The Keys to Building Powerful Collaboration
Listen to Episode 61:
Episode 61 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, Episode 61: The Keys To Building More Powerful Collaboration. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. I am so happy to be here with you again today for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio and if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what’s our topic for today?
Pam Harper: What it takes to build a powerful − and I’m emphasizing the word “powerful” here − collaboration that accelerates success. Whether we’re talking about boards, or executive teams, or partnerships, or whatever else, everyone on a team needs to be able to share their perspectives and build on the collective wisdom to go from the big idea to the big results. One of the most important factors [in doing this] is the quality of the conversations we have with each other at every step along the way. We’re big believers in this.
Scott Harper: Absolutely; I couldn’t agree more. We’ve seen this over and over. As much as we know that there’s a big difference between working together − just working − and really collaborating, there’s also a big difference between talking and having a really genuine, productive conversation in our organizations − or just together.
Pam Harper: Exactly. That’s why we’re delighted to welcome back organizational anthropologist, Judith E. Glaser. Judith is CEO of Benchmark Communications Inc., and the Chairman of the CreatingWE Institute. She’s the award-winning author of the best-selling books, Creating WE and Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results. Judith, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Judith Glaser: I’m so thrilled to be back, and I can’t believe how many episodes you’ve had now. This is 61.
Pam Harper: Yes, it’s really going on.
Scott Harper: Your first conversation with us was episode three about a year ago.
Judith Glaser: That’s right.
Pam Harper: You’ve been part of building this success with us, going from that big idea that we had. You knew about it first, and then on to the big results, which are continuing to grow. We just love it when you come back.
And we have to congratulate you, because Scott and I were reading in Inc. Magazine − this was back in January − that conversational intelligence is one of the top five business trends for 2016. That’s so amazing.
Judith Glaser: It is, I guess, for me too. Every time I hear you say that or anybody says that, I go, “Oh my goodness, is that possible?”
Pam Harper: It’s huge.
Scott Harper: Yup, there it is.
Pam Harper: To us, of course conversation’s always been important, but we were wondering why you think this is especially becoming this big trend, or being noted as the big trend now?
Judith Glaser: It’s interesting. We are human beings and there are certain features that describe how our brain works, let me put it that way. So much of our brain works on abstracting − going from one level to the next, to the next. We can take all the information we know and generalize. That’s just our brain making sense of details, but putting it into the context of abstract ideas or real ideas.
I know that may sounds a little bit abstract, but I’ll give you the example. In the quote that I use for conversational intelligence it talks about, “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which then depends on the quality of conversations.” There’s a hierarchy, right? We live a lot in that more abstract place, which is we talk about culture like it’s a real thing, and then we’re going to do something with this real thing.
I deconstructed it and said, “The doing it with that thing called culture only happens when you look at the conversations, because that’s where human beings connect. That’s where they create culture, that’s where they create meaning.” I pulled everything back to the common denominator that all of us − around the world by the way − can appreciate and then work on together.
When we co-regulate, or I’m going to change the word “collaborate” to “co-create”. Because it’s a new word that it’s not new to the world, but it’s new in a sense of thinking about it, and something beyond collaboration. I want to push the envelop for everybody that’s on the call today, everybody around the world to begin to think a little bit differently.
We can work on relationships, but then when you do, you’re really working on conversations. If the world is comfortable with conversations being the common denominator right now, not only in this year, but potentially in the decade, human beings are going to advance as a whole − my belief − around the world. This is a real evolutionary advance in what it means to be human, if we can think in these new terms − if we can bring this new language into our world. I’m going to stop because I may have sounded a little bit abstract right now.
Pam Harper: No. Actually, you said something that was really, really important here, to all us − the idea of moving from collaboration to co-creating. I was just looking at definitions in the dictionary for collaborating. One of them had to do with being with the enemy.
Scott Harper: Helping the enemy…
Judith Glaser: It’s called, cohorting with the enemy. That’s the one that I picked out, and that’s the one that for most people, we’re hardwired to think that way.
Pam Harper: Yeah, so it’s a no wonder that sometimes these conversations are very difficult. We are going to start using that term ourselves. But when somebody talks about collaborating − because that’s common language still − we have to go switching back and forth, don’t we?
Judith Glaser: Yeah, and actually in Conversational Intelligence, we have three levels of conversation, and the level two is called, “Positional conversations.” In that, you find more of the word collaboration. That’s where it fits, because there’s still people that are questioning each other in terms of the relationship. I have a position, you have a position, do we agree or are we going to have to debate it or do I have to influence you? That’s where influence takes place. That’s where more of the collaboration takes place.
Level three is the transformational co-creational space that is very different. It takes judgment out. It takes positioning out. It takes trying to influence the other person out, and opens up a bigger space where human beings can have a conversation that’s quite different that is a lot more about sharing and discovering than it is about persuading.
Scott Harper: Pam and I have talked often about how these days, we’ve seen organizations going from being power influenced − “I’m the boss and you do what I say,” to influence-based. Now, you’ve given us new language, a “Co-creation” base. I recognize it when I see it, and I can feel it. Working together in groups that are actually enmeshed in making something that none of them could do separately − how does this work? How does Conversational Intelligence work in co-creating in groups to make a really big thing happen?
Judith Glaser: I believe that when human beings are primed for something to happen, it happens in a way you’ve primed them. If human beings don’t prime, then there’s a freed for all space that people live in where anything goes with any conversation. It’s hard to channel yourself, because when we feel that we’re in a power over relationship, we want to push back. It is power over and power with were the two words that I use to describe what you’re talking about. Power with is very different from power over.
Attuning people to the different forms of conversation… and also your question was about how do we move into that space where we can do that co-creating? What I’ve discovered is that there are conversational rituals. In fact, there are rituals that appear − I’m an organizational anthropologist − that there are rituals that have appeared throughout history, with people trying to solve the same problem. The same problem is how do you prepare the soil? How do you prepare people’s minds for a wonderful conversation?
I’ve introduced a practice for people all over the world to experiment with: setting rules of engagement. Now that’s not setting rules that are hard rules − in fact, you could even use another word other than rules − but it’s setting the space. It’s creating the space, getting in front of the curve and talking about how to create conversations that enable us to open up to feel trusting, to feel that we can be self-expressed without judgment.
Human beings can create that together and co-create the rules of engagement for how they want to be together. Our brain is incredibly responsive to that. Our brain loves it in fact, yeah when people are caring enough to set the stage the conversations they want and then we step into that. I have yet to find a group in all my works for over 30 years that didn’t feel grateful for knowing that we can get in front of the curve. It doesn’t have to be just happening to us. We can create the stage for it to happen in the way that we want it to.
Pam Harper: Judith, this is so exciting. You’ve set the stage for us to have more conversation about this whole concept. We’re going to take a quick break right now, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications about stories that can bring this to life. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and success, and if you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select episode 61, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up-to-date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Judith E. Glaser, organizational anthropologist, author of Conversational Intelligence, and CEO of Benchmark Communications about building powerful conversations − co-creating conversations that enable you to take your organization to that next level of success. Judith, how can people find out more about you and your books and CreatingWE?
Judith Glaser: They can go to my website, www.conversationalintelligence.com, which has a lot about the book and it has videos, and articles, and all sorts of things that people could use to help them attune themselves to what it means to be conversationally intelligent. Our parent website that has everything in it is www.creatingwe.com. There are two choices.
Pam Harper: Okay. We will have links also from this episode, episode 61 at www.growthignitersradio.com. Let’s get back to our discussion here. You were setting the stage for how, rather than just collaborating, we can co-create. This is such an exciting and powerful concept. Can you give us a quick story that would illustrate this coming to life?
Judith Glaser: I have tons of stories, but the one for some reason that just jumped out is, it’s a global organization. I had the opportunity to work with the CEO, and the CEO had been bringing in new people from all sorts of companies like P&G and other big companies. Everybody who joined her team had a bias towards whatever they had been doing and their philosophy of being a leader − each came with a different perspective.
You can imagine what that could look like; they’re all hyper-great like stallions, and each one trying to influence the other about what they think would work in this company based on what they did in their old company.
Scott Harper: Perspectives bring richness to the conversation, but you have to be able to listen as well as talk, right?
Judith Glaser: Listen as well as talk, and also be willing to be influenced. I can’t underscore that enough. If you are in resistance and you come in to a room with the intention of influencing everybody to accept your approach to solving the challenges that are facing your organization, you become a part of the problem − which they did by, the way. They all had something that they want to contribute and move forward because it’s a comfort zone. We had to set rules of engagement for how to share and discover and for not knowing. In other words, asking questions for which we did not have answers, so that we could break in to a whole new realm of thinking together as oppose to being in persuasion, which is what they were heading in to do.
I enabled them to create the rules of engagement for how to co-create. Why I love this situation − why I shared it because it’s a very quick story − is that I said, “If you see people falling back out of co-creating and beginning to influence too much or whatever you see, take a second and call it out, because we’re hardwired, and those things happen and they come out.” I tried to neutralize the fact that they might bring their old history with them, but that they have in the moment coaches and colleagues that can help redefine, reframe, refocus, and redirect what they’re saying so it didn’t feel like a threat to the organization or didn’t feel like a threat to the team.
Pam Harper: Rules of engagement really is such a fundamental, foundational part of being able to have these more powerful conversations. That’s very clear. Now, you’ve spoken about we-centric practices, and Creating WE. Can you tell us a little bit about how Conversational Intelligence fits into WE-centric practices? What does that mean?
Judith Glaser: Years and years ago, I started to realize that the world is transforming right in front of our very eyes. I remember thinking about where we were millions of years ago, very much in “I,” very tribal, and where we’re going till today. I realized that between the influx of technology like we’ve never seen before and the desire − and I have to say desire because people desire to play well with others. It’s not something where we wake up everyday and say, “Hey, let’s go in the battle or I’m going to attack you today.” That’s an ancient history living inside of us.
Everything is moving us into a we-centric world. I wanted to put a word to it; I wrote a business dictionary years ago and was able to coin words or add words that were my own in addition to finding words that were out there. The whole concept of moving towards “we,” that redefinition of what good leadership is, all of those things are happening in front of our very eyes. Technology is happening in a way that we can’t turn back, and so we’re going to become a we, so we need to learn how to practice and understand what it means to be a we with others.
I want to underscore this very, very highly − it’s not consensus. We and consensus are not the same thing at all.
Scott Harper: Yup, agree with that. Just to build on that, one of the things that we have heard in our work, and actually experienced back when we lived in the corporate life, was the concern that if I am part of a team or a group − no one used the term “we-centric” or “we-ness” back in those days − but if I have to be part of this, where does that leave me? How can I still have my ideas and my importance and be part of this group and make it go forward in a more powerful way? You’ve got the “we” − okay that’s good − but I’m not losing my own identity either.
Judith Glaser: Exactly. In fact, one of the watch words of Conversational Intelligence and from this whole discipline is that we’re talking about is how do we develop the I inside the we, so that success cannot be defined as consensus.
Scott Harper: Define consensus as you think of it.
Judith Glaser: Yup, consensus is where people go along and find a common thread that they believe they can agree with and jump on. It’s like getting on the bus for something, so we all have consensus. However, in our research, we’ve learned that people are giving up a lot to get on that consensus bus. They don’t necessarily have a 100% commitment to whatever has been decided. They need a voice to be able to say, “Hey, put me on the wall. I will go along because I know it’s going to help move our organization forward, but I really want us to continue to track the following things, because they’re going to have an impact,” and just call it out and feel you have permission to do that.
Scott Harper: Okay, so there’s a big difference between getting on the bus, getting onboard − and joining, and being an active organic part of that process.
Judith Glaser: Yup. In fact, I’ll tell you there’s some companies that are going so far as to say, “I want all the resistors to be present in the room and if they still have resistance as we’re going through the conversation.” I want people to speak up and make sure that your voice is heard, because sometimes the resistor, the disbeliever, the person that is not on board has the best ideas. We’ve just blocked them out because they’re one person, but we need to give them a place. We need to open the space for them to live, and exist, and have a voice.
Scott Harper: I can’t agree more. In fact, I have to say that when I worked in the consumer healthcare industry, one of the most important contributions that my group, when I was director of a research group then, was because someone said, “No, we’re not doing this right. We’re not doing this right.” People kept trying to shut her down, and finally I said, “Let’s listen ,” and she was absolutely right. That contribution earned the company hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Judith Glaser: Wow.
Scott Harper: Yeah, so that drilled down to me over a decade ago. I’m utterly on board with you [on opening civil conversations of dissent].
Pam Harper: That’s true. There is so much to it. Of course it also hinges on people being comfortable talking about these things and feeling safe to do it, which is one of the things that we have worked with − trying to help people to have that safe space to talk about it. You’ve done it in such wonderful ways in terms of building trust.
We want to talk more about some of that in our next segment. We’re going to take a quick break right now. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Judith E. Glaser, CEO of CreatingWE about actionable steps that you can take to increase that trust and increase the power of your co-creation. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at www.businessadvance.com. Pam, we’ve been talking about how critical high-quality conversations are to success in any company, any organization. The thing is that sometimes these conversations that really need to get out there and happen just don’t happen for variety of reasons.
Pam Harper: That’s right. A lot of times, they’re referred to as elephants in the room. Awhile back, we had written a Harper report about how to take control of the elephants in the room.
Scott Harper: That’s right. In that report we talk about how to spot the elephants in the room at a much earlier stage before they get out of control.
Pam Harper: That’s right and steps you can take to create conversations that are critical for getting back on track and accelerating momentum.
Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Judith E. Glaser, organizational anthropologist, author of Conversational Intelligence about how we centric thinking and behavior increases the quality of not only collaboration, but co-creating, truly co-creating for powerful results. Judith, can you tell us again how people can find out more about you, your books, and CreatingWE?
Judith Glaser: Right; my book website is www.conversationalintelligence.com. Our parent website is www.creatingwe.com.
Pam Harper: We’ve been talking about really redefining our conversations, and you’ve talked about the importance of setting the stage for it by rules of engagement. What we want to talk to now is three pieces of immediately actionable advice that we can use to create a more we-centric scenario so we can be more powerful in what we’re doing together as a team.
Judith Glaser: Yup − so we have what are called, “Conversational essentials,” and we have “Conversational rituals.” The rules of engagement is one of the conversational rituals that people can do together. That’s opening up a frame around a conversation; it’s giving shape to a conversation in advance so people know how to bring their best selves to work and into the conversation.
Pam Harper: Can you give an example of that for us?
Judith Glaser: Yeah. There’s conversational rituals in the beginning that are, “How do we have this conversation?” Then at the end of a conversation, it’s to check in with people and find out what they really liked about it. In other words to learn how to deconstruct a good conversation or to appreciate, or to share. So you try to do that in the beginning, now you have one end − that’s the book end − the other bookend is to say, “How did it go? How did we do?”
It’s a chance to learn, because our human learning systems are cybernetic. We do something, we look to see if we hit the target; if we did, great. If we didn’t, we need to get feedback. That’s also built into human beings. It’s cybernetics, it’s how we grow. If people learn this before and after the two bookends, you are learning as you go, because some people might say at the end, “This caused me anxiety,” because one of the questions is, anything that happened today caused anxiety. We want to check in on that. You got a chance to see what really happened in real time; mark it and grow from it in real time.
Pam Harper: I can imagine that that would also build trust, because you’re giving people opportunities to talk about how they are doing with whatever has happened during the conversation.
Judith Glaser: Yup, very much so. It facilitates the development of trust because you’re going to be transparent. In all the cases, people are comfortable because you’ve set the stage to be comfortable. Part of trust is about being transparent, focusing on the relationship, what impacts the people on the room so that you’re not damaging relationship, rather you’re actually enhancing it.
It moves into how to create your success. What kind of conversations or questions do we need to be asking each other to bring us into a sense of shared success − not to go into consensus, but truly building shared success. When that lens is opened up − yeah, it’s wonderful.
Scott Harper: That’s great; and in really building the authenticity you’re making space for people to be truly authentic so that they aren’t guarding and always thinking in the back of their heads, “How can this come back and bite me?” Excellent advice Judith; what’s another piece of advice you can give?
Judith Glaser: I can’t again underscore enough the whole idea of listening to connect. Listening is the primary medium through which we take in another and/or we don’t take in another. So much of our listening is guarded or judgmental. You’re listening to prove that you’re right. There’s something magical again about listening to connect where you really are tuning in to another person’s energy fields.
You’re open to receive. We know that when the brain is in that state − again it takes away the fear; cortisol is lower, oxytocin is higher, and people start to activate their mirror neurons, which are the part of the brain in the pre-frontal cortex − that’s the upper part of the brain − where co-creation is stimulated. I’m listening to energy, but that energy gets translated, and it gets translated into something that I do differently and you do differently. It makes a big impact on how we receive each other.
Scott Harper: That makes enormous sense, but how do you do that? How do you listen to connect? What’s some real tangible thing I can do to make that happen better?
Judith Glaser: I have people just listening to how often they’re not listening. That sounds funny…
Scott Harper: No, I’m understanding.
Judith Glaser: For example, there was a big group of people − 350 people in a accounting organization, years ago. We had them all do an experiment. They took a grid, something that looked like grid paper; zero was the time the meeting started and 60 was when the meeting ended. They were supposed to draw a picture − a picture of up and down. When they stopped listening, they pulled their line down and when they found themselves judging. Literally, it was people mapping their patterns of listening as a way to learn how to get on top of listening to connect.
It’s an exercise that anyone can do. As soon as you find yourself dropping out, thinking about considering your next thought, judging the person, you’re not there. Like with other types of rituals, practicing, just focusing on that person, just focusing and clearing your mind and focusing on that person will do it. It’s like a ritual. It’s like something that Buddhists used to do and still do. It’s that sense of taking judgment out and allowing the universe to come in.
If it’s another person, you’re going to start noticing things. For example, you might notice things about their eyes. You might notice things about their color of their skin, so you’re listening to the other person. You’re focusing on them not you. Actually it becomes easier, the more you have good experiences doing it, you’ll say, “Oh, that’s what it is. I see that person now. I see them. I can see it into their heart.” You’re focusing on them, not us.
Pam Harper: It’s very interesting; I’m listening here. When you really concentrate on listening, you really listen not only to the words, but you’re listening to the tone of voice too. It is. It’s a magical kind of experience to be able to feel that.
This is all great. Is there one more thing? We only have time for one more example.
Judith Glaser: Too often − again, I’m going down to the essentials, conversational essentials because they’re so important. Listening to connect is one. The other is asking questions for which we don’t have answers. In a way, if people could start taking a look at the questions that they ask and to what extent they are questions that are really confirming what they know or putting their ideas out on the table, then start asking questions for which you don’t have answers, it’s a beautiful. Again, this is another type of conversational essential that shifts the conversation, because it neutralizes the ego and enables people to think new thoughts that they’ve never thought before.
Pam Harper: Judith, as always, it’s wonderful to have you with us, and thank you again for co-creating this episode with us. Do you have a final thought about this more powerful − we called it collaboration at the beginning − I’m talking about co-creating now?
Judith Glaser: Yup. I truly believe, the more I’ve heard from coaches around the world, from leaders around the world, I have companies that have adopted the concept of co-creating and as a term now, they’re saying, “Let’s co-create on this.” I am telling you, I’ve been in meetings that are so difficult and had we not had that word to help shape another type of conversation as oppose to positional, which is where the conversation was going.
With that word in place, people are learning how to step into that ability to co-create. The outcome is so powerful that again if a company wants to take one step forward, introduce some of the words that are new, that are part of conversational intelligence. Because they don’t have meaning, you as leaders can help give them meaning. When you’re part of co-creating even the meaning of a word, people then will use it more.
Understanding the language of conversational intelligence, using some of those new words, you’ll be able to take a culture. This is where we started our conversation. Instead of working on the culture, you work on the conversation, but then what happens itself will shape the culture.
Pam Harper: Yes, definitely. Judith, again, we’re so happy that you came back and joined us. We look forward to the next time we can co-create with you.
Judith Glaser: I’m thrilled to come back again and hope that we continue to extend this conversation. It’s a big one. We have a lot to talk about. Thank you.
Pam Harper: A lot.
Scott Harper: We do indeed, Judith. Thank you so much. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, download our report How To Take Control Of The Elephants In The Room, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, or open a conversation with us, go to www.growthignitersradio.com and select episode 61.
Pam Harper: Until next time. This is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: What can we do today to increase the quality of our conversations so that we’re more powerfully co-creating on our most important goals?