Articles & Publications

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: February 5, 2014


I have great respect for professionals who work in business and marketing communications (Mar-Com)—including advertising, investor relations and public relations—because you tend to hit the mark more often with your messages, a consequence of being more focused on the receiver than the sender.

You are paid to reach, contact, connect with, and influence the thinking and behavior of certain people—your selected public, target market, preferred audience, business demographic, client base, or customer segment. You want to get their attention, listen, connect emotionally and to think, feel and act in a certain win-win way. .

So, you often start with a set of basic questions:  Who are these people? What do they want and need? How can my product or service help meet this want or need? How can I make it easy for them to access and purchase my product or service?  How can I best support them as customers and encourage them to trust me and buy from me again? How can I get them to refer me to others, to recommend me, to friend or like me? 

Discover New Intelligence

Yet, even mar-com pros can harbor a narrow view of communications and conversations—supposing they are just about talking, sending, sharing information, telling people what to do, expressing what is on our minds.

An intelligent conversation is much more interactive and inclusive. In fact, conversational intelligence impacts how we connect, engage, interact, and influence others, enabling us to shape reality, events and outcomes in a collaborative way.

Intelligent conversations move us from power over others to power with others, to get on the same page and experience the same reality by bridging reality gaps between how you see things and how I see things.

Conversational intelligence gives us the power to express our inner thoughts and feelings in ways that strengthen relationships and boost results. To get a person to change his old habit patterns and try something new, you need to know how communications and conversations can trigger emotional reactions. By learning how verbal messages and nonverbal behaviors trigger different parts of the brain and stimulate certain reactions and responses, you and I can develop our conversational intelligence to build healthier, more resilient relationships and boost desired results. .

Seven Intelligent Conversations

To create CHANGES, engage in seven intelligent conversations:

1. Co-creating Conversations: Are conversations healthy? Do people complain about others behind their backs, or do people have face-to-face healthy discussions? Is there a lot of triangulation (people using others to tell someone what’s on their mind) or do people give direct feedback to others? Are people working in silos, or is there an ongoing conversation about team success? Are people engaged in working out how to get to the end game, or are they distracted with conversations about whose fault it is that things are not moving forward? Is there a blaming/victim culture or an accountability culture? Is the enterprise being run by fear or hope? Do people share a common language and a common reality? Can people tell the truth? Or is truth telling painful and hidden to protect people from reality? Be an inclusive leader: Help people to see how they can contribute and participate in creating a great culture and community. Shift from exclusion (pain) to inclusion (pleasure).

2. Heart and soul: Is there a spirit of appreciation or a punitive spirit? Do leaders complain about poor performance, or are they skilled at developing talent?  Do leaders provide developmental feedback? Do they recognize good work and effort, or only look for what’s wrong? Do they look at the past and complain about what’s not happening, or do they focus people on creating the desired future? Do they focus on problems or opportunities? Be an appreciative and honest leader: Set the tone for open, honest, caring communication, helping people learn how to express what they are feeling and to move from being politically driven, to respectful, supportive, direct and open in all communications. Shift from judging (pain) to appreciating (pleasure).

3. Actualization of vision: Are leaders providing direction? Often the vision is too far out for people to grasp its implications. When guiding principles are not practiced, breakdowns occur in the actualization of the vision and in relationships between leaders and employees. Leaders communicate a vision and expect employees to implement it. What’s missing is the interpretation of the vision down to the level of “what does it mean to me and what do I have to change to get there?” It also means creating benchmarks for measuring success, sharing those measures, and using them to create a culture of learning. Be an aspirational leader: Are you limiting people’s aspirations and leading them to lower their sights rather than helping them to embrace exciting and challenging possibilities? Shift fromlimiting (pain) to expanding (pleasure).

4. Networks: Are people collaborating and bonding across boundaries? Clanning takes place when people cluster together to support each other in the pursuit of their goals. Clanning customs either strengthen or weaken the culture. Some cultures form silos, where groups of people are excluded from others by division, department, function, or sub-culture. Healthy organizations create collaborative teams, where individuals seek ways to improve the organization; they form networks that allow vital information, innovative ideas, and best practices to be shared internally and with outside vendors and customers. The mental health of the culture depends on the “wellness” of the factions with sub-cultures co-existing and co-creating together in spite of their differences. Monitor the behavior of your culture. When teams are in conflict, there may be excessive gossip. The remedy is to bring the groups together to harmonize or expand their common perspectives. People can have different voices, but when they come together they need to sing a common song. Be a trusted and collaborative leader. Are you sharing information, exchanging best practices, reducing the need to protect turf, and breaking down silos to explore uncharted territory, test the waters, explore, and pioneer new territories? Shift from withholding (pain) tosharing (pleasure).

5. Give and take: In what ways are colleagues engaging with each other for mutual success? An enterprise depends on the sharing of resources, ideas, and practices to survive and thrive in the face of challenges. A cultural fingerprint spans the dimensions from harboring to sharing these resources. As colleagues learn to share and trust, leaders evolve the capability of sustaining trust in the face of challenges. Are they learning from past mistakes and using them to find new and better strategies? Cultures that encourage brainstorming with no support process for turning the ideas into reality create incredible frustration. Unmet expectations abound, and employees lose faith in their leaders and in themselves. A mature culture puts in place support systems such as Ideation and Innovation Centers. The management team resources projects designed to test and experiment new ways of thinking and doing. Making mistakes is okay in the spirit of discovery. People are rewarded for coming up with new products and services and turning their ideas into realities. Be a generative leader: Are you stuck in old ways and grooves—instead of focusing on innovative, creative, experimental, and generative ways of leading? Shift from fear (pain) to experimenting (pleasure).

6. Enterprise leadership development: Is there a feeling that “we’re all in this together?” developing the talent and voice we need to be successful. Are employees and management working together to develop the bench strength and talent to address the challenges of the present and the future? Are leaders enabling employees to challenge the status quo and have a voice? Are they developing leadership points of view? Are leaders pushing their ideas on others (creating a culture of compliance) or are they setting the stage for people to grow their points of view (take ownership and have strong commitment)? Do people feel suppressed? What forums exist for pushing against the current rules and culture and creating the next generation of thinking and being? What kind of leader are you?Be an influential leader: Are you setting the tone, teaching people how to speak up, express their voice, challenge authority and group-think, and develop their ideas, points of view and wisdom to contribute to the growth of the brand. Shift from dictating (pain) to developing (pleasure).

7. Spirit: Is there a spirit of discovery and inquiry in the enterprise? Are people learning from past mistakes and using them to work better and smarter? Can people let go of the past and embrace the new? Is everyone connected and working to realize a common purpose? Are people clear about who we are and what we stand for? Is there an enterprise brand? Do employees live the brand? Do they understand it? How do they engage with customers about the brand to build its power and magnetism? Does the brand engage the hearts, minds, and spirits of employees and customers? Be an enterprise leader: Are you setting the tone for enterprise spirit, helping people move from a focus on making the numbers or from “win at all cost” or “I win, your lose” to contributing to their growth in the context of enterprise growth.

Self-aware leaders look inside and explore the dynamics of their own nature, and the impact they have on their culture. They learn what it takes to create a culture that enables colleagues to be fully engaged and motivated. Examine your leadership and how you influence colleagues? When you influence in positive ways, you have a more profound impact on growth, and you create a culture that sustains commitment and enthusiasm to achieve your vital strategies and goals.


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