Episode 2: Conversational Intelligence of High Trust Teams

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Trust is an essential element for teams. It takes times to build it but can be destroyed in an instant. When you have trust, a whole new level of performance, pace, creativity and innovation can occur. We will be talking to Jennifer Owen-O’Quill of Voltage Leadership Consulting about how to create and build trust on teams. We will be learning about a new field called Conversational Intelligence that was created by Judith E. Glaser. It is the intersection of neuroscience, coaching and leadership. Please join us for this thought-provoking conversation and learn some practical tips about building and leading teams.


Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development.

Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta Inc., and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.


Jeff: Welcome, and happy Tuesday to you. I am so happy you could be here today and joining us. You are listening to Voltcast Illuminating Leadership and I am your host Jeff Smith. You can reach me at 1-866-472-5788. You can also email me at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com, like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. You can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting. Follow me on Twitter @JMUJeff.

Wow, what a great day! Beautiful day here in Roanoke, Virginia. We are actually coming to you live from the Virginia Tech Higher Ed Center. Our partners have been gracious enough to let us be here today, use their sound system and we’re so excited to be with you. I am joined with my colleague Jennifer Owen O’Quill as we discuss the role of conversation intelligence in leadership.

So, let’s start off with, who is Jennifer? Jennifer Owen O’Quill is the leadership director for Voltage Leadership. She has 20 years of leadership and consulting experience in various areas of leadership and strategy. She works in innovative companies like Polymer Solutions, Tork Robotics and healthcare with places like Carilion Clinic. She also works in the not for profit world as well.

She joined Voltage in 2014 after leading organizations of her own for 15 years. She’s originally from the west coast, attending Scripts College in Claremont, California. Went on to get her masters in Divinity in Chicago and today is an executive coach and strategy consultant specializing in cultivating innovative environments within organizations. Her sweet spot is for helping organizations be able to strive and scale up. She’s married to David and has an eight-year-old son.

If you know Jennifer you always see her dancing, smiling, laughing. She loves to be outdoors and sailing and recently went on a two-week sailing trip up in the western part of the United States. So, Jennifer, welcome to the show. Glad you’re here.

Jennifer: It’s good to be here, Jeff. Thank you for having me.

Jeff: Absolutely! So, Jennifer, last time on the show we were talking about communication breakdowns. We covered things like disc and how do you be able to get folks to know their communication style and then be able to flex to the style of people around them? So, I wanted to invite you on the show to continue this conversation, but maybe at a different level.

You and I have been talking a lot about conversational intelligence, CIQ. It’s sort of what I refer to as like emotional intelligence was 20 years ago. This is the next big shift in leadership. So, I’m just maybe wondering if you could give us maybe the 30-second version of what conversational intelligence is?

Jennifer: So, thank you for asking about that, Jeff, because conversational intelligence is really what is emerging on the forefront of leadership coaching and the leadership conversation. What I hear in the C-Suite and from all levels of management, what does it take to actually pay attention to not just your own internal reactions and responses which is really what EQ was all about.

We heard about emotional intelligence over the least 20 years and that’s been a very important piece of leadership awareness, but conversational intelligence really takes that to the next level and elevates it to a conversation between people. It’s not just about how you are, it’s also about paying attention to the impact that you’re having and really cultivating and curating the conversation that’s going to build your trust and allow your organization to be dynamic and prepared for the challenges that are before all of us as we work together to build the world and the business life that we want.

Jeff: Wow, that sounds interesting. I know our listeners are going to be excited to learn more about this throughout the conversation we’re having here today. I guess for you personally, Jennifer, how does it feel to be part of the first cohort of coaches that will bring this new coaching concept to businesses and organizations around the world? That’s got to be exciting for you.

Jennifer: It’s an exciting time. It’s an exciting time to really co-create with leaders and coaches all across the world in this global movement that is conversational intelligence. I have a colleague in Stockholm in Sweden that I meet with a couple of times a month. I have a colleague in India. There’s a colleague here in the United States and all around the world that we meet and have conversations about, how is this showing up in our global businesses and in our local enterprises?

What is it that we can do to really help leaders navigate the conversations that build cultures that allow for the best performance and really the best people to show up and lead the organization?

Jeff: Wow, that sounds great, Jennifer. What types of things have you done in the training? Like, is it all that you just learn or is there coaching involved and how do you see applying it in the future?

Jennifer: Yeah, what I really enjoy about it is that the first section of the body of work, the first six months of the work we did together, was really with me and E. Glacier who came up with this concept and really has brought it to the world in her book Conversational Intelligence from 2014. Really a conversation with her about the neuroscience behind what makes a great conversation, what builds a trust conversation and how to really create the condition for our brains to work with us to really elevate the conversation so that we can engage more effectively with each other.

One of the things that I have enjoyed about the time is that there was a lot of learning, but she brought in a lot of science and some research papers on the latest neuro science about how this actually gets applied in people and on teams all around the globe. Then, there were other coaches that would give great conversation and great case studies.

So, we had case study after case study that we walked through about the transformation that happens in teams, how you really apply these tools to take a team from good to great or to take a team from dysfunction to function, or from pain to gain. So, a lot of case studies and application and that’s really the cornerstone, Jeff, of all business at Voltage Leadership is the application piece.

So, it really is relevance to the particular work and approach that we have at Voltage Leadership to be able to help leaders actually do something different when they come home from the learning. So, as a piece of that we do engage in coaching conversations with each other as well as present cases that we’re currently working on and have the whole body of coaching help these organizations solve problems and take steps forward to the resilience of their teams.

Jeff: Wow, that’s great. It sounds like a fantastic program. Jennifer, congratulations for being one of the first coaches in the world to be able to go through this. It’s quite an accomplishment and I look forward to hearing more about that.

Jennifer: It’s been a great ride.

Jeff: Absolutely. I want to pick up on a theme that you had earlier about the importance of trust in teams. You know, it’s interesting this week’s blog that I wrote was something about elements of trust. So, I was really talking about why I thought trust was important to teams. Additionally, trust is one of those words that we kind of throw away and use all the time, but do we really understand what trust means?

So, for some they build trust off things like competence and is that other person good at what they’re doing and can they do what they say? For some it’s sincerity. Does what you say match the actions you take? For others, it might be reliability, keeping promises and commitments. Again, if you want to learn more go to VoltageLeadership.com and check out our blog from Monday.

I’m curious, Jennifer, for you, why do you think trust is so important to teams?

Jennifer: Well, I’ll give you an example, Jeff, of two different rooms that I’ve been in recently and in one room I had the opportunity to do a strategy retreat with an executive team for a national healthcare technology firm. They wanted me to come because they actually wanted the desired outcome that the CEO had was to really elevate the level of conversational to bring a real engagement, shared space and trust.

This is an organization that is on the move to move from a $500 million to a $1 billion global healthcare technology provider. They have a strong vision and they’re moving very fast and they know that at the speed and rate that they’re moving that they need to be able to speak clearly to each other. So, how it shows up is that when you have an intentional environment it is so much easier for people to engage.

The team needed space for that team to come together and to have a conversation. They were honest. They were forthright, but we set some ground rules, and I’ll talk about that a little bit later, and we gave some really cool parameters about what those desired outcome was for the business and they made sure that those were shared by everyone in the room.

Then, we moved into how are we going to have these very engaged conversations? When you have a beginning like that and you can have a team that moves forward together really wrestling down the problems, no one holds anything back because they aren’t afraid. They don’t hold back their idea or their critique and people don’t take it personally. That’s a trust environment in the business setting and it’s very effective.

Distrust, on the other hand, is another room I’ve been in and distrust is the one where there is no laughter and there isn’t a lot of engagement and conversation. There’s reports. There’s telling, but there’s not a lot of sharing and there isn’t going to be any insight. When people gather and they aren’t excited to be together because they know there’s not going to be any new insight inside of the meeting because the meeting is a meeting, it isn’t a conversation.

So, when you begin to really curate conversation and figure out how to help people talk with each other you have the opportunity to begin to pull out people’s creativity and people’s engagement and that’s what creates trust. So, the difference between a trusting environment is people can move quickly and move towards productivity and a distrusting environment is where people withhold information, are afraid of being judged, are suspicious of people around them and their motives and they don’t share fully.

They just sit and then they go and do their bit and they come back. They get by, but they don’t go big. That’s the difference.

Jeff: Okay. Great, Jennifer. You know, disinterest now I’m going to wrap up this part of the conversation then we’ll be moving to break in just a moment, but here’s what I heard some was a trust on team is open conversations, ability to challenge each other, to put the best ideas into the room. Those are the places where it works best.

When it’s not working, you say conversations avoided. There’s a lot more conversations in the hallway, at the water cooler, and that leaves a team that’s just not very successful. Unfortunately, we, Jennifer, myself and others have this day in and day out. So, when we come back from break we’ll pick up on that theme. So, what I want you to be able to know is we’ll be back in two minutes.

We’ll continue this conversation and we’ll start to really dive into conversational intelligence. See you in two.


Jeff: Welcome back! I’m glad you’re with us today. I’ve got Jennifer Owen O’Quill from Voltage Leadership Consulting and we’re talking about conversational intelligence. Before the break, Jennifer and I were discussing, why trust matters on teams? What it adds when you haven’t, what you lose when you don’t have it.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen with my clients is not knowing how to build trust, how they don’t know how to build trust and communicate very well. So, Jennifer, where I’d like to pick back up is, when do you see a leader at their best and maybe at their worst when it comes to building trust on teams?

Jennifer: It is such a great thing, and I know you’ll agree with this Jeff, to see a leader at their best. To watch a leader walk into a room and be curious. That word that you just used is the question I’m always curious to know when a leader is at their best, when a leader comes with curiosity and not with conviction. That’s one.

When a leader comes with questions for which they have no answer as opposed to a pre-conceived conclusion that they would like others to arrive at. A leader who shows up with the ability to listen and learn and not show and tell. So, I would say those are some differences between the best and brightest leaders and the leaders that are still learning.

I wouldn’t call them the worst, Jeff, but those are leaders that are still learning and finding their way and they’ll move past those behaviors, hopefully, into those other behaviors where you really can listen and learn from your people and you have enough confidence to do that. Yeah, that’s what I would say about that, Jeff.

Jeff: Jennifer, I think that’s great. For me, yeah, I think the leaders being curious, not coming with prescribed answers like you just said is fantastic. I’d also add to it and say that when I see that they are really trying to get the most out of each and every person on the team and they don’t try to set up people on the team to work against each other, you know, and say I’m going to give instructions to one person to another person, but they really try to keep it as a team so we can have trust.

There’s enough conflict that comes up, we don’t need to artificially create it. So, the best leaders I work with look for ways to still have conflicts, but over ideas and not for credit or who does what.

Jennifer: I would agree. One of the things that I see is the leader sets the stage at the beginning of when we achieve this large outcome, right? So, when it’s healthcare when we achieve better healthcare for the community and whichever business segment that you’re in that’s what success looks like, but when they’re able to paint a large picture like that so that everyone knows that to get to that larger outcome everybody’s contributing.

That makes such a difference because then people are all working for the same piece of, same level of, success. They aren’t in their silos trying to achieve a particular metric and check off their box.

Jeff: Jennifer, I’d like to go in a little different direction now. So, up at the top of the program we talked a little bit about this conversational intelligence that Judith Ecoli Glacier has come up with. Could you maybe just give us a deeper dive? I know that we’ve worked together and you’ve taught me some about the three levels. So, maybe what is conversational intelligence a deeper dive and then the three levels of conversational intelligence?

Jennifer: So, thank you for the question, Jeff. The three levels of conversation really relate to what I just was talking about between the best leaders I come in contact with and leaders that are still learning. The first level of conversation, level one conversation, is where we really don’t ask folks. We tell people instructions and we set expectations and give people guidance and we ask questions about pointing out what’s happening, but also ask for understanding.

So, this is a real question and answer time. It’s an important time. So, all of these levels are important, but here’s where trust gets built, not in level one. Level two is about persuading others and it’s an important piece of conversation as well. It’s the place where we really talk vision and share our points of view, right? But it’s also where we can get really caught up in our particular approach.

So, that’s the shadow side of that. There’s level one and there’s level two and then there’s level three conversation and this is the level where trust gets built. In this level it isn’t about asking and telling and it isn’t about persuading, it’s about sharing and discovering. It’s about really being curious. I like to say that it’s important to set the expectations, but it’s also important to find out and discover what the aspirations of your people are.

So, this is where we really find out what the aspirations, what the real creativity, what the fire in the belly of the people that work with us are and then we as leaders can figure out how to help them go and use their things and seek to fulfill the aspirations that they have and to use the passion that they have to fuel their work.

So, that’s what you discover in level three conversations. So, those are the three levels of conversation and we move through them so we can talk a little bit more about that, how we move through them. I’m curious, which of them do you think leaders spend the most time in that you’re working with, Jeff?

Jeff: Well, whether it’s professionally or personally it may differ, but sometimes as you were describing that level one tell and ask, I’m struck as the father of four that there are times I probably get hung up on the tell and ask. I’m thinking back to last night where there may have been some homework not getting done quite as quickly as it needed to and they probably needed to get to bed. I don’t think I was in share and discovery, I think I was in the tell and ask and darn it, I want to go to sleep!

So, I would imagine that most leaders we work with spend more time in tell and ask and probably need to learn how to be effective at all three levels. Do I have that about right?

Jennifer: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s very important to have the tell and ask because that’s where the expectations get set and it’s important for the other levels as well, but the persuasion piece is also important and I find myself there a fair amount of the time. So, it’s not that we don’t go to those other places, right? And that we don’t have those conversations, it’s that to know and be intentional as we’re crafting environments for our teams to give the space and make the time for there to be those level three conversations.

That we pause and take the time to really listen, to share and discover and to ask questions for which we have no answer. That’s really the Hallmark difference between whether you are trying to ask questions to guide people to your preconceived conclusion or whether you’re asking questions that are really about discovering something new and learning something new.

Jeff: Interesting. I don’t know that I fully grasped casting vision the first time I heard that and I would say that I’m probably in the same place as the listeners here. So, when you say something like casting vision, what does that mean, Jennifer?

Jennifer: Well, let me give you an example. So, I’m sitting in a room with a team of folks that lead a healthcare provider that serves a very broad region and there’s all different parts of the business. The leader then says, this is what I want. I want for us to be able to drive and improve and increase the health and vitality of this region and when we’re doing that we’re succeeding.

That’s vision, right? That’s something that everyone can lean into and get excited about. When we sight a vision, so I’ll use another example of a current banking crisis that we have at Wells Fargo at the moment. When we have the wrong vision, when we’ve lost sight of the fact that what we’re about is creating financial freedom for our clients, and what we become about is I’m trying to beat another business we lose sight of the vision of why you exist in the first place and bad decisions get made.

That’s when you lose your moral compass, your ethics and all kinds of problems begin to emerge inside of the business. So, when the vision is clear, when it’s cast resonantly the other thing about vision when you cast a big idea out for an organization about what is it that you want to be doing to do that in a way that really brings people together and allows for there to still be room for creativity, that’s important too.

If you don’t repeat your vision, if you don’t continue to remind people why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing, they’ll forget, right? So when I came on board with you one of the questions that I asked is, what are we for? And you said we want to do great work with great people to achieve great results. So, I remember that. I’m interested in building better leaders. That’s what I do and that’s why I do it.

It reminds me of the intention with which I’m doing my work, and not the particular tactic that I have for the work. So, it’s about purpose over tactic.

Jeff: Wow. Sounds brilliant. I love it. I like to hear my own words come back to me so thanks for remembering that. You know, I’m just going to run through that one more time. So, what I heard was tell and ask. It’s about setting some clear expectations. Making sure that you maybe pull from others, what was their understanding?

So, one way to build trust is to have some clear expectations making sure that we’re checking for understanding. If we only did that, though, the trouble would be that that’s sort of a command and control type of environment. I think we then move to the next level where there’s some persuading, there’s the vision.

To your point, I work with a lot of leaders that seem to think that they put the vision out there one time and everyone’s going to get it. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. So, it’s that ability to sort of share a vision, hear it back and then put it into practice. Then, finally, I really love this last one, this share and discover. We talk a lot about, what are our desired outcomes that we have for ourselves, for our team and what’s our shared vision of the future?

That really sounds a lot like that’s going to be collaboration and serving leader. So Jennifer, do we have to be great at all of these and where can I learn more about this?

Jennifer: Well, you don’t have to be great at all of them and I think just the act of saying that you’d like to create an environment with more engagement, right? That in and of itself communicates something. To learn more you can, of course, read the book Conversational Intelligence and also be engaged with the blog posts that we regularly have at Voltage Leadership.

Nice, short suggestions about what next steps you can take. I’d also say just remember a couple things. Don’t just give people instructions and set the expectations, but pull for understanding. At the end of the meeting don’t end with any questions. But what assignments did we give today and what did you understand our purpose to be as we leave this place, right?

It’s a deeper question, it’s a bigger question, but in a small way it’s when we really pay attention to the kinds of questions we ask, we win.

Jeff: That’s great. Jennifer, it’s time for us to catch up on the other break. So, we’ll see you on the other side of two minutes when we will discuss ways when we can identify which conversations are most needed in our current situation and how to ask the right set of questions to have the right conversation at the right time.


Jeff: Welcome back! I hope you’ve been enjoying our conversation so far today. It’s a beautiful day in sunny Virginia and it’s been a great conversation and I hope that you’ve gotten something out of it. Jennifer and I have been talking about, how do you build exceptional teams using a tool, a book called Conversational Intelligence?

Now, I’m curious about, how do we put it to use? So, Jennifer, you’ve been talking to some of our clients about this ground rules process? I’m not really sure what that is. Can you explain it and why you’re going about doing that with our clients?

Jennifer: Well, whenever I work with an impact team, Jeff, I always like to begin with setting the ground rules. It’s something that they can take back. That they can use with their breakout teams when they go back to their workplace and it’s something that they can use every time they gather and if the leader is smart they’ll find ways to ask how that’s being used all around the business and they’ll go back to it time and again.

So, let me tell you what ground rules are. Ground rules are the conversation that you have before you begin your first meeting of the year, your annual retreat or really even the next time you gather. Before there are problems, before there are issues just to talk about what it is that each of you need to fully engage in this conversation.

So, the question I would ask is it’s great that all of you are here and I’m really curious to know what it is that each and every one of you need to be fully present today? And I go around the room and I ask that question to each persona and I give them some time to think about it. I ask them to write it down on a notecard. I find that that tool, that tactic, helps to capture people thoughts so they don’t get lost in the words of others.

It gives them a moment to answer the question. What is it that you need to be fully present and engaged today? Then, we write them up on a flip chart at the front of the room and we have a conversation about what those needs are. The first one, often, is trust and another that emerges is respect. So, we get a list like that going and that begins a conversation about how we’re going to be together before we get to the business.

Jeff: Wow, that’s great. Yeah, I can totally see especially in today’s world where everyone’s just going from meeting to meeting to meeting that all of a sudden you maybe are still frustrated with that 1 o’clock to 2 o’clock meeting, you land in this 2 o’clock meeting and you haven’t even had a chance to grab a pack of crackers, get a drink of water, use the restroom, any of that stuff.

All of a sudden, wham, you’re wound up in the next meeting and I’m sure that if you don’t do that sort of centering exercise there and talk about what is it you want to be today it would be really easy to try to read the room and say, why is that person annoyed with me? When it may have nothing to do with anything happening in this room. It could have been that last meeting. So, I really like that process. That’s fascinating to me.

Jennifer: Well, what I’d like to also say when I facilitate this with folks is even if you use this every time and you draw people’s attention back to how it is you want to be together the reality is that we will fail. I ask them, what do we do when we fall short? What is it that you’re going to do? Then, we get to practice because invariably in the conversation that very day someone falls short and what do we do to call each other back and to regather around those ground rules so that they actually mean something?

Jeff: Yeah, I think that that’s important. I often call that a pre-mortem, you know, so before you get emotional and you’re talking about it the first time you know that you’re going to have mistakes. We are really good at the post-mortem and trying to dissect it, but doing this ahead of time what I like about it is hey, we’ve got some prescribed solutions. So, I think that’s fantastic.

I know for me one of the tools that I like to use that is similar to this is also asking folks at the very beginning, what’s the desired outcome for the meeting? I’m struck by recent work that I’ve done with Cleveland Clinic where I was there to show up and we were going to have this great conversation. We had the day all planned out and you could just see everyone’s mood was just off.

What had happened was there had been a major announcement that morning. So, we could have gone forward with our agenda and built zero trust. Like, we would not have really understood who we were working with, but by asking about desired outcomes and how did we want to be with each other they were able to share with us, you know, we could use an hour to an hour and a half just to process what we’ve gotten some news about this morning.

It changed our day, but I will tell you at the end of it we got hugs and thank you so much and thanks for really listening to us. So, I think that’s a really good example of being able to build trust in the moment and it only takes a moment to both build and lose trust is what I’m hearing from you.

Jennifer: That’s exactly it and it just takes a moment and then you have to do all this work again to really reconnect and have the relationship be robust and it is about taking the risk. I tell people, you know, in order to get to the other side of distrust somebody has to stick their neck out to take a risk, ask a question and share their intention to want the relationship to improve, right?

So, if you notice that there’s something wrong to just own that and to be open to explore it and be curious without casting blame, but just being curious about what might happen. So, in the case of ground rules if the meeting starts to fall apart, just notice that and not blame Aaron or blame Frank or blame Mary, but to really say I just noticed that we’ve gotten off track and outside of ground rules. So, can we pull ourselves back to that? What do we need to do to be able to do that?

Then, the team can come back around and they’re very good at navigating. They’re very good at navigating themselves really back to that space because they know each other and they work together all the time. So, the leader can do that, but everybody in the room when they all have permission to guide the group back that’s a very powerful set of circumstances.

Jeff: Yeah, I think that’s great as well as recognizing just some positive feedback for each other. So, I’ve seen you do that sharing the positive feedback and recognition so I also think that’s another way to build trust. I want to go to a little different spot. We’ve got a lot of listeners that manage people and so you’ve got that manager employee relationship. What are some maybe tips that you’ve got to apply conversational intelligence in the manager employee maybe one on one or that manager employee relationship?

Jennifer: So, if you haven’t guessed already one of the keys to conversational intelligence is really being thoughtful about designing great questions. So, this is a tool that is about asking a set of questions between a manager and employee to discover and share what it is that you need from communication with that person and what it is that you would like to have.

So, that’s just a very simple exercise I’ll say to the leader and sometimes I’ll say to the subordinate that’s struggling maybe with their leader, you know, this is a tool that you can take back. It’s called a ten by ten conversation. So, the first question is, on a scale of one to ten with ten being the best what would our communication look like? With you and I, not with anybody, but with you and I with Jeff and Jennifer, what would it look like if our communication was at a ten? And you write down what that would look like, right?

Because my conversation with you, Jeff, at a perfect ten is different than what my conversation with our colleague Debbie would be like at a ten because you’re not Debbie. So, it’s specific to that particular relationship and it’s just conversation that allows both people to share wow, this would be if we were at our best this is what that looks like and knowing that’s not going to be the case most all of the time, but it’s an aspiration for what you’re striving for.

Then, the second question is, where are we now on that scale of one to ten, right? So, it’s good to do this when there’s not trouble. It’s good to do this when you might be at a three, or a four, or a five with somebody and know you could do better, right? Three, four, five, six and you’re just beginning a conversation, but it works if you’re at a one or two either way to take a baby step, right? So, at any place you can use this as a starting point.

Then, the third question is, what one step can I take to move closer to your level ten for this conversation? Then, the other person poses that same question back, what one step can I take to move us one point closer to that level ten? By just saying this is what it looks like if it’s fantastic and this is the one small thing that I would like you to do next it allows the other person to understand the environment that they’re in and to know what would be helpful to that particular person and pay attention to it.

Can’t pay attention to the whole list, it would be too much, but they can pay attention to the next thing.

Jeff: Yeah, interesting, Jennifer. So I’m just going to go back to the sort of three levels again. You know, so it seems like there will be sometimes in the one on one where there will be a tell and ask. Like, some things you’ve just got to get done and that might be going through some of the real blocking and tackling. Here’s a few things that we’ve got to get to. Here’s the stats. Hey, I need this done by Tuesday blah, blah, blah.

What I like here is the persuasion is that the casting the vision is hey, when we’re at our best how are we together? So you’re both giving a vision of what we’re looking at for each other. Then, that share and discover is what you were doing of hey, here is where I would assess where we are, here’s how you assess, and then let’s have a discussion how we make it one or two steps better. Did I capture sort of the three levels in that ten-ten conversation appropriately?

Jennifer: Looks like you’ve been paying attention, Jeff. That’s fantastic! It’s exactly right. You described all three of those levels perfectly. Well done!

Jeff: Alright. Well, good! I guess I’m curious, what else are maybe some best practices in that one on one session? So, on the last part of our last segment I’m going to hit a little bit on conflict with teams, but wrapping up in the individual I’ll start with one more that I use often and maybe you can give us one more before our next break.

That would be I have a lot of folks that they don’t have maybe a planned agenda and they just kind of come in and they sort of talk about top of whatever’s on their mind. So, I think that the method that you’re describing would be hey, we should have a shared vision. The shared vision is we’re going to have a regular standing meeting.

I want it to be that we cover the weekly meeting, but we should also be talking about your development, but let’s make sure that we have content each and every week and we’re not just coming in and winging it. So, if you’ve got that ability to come with an agenda that’s flexible that might be a good idea to help the manager and employee relationship improve in those one on ones. Do you have another tip or two before the break?

Jennifer: I do. Two things. First is, provide a space when you gather to celebrate success. We are motivated people, driven people, always thinking about what they can do better, what they can do next. Having people applaud every time to celebrate a success. There’s something that’s working. There’s something that’s better than the last time and to draw people’s attention to it is so important.

Secondly, it’s about shortening the space for presentations and creating the space for conversations. You do that by just a simple question, who needs the time today to solve a problem? We have all of this mind talent. All of this intellectual capital in the room. All of this problem solving ability because we’re together. Whose problem most needs to be solved? Let’s do a round and talk about what is your emerging issue?

What is burning bright on your level of concern that you could use help with? Then, listening to everybody let’s decide together whose are most important and we’ll spend our time on one, maybe two. That just gives you a way for people to be engaged in the meeting, people to feel supported by meetings and energized by them and that changes the atmosphere.

Jeff: Thanks for those, Jennifer. Hey, it’s time for another break so we’ll go for a two-minute break here and then we’ll wrap up the show with ways to build trust on your team. So, we’ll see you on the other side of two!


Jeff: Welcome back and we’re going into our last segment here in our conversation with Jennifer Owen O’Quill from Voltage Leadership where we’ve been discussing conversational intelligence. So, Jennifer, when we were talking last week there were some really good tips and tools around, how do we work with our team as well as on an individual level? I’m curious now, what is the hardest part about working on a team in conflict and maybe what are some tools and tips that you can provide for us?

Jennifer: Well, what I can say about that is that unfortunately as a leader I have a lot of experience with conflict.

Jeff: Oh, no! I think we all do.

Jennifer: We all do, and it’s to be in conflict, but what’s so helpful about conflict is what I love about being a third party is just the ability to be in the room and be unengaged in the midst of it, right? So, conflict is hard and it’s hard on your body. Your heart starts pounding, your palms start sweating, you can forget your words so it’s really important in conflict that you’re remembering all of those little things that are happening to your body you need to pause.

So, when there is conflict or we’re going to handle a conflict situation, even if you’re going to think about how to tackle it, take really deep breaths and to relax as much as you can really deep belly breaths beforehand so that you have your best thinking available to you. When you’re breathing in a shallow way our best thinking is not available to us because we’re being hijacked by our amygdala as Judith Glacier would say.

So, direct communication is really important and in order to be able to do that we need to be calm and breathe. The second thing is go directly to the person, not an innocent bystander. So, speak directly. The third thing, I would say, is remember that there’s a person on the other end of your problem and if you can try to remember they have a larger story, it’s not just about this issue with you, it’ll help you really be alongside that person and have the ability to listen even though you might be angry. I guess I’ll stop there for now.

Jeff: Yeah, I think that’s good. So, I hear some breathing. I think that’s good. Being direct. I also call this the more that you can be direct and not go to the water cooler and not try to recruit allies from others is important. So, go back. So, Jennifer, if you have a problem with me, I have a problem with you we should be with each other and it’s fine to do it in a team setting, but watch going down the hall and recruiting allies.

So, I’d really encourage my high functioning teams to do it in the room. Let’s do it. Live with each other, going directly to each other. To your point, remember that that’s a person and 99.9% of the people I work with come to work every day wanting to do a really great job. So, if there’s something that’s not going quite right these are well-intentioned people that for the most part are trying to do the best thing.

Now, we may have a different vision of what the best thing looks like, but that can be solved in a conversation, but when you’re not in conversation and you’re down the hall and not talking to each other that’s obviously not conversational intelligence, that’s called gossiping or going down the hall. So, to me, it is that direct conversation.

I’m curious for you, Jennifer, as well, what are some just I guess practical tips that you would have for our listeners to go back and maybe try and apply this? These are great concepts, what are maybe two, three, four things that we should think about doing? For the listener I would want them to maybe pick one of these and go try something this week. So, some practical tips as we get to the later part of the show here.

Jennifer: Well, first I would say, have you ever had a conversation about ground rules with your team? Do people know how they are supposed to behave with each other? Has there been a shared agreement? So, having that is an important piece. Being direct in your communication is so important and having the ability to really sit down with someone and think about the questions that you want to ask that will allow them to really cheer you and what it is that you are really wanting to achieve with them.

So, setting out together a decided outcome and really being direct in communication, particularly when there’s conflict. I also think that in terms of the three levels of conversation it’s important that we set expectations, really ask for understanding. Not, do you have any questions? But, what did you hear me ask today? What’s the assignment? What’s the agreement that we have?

Jeff: Yep, that’s great.

Jennifer: Make sure that you know specifically what the person heard. We feel like we’re done when we say what we say, but people stop hearing when we get to the part that they don’t understand or that they’re worried about. I’ve certainly been in a meeting where I haven’t heard the last five minutes because somebody said something that made me anxious and that’s not your person is bad thing, that’s a human being thing.

Then, to really be curious and ask questions. So, again, I’m going to turn back to, what are the right set of questions that you don’t have answers to that will allow you to really explore some creative options with your team and figure out how to solve the problems before you? If you come out with a set of solutions that was a great set of questions you’ll get a much better outcome.

Jeff: Wow, fantastic. I want to build on that. I think it’s also all of the things that you said around those three levels of communication, the ground rules, the ten by ten conversations. I also would say that providing recognition really goes a long ways to building trust. Not to steal credit, to make sure that you’re recognizing other peoples’ effort and think about that five to one, five positive comments for every negative comment, then provide ways to give ownership to other people on the team.

Ultimately, to share feedback directly with each other at least to the development. I think if we can do some of those things—so, if I was one of the listeners this week I might go and just try to practice giving recognition maybe doing these ground rules with my team. So, I think these are fantastic ideas that you have for us, Jennifer. Maybe in the last minute with you, Jennifer, anything that you’d like to close with?

Jennifer: Well, I think what I’d want my closing word to be is to invest your time in building trust because it erases the drama and anxiety from your day. If you are willing to evaluate how much time you and the leaders spent on drama and anxiety to say that you don’t have time for trust building to take the time to have deeper conversations, but what I would say back to you is if I could erase that other time that it took to deal with the drama and anxiety because trust was present so you didn’t have to do that, would it be worth it? So, that’s my closing thought.

Jeff: Thank you, Jennifer. It’s been fantastic having you aboard today. I know that we’ll be talking to you again in a few weeks so really we’ll be looking forward to that. One thing I’d like to close with is, you know, I like to ask, what can I do to build trust with you and what’s one thing that I’ve done to hurt trust on our team? I think questions like that really help to foster the type of culture that you’re looking for.

So, last week on the show we talked about, how do we communicate? What’s our communication style? This week we tried to give you some tools and tips around, how do you build trust both with individuals on your team and with the team in general? Next week we’re going to have Lee Hubert from Voltage Leadership come on board and he’s going to talk about, what’s a culture? How do we shape the culture in an organization?

How do we grow the culture? What are some best practices, tips? What are the beliefs that are happening in our culture? So, we’re going to have a conversation next week about, how do you grow the culture, define it, and really achieve the optimal culture? Jennifer, it was really fantastic to have you aboard today. Thank you so much for taking the time and, again, looking forward to talking to you again in a couple weeks.

Jennifer: It was a pleasure, Jeff, thanks for having me.