Judith E. Glasser, CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute delves deeper into the reasoning behind our communication methods, leadership styles, and personal preferences. She addresses the problems that ensue when we silence our audience and operate from a position of personal preference. Glasser presents her findings through the lens of her own personality and reveals the schisms that occur when organizations create assumptions and generalizations. The author also delves into the scientific reactions of our brains and how our actions cause a fight or flight response in those around us.
In her book, Conversational Intelligence: How Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results,Glasser invites us to question our own presentation methodology, preconceived notions and behavioral norms in order to create hubs of open communication. This type of introspection allows leaders to note their behavior, personality traits and experiences that influence their interactions. For instance, Glasser explains that, “Understanding our own complexity and drama is part of and vital to the story of trust and the power of Conversational Intelligence.” Therefore, according the author, it is imperative to understand one’s own behavior before seeking to influence others.
Glasser also asserts that, “Masters of Conversational Intelligence are able to recognize when they are on the same page with others and when they are not, and they can refocus, reframe, and redirect the conversation in ways that open the space for more discovery and dialogue.” It is imperative to understand the complexities of personalities and approach leadership from the position for servanthood. This is why one must know their team before they instruct their team. If leaders operate from the position of preference or assumption, then they’re simply creating a structure in their own image, instead of for God’s glory.
The text presents us with countless personal stories, conversation methods, practical tools and scientific examples. However, it is also colored by the author’s personal perspective. Judith E. Glasser delves into the concept of level III communication and explains that, “Transformational conversations are marked by ‘share and discover’ interaction dynamics. When I share first, my brain receives a cue that I will be vulnerable with you and that I will open up my inner thoughts, ideas and feelings.” Glasser’s personal preference towards feeling-oriented expression forced readers to created similar constructs, regardless of their own organizational environment.
Throughout the text, each example sought to elevate those who were offended, instead of creating an interactive dialogue that aided both parties. For example, Glasser asserts that, “Rob had become a driven leader. Without realizing it, and in the pursuit of his goals, he had become incredibly self-centered – what I call an ‘I-centric’ leader.” The author makes a generalized statement about a leader who differed from her preference and labeled him personally as ‘self-centered’. Rob needed to understand how to interact with various personality types and realize that his quest for productivity and lack of transparency was creating a barricade within his team. However, I would not consider his perspective to be wrong, but different.
Glasser also makes a similar assessment of Kathryn and Margo’s situation. The author reveals that, “Margo’s sensitivity to how her boss felt about her, and her fear and uncertainty about where she stood in Kathryn’s eyes, caused her to begin creating her own interpretations of reality…” Glasser talks about the responsibility of both parties and includes the sensitivity of Margo being partly to blame; however, she doesn’t progress further in order to prevent miscommunication from happening again. Open communication is essential to leadership; however, so is practical task management. If Margo and Kathryn had a better understanding of their own individual expectations within the company, then relational conflict would be at a minimum. If there’s a gap in communication, then it needs to be addressed both conversationally and through written specifics on job expectations. Without proper understanding of personal responsibility, people lash out because of lack of direction.
According to Glasser, “Too often we fail to recognize or acknowledge that our own reality is not the same as the reality of the person we are speaking with.” Glasser brought up some valid points and presented helpful resources. However, I found her preference towards relational leadership limited without the comparison of task leadership.
Conversational Intelligence challenges leaders to assess their speech, behavior and communication tactics in light of their listeners. The text builds upon the foundation of Dr. Seelig and provides us with applicable tools to connect with those around us. It also serves to prevent us from becoming bias in our interactions. Dr. Seelig explains that, “Every day we interpret what others are doing by putting a frame around their actions. And often we are wrong.” Judith E. Glasser challenges us to be wrong – she dares us to look at our reflection and question our interactions. Regardless of our personality or enneagram, we must embrace the voices of those who differ, so that we can create structures that meet the needs of the masses, instead of the personal preferences of the few.
Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion, Books + media, 2014), 35.
Tina Lynn Seelig, Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World (New York, NY: HarperOne, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2015),125.