Raise Your Conversational IQ


By Judith E. Glaser | entrepreneur.com
Published: November 25, 2013


Too many conversations miss the mark. We talk past each other, over each other and make up things that suit our motivations and needs. We can connect 24/7 from anywhere in the world at any time, but it’s not enough to have the tools to connect. We need to have the wisdom to connect.

We need Conversational Intelligence, a concrete framework for knowing which kinds of conversations trigger lower-level brain activity, such as primitive instincts for fight, flight, freeze and appeasement, versus what sparks higher-level brain activity, such as trust, integrity, strategic thinking, empathy, and the ability to process complex situations.

The more we learn about how our brain really works, and how much of our brain is devoted to social connection, the more we realize how the power to connect with others in healthy and productive ways becomes vital for our mutual success.

These tips can help foster a higher conversational IQ in a number of situations:

1. When you meet someone new
What to do: Say “I’m so glad I met you!” Or “You look familiar!”
Why it works: Our brains are designed to be social. The need to belong is more powerful than the need for safety. When we feel rejected it activates our fear networks and increases the levels of cortisol, which move us into protective behavior. A sense of inclusion reduces protective cortisol levels while increasing oxytocin, promoting bonding.
Focus on: Inclusion. This reduces protective cortisol levels while increasing the oxytocin, promoting bonding.

2. When brainstorming with a diverse group
What to do: Give compliments – appreciate others contributions, and say thank you.
Why it works: Appreciation reshapes our neural networks. When we appreciate others, we have a positive impact on their neural networks. Appreciation activates a larger framework of neurons in our brain that enables higher levels of ‘sight, hearing, and perspective-taking.’ Appreciation activates our ability to ‘see broader and think bigger.’ Reaching out to connect and appreciate others’ perspectives even if you don’t agree lowers distrust and elevates trust, or ‘feeling like a friend.’
Focus on: Creating a larger framework for thinking together.

3. When you want to persuade someone
What to do: Put yourself in your listener’s shoes.
Why it works: Empathy activates the ‘mirror neuron’ network located in the prefrontal cortex, or the Executive Brain. When we are mirroring each other, we become capable of ‘seeing and experiencing the world through each other’s eyes’. This activates higher levels of oxytocin production, which has a positive impact on bonding, collaboration and co-creation and elevates the level of trust and openness. We become comfortable sharing more about what is really on our minds.
Focus on: Listening to connect, not reject.

4. When you need to solve a difficult problem.
What to do: Say, “Tell me your thoughts.” And listen.
Why it works: Uncertainty activates both distrust and trust. When we are uncertain it means that both the distrust and trust networks are activated at the same time. We can more easily fall into ‘groupthink’ to be safe in the crowd or we close up for fear we will look weak.
Focus on: Making it safe to be transparent about what we are uncertain about – don’t penalize those who speak up – encourage them to share. 

Conversational Intelligence is the ability to master the power of connection to enhance our relationships with others – and in doing so we all become smarter at navigating our social highway. Conversational Intelligence is not about how smart we are, but how open we are to learning new and effective powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success.

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229846#ixzz2pBoVvNNF

Innovate or Evaporate


By Judith E. Glaser and Joan Lawrence-Ross | huffingtonpost.com
Published: November 16, 2013


Were We Made to Innovate?
Where does innovation live inside your organization? Is it rare, or does it thrive inside of your organization and in all relationships with employees and customers?
Neuroscience is teaching us that innovation is hardwired in our brain. Our brains are designed to grow and change, and innovation–which is thinking in new ways–is the core skill for it to thrive in organizations.

What triggers innovation and what stops it? Many workplace environments trigger fear rather than innovation. People feel they will be punished for taking risks and thinking in new ways, and they fear that stepping out, speaking up, and challenging the status quo will lead to punishment, embarrassment, and rejection. And in many workplace environments, speaking up can lead to unfortunate consequences.

When fear “owns our brains” we cannot think creatively. The part of our brain needed for thinking in new ways closes down–the prefrontal cortex or the executive brain–and the primitive brain called the reptilian brain (better known as the amygdala) masters our mind, and then? All we think about is how to protect ourselves.

How can we create environments for innovation to thrive?


Our world is changing so fast. It’s unpredictable, uncertain, and at times threatens our future security. When we become stressed by an unpredictable, fast-moving financial crisis with no clear end in view, our brains become “destabilized;” uncertainty becomes a way of life. And unless we intentionally create a safe “mindspace” and “conversational space” for ideas to thrive, our greatest new thinking, and our most novel and unusual innovations will, in fact, evaporate!

Today, we’re being asked to do more with less, and this “message from management” often comes with an edge of fear–“if you don’t cut budgets” we’ll be out of business. It’s often hard for leaders to talk about cutbacks and reductions without also communicating the “feared implications of failure.” Indeed, many leaders focus communicating on what to cut out or stop doing–with the emotional edge of fear….

Conversational Intelligence Neuro-tip #1: Leaders under stress tend to micro-manage, hound people to get work done, and/or set unrealistic expectations on employee delivery times, which elevates the stress in a downward cycle of productivity.

Wisdom from the world of neuroscience research reveals that people underperform when managers lead through fear and anxiety. These fear-based conversations trigger our primitive brain, and actually cause brain thinking patterns that yield more mistakes, more repetitive thinking and blocks or turns off the circuitry that links to the pre-frontal cortex, which works in concert with the neocortex (Right Brain-creative, and Left Brain-logic) to garner and harvest new innovative thinking. When we are in a state of fright, we stop thinking and start protecting.
Is it possible to eliminate fear and innovate at the same time? Is it possible to innovate to eliminate work?

All Signs Say Yes!
Making space for idea generation while you are cutting back or redesigning how work gets done is the most powerful ingredient for innovation to flourish!

Conversational Intelligence Neuro-tip #2: Innovation research has uncovered the fact that when people are provided with “constraints” to work with when doing innovative exercises, they outperform those people who are just asked to innovate. In other words, our minds can use the “constraints” as guardrails for new thinking. Those groups who were given the constraints and who “reframed the constraints” as catalysts for thinking up new ways to do things had mental breakthroughs other groups didn’t.

How Can You Do It?
In your organization, think about how you structure your “innovation environments.”
Pathways to Success:
➢ Step 1: Allocate Time… Step back and create mental spaces for thinking, planning and for setting realistic timeframes for accomplishing the task.
➢ Step 2: Provide Support… Remove the fear of making mistakes by reframing the task as “time to experiment and learn.” Create environments for incubating ideas; give support to the process of learning. Sometimes great ideas emerge over time–the first idea is not always the best and we need to nurture our idea-generating process. When the fear of making mistakes is removed, people are more likely to be engaged.
➢ Step 3: Attribute Significance…Restructure the project so you can capture and acknowledge learning along the way. Reward experimentation; give yourself and others credit for experimenting. Organizations successful at innovating create a language for innovation that honors the journey, the testing and experimenting, and the actual investment required for idea incubating.
➢ Step 4: Use Limitations as Guardrails for New Thoughts and Ideas… Remember to allow “what if….” thinking to flood the innovation space. What if we did this, what if we did that… how could we do more of this… or less of this…? Entertain new ways of doing things and entertain even the craziest ideas as they emerge along the way.
This four-step process will translate into creating time for the space for innovation to emerge, even in the face of constraints.

Ask Yourself …

➢ What are you doing to inspire innovation in your organization?
➢ What changes can you make to your workplace to inspire greater levels of innovation?
➢ How can you remove the “fear triggers” and enable more experimentation to take place?

Joan Lawrence-Ross is the Chief Learning Officer at AIG.

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of 7 books including her new best selling book – Conversational Intelligence; How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion)
To learn more, visit: www.conversationalintelligence.com; //jeglaser@creatingwe.com” target=”_hplink”>jeglaser@creatingwe.com


Follow Judith E. Glaser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CreatingWE

I Want to Move Through the World With Open-Minded, Collaborative, Let’s Get Real *%@* Done Together Disruptors — How About You?


By Tracey Durning | huffingtonpost.com
Published: November 12, 2013

collaborative-effortWhat turns me on in life more than anything else is finding kindred spirits. Professionally, kindreds are wide open, walls down, let’s-break-new-ground-together and have some fun along the way kind of folks. They’re curious, communicative, deeply rigorous and radically collaborative, excited by the process, leverage and ultimate melding of ideas, skill sets and networks to get some big and measurable stuff done. They’re also pretty fearless by nature. Stephen King once said, “What are we afraid of, as humans? … We’re afraid of disruption, and that is what I’m interested in.” I couldn’t have said it better (which makes sense because I’m not Stephen King).

There aren’t tons of people who fit that bill, so when I find them, I hold on. Tight. It doesn’t matter if they’re in my industry (social change) or not because I believe that in today’s world it’s not all about programs or funding or technology or communications or policy or entrepreneurship or, or, or. It’s about cross sector partnerships — with a dynamic, strategic connecting of dots — to get to the innovation and scale we need to get to.

So I go looking outside of my sector for allies, mentors and co-conspirators all the time. For example, in the past year and a half, I’ve been working closely with folks spanning science, engineering, entrepreneurship, policy, finance and legal as it relates to a climate change project. Each meeting and phone call leaves me more invigorated than the last because if there’s one issue in the world that feels like one giant Rorschach Blot, it’s climate change. Projections, misconceptions and a deep unwillingness too often to find points of agreement — as opposed to ideological digging in — are as much the problem, in my mind, as the actual carbon pumping into the air. Spend 15 minutes on Twitter and you’ll see just how circular and futile much of the expert “conversations” are.

The people I’ve chosen to work with not only possess an exceptional level of expertise across a spectrum of needs for the issue, they also know how to communicate. And listen (listen! Can you imagine??). We all seem to believe in the power of Conversational Intelligence which, as Judith Glaser writes, moves you “from ‘power over’ others to ‘power with’ others” in making progress towards goals. While relentlessly goal focused, each person is ego managed, uninterested in wasting time telling others why they’re “wrong” and open — even eager — for new data points that might adjust or add to the thinking. Ultimately, we all believe that big-ticket solutions lie at the intersections, not in rigidly constructed boxes, which means effective collaboration is critical to success. For the first time ever, I feel excited and hopeful (yes, hopeful) about the possibilities for progress, instead of depressed by inertia.

Which takes me, I’m sure much too late by any real writer’s standards, to the point of this blog, which is: who do you want to move through the world with getting important stuff done while actualizing your purpose? While most of us are likely pretty selective about who we align with in our personal lives, I wonder if we consider it nearly enough in our work lives. For me, it’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve realized how critical ‘cultural fit’ is to building successful projects and organizations. In fact, I can now see where it’s the difference between good — and great.

Uber investor Brad Feld writes about the choice between culture and competence, when necessary, in hiring employees for startups. But it could just as easily apply to any industry or the partners we choose.

“Many people default into choosing people who have high competence but a low cultural fit. This is a deadly mistake in a startup, as this is exactly the wrong person to hire…This is especially true if they are in a leadership position, as they will hire other people who have a cultural fit with them, rather than with the organization, creating even more polarization within your young company.”

A recent Forbes interview with Warren Buffett and his lifelong investing partner, Charlie Munger, perfectly exemplifies how important ‘fit’ is to a great partnership. The article’s tagline reads “The world’s greatest investing duo talk about how they’ve helped each other exceed at investing — and life.” Of course, Buffett and Munger seem to have it all, but it’s interesting to hear how much focus they put on life and value alignment.

Munger: There’s an old saying, “What good is envy? It’s the one sin you can’t have any fun at.” It’s 100% destructive. Resentment is crazy. Revenge is crazy. Envy is crazy. If you get those things out of your life early, life works a lot better.

Buffett: It so clearly makes sense…Temperament is more important than IQ. You need reasonable intelligence, but you absolutely have to have the right temperament. Otherwise, something will snap you.

Munger: The other big secret is that we’re good at lifelong learning. Warren is better in his 70s and 80s, in many ways, that he was when he was younger. If you keep learning all the time, you have a wonderful advantage.

What I love so much about these pieces is that I now see clearly it’s not only ok, but important, to factor in cultural fit when considering a partnership or building an organization. The most accomplished people in the world do! I always felt it gutturally, but was afraid it seemed a little too New Agey for most. Looking ahead, I’ll have a lot more confidence to make it an integral part of the building process.

Which takes me full circle to what I’m looking for as I continue along my path in social change. I’ve always responded to this Buckminster Fuller quote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” It’s a tough path to take, but if my years have taught me anything, it’s that it’s probably the only path to take to get to new outcomes. Rosabeth Moss Kanter reinforces the idea in a recent Harvard Business Review blog:

“Thinking outside the box is a popular metaphor for creativity. But recent major systemic challenges (the financial crisis, health care reform, and climate change, among others) require new ideas significantly bigger than a mere box. The greatest future breakthroughs will come from leaders who encourage thinking outside a whole building full of boxes…Inside-the-building thinking is the hallmark of establishments, whose structures inhibit innovation…They focus on enhancing the use of existing capabilities rather than developing new solutions to emerging problems.”

MIT’s Joi Ito concurs, believing that breakthrough innovations will come from leadership able to individually access what he calls the creativity compass’s four quadrants (science, art, design, engineering):

“The tyranny of traditional disciplines and functionally segregated organizations fail to produce the type of people who can work with this creativity compass, but I believe that in a world where the rate of change increases exponentially, where disruption has become a norm instead of an anomaly, the challenge will be to think this way if we want to effectively solve the problems we face today, much less tomorrow.”

And, perhaps it’s my communications background that keeps taking me back to that as a key ingredient to moving forward the boldest ideas from the most inventive leaders. Glaser writes, “To get to the next level of greatness depends on our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”



Tracey Durning

Founder, 49 prince street; Co-founder, Oceans 5 and Target Zero Institute

Follow Tracey Durning on Twitter: //www.twitter.com/@traceydurning>”> www.twitter.com/@traceydurning>

Become A More Effective Boss By Always Working At It


By Michael Mink | news.investors.com
Published: November 12, 2013

You don’t arrive as a top leader and stay there by osmosis. The best constantly evolve and work to become better. Tips:

Raise the bar. Set high expectations for your people, says Julie Straw, lead author of  “The Work of Leaders.” Followers want bosses who do this. According to Straw, based on her research of 3,574 responders, 86% of leaders who set high expectations were rated as good. For those who set low expectations, just 12% were rated highly.

“Setting high expectations doesn’t make you unlikable; the opposite is true,” she told IBD. “For high-expectation leaders, 91% of people said, ‘I enjoy working with him/her.’ For low-expectation leaders, this number drops to 42%.”

Share your plan. Talk and listen to people at all levels of your firm. Explain your reasons for doing things. “People are more likely to buy in if they understand where you’re going, and they’re more likely to contribute if you listen to their ideas, feedback and questions,” Straw said.

She has the numbers to back up her claims: 87% of top-rated leaders created a strong vision for their group. Among midrated leaders, this number dropped to 32%; for low-rated leaders, 10%. “You can be an average leader without vision, but you will never be great,” she said. “Vision is one of the clearest differentiators between the novice leader and the experienced.”

Share it. Create openings for collective success, suggests Judith Glaser, author of  “Conversational Intelligence.” Then reward everyone when it happens. “During the Chrysler turnaround (of the early 1980s), Lee Iacocca asked for ‘an equality of sacrifice,’ ranging from the executive suite to the assembly line,” she said. “When the company became profitable, every employee received a generous bonus.”

Talk from the heart. Take it from the 40th president, said Glaser: “Ronald Reagan never engaged in abstractions.”

Educate. Be a mentor or set up a mentoring program. Straw and her co-authors asked people what experiences had the most value in shaping leadership development. High on the list was having a mentor.

Inspire. Leading is about relationships, Straw said: “It’s worth asking yourself: How often do you deliver five positive messages to every negative?” Fail in this, and employees might leave; worse, “they quit and stay.”

Follow the golden rule. Leaders who respect others’ feelings — plus cut slack for another’s imperfections and demonstrate patience — are the ones who thrive, Glaser says. The result is trust.