Conversations of Great Leaders
First, we all have blind spots and you need to be aware of them before you experience their effects. Also take a look at past or current struggles to determine whether conflict blind spots have hindered your performance. What can you learn from your mistakes? What would you do differently in the future? How can you reframe situations from others’ perspectives? Know thyself first!
If you’re a leader, you know how important it is to be able to influence others, inspire them to take action, and drive business results. You also know you can’t use the whip, issue ultimatums or hold up huge carrots or sticks to simply make it happen. Leadership happens through collaborative conversations, whether one-to-one, or one-to-many. Obviously, positive conversations will work better than negative ones (research shows you need at least 5 positives to every negative comment to keep your emotional bank account going). But it’s not so simple, is it?
Your intention matters! In Crucial Conversations, we “Start With Heart” to take a look at facts, what do you want to happen, facts vs. stories and whether we’re seeing ourselves or others as victims, villains or helpless. When your emotional bank account is full, people give you the benefit of the doubt and know you’ve got their highest good in mind.
This builds trust.
As a leader, you must develop your conversational style to suit the situation and desired outcomes. You need a variety of conversational styles.
In Glaser’s book Conversational Intelligence, she suggests three levels of conversations:
Level I: Transactional
Level II: Positional
Level III: Transformational
When we respect others’ worldviews (especially when they differ from our own), we create a space for better conversations and encourage new ideas to emerge. In Crucial Conversation’s world we call it Mastering our Stories. In other words, our goal is to have dialogue and get the person to feel safe enough to add in facts we may not have been aware of (that could drastically change the story we told ourselves!!). We keep it safe so both sides can share their meaning.
Here are details on the three levels:
Too often, we get stuck in Level II conversations because we’re addicted to being right. We fail to realize the negative impact this has on others. We may start out with an exchange of ideas, but we then become trapped in a power dance. It can be hard to let go of the need to win, but it’s critical to take this step to avoid interactions that are merely a contest of wills.
Only when we participate in Level III conversations can we transform ourselves and our conversation partners by sharing thoughts, ideas and belief systems. When we’re mindful of our intentions and notice the impact our words have on others, we begin to live in Level III. We realize that:
We shape the meanings our words have on others.
We need to validate our words’ true meanings.
Breakdowns occur when others interpret our words in unanticipated ways.
Breakdowns occur when we try to persuade others that our meanings are the right ones.
Breakthroughs occur when we take time to share and discover.
Breakthroughs occur when we co-create and partner to create a shared reality.
As leaders, the more we become aware of reality gaps and conversational blind spots, the more we can converse clearly.
Here are two common conversational blind spots that plague us as leaders.
When we assume others see what we see, feel what we feel and think what we think, we’re operating with blinders on. If you’re engrossed in your own point of view, you can’t connect with another person’s perspective.
Sensitive people pick up on lack of connectivity, and they’ll push harder to persuade others that they’re right. Their payoff is a burst of dopamine that may feel great, but it leaves their conversation partners in the dust.
Words can trigger strong emotions: trust, distrust, excitement and fear. When this happens, we may misinterpret reality. If we feel threatened, we move into protective behaviors and fail to realize we’re doing so. When we’re afraid, the brain releases chemicals that shut down its logic centers.
We have an amygdala hijacking!! We’ve dumbed down seriously!!
In leadership conversations, we often assume that we remember what others have said. In truth, we actually remember our responses to what others say. Research shows that:
We drop out of conversations every 12–18 seconds to process what others are saying.
A chemical process within the brain seizes on our responses to others’ words — and these responses form the basis of memory.
We HAVE to learn to ask questions! In some studies, executives were found to use statements 85 percent of the time, asking questions only 15 percent of the time. Even their questions often turned out to be statements in disguise.
We assume that the person speaking creates the message’s meaning. In truth, the listener decodes the message and assigns meaning to it. As a listener, you run a speaker’s words through your personal vault of memories and experiences and attempt to make sense of conversations.
Two conversation partners can’t be sure they’re on the same page until they take the time to validate a shared meaning.
When you slow down enough to truly listen, ask questions, validate the other, prime for their meaning to make sure you’ve “got it”, your ending is much better!