Scaling Up Magazine Scaling Up Magazine April 2018 - Page 13

SPRING 2018 HERE’S AN amazing fact: when you get within 10 feet of another person, the two of you start processing your interaction through electrochemical signals. This is not science fiction but proven science according to communications expert Judith Glaser. According to Glaser, these signals indicate the level of trust we have for another person. Through heartbeat, eye contact and other neurological mechanisms, our body can automatically make an assessment about that person’s trustworthiness. This area of communication is rooted in the academic research of Professor Angelika Dimoka of the Fox School of Business at Temple University. Dimoka wrote a paper compiling the research of 102 scientists that concluded that trust and distrust live in different portions of the brain—a body of research termed “conversational intelligence.” Glaser now works with corporations to translate this research into a practical framework that corporations can use to break down walls and build better, more trusting, relationships among coworkers. The key is determining which kinds of conversations trigger the more primitive emotional brain and which activate high- level intelligence indicators, such as trust, integrity, empathy and good judgment. Glaser has developed what she calls a “conversational intelligence matrix,” which outlines three levels of conversation that all human beings go through regardless of where they live in the world and their age. The first level is transactional conversation, in which people simply ask and tell people to do things. In business, this can happen either in healthy ways, in the form of simple requests or questions, or in unhealthy ways, when someone is so stuck in the telling, they forget to think about the other person’s position—what she refers to as the “tell, sell, yell” syndrome. The goal here is to interact transparently about what is really happening without any hidden agenda. The second matrix level is positional, introducing the dynamics of advocacy and inquiry. Extremely common in business organizations, these conversations are marked by the attempt to influence the thought process or opinions of others— essentially constituting the politics of the JUDITH E. GLASER company. This type of conversation, politely termed “negotiation,” was once thought to be the major end goal of business conversation. Now, ideal business conversations take place at Level Three, with transformational conversations that include the elements of open sharing and discovery. At this level, people converse in a safe, judgment-free space where they are free to share what’s really on their minds. These conversations allow organizations to access valuable information that previously may have remained unspoken. According to Glaser, when the brain is in a Level Three conversation, the prefrontal cortex opens up the brain to sentiments like insight, compassion, sensitivity and other similar emotions. Glaser worked with the hair products giant Clairol, now a subsidiary of Coty, for many years, helping it achieve a transformational conversation environment in which people became more open and aware of one another. Instead of pushing conversation and telling people what to do, the company succeeded in pulling stories of success out of employees under the assumption that employee ideas are “the most wonderful ideas in the world.” By putting its people first, and asking employees questions about what they think, hear and experience, Clairol was able to create a more productive work culture that contributed to the company’s explosive growth path. “The CEO, with whom I worked closely, loved learning that you could say certain things within the company that would lower the amount of ‘bad’ cortisol hormones and raise the amount of ‘good’ oxytocin hormones,” says Glaser. “This is what forms trust and helps people bond with one another.” What are the tools businesses can use to break down barriers and move toward transformational conversation? Glaser has developed the Five Conversational Essentials, which help leaders adopt or “graft” into the way they operate their business. “If people can allow themselves to be open to influence, they can create a real culture shift,” says Glaser. “These tools help open people’s minds to new conversational styles, even if they don’t have the budget or resources to attempt an entire company 13 transformation. They are as follows: 1) Listening to connect. Try to listen to the other person with a singular focus, reserving judgment, confirmation or rejection. Think about what they are trying to say, what they may be thinking, and how they are hopin g you will help them. 2) Asking questions for which you have no answers. Too often, we try to guide people in their answers rather than provide an opportunity for true self-expression. This interaction signals an attempt to manipulate and triggers our distrust networks. When we ask questions for which we have no answers, people are naturally more trusting and more receptive. 3) Sustaining conversational agility. Use skills like refocusing, reframing and redirecting to help elevate the communication skills of all parties and assist others in gaining this skill. When everyone is on the same page, they can move together into more meaningful modes of conversations and co-create in harmony. 4) Priming for trust. Ask yourself questions to help shift your awareness toward creating a trusting conversation. Think about ways you can create a safe environment, becoming more transparent about desired outcomes as well as potential threats. Try to approach people with whom you’re interacting with caring, candor and courage. 5) IT'S Double-clicking. Just DRY as with a computer ONLY A file, leaders can learn to “double-click” PIECE OF BREAD into people’s answers to reveal the deeper meanings they are espousing. Questions YET TO IT that mean?” like “Why?” and SOME “What does help to gain a better understanding of other MEANS SO and MUCH. people’s perspectives deeply held beliefs. Companies that are not ready or able to undertake a full transformation can take advantage of Glaser’s online materials, such as facilitator guides, which introduce her concepts through a book club format. There are also ways to bring short-term experimental programs into a business where your leadership team agrees to implement just one of the business essentials. “As you do this,” says Glaser, “commit yourself to really keep your eyes open to watch what develops.”