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Growth Leadership Personal Development

Make Candor a Priority

by Judith Glaser

When Bayer, a $7 billion multinational pharmaceutical company, acquired a smaller $300 million diagnostic company, Rolf Classon the CEO, chose to call it a “merger.”

Power-with Others
He wanted to immediately establish a “power-with others” relationship with the new organization. I was part of a consulting team who facilitated a multi-day vision, values, and leadership session to help the leadership team create the new direction for the culture and the business.

“We are becoming one company,” Rolf told the top hundred people from both companies at their kickoff meeting. He went on to convey that he wanted to set new ground rules for working collaboratively in a new environment in which “together we can create something that never existed before.”

The executives discussed changes that needed to be made in the organization to maximize the new partnership. Then they broke into smaller teams to craft the new vision and values, with the intent of reporting their insights to the larger executive team.

When the executives reconvened, a spirit of trust and collaboration had clearly emerged. They had worked together to create a vision of shared success and in doing so released a new sense of hope for the future.   

Rolf once again stood before the group and asked, “How many of you have been through a visioning session before?” Everyone raised his or her hand.

“How many of you have left those sessions and returned to the workplace, only to find that nothing had changed?” Mostly everyone raised his or hand. He then declared, “For us to be successful as an organization, we need to realize that we can’t create the organization we want without making fundamental changes in ourselves.”

Candor Opens a New Door to the Future
As the event unfolded, something magical occurred. Rolf, by his example, taught the executives the true meaning of leadership. “Change begins inside each person. So I want to let you know that over the past few days I have been looking at what I’ve been doing to unknowingly prevent change from taking place.

“I’ve discovered at least sixteen things I want to change about myself! Here are my top three: my arrogance, my control, and my lack of trust.

“At lunch I want you each to think about what change means to you, and what you can do personally to inspire your own growth. After lunch I want to hear from my top executives — from the podium — expressing their personal insights.”

The CEO allowed himself to be as transparent and vulnerable as he had ever been in his life when he acknowledged the personal work he needed to do to make this merger a success. As he left behind his flaws so did the other executives, which made room for cooperation and partnership to grow.

Rolf continued his talk about the future. He engaged others in conversations about the “big challenges” and the “big picture.” The key was creating a shared context for change. By setting the stage in this way, he enabled others to find a common ground on which to build the future.  The Bayer merger became the most successful in the company’s history. 

Candor Unlocks Culture Change and Transformation in Organizations

Through our research and client projects over the past decade, we have identified that candor is the behavior that best predicts high performing teams and the single most important success factor in transformation and change. Organizations that exhibit high levels of candor produce the highest and most successful performing teams.

Here are 5 ways to elevate every day – and experience a release in the capacity to create and sustain change, growth and transformation: 

By setting the context for candor throughout all of your leadership interactions, you level the playing field. You set the tone for people to be candid with each other – and candor leader to trust. I trust you have my back – I trust your intentions – I trust you care. Power and hierarchy become less important than the results colleagues can create together through trust, honesty and teamwork. 

Neuro-tip: Candor, truth and trust
While the words – candor, trust and trust – are different, the meaning of these words activate the same networks in our brain. When we display the Prefrontal Cortex, our Executive Brain. This network opens the power of the Executive functions, such as strategic thinking, empathy, foresight, intuition, good judgment and handling uncertainty with less fear. So candor plays a role in elevating our capacity to work through difficult challenges with others – a core activity for change and transformation in organizations.

Candor is a door to tapping wisdom and for discovering new ways to handle the challenges we face when stakes are high and uncertainty abounds. As Rolf Classon discovered – by setting the stage for candor with his top 200 executives – he created a comfort zone for others in his team to lead with candor – elevating trust and the organizational potential for higher levels of personal, team and organizational success during the biggest transformation Bayer ever embarked upon.

CANDOR AND TRUST Are the Fabric of a Healthy Culture

Here are 5 things you can do, as a Leader of Change, to elevate candor and TRUST as the foundation for healthy conversations in your organization.

Success Factor #1: Elevate Candor and elevate Transparency and Trust 

Our brain is highly sensitive to reading signals of friend or foe as we interact. In .07 seconds we can tell if someone is telling us the truth and when they do we label them friend and our whole mindset reconfigures to allow us to engage more deeply. Being candid sends signal we will be open transparent in our conversations, and therefore we can trust each other to had our back. These decisions are built into our hardwiring and take place in Nano-seconds and elevate the quality of our conversations.

Success Factor #2: Elevate Candor and Deepen Relationships 

When we learn how to be candid with others, we engage at a deeper level of connectivity. Our brain radiates energy, and the energy of connection is more powerful than any other, yet we can’t access this unless we feel safe. Being candid and focusing our candor on enhancing our relationship – such as telling the truth about who we are, or helping build relationships before focusing on task – shows we value others and want to build on each others strengthens. These decisions take place in Nano-seconds and elevate the quality of our conversations and our relationships.

Success Factor #3: Elevate Candor and Deepen Understanding 

When we learn how to be candid, we are able to step into each other’s world, and understand each other’s perspectives rather than feeling we need to defend our own. The need to be right is and addiction which gets stronger when we are uncertain of where we stand. When we learn to deepen our connectivity by focusing on understanding others intentions, dreams, and aspirations – we communicate we have their best interest at heart. Our Prefrontal Cortex and Heart connection actually strengthen physiologically – and the quality of our conversations escalates – magnifying our ability to achieve greater results with others.

Success Factor #4: Elevate Candor and Build Shared Success 

When we learn how to be candid, we are able to spend more time exploring what success looks like with others – not just my success – our shared success. Rather than focusing on ‘my needs’ – I am able to build a new world view that combines yours and mine in ways we would never have thought about it before. We know that our Executive Brain – our Prefrontal Cortex – has the capacity to literally build holograms of the future – when we are open enough to access this human capacity – we join our best thinking into one new world view with Shared Success as the outcome. 

Success Factor #5: Elevate Candor and Elevate Courage to tell the truth 

When we learn how to be candid, we elevate our courage to step up, and speak out. Human beings need to share what is on their mind. When we mask the truth, or avoid the truth, or when we avoid difficult conversations our body chemistry shifts. The word disease is ‘dis-ease’ and it’s a chemical discomfort that blocks the vital instincts for growth. Finding ways to be candid and caring at the same creates the healthy space for truth telling while strengthening relationships with others.

Candor is One Act that Changes Everything

Learning to have healthy conversations is the most fundamental and vital skills of a transformational leader. As Rolf Classon learned when he stepped up and stepped out of his own fear, and stepped forward to connect with his team through candor. Make candor a priority and open the door to business success.  On some levels, we human beings are very simple. We turn to those who make us feel good and we turn away from those who make us feel bad. Finding comfort from people who care about us is a healthy strategy. Learning to down-regulate fear at work and up-regulate the factors that stimulate growth is a winning strategy for success is a game changer.


Judith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of the best selling book, “Conversational Intelligence” (Bibliomotion, 2013), an Organizational Anthropologist and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.Visit her at creatingwe.com; conversationalintelligence.com or contact her at jeglaser@creatingwe.com. Follow Judith on Twitter @CreatingWE or connect with her on Facebook.

Categories
Growth Leadership Personal Development

Difficult Doesn’t Have to Be So Difficult: How to Turn Challenging Conversations into Trusting Relationships at Work

By Judith E. Glaser

No one could believe it – Radio Shack let thousands of people go and they did it through email!  Most people dislike delivering bad news in person, and will find any way to avoid it.

Making eye contact with another person who you care about, and with whom you need to deliver a difficult message – probably creates disappoint, upset or hurt – and is one of the most difficult things for human beings to do. So, rather than confronting these challenges, we often take too many alternatives which at the time seem to be less challenging or hurtful but later turn out to cause more pain.

Discussing/Delivering/Moving Through Bad News

Clouding the Issue

Two years ago I was asked to coach a CEO who was one of 6 reporting to a chairman. The difficult message the chairman wanted to give the leaders was that if she didn’t raise the performance of her team she would be asked to leave. Rather than giving that message, the chairman wrote a 6 page report that provided feedback and 98% was about how good the leader was. Embedded in the document were 2-3 lines, which briefly stated that the chairman expected a higher level of performance from the leader. When I asked the leader what this document communicated to her and what she would do as a result, she said she was doing everything right and therefore was on the right track for her bonus.

Failing to be candid with others is one of the largest reasons why people ultimately leave companies. When we think we are doing the right things, we keep doing them. When key messages are embedded into larger messages, they get lost, are “sandwiched in” which means we can easily discount them or deal with them as less important.

Candor is Golden 

People do care about outcomes, but they care more about the processes that produce those outcomes. People want to know where they stand and why. If there is a difficult message they need to hear, employees would prefer to know the truth rather than a watered down or clouded version of it.

Candor supersedes fluff in situations where truth is the medicine needed. Fear of telling a person they have failed, or are about to be fired, or they didn’t make the cut are realities in life. We all know this. Yet we do more harm to an individual by trying to soft pedal our way through a difficult conversation.  When people are candid with us – and do it in a caring way – we are open to building trust with them – it’s as simple as that.

Turning Difficult Conversations into Trusting Relationships at Work

How should a leader address customers; shareholders; the press; employees? Are there different components of the message that should be shared with one group and not another? Who needs what type of information? Most of all, how can you set the context for difficult not to be so difficult. The best strategy is to be specific and clear about what is happening, rather than clouding the message with hyperbole.

  • Unmet Expectations: Most difficult messages come from a very common origin. Unmet expectations. I failed to deliver the results you expected. You failed to deliver the results I expected. It is difficult because it contains embarrassment and disappointment – two things human beings dislike the most. It is a social embarrassment and when this is the core of the context, then people want to deflect the message, minimize it, blame others, avoid it – or any other tactic they can think of.Every difficult message has some dynamics that are unique to the situation. And each group of people may have different messages that are required to share, however there are a few things in common with all. These are all people – and in each case they are important relationships that you want to preserve and sustain even thought the message you need to discuss or deliver is different.
  • If you don’t care about the relationship then you can say anything you want. In this case you can “data dump” or get the situation off your chest and act mindlessly about how you say it. Sometimes this can be venting or letting it all out if the issue is about your relationships with them.
  • Caring: However in most other cases, if your goal is to share something that is considered “difficult” and you want to sustain the relationship, you need to set the context for a sustained relationship up front so the person knows that this may be difficult for both of you… and that you care about them regardless of how difficult the message will be.
  • Candor: In addition you want to be explicit and honest about what you are sharing. Candor communicates respect, and that is what people want most. Not candor that looks like blame, or anger, but candor that looks like the real truth…

Example:  Failure to Deliver Results on Your End
For example, your company failed to make its numbers this quarter and it’s because of a delay in the launch of a product. There will be an impact on stock price, or deliveries, on employee bonuses – so the impact is across the board with employees, shareholders, press and even customers. Identify where the impacts lie, take responsibility for the event, ask people to accept your apology, explain your new strategy for making it better, and asking for their on going support or help in any way that is needed.

Understand How to Address Fears, Concerns, and Worries:

  • Triggering:    ‘Feared Implications’

Very often just the thought of having a difficult conversation causes anxiety and fear. Our minds quickly create a movie of what might happen, and our minds are quick to imagine the worst. I call this ‘feared implications.’ Feared implications are the worst-case scenarios, and when our minds imagine the worst, the neurochemistry of fear takes over. The clinical name for this is Amygdala Hijack, named after the part of the brain, which is the seat of fear.

  • Priming:
    Do have the conversation in person
    whenever you can. When you talk with someone face-to-face, it primes the way for an honest and caring exchange and it does make a difference. People experience a great level of trust and openness when they see someone face-to-face and see the look in their eyes of caring and concern for their well being.
  • Refocusing & Redirecting:
    Do focus on outcomes
    and especially those that may be good or better for the person down the road. A person receiving bad news will be focusing on the loss and you want them to focus on how to use this situation to grow and to gain something better than what they had before. Redirect and refocus them on how to use this situation as an opportunity for change and growth.
  • Reframing:
    Do focus on development and growth not punishment and blame.
    Most people feel shame and embarrassment when something goes wrong. When you reframe a discussion from ‘criticism’ to ‘development’ it shifts the person from thinking, “I was bad” to “here are new ways to be successful.” This creates a new energetic shift in their brain from the fear state to being open to learn something new. The Heart-Prefrontal Cortex will start working together and become in sync to create a healthy state of mind – open to learn.
  • Co-creating:
    Fear closes down conversations. When the boss is afraid to talk, it amplifies the fear and feared implications. Instead, be open to discussing the impact and implications of the news. People will always say after the fact, that when a leader was open to discussion, it makes them feel that the difficult news was palatable. They feel if the process of exchange is fair and open, with candor, respect and caring, then they can accept the news. Also, if there is dialogue they may come up with other ways of handling the situation that had not been revealed before.

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 jeglaser@creatingwe.com or call 212-307-4386.

Categories
Growth Leadership Personal Development

Difficult Doesn’t Have to Be So Difficult: How to Turn Challenging Conversations into Trusting Relationships at Work

By Judith E. Glaser

No one could believe it – Radio Shack let thousands of people go and they did it through email!  Most people dislike delivering bad news in person, and will find any way to avoid it.

Making eye contact with another person who you care about, and with whom you need to deliver a difficult message – probably creates disappoint, upset or hurt – and is one of the most difficult things for human beings to do. So, rather than confronting these challenges, we often take too many alternatives which at the time seem to be less challenging or hurtful but later turn out to cause more pain.

Discussing/Delivering/Moving Through Bad News

Clouding the Issue

Two years ago I was asked to coach a CEO who was one of 6 reporting to a chairman. The difficult message the chairman wanted to give the leaders was that if she didn’t raise the performance of her team she would be asked to leave. Rather than giving that message, the chairman wrote a 6 page report that provided feedback and 98% was about how good the leader was. Embedded in the document were 2-3 lines, which briefly stated that the chairman expected a higher level of performance from the leader. When I asked the leader what this document communicated to her and what she would do as a result, she said she was doing everything right and therefore was on the right track for her bonus.

Failing to be candid with others is one of the largest reasons why people ultimately leave companies. When we think we are doing the right things, we keep doing them. When key messages are embedded into larger messages, they get lost, are “sandwiched in” which means we can easily discount them or deal with them as less important.

Candor is Golden 

People do care about outcomes, but they care more about the processes that produce those outcomes. People want to know where they stand and why. If there is a difficult message they need to hear, employees would prefer to know the truth rather than a watered down or clouded version of it.

Candor supersedes fluff in situations where truth is the medicine needed. Fear of telling a person they have failed, or are about to be fired, or they didn’t make the cut are realities in life. We all know this. Yet we do more harm to an individual by trying to soft pedal our way through a difficult conversation.  When people are candid with us – and do it in a caring way – we are open to building trust with them – it’s as simple as that.

Turning Difficult Conversations into Trusting Relationships at Work

How should a leader address customers; shareholders; the press; employees? Are there different components of the message that should be shared with one group and not another? Who needs what type of information? Most of all, how can you set the context for difficult not to be so difficult. The best strategy is to be specific and clear about what is happening, rather than clouding the message with hyperbole.

  • Unmet Expectations: Most difficult messages come from a very common origin. Unmet expectations. I failed to deliver the results you expected. You failed to deliver the results I expected. It is difficult because it contains embarrassment and disappointment – two things human beings dislike the most. It is a social embarrassment and when this is the core of the context, then people want to deflect the message, minimize it, blame others, avoid it – or any other tactic they can think of.Every difficult message has some dynamics that are unique to the situation. And each group of people may have different messages that are required to share, however there are a few things in common with all. These are all people – and in each case they are important relationships that you want to preserve and sustain even thought the message you need to discuss or deliver is different.
  • If you don’t care about the relationship then you can say anything you want. In this case you can “data dump” or get the situation off your chest and act mindlessly about how you say it. Sometimes this can be venting or letting it all out if the issue is about your relationships with them.
  • Caring: However in most other cases, if your goal is to share something that is considered “difficult” and you want to sustain the relationship, you need to set the context for a sustained relationship up front so the person knows that this may be difficult for both of you… and that you care about them regardless of how difficult the message will be.
  • Candor: In addition you want to be explicit and honest about what you are sharing. Candor communicates respect, and that is what people want most. Not candor that looks like blame, or anger, but candor that looks like the real truth…

Example:  Failure to Deliver Results on Your End
For example, your company failed to make its numbers this quarter and it’s because of a delay in the launch of a product. There will be an impact on stock price, or deliveries, on employee bonuses – so the impact is across the board with employees, shareholders, press and even customers. Identify where the impacts lie, take responsibility for the event, ask people to accept your apology, explain your new strategy for making it better, and asking for their on going support or help in any way that is needed.

Understand How to Address Fears, Concerns, and Worries:

  • Triggering:    ‘Feared Implications’

Very often just the thought of having a difficult conversation causes anxiety and fear. Our minds quickly create a movie of what might happen, and our minds are quick to imagine the worst. I call this ‘feared implications.’ Feared implications are the worst-case scenarios, and when our minds imagine the worst, the neurochemistry of fear takes over. The clinical name for this is Amygdala Hijack, named after the part of the brain, which is the seat of fear.

  • Priming:
    Do have the conversation in person
    whenever you can. When you talk with someone face-to-face, it primes the way for an honest and caring exchange and it does make a difference. People experience a great level of trust and openness when they see someone face-to-face and see the look in their eyes of caring and concern for their well being.
  • Refocusing & Redirecting:
    Do focus on outcomes
    and especially those that may be good or better for the person down the road. A person receiving bad news will be focusing on the loss and you want them to focus on how to use this situation to grow and to gain something better than what they had before. Redirect and refocus them on how to use this situation as an opportunity for change and growth.
  • Reframing:
    Do focus on development and growth not punishment and blame.
    Most people feel shame and embarrassment when something goes wrong. When you reframe a discussion from ‘criticism’ to ‘development’ it shifts the person from thinking, “I was bad” to “here are new ways to be successful.” This creates a new energetic shift in their brain from the fear state to being open to learn something new. The Heart-Prefrontal Cortex will start working together and become in sync to create a healthy state of mind – open to learn.
  • Co-creating:
    Fear closes down conversations. When the boss is afraid to talk, it amplifies the fear and feared implications. Instead, be open to discussing the impact and implications of the news. People will always say after the fact, that when a leader was open to discussion, it makes them feel that the difficult news was palatable. They feel if the process of exchange is fair and open, with candor, respect and caring, then they can accept the news. Also, if there is dialogue they may come up with other ways of handling the situation that had not been revealed before.

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 jeglaser@creatingwe.com or call 212-307-4386.

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