Five Myths About Leadership Conversations That Need to be Busted!

Five Myths About Leadership Conversations That Need to be Busted!

As a leader you spend 80% of your time in conversation. Many leaders severely underestimate both the power of good quality conversation in getting things done and improving performance…and also how very ordinary we are at it. Here are five myths about business conversations that need to be busted!

 

Myth 1:  I am good at communication and conversations

 

Conversation is a skill and an art and very few of us are taught how to use conversation to get the very best from the brains of others. Our role models and habits, not to mention the pressure of time and energy also mean that we resort to ‘telling and instruction’ as the predominant means of communication over a work day. The brain does not like being told what to do – even when an individual asks you to ‘tell’. When people are told or instructed – even if they ACCEPT and ACT ON the instruction, they will not OWN the outcomes.

 

Myth 2:  What people say is the truth

 

Truth in itself is a myth. There is my truth, and your truth, and the version of truth that makes sense. People lie, for all the right reasons. Cognitive bias colours and filters the truth. Our past experiences and behaviours create the unique ‘wiring’ that drives future behaviour, and it’s not always based on an objective reality.

 

Myth 3:  People know what they want

 

When I begin a coaching engagement, more often than not my ‘coachee’ arrives with their clearly documented ‘3 goals’ that they wish to achieve from the coaching. It usually only takes about 20 minutes to uncover that beneath those goals are some very different goals. We tend to think and exist on our ‘surface’ and it takes effort and skill to help people to delve beneath the surface to find out what people really want and need. But if you can, the rewards are plentiful.

 

Myth 4:  Emotion is destructive

 

We avoid emotion, particularly emotion that we categorise as ‘negative’. There is no such thing as positive or negative emotion, it is our interpretation of emotion that categorises them. It is much more useful to view emotion as valuable data that can guide us to know the truth (see Myth 2) of what is going on for us. Learn to embrace and regulate emotion rather than avoid and suppress it.

 

Myth 5:  Conflict is not productive

 

Conflict (in its useful form) is not only productive but necessary. I prefer to refer to conflict as Deliberate Debate and I specifically teach this in my Rewired Teams programs. If your meetings are a round robin of ‘sharing’ updates, then you are either missing a great opportunity for creative thinking and problem solving, or simply wasting precious time. The process of challenging and stretching our own thinking and the thinking of others – of not accepting at face value what is put forward (see Myth 2) and of leveraging off the thinking of others is the critical missing piece in many teams.

 

Five more myths to come in my next blog…

 

 

Have a nice day!

 

Michelle

50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism

50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism

Yes, I read the books and yes, I’ve seen the movies. Moving right along…

 

I talk a lot. Often about myself, but more often than not about my plans, what I want to achieve, the next adventure I want to go on, or the next task I need to conquer. I’m a raving extravert so what happens on the inside, is totally expressed on the outside without much filtering.

 

My father will on occasions jump in and comment “It’s just all about you, isn’t it Michelle!”

 

Well, yes.  Why wouldn’t it be?

 

But from my perspective it isn’t JUST all about me. It’s about an internal drive for perfection and achievement. It’s about appreciating the privilege of the life I have and making the most of it before I die. It’s about showing my kids what life can offer and giving them the confidence to be themselves in the world. It’s about so much that only I, who lives inside my head, can appreciate and understand.

 

To the outside world, I may possibly (no probably) appear a bit narcissistic. Making it all about me is not my intention, but it can certainly be the outcome from the experience of others.

 

The biggest mistake we humans make in conversation is that we become conversational narcissists. We make it all about us. Our intentions are good, but the impact can be quite different.

 

Now the problem here is that this is not only common and normal, but it is how we have evolved (or in this case, not evolved). Our survival instincts drive us to make it all about us – it’s how we are wired.

 

Unfortunately, it’s a major barrier as we come to understand more about the human brain and its motivating forces of threat and reward.

 

Are you a conversational narcissist? See how many of these you can tick…

 

During a conversation, have you ever thought to yourself (or out loud)…

 

I know what they want/need…

My idea is better…

There is an obvious answer here…

 

Or have you ever said…

 

☐  Why don’t you just try this…

  What I would do is…

  Why haven’t you…

 

Or do you…

 

  Set and lead the agenda in meetings, or in a conversation for that matter…

  Assume that your team or colleagues have understood your instructions or requests… (only to discover later that they didn’t)

  Assume that your team or colleagues have the same goals or desired outcomes that you do… (only to discover later that they don’t)

 

Or even more importantly, have you been on the other end of a conversation or meeting where…

 

Nobody asked your opinion or thoughts, or when they did, they didn’t take the time to dig deeper or understand your perspective

You wasted your time because nothing in the meeting was of value to the issues YOU are currently facing

You left the conversation thinking “Well, that was all about them!”

 

If you have ticked a few of these then you have engaged in, or been the victim of, well-intentioned conversational narcissism.  Your drive to get things done, or to help others understand or achieve, overtakes the critical skill and process of supporting others to engage in quality thinking, to self-motivate and engage, to discover, learn and grow for themselves.   You may also be missing out on valuable alternative perspectives or ideas, or preventing a useful challenge to your own one-sided thinking and perspective.

 

Leadership is about conversation, and we need to get it right.

 

You must begin to notice your conversational narcissism and deliberately move to a place of conversational humility – characterised by conversational curiosity! You don’t, and can’t know it all, so take some time to ask.

 

Here are 5 shades (sorry, not enough page space for 50 – but the book is coming!) of conversational narcissism that you might find yourself falling into, and a few tips on what you can do about changing it.

 

Conversational GREY – the AVOIDER

 

It all feels too hard, so you just sit in the background, agree, say little and avoid rocking the boat. You are scared to evoke emotional responses that may make you feel bad or challenged – defensiveness, anger, sympathy, embarrassment.  You may even ‘beat around the bush’ a bit and avoid saying directly what you really want to say…sound familiar?

 

This is experienced by others as passive aggressive behaviour and they will experience much frustration.

 

Conversational RED – the REACTOR

 

You take everything personally and react to what has been said based on your past experience, your values and your future goals – none of which are known to others.  When the conversation doesn’t go your way, your response is to walk away, or begin to just ‘tell’ so you can move on…sound familiar?

 

This is experienced by others as an inability to listen and they will give up trying to engage with you.

 

Conversational BLUE – the RESCUER

 

You are good at what you do, so when others are struggling, you know you can get it done faster and better yourself, so you take it on.

 

This is experienced by some as distrust or by others as an opportunity to pass the buck and take it easy. You will find yourself with too much to do and not enough time to do it.

 

Conversational GREEN – the HELPER

 

You are a great listener, and when others are in pain or experiencing difficulty in working through something, you want to heal the pain and just ‘save them’. You have a million different ideas, suggestions and solutions that you bombard them with.  You feel great knowing that you have saved another soul from the depths of despair…sound familiar?

 

This is experience by others as confusion and overwhelm and they will feel more helpless.

 

Conversational GOLD – the PLEASER

 

“Yes” “I totally agree” “Really, she did that??” Relationship building is important to you, but your desire to connect deeply with others and be accepted into the ‘tribe’ can lead you to be a YESer.

 

This is experienced by others as weakness – or if they have narcissistic tendencies then you are simply feeding them! Nothing gained.

 

In all these shades, you are making the conversation about you – be that protecting yourself, defending yourself, or making assumptions about what others need or want from a conversation. Conversational narcissism shuts down thinking, fuels defensive responses, creates apathy and wastes time.

 

AND…you find yourself feeling like you are doing everyone else’s job for them, and you are frustrated by the lack of self-accountability and engagement in your team.  People cannot NOT be engaged when they are doing the thinking and the talking – so change up the balance in respect of those two things.

 

So…start making conversations all about others…it has to be all about…THEM!

 

  • Be a conversational facilitator not a consultant – trust that others know what they want or need from a conversation or meeting and ask them.
  • Let others make the decisions about a conversation or meeting – What to focus on? What the outcomes need to be? How long to spend?
  • Let others do the thinking – What is your perspective? What would be the best outcomes for you? What other perspectives or stakeholders should we be considering?
  • Allow others to road test their solutions, even when you know it might not work
  • Ask others if they want feedback from you, don’t just give it. And if the answer is yes, then ask what specific feedback they would like and how would they like you to give it.

 

This doesn’t mean that you don’t express your ideas or needs as well, but only AFTER others, and only if relevant to who has the responsibility for doing the thinking.

 

Essentially, a conversation needs to work for THEM if you are to get what YOU want – so ultimately, it comes back to being all about YOU anyway.  Give these ideas a go in your next conversation or meeting and see what happens…

 

 

Michelle

 

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 4 Challenge

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 4 Challenge

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Part 4 of 4 –  Challenge. This is the last step to my 4-part series on Powerful Conversations. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

 

Time to Make Waves – Challenge and Stretch

“You can’t say that!”

 

Why not? Because we sophisticated, socially evolved human beings are too fearful of upsetting others or unwilling to risk or experience the discomfort of stretching and challenging the thinking of others, even when avoidance will lead to longer term pain.

 

I believe it’s because we simply aren’t that skilled at it, and we don’t do the work as teams and organisations that we need to that supports good quality business dialogue and deliberate and useful debate.

 

But we need to start stretching and challenge our own thinking and the thinking of others. Einstein is famously quoted as saying…

 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

 

Powerful conversations take us beyond our current patterns and preferences of thinking and usually require the intervention of diverse and curious questioning, and a preparedness to call out the potential issues and flaws in the thinking of others.

 

BUT, we need to do it masterfully, and if you follow the three prior steps in this four step process – validation, permission and curiosity, you will be in a much better position to respectfully challenge thinking in a way that minimises a threat (pushback and denial) response and maximises diverse and creative thinking.

 

Here are some ways you can start your challenges…

 

  • May I challenge some of your thinking around that?
  • I can see some potential flaws in that thinking which you may not be aware of. May I share another perspective?
  • We have different experience and perspectives here. Would it be useful to take some time sharing those?
  • Unfortunately, due to policy constraints, that approach is unlikely to work. But would you be up for a discussion on how we can achieve the same outcome a different way?

 

So there it is – Michelle’s Four Steps to Powerful Conversations – I’d be keen to hear how you go using them all together and seriously invite you to post on my Rewired Conversations Facebook group.

 

 

Have a powerful conversation day!

 

Michelle

 

Rewired Conversations: Brain-Based Coaching & Conversation Skills Intensive

 

If you’re interested and committed to learning how to have truly Powerful Conversations, I am offering a 4-day Rewired Conversations intensive next May-June 2017 at a cost of $3,950 plus GST.

 

What’s included:

 

  • 4 day intensive workshop delivered by a highly experienced and qualified Professional Certified Coach (accredited under the International Coach Federation – ICF), and the program is accredited under the ICF
  • An online PRISM Brain Map ($399)
  • 10-week 10-module online My Brain Academy education program ($499)
  • Copies of Michelle Loch’s books – 52 Weeks of Awesome Leadership and Your Brain is Your Business ($70)

 

Package cost:  $3,950 plus GST

 

 

Why this program?

 

You will be interested in this program if…

 

  • You want the people in your team – colleagues and direct reports – to do better thinking and have better conversations
  • You want things to start happening (increase performance, engagement or productivity) in your team or organisation
  • You are having the same conversations over and over again
  • You want to feel more in control in your conversations and meetings
  • You want to stop wasting time and energy and get into ‘useful’
  • You want to be more influential in impacting and developing your direct reports, and also in managing upward
  • You want to have conversations that work!

 

 

To register or find out more click HERE
4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 3 Curiosity

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 3 Curiosity

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The third of four steps to powerful conversations is Curiosity. (Read Part 1 and Part 2)

 

Curiosity killed the Assumption

How annoying are those people who finish your sentences? What assumptions do they constantly make about what is going on inside your head? Lots!

 

And they do this for good reason.

 

Firstly, the human brain learns by making assumptions – it lumps together similar information from all its sensory inputs, makes a map through connections and stores it for later use. To save energy, when new information comes into the brain it searches the archives and if there is a similar map to what it is experiencing, it will ‘assume’ it is the same.

 

For example, we assume that people who drive a Mercedes are wealthy, because other people we know who drive Mercedes are wealthy (and the advertisements also suggest the same!).

 

This is very useful in that it saves us from relearning behaviours and knowledge every time we need to use them, but it is often inaccurate because in the absence of facts, we simply fill in the gaps that make sense for us.

 

Basically, assumptions are a necessary evil – a cognitive shortcut that can cause us to respond to situations in ways that are not useful.

 

Enter the third step in powerful conversations – curiosity. I love this concept and spend significant time on it in my Rewired Conversations program.

 

When you are engaged in a challenging, emotionally charged or coaching style conversation, and you have Validated and asked Permission to engage in further conversation, it’s then time to get Curious.

 

Curiosity helps conversation in a number of ways. It

 

  • gets people talking, and hence engages them
  • shows you are interested and builds trust
  • provides you with context and information that will help you respond and support in more useful ways
  • fills in the gaps and gets the facts

 

Curious questions that are powerful are the ones you ask that you don’t know the answer to, and preferably that they also have to think twice about.

 

Here are some examples of curious questions:

 

Tell me more…

How long has this been an issue for you?

Do you know what to do next?

How can I help you think this through?

What self-talk is going on inside your head?

What would happen if you did nothing?

 

Spend this week getting curious. Here’s a link to download even more Curious Questions. My Golden Rule is to ask 3 questions before you give advice or counter someone’s suggestions or decision, and be present to when you make assumptions.

 

 

Have a great day!

 

Michelle

 

I’d love to hear of your experiences or answer any questions on my Rewired Conversations Facebook group.

 

Rewired Conversations: Brain-Based Coaching & Conversation Skills Intensive

 

If you’re interested and committed to learning how to have truly Powerful Conversations, I am offering a 4-day Rewired Conversations intensive next May-June 2017 at a cost of $3,950 plus GST.

 

What’s included:

 

  • 4 day intensive workshop delivered by a highly experienced and qualified Professional Certified Coach (accredited under the International Coach Federation – ICF), and the program is accredited under the ICF
  • An online PRISM Brain Map ($399)
  • 10-week 10-module online My Brain Academy education program ($499)
  • Copies of Michelle Loch’s books – 52 Weeks of Awesome Leadership and Your Brain is Your Business ($70)

 

Package cost:  $3,950 plus GST  

 

 

Why this program?

 

You will be interested in this program if…

 

  • You want the people in your team – colleagues and direct reports – to do better thinking and have better conversations
  • You want things to start happening (increase performance, engagement or productivity) in your team or organisation
  • You are having the same conversations over and over again
  • You want to feel more in control in your conversations and meetings
  • You want to stop wasting time and energy and get into ‘useful’
  • You want to be more influential in impacting and developing your direct reports, and also in managing upward
  • You want to have conversations that work!

 

 

To register or find out more click HERE
4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 2 Permission

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 2 Permission

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Permission is the second of four steps to powerful conversations. (Read Part 1: Validation)

 

Always Seek Permission to Engage in Conversation

Every conversation is an emotional one. We are emotional beings, and can easily be triggered emotionally on a continuum from Fear to Excitement. When we refer to conversations that are not emotional, we are really describing conversations where emotion is effectively managed or we are in a slightly happy state.

 

In terms of thinking capability, and problem-solving capability, we are at our best when slightly above calm and acceptance, in the ‘slightly happy’ space.

 

There are many ways to support others to get into that slightly happy place of acceptance, and a powerful tool is the act of seeking permission.

 

Until I did my coach training back in 2006, I had not really had this concept brought to my attention. It’s likely that we all use it occasionally without realising because we are very polite beings, but using it deliberately takes conversations to a whole new level.

 

Asking permission in a conversation is respectful, it acknowledges the appropriate control that person has and should have within the conversation, it facilitates deeper thinking and reflection, and it is extremely effective in building trust.

 

Using permission protects you from inadvertently setting off ‘threat’ responses that we know can shut people down or limit their cognitive capability. It’s like getting the green light to proceed down a path of questioning or discussion, particularly if that path is personal or potentially challenging.

 

So how and when do you use permission. Well, firstly, more often than you think and this may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Secondly, you don’t need to use the word ‘permission’ because that gets a bit creepy. And finally, at the beginning and end of a conversation, and at each point there you are changing focus or wandering into uncharted territory.

 

Here are some examples of using permission that might make this easier for you to experiment with.

 

  • Are you OK to have this conversation now? Do you have time?
  • Is it OK if I ask you a few questions about what you just said?
  • We’re getting into personal stuff there, are you still OK to continue?
  • I can see this is emotional for you, do you need to take a minute, or are you OK to continue?
  • I’m thinking it might be of value to explore that concept, is that OK?
  • Is it OK if I reflect back what I am hearing you say?
  • Would you like to look at what options you now have?
  • Are you comfortable leaving the conversation here? Is there anything else?
  • Would it be OK if I add a different perspective?
  • May I challenge you on that to see if we can take your thinking a bit deeper?

 

Take some time this week to add permission and validation to your conversations. The more you try, the more comfortable it will feel.

 

 

Have a great day!

 

Michelle

 

I’d love to hear of your experiences or answer any questions on my Rewired Conversations Facebook group.

 

The Neuroscience of Leadership – UPDATE

 

Are you ABSOLUTELY up-to-date with the LATEST research and discoveries relating to Neuroleadership?

 

We have learned more about the human brain in the last 25 years than in all of history before, and this new science is changing the way we think about leadership.

 

Neuroleadership is a field of study that takes the latest discoveries from social cognitive neuroscience and applies them in conceptual, practical and useful ways to the way in which we self-lead and lead, influence, engage and motivate others.

 

In this Neuroscience of Leadership UPDATE session, Michelle Loch will unpack some of the recent findings from the Neuroleadership Summit held in New York in November 2016 and facilitate a discussion on how these findings can benefit leadership teams.

 

 

What’s included?

 

The workshop ($199+GST) includes:

  • 3-hour interesting and interactive workshop
  • Access to one of Australia’s leading experts in the neuroscience of leadership, human motivation, self-leadership and powerful conversation

 

 

Find out more and register HERE
4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 1 Validation

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 1 Validation

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This is the first installment of a 4-part series dealing with how to rewire your thinking to conduct more Powerful Conversations. Part 1 deals with the importance of Validation. Part 2 will be about Permission. Part 3 discusses Curiosity and Part 4 will be about Challenge. All four topics are essential components to having much more useful, effective conversations.

 

Validation Comes First in Powerful Conversation

My husband is a problem-solver, as are many of my friends and colleagues. Humans love to be problem-solvers because when we solve a problem for someone (or think we have) we get a reward in the brain (a hit of dopamine – often referred to as the pleasure hormone) which is terribly addictive.

 

Not only that, being able to dish out advice from our technical expertise or from our experience gives us a sense of importance (also vital to the healthy functioning of our brain) and feeds our sense of self-worth as we have been hardwired to believe that our value is defined by what we know and the formal positions we hold (titles and pay rates).

 

There are a number of issues with this, but the most notable being that I don’t feel heard, or more specifically, I don’t feel validated, and so my sense of self-worth is challenged.

 

Regardless of the great advice I’m given, or the useful questions I’m asked, until I feel heard and validated, my brain won’t move forward. And the problem with that is that the person on the other end of the conversation is reluctant to validate a perspective or emotion they feel is incorrect or needs to shift.

 

But validate you must, because all experience is truth. My truth will always be different to your truth, but it will always be my truth. It’s a bit like when your toddler brings home their amazing painting of beautiful mummy, and mummy is unrecognisable, and you comment – Wow, isn’t Mummy beautiful!

 

Being able to accept and validate the perspectives and emotions in conversations is a critical Step 1 to helping people think better and to develop great solutions to their challenges.

 

We can loosely categorise validation into three types: Subjective, Protective or Objective.

 

Subjective: “There is no need to feel upset about this.”

Not particularly useful as I AM feeling upset and I have good reason! Get ready for me to shut down and not engage with you any further.

 

Protective: “OMG, did they make you feel upset? That is SOOO BAD!”

Also not very useful, as it feeds my ‘upsetness’ and makes it OK to dwell there. Get ready for another 45 minutes of upset.

 

Objective: “I can see that you are upset.”

Extremely useful. Yes I am upset and I am grateful that you have noticed without making a big deal. I feel heard. (There is more to this around the value of labeling emotion, but that’s for another blog!)

 

Spend this week noticing if you validate others in your conversations, and if you do, which kind of validation do you favour. Notice also the usefulness of the response you get.

 

And remember, this also applies to your own self-talk.

 

 

Have a great day!

 

Michelle

 

I’d love to hear of your experiences or answer any questions on my Rewired Conversations Facebook group.

 

Rewired Conversations: Brain-Based Coaching & Conversation Skills Intensive

 

If you’re interested and committed to learning how to have truly Powerful Conversations, I am offering a 4-day Rewired Conversations intensive next May-June 2017 at a cost of $3,950 plus GST.

 

What’s included:

 

  • 4 day intensive workshop delivered by a highly experienced and qualified Professional Certified Coach (accredited under the International Coach Federation – ICF), and the program is accredited under the ICF
  • An online PRISM Brain Map ($399)
  • 10-week 10-module online My Brain Academy education program ($499)
  • Copies of Michelle Loch’s books – 52 Weeks of Awesome Leadership and Your Brain is Your Business ($70)

 

Package cost:  $3,950 plus GST  

 

 

Why this program?

 

You will be interested in this program if…

 

  • You want the people in your team – colleagues and direct reports – to do better thinking and have better conversations
  • You want things to start happening (increase performance, engagement or productivity) in your team or organisation
  • You are having the same conversations over and over again
  • You want to feel more in control in your conversations and meetings
  • You want to stop wasting time and energy and get into ‘useful’
  • You want to be more influential in impacting and developing your direct reports, and also in managing upward
  • You want to have conversations that work!

 

 

To register or find out more click HERE