View From the Window

lookback-move-forward

By Judith E. Glaser | psychologytoday.com
Published: June 26, 2014

look-back-move-forwardOn July 6, 2014, I sat in a plane parked off a runway at the San Francisco airport, our flight delayed after it was ready to take off. The pilot announced we would need to be patient as engineers worked on the air conditioning system. So, we sat patiently awaiting our departure at 11 a.m.

After about 10 minutes, the captain gave another announcement: “We are seeing some problems on the tarmac, very serious problems. We are not sure if we can take off at this moment. Please take a look out the left windows of the plane. A large plane has crashed—the tail is missing, and it’s on fire.”

We were on the tarmac right next to Flight 214. My husband and I had a view from the window. We also turned on our cells phones, went right to Google, and could see close-up photos of the smoke billowing out of the top of the plane.

From the reports, we learned that South Korean Asiana Flight 214 crashed because the pilots relied on automatic equipment to maintain airspeed and did not realize the plane was flying too slowly until it was just 200 feet above the ground.

The crash killed two passengers instantly—one later died in the hosptial—and injured about 180 other people. Four flight attendants were ejected from the plane after its tail hit a seawall in front of the runway. They were found injured but alive on the side of the runway.

 

The buzz in our plane was rising as people sat glued to their windows, asking questions: Was it terrorists? Who was hurt? Would the plane explode? Would we die?

View From the Window
We each have our personal views from the window—profoundly emotional events that we either experience or observe firsthand. These moments become the movies of our mind that we visit, re-experience and re-interpret over and over again. Some are painfully horrible to remember as this one was, and we can’t let go of them. We become voyeurs of our own minds, trying to make sense of what we’ve seen.

Our movies become our reality. They become the foundation upon which we base our interpretations. From these remembered experiences, we harvest new realities that we share with others. Powerful experiences do not lie dormant in our minds—they stir us to think more, interpret more, and pass along our thoughts to others—thus influencing their view from the window.

Neuroscience of Conversations
When we have frightening experiences, our fear network located in the primitive part of the brain, is activated, as cortisol and adrenalin bathe the brain, chemically alerting us to move cautiously through a possibly hazardous environment.

Once this fear pattern is initiated, we draw on stored memories located in the primitive brain and the hippocampus to help us interpret what is happening in front of our eyes. Our memories of fearful experiences and the reality we are currently experiencing become connected and entwined. While this mechanism helps us make meaning of what is going on in the present, it also causes us to make up stuff or embellish the observable, objective story.

Emotional Events at Work
We also experience emotionally charged events at work: conflicts, financial losses, team disagreements, failures, two division leaders having a fall-out. These are the fires we see out of our view from the window at work. We recall other memories of such clashes and crashes to help us understand what we are currently experiencing, and as we talk through our feelings with colleagues, our interpretations may ignite a fire of fear and distrust that can explode through entire departments.

Conversational Intelligence Tips

Here are some Conversational Intelligence neuro-tips for leaders to help you when fires and crashes occur at your workplace. The key is to step into a leadership role that reduces fear to contain the fires before they spread.

1. Be present and available.
Your people spend an inordinate amount of time watching everything you do, especially during conflicts. Negativity and fear are contagious, and you set and carry the tone. If you often hide behind closed doors, don’t seem to be listening during conversations, spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past, or talk about a future that seems unconnected to the present, people will read things into your actions and words and start imagining negative stuff. So, be present, available and open to talk about the truth of what is actually happening so that others do not interpret incorrectly.

2. Tell people where they stand.
When disagreements and conflict fill your organizational terrain, remember that fear sends our thoughts to the worst-case scenario movies of our minds. We obsess: What will happen to me? Leaders need to tell people where they stand; yet many leaders resist doing so because they fear it will lead to unmet expectations or broken promises. When leaders speak truth, their employees often discover that their imagined fears were much worse than reality.

3. Provide context in every communication.
A picture with a frame becomes a different picture. Without a framework of understanding, fear can be elevated by confusion and uncertainty. For example, I work with a technology company that is growing rapidly. The chief financial officer, who came from a large company, told his staff when he first arrived: “Go out and hire your replacement.”

He thought his message was clear: “I want you to hire someone capable of filling your shoes because given all this growth and how wonderful you all are, I anticipate promoting each and every one of you.”

His staff heard: “Hire your replacement because none of you are good enough and you all will be fired soon.”

Not surprisingly, his employees grew anxious. A fire erupted in this workplace. Morale and performance suffered. When I explained to the CFO what his people had heard, he instantly understood what he had done. He called a meeting to explain that he wanted his people to go out and search for their own replacements as part of planning for the future and to make it easier for him to promote them when the time was right.

Context is critical. In this case, adding proper context to the conversation made people feel good about themselves and the company—their fear receded and performance improved.

Putting Out Fires
After my brush with Asiana Flight 214, I found myself haunted by images of the burning plane. This may happen with fires at work. Indeed, it is hard for us to let go of fear when we’ve been burned in the past. However, by practicing these three powerful Conversational Intelligence Neuro-tips, you can extinguish potential office conflagrations and keep fear out of the pilot’s seat and passengers’ minds.

 

Getting Past the Barriers to Collaboration

glaser-innovation-excellence-panel

By Doug Williams | ideaslaboratory.com
Published: June 23, 2014

glaser-innovation-excellence-panelThe following is an article excerpt – See more at: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/2014/06/23/getting-past-the-barriers-to-collaboration/#sthash.AXUNJ6Ls.dpuf

‘Not-invented-here’ syndrome is a rallying call for some who cling to the notion that innovation must come from within the company to have any value….

There may be more at play here than agreeing on a common definition for a specific term like collaboration. A different term altogether may be required in order to find a new way of working and innovating. At an Innovation Excellence hosted panel discussion earlier this year, Judith Glaser, CEO and founder of Benchmark Communications, made the point that human beings need to change the brain to accept a new way of looking at the world. The context of the discussion at that moment was related to the disruption occurring today in religion, but as you’ll see, Ms. Glaser’s specific comment is apropos to our topic:

The word collaboration, in the dictionary, is ‘cohorting with the enemy,’… The word you use every day… in our brain, to collaborate, is to cohort with the enemy. So you are always questioning whether the person you are interacting with is someone you can trust.

The word co-creation is not. It’s about creating the same picture of reality together. Instead of you and I having different realities and then fighting over whose reality is right, which is what we do most of the time when we defend our point of view, this all of a sudden changes the meaning of how human beings can engage with one another.

(You can access the video here; Ms. Glaser’s comments occur at the 20:29 mark.)

– See more at: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/2014/06/23/getting-past-the-barriers-to-collaboration/#sthash.AXUNJ6Ls.dpuf

 

Conversational Neurochemistry

Neurochemistry-of-conversations

By Judith E. Glaser | psychologytoday.com
Published: June 23, 2014

Neurochemistry-of-conversationsPractice “mind opening” psychology in your teams and organizations

Why do negative and judgmental comments and conversations—especially from people in positions of authority—stick with us so much longer than positive ones?

Once I coached a senior executive from Verizon, Rob, who thought of himself as a “best practices” leader who told people what to do, set clear goals, and challenged his team to produce quality results. But when one of his direct reports had a heart attack and three others asked HR to be transferred off his team, Rob realized there was a problem.

After observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that his negative behaviors (which produce cortisol) easily outweighed his positive behaviors (which produce oxytocin). Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, he tended to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob and told him about the chemical impact of his behavior on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

 

The Job of Rob (and all Managers)

A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend—the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you have been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget or discount all the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in our conversational interactions. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, or when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet—the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction, too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate, and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and less long-lasting.

Chemical Cocktails

This chemistry of conversations is linked to a whole new science of what opens up and closes down our minds, hearts, and brains to other human beings and to the world around us. When our minds are triggered by fear we close down and move into protect behavior. Trigging can take place in a nanosecond, which we now know can be a fast as .07 seconds. When our lower brain—or amygdala—is threatened, the levels of cortisol rise, which creates an immediate “shut down” of our prefrontal cortex— our “executive brain” that enables strategic thinking, empathy, connectivity with others, innovative thing, and most of all, trust. When we are in an “extreme trigger,” we get what is called an “amygdala hijack.”

Seven Universal Threats That Give Us an Amygdala Hijack:

  • Tone threat—judgmental or angry tone is felt as a threat to our ego
  • Hurt threat—threat to our physical safety and to our ego
  • Risk of rejection threat—fear of failure or making mistakes and being rejected
  • Exclusion threat—looking stupid in front of others and being ostracized
  • Anger threat—fear of someone’s anger toward us and not knowing how to respond
  • Territory threat—having our territory limited or diminished, or encroached
  • Status threat—challenge to our status or making us feel small

That’s why it’s so critical for all of us—especially managers and leaders—to be more mindful about our interactions and more conscious about our conversations and behaviors. In a fraction of a second, we can activate an extreme trigger (ET) and when we do, we cannot act intelligently—we are in a state of protection—or access our higher-thinking powers. Those behaviors that increase cortisol levels also reduce our conversational intelligence (C-IQ), our ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively, and strategically with others. Behaviors that enable us to connect, collaborate, and co-create will spark oxytocin and boost C-IQ.

 Amplifying Insight Through the Lens of Research

To amplify and explain what opens and what closes down our brains during conversations, my consultancy, The Creating WE Institute, partnered with Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, the world’s largest online survey software company, to analyze the frequency of negative (cortisol-producing) versus positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions in today’s workplaces. My goal was to find a way to examine and further understand the impact of conversations that enables companies to thrive or limits their growth. Over the past 30 years, I’ve helped leaders at companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Clairol, Donna Karen, Exide Technologies, Burberry, and Coach learn to boost performance with better C-IQ during their most challenging business transformations. With the power of quantitative analytics, we added another dimension to bring insights to the conversations about conversations.

For our research, we asked managers how often they engaged in several behaviors—some which open our brain and others which close down our brain—on a scale of 0 through 5, where 0 was “never” and 5 was “always.”

Implications: Certainty and Uncertainty in Relationships and Conversations

Our research with 2,000 executives shows, that in general, people more frequently favor behaviors that produce more oxytocin than cortisol. Questions in blue open people up to trust and connect with each other, while questions in red close people down and cause distrust. Survey respondents said that they exhibited all five positive behaviors (e.g., showing concern for others) more frequently than all five negative ones (e.g., pretending to be listening). However, most respondents—about 85 percent—also admitted to “sometimes” acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships. In fact, the breakdown of respondents’ answers shows that some people exhibit the “cortisol producing behaviors” very frequently. Unfortunately, when leaders exhibit both types of behaviors, it creates dissonance or uncertainty in others’ brains, spurring higher levels of cortisol production and reducing CI-Q.

When we are in a state of uncertainty we begin to move back into fear, creating a cycle of distrust in the organization. Fear trumps trust because cortisol trumps oxytocin. The impact of cortisol is more far-reaching in our brain, an amazing organ that has evolved over the billions of years to protect us from harm.

When trust is absent, we see REALITY with threatened eyes, and we:

  • Reveal less than what we know or what is helpful to move forward
  • Expect more than what is possible
  • Assume the worst in others
  • Look at situations with caution
  • Interpret communications with fear
  • Tell secrets we promised not to tell
  • Yes people to avoid confronting truth

When we are in a state of uncertainty and distrust, the world feels threatening. Threats make us retreat and feel the need to protect. We are more sensitive to feeling wrong or embarrassed, and we behave differently.

I’m not suggesting that we can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But we need to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive to limit cortisol production and stimulate oxytocin production.

Be mindful of your words, body language, and behaviors that open people up, and those that close people down, in your relationships. To gain greater influence, harness both the chemistry and psychology of conversations.

Neuroscience of Trust:

1. Neuro-Tip #1: Trust is the feeling of “I am safe and I know you have my back.” Trust is associated with the release of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is considered to be associated with love, bonding, collaboration, and elevating trust and is viewed, according to neuroscientists, as the expectation of benevolence. Distrust, on the other hand, is associated with the release of cortisol, the fear hormone, and is associated with the expectation of malevolence.

NEURO-INSIGHT: Our brain picks up signals of trust and distrust at the same time and is often in a state of uncertainty.

ACTION: When you want to build a healthy relationship, you can prime a conversation for higher levels of trust by priming for trust.

  • Priming: Walk into a conversation with an open, non-judgmental mindset. That way, you can influence your own brain and that of others to choose to be influenced by the trust signals over the distrust signals.

Richard D. Glaser contributed to this article. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for his entire professional career. He is a founding member of The CreatingWE Institute.

 

 

Positivity inspires

inspire-positivity

By Judith E. Glaser | economictimes.indiatimes.com
Published: June 21, 2014

inspire-positivityWhy do negative comments and conversations stick with us longer than positive ones? Chemistry plays a big role. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviours. We become more reactive and sensitive, perceive greater judgement and negativity than exists.

And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, magnifying the impact it has on our future behaviour. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet —the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact. Positive comments and conversations spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolises quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s critical for us —especially managers — to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviours that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect creatively and strategically with others. Behaviours that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

Building Trust: The One Skill We Can’t Live Without

trust-faded-yellow

By Judith E. Glaser | huffingtonpost.com
Published: June 17, 2014

trust-faded-yellow

Most of us would acknowledge that building 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, or perhaps in whom we choose to hire or work with.

But, if everyone thinks along similar lines, why does it always seem like no one trusts each other? In 75 percent of companies surveyed, employees don’t trust their bosses, bosses don’t trust their employees and when it comes down to it, your customers don’t seem to trust any of you.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can create healthy environments where trust is the currency and success is the outcome.

At the Moment of Contact

The decision to trust or distrust someone takes just a moment. That moment — whether it be a handshake, a telephone call or an email — locks in a relationship trajectory that may last for weeks, months or even possibly 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 that seek to take advantage of us.
It’s vital to begin building trust once we understand it. Trust begins and maintains a relationship, while distrust in some cases ends it. For simplicity’s sake, let’s define 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. You talk out of two sides of your mouth–one to me, and another to your closest buddies. I am afraid to share what’s on my mind for fear you’ll use it against me. (In truth, you act like a foe, not a friend.)

Opening or Closing Our Minds
It is essential to recognize how trust and distrust 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, thinking that he or she is somehow a threat, you can bet we will slam our door as quickly as possible as we begin to defend ourselves.

Unfortunately, our brains don’t always make the best judgments relative to our long-term interests when it comes to deciding which door: Our neural programming is designed to make split second decisions right now, not consider the consequences down the road. That’s why, especially in times of stress as we see in so many workplaces these days, we can find doors slamming left and right.

Unintended Consequences
The downside of making snap decisions is that we might be misinterpreting the signals we’re receiving from our bosses and co-workers, leading us to mislabel friends as foes. Perhaps we have trusted someone in the past, only to have that person stab us in the back. (Just ask any of Bernard Madoff’s investors about that dilemma.) We might even be unknowingly sending out signals of our own, causing others to distrust us even when we think we have the other person’s best interests at heart.

Conversational Intelligence™ Neuro-tip #1: Our brain responds to signals of threat in .07 seconds. The response is chemical; we don’t have conscious control over the speed or the response; it’s instinctual. Fear triggers the primitive brain — called the Amygdala — and activates a neurotransmitter called cortisol, which closes down our Prefrontal Cortex (also called our Executive Brain), where truth, judgment and trust reside.

 

The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations

Neurochemistry-of-conversations

By Judith E. Glaser & Richard D. Glaser | blogs.hbr.org
Published: June 12, 2014

Neurochemistry-of-conversations Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?

A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend – the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you’ve been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us –especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve helped leaders at companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Clairol, Donna Karen, Exide Technologies, Burberry, and Coach learn to boost performance with better C-IQ. Recently, my consultancy, The CreatingWE Institute, also partnered with Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, the world’s largest online survey software company, to analyze the frequency of negative (cortisol-producing) versus positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions in today’s workplaces. We asked managers how often they engaged in several behaviors — some positive, and others negative — on a scale of 0 through 5, in which 0 was “never” and 5 was “always.”

Conversational Behavior Chart

The good news is that managers appear to be using positive, oxytocin and C-IQ elevating behaviors more often than negative behaviors. Survey respondents said that they exhibited all five positive behaviors, such as “showing concern for others” more frequently than all five negative ones, such as “pretending to be listening.” However, most respondents – approximately 85% — also admitted to “sometimes” acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships. And, unfortunately, when leaders exhibit both types of behaviors it creates dissonance or uncertainty in followers’ brains, spurring cortisol production and reducing CI-Q.

Consider Rob, a senior executive from Verizon. He thought of himself as a “best practices” leader who told people what to do, set clear goals, and challenged his team to produce high quality results. But when one of his direct reports had a minor heart attack, and three others asked HR to move to be transferred off his team, he realized there was a problem.

Observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that the negative (cortisol-producing) behaviors easily outweighed the positive (oxytocin-producing) behaviors. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, his tendency was to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob, and told him about the chemical impact his behavior was having on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

I’m not suggesting that you can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But it’s important to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive, thereby limiting cortisol production and hopefully stimulating oxytocin instead. Be mindful of the behaviors that open us up, and those that close us down, in our relationships. Harness the chemistry of conversations.


You can also read the spanish version of this article here: http://desarrolloorganizacional.cesoftco.net/la-neuro-quimica-de-las-conversaciones-positivas/