By Judith E. Glaser
Over my years working with leaders and teams, I've come to realize that people often have good intentions and think they are fostering great conversations when they are not. For example, a leader who realizes her team is not getting her message about the vision and mission of the company may "tell more," hoping that more information will make a difference. If telling more doesn't create the results she wants, the leader may "sell" her ideas to get people on board; when this doesn't work, she is inclined to "yell" to get results. Yet employees don't want more "vision," they want deeper engagement with leaders who can help them execute the vision. When those dynamics don't emerge, employees often go into protective behaviors, pulling back from engagement rather than stepping into it.
As an example of a leader who got caught up in the Tell-Sell-Yell Syndrome, let's look at Jacques Nasser, who became CEO of Ford in 2000. Nasser's goal was to transform the company from a top-down, hierarchical organization to one that engaged the hearts and souls of its employees.
In the beginning he was having great success. He set up town halls across the country and visited many locations, talking about how he wanted employees at all levels to have a voice and become engaged in helping the organization change. Yet when he didn't see the results of engagement come quickly enough, he became frustrated and started to voice his dissatisfaction. His motivation turned to disappointment, and employees felt that shift. Soon the board stepped in and asked Nasser to step down as CEO. A powerful beginning transformed into a disappointing ending, as Nasser fell into the Tell-Sell-Yell Syndrome and didn't recognize its impact in time to do something about it.
When we look at stories of leaders who initially inspired engagement and then ultimately failed to move the organization forward, we find these same patterns repeating themselves. Bringing awareness and experimenting with Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ) practices will help you improve communications for building healthier, more resilient organization in the face of changes.
Pattern # 1: Being the center of attention
Symptom: You do most of the talking in the meetings you run.
Why you do it: You love to hear yourself talk and it feels great.
Why you should change: Your selfish behavior makes your team feel ignored.
What to do: Stop talking and make your team the center of attention. Everyone has good ideas to share, but if you put your ideas first you'll soon find people's initiatives and voice dry up. When people are afraid of your positional power they stop raising their hands to add ideas.
Pattern # 2: Insensitivity to others feelings, needs and aspirations
Symptom: You're too often surprised to find a staffer angry with something you said - or didn't say.
Why you do it: You're not worrying enough about how you and your actions impact other people.
Why you should change: When we aren't considering other people, we stop focusing on what they need help with to be successful. As a result, people lose their aspirations and passions for success. They can even start to trust their bosses less, since they don't believe their bosses have the staff's best interests in mind.
What to do: Create a feedback-rich culture where it's not about 'me,' it's about 'we'. Find ways to check in with staffers and identify needs, give healthy candid and caring feedback, and support people achieving their aspirations. In a feedback-rich culture, a new level of honesty and awareness emerges so that people don't feel territorial and learn to support each other.
Pattern # 3: No one ever agrees with you.
Symptom: You're always frustrated that no one listens to your point of view. You might find yourself shut out of discussions or that decisions are made without you.
Why you do it: Neuroscience research is showing us entrenchment to your own point of view leads to the 'addiction to being right.' Dopamine is released each time we feel we're right - and we want more - closing down our awareness of the negative impact it has on others.
Why you should change: You stop picking up cues and feedback and people think of us a 'bully boss.'
What to do: Instead of debating a point, start exploring solutions. Create opportunities for other people to share what they think. Listen to them and act on their ideas. The more people engage in becoming navigators of the future together, the more courage they have for taking innovative risks.
Promoting a rich dialogue in which you ask questions you have no answers for, share and discover what is on your mind, you encourage everyone to help shape mutual success. These sorts of dialogues change an environment driven by the three Ps --power, politics, and personalities--into an environment that honors the Is inside the WEs. By giving everyone a chance to talk about mutual success and build a shared "movie" of what success looks like, the interaction dynamics change and the neurochemical drives behind interactions change too. Most of all, such Level III transformational conversations reduce the levels of uncertainty that trigger distrust and create a process that allows everyone to play a role in defining success for the whole enterprise.
Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Chairman of the Creating WE Institute, Organizational Anthropologist, and consultant to Fortune 500 Companies and author of four best- selling business books, including Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion). Visit www.conversationalintelligence.com; www.creatingwe.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-307-4386.