This was certainly not what CEO Ginni Rometty wanted or expected to face only one year into her job running one of the largest and best-known technology companies in the world. So she gave a company-wide video address to 434,000 employees in 170 countries, telling her people to “wake up, work faster, work smarter, and work together.” The press described the talk as a “reprimand”, but I saw it differently. I think Rometty’s clear, direct, provocative language was intended to activate her employees, to make them acutely aware of the issues at stake, and to direct their full attention on working together, fast.

“Where we haven’t transformed rapidly enough, we struggled,” she said. “We have to step up … and deal with that, and that is on all levels. We were too slow to understand the value and then engage on the approval and the sign-off process. The result? It didn’t get done.”

Those words and others were designed to create clarity amid confusion and uncertainty, to push employees toward candid, honest conversation and to encouraging them to start looking for — and executing on — new and better ways of doing business. She was reframing, coaching and redirecting.

The second story comes from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who last month hosted a meeting and call to address the 1,100 employees of Patch, a unit that had been losing money and was about to face some layoffs. The beginning of the speech was no doubt designed to sound like “tough love” but it came across decidedly more threatening than energizing. Repeatedly Armstrong told his staff that anyone not fully invested in Patch should leave. Then, abruptly, he fired someone standing in the room with him: creative director Abel Lenz.

“Stop shooting”, he said, followed quickly by: “Abel you’re fired. Out of here.”

The backstory, according to press reports, is that Armstrong had been disappointed in Lenz’s performance. When he saw Lenz filming, instead of really listening to, this critical meeting, it was the last straw. But no leader should ever give individual feedback or fire an employee in public. In an already tense and anxiety-filled situation, Armstrong created more fear and distrust by acting impulsively on his emotions. I imagine the other 1,099 employees on that call thinking, “This is what might happen to me!” That sort of response pushes the brain into fight or flight mode, reducing its ability to reason, problem-solve and think creatively. It’s hardly an invitation to work together towards positive change.

As a leader, what you say and how you say it matters — especially when your company is facing challenge or crisis. Your job is to model what is right and good and energize the talent around you. If you don’t, you will shut your employees down.

I tell my clients to consider the following strategies:

  • Anchor the organization. Focus people on what they need to do differently and why this is critical. Explain the changes you want to see, and lead people into thinking about how they can play a role.
  • Model the right kind of truth-telling. Encourage employees to speak frankly without finger-pointing. Use clear and direct language and monitor your emotions. Never let fear or frustration creep in.
  • Focus on the future. Explain that you want to hear ideas from everyone in the organization on how to better collaborate and innovate. Be clear that you’re open to two-way conversations.

Great leaders understand that rallying the troops is not about scaring employees into working harder with threats and blame but inspiring them to want to “do battle” together, unified in purpose and determined to succeed.