LEADer/ Creating Better Conversations

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Manila, 5 December 2018 — Paying tribute to my teacher, who taught leaders and coaches how to change the world one conversation at a time.

Commemorating Judith Glaser

Several years ago, my reading of Judith Glaser’s Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results opened my eyes to the many possibilities we have to change the world through the conversations we engage in. “Everything happens through conversations,” Judith liked to say.

I then joined a group of fellow coaches from around the world to take a deep dive into implementing Judith’s body of knowledge through her 7-month Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) program, which she co-created with the World Business and Executive Coach Summit, better known as WBECS.

A few weeks ago, Coach Judith passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer. It speaks to her passion and perseverance that she still taught a long and intensive session to the WBECS participants last September.

We will miss her. She inspired us, her coachees, with the content of what she taught, with the impactful stories of change involving her clients, and with her personal experiences in how she led her conversation with life itself.

The legacy she leaves us is not for coaches only. The value of what she taught is available to all leaders. As an emerging leader, you will find many useful insights and tools in her book, and in the program that WBECS is set to continue.

Here are my three favorite learnings from book and program:

Three Levels of Conversations

Judith taught us that there are three levels of conversations that leaders use: transactional, positional, and transformational. While each has its purpose, it is the third type that we need to see more of. This requires specific skills, some of which at first may seem counter-intuitive, like ‘asking questions to which there are no answers.’ The purpose is to open up a space for collaboration and co-creation, that helps to move our conversation from the I into the WE space.

Dashboard of Trust

This dashboard points to what I consider the heart of Judith’s work, based on her insights how organizational changes require a sustained process of building trust to create spaces for effective collaboration. After double-clicking on the process of building trust, and exploring the roles played by different parts of our brain and the cocktails of hormones they produce according to the different situations we experience, Judith offered us a set of practical tools that we can use when we have, and facilitate, conversations. The Dashboard of Trust is one such tool. The Ladder of Conclusions is another.

Down-regulating and Up-regulating Emotions

Continuing from what I mentioned about the continuous cocktail of hormones produced in our brains, Judith explained in great detail how we can learn to down-regulate our fear (distrust) networks and up-regulate our trust networks, and how we can use this knowledge to bring about positive changes in the discussions and dialogues that we facilitate as leaders and coaches. Once you get the hang of this, every day will bring more opportunities to apply it.

Building on a Legacy

While Coach Judith Glaser’s C-IQ work is presented clearly, our understanding of the science behind it is still quite new and developing rapidly. Judith herself attested to this when she referred frequently to the work of her husband who is a neuroscientist. Working with the substantive body of knowledge that Coach Judith Glaser has left us, we can learn more and empower more leaders and coaches to make positive changes where they work. By offering the C-IQ program, WBECS is making a significant contribution, and I recommend that you check out the book and program to see how this will fit in your work.

As for me, I am curious about further developments in several aspects of Conversational Intelligence, and would love to see further study being taken forward. Here are some examples:

The Green Meme

First, there seems to be a strong post-modern influence at work in articulating and implementing C-IQ, perhaps correlating to the Green Meme in Spiral Dynamics which holds that everything works better through collaboration, and that trust is built when we level with others as equals in the notion of WE.

While this strongly resonates with me, I recognize that there are many situations where people place trust in leaders who play different roles or styles—such as authoritarian—without those leaders feeling equal to them. Is C-IQ’s goal of creating transformational conversations actually desirable and effective in all situations? Does that need a further breakdown and differentiation?

The C-IQ approach and tools can be used effectively in many situations. However, different situations may require a different approach from leaders. As President Nelson Mandela famously said, it matters if leaders speak the language of their audience so that the message can go not only to their mind, but also to their heart. Learning to speak in ‘their language’ comes from a body of knowledge (Spiral Dynamics) that seems to me, distinct from what we now know as C-IQ. Exploring connections between these bodies of knowledge may be useful to further empower leaders and coaches.

Innovation that Disrupts

Second, in our world today, the speed of changes can be dizzying. Many of these changes are triggered by disruptive innovation that is not necessarily caused by collaboration, but by finding hacks and smarter solutions. There is a lot of individual genius at play in delivering these changes, and in many cases, they are seen to be useful and bring our world forward. Where and how does C-IQ come into play in these processes of innovative changes that do not seem to involve much consensus-building and collaboration?

How to Measure C-IQ

Third, since Howard Gardner introduced the concept of multiple intelligences, which is also reflected in Integral Theory as championed by Ken Wilber, we have to come to terms with these different perspectives on intelligence. Leaders need to go beyond IQ and become conversant and knowledgeable about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for one. Many will argue that Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) is also very important.

Stephen Covey said that SQ is “the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others." Personally, I resonate with Cindy Wigglesworth’s definition of SQ as "the ability to act with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the circumstances.” It helps me to visualize this in the form of diplomats with strong altruistic motives and highly-developed listening and reframing skills.

Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) now joins the list of the other important intelligences (my list above is not exhaustive, and further guidance is provided by Integral Theorists). In our current age of prioritizing analytics and big data, the question that arises for me is: how can we measure C-IQ? And how to link C-IQ improvements (or performance) to achieving the ‘extraordinary results’ that Coach Judith Glaser referenced in the subtitle of her book?

A discussion on measurement will undoubtedly also open the door to exploring how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be engaged to help leaders and coaches become more effective in using C-IQ to create better conversations that in turn lead to (much) better results. While conversing intelligently may always remain ‘an art’ in some respects, I believe that there is much to be gained from more measurement and results focus.

Taking C-IQ Forward

In taking C-IQ work forward, I acknowledge how WBECS is poised to further increase the number of leaders and coaches to learn about it. I believe this should go beyond training to involve research that answers the questions I raised, among others.

With WBECS now attracting more than 21,000 participants to its annual online summit, researchers have an unprecedented opportunity to take the C-IQ work forward in collaboration with these coaches from all around the world, me included. Doing that will be another great way to pay tribute to the work of Coach Judith Glaser and build on it.

The next level of greatness depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of the conversations.
— Judith Glaser

How does this land with you? I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.

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