10/30/2013 07:02 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2013

Opportunities to Influence


Conversations That Elevate Trust and Innovation at Work

Neuroscientific research has uncovered insights about sharing that will rock our world forever. There is place in the brain called the TPJ -- and it activates when we share. Not only does it activate, it sends messages to other parts of the brain to open up and "play" better with others.

When we share, we also activate oxytocin, which is a natural neurotransmitter for collaboration and co-creating. When we share with others we signal that we trust them, that we want to "play" with them, and that we have their best interest at heart.

When we share power with others, we catalyze the most important networks in our brain -- our trust networks, which are located in the prefrontal cortex -- the most advanced part of our brain -- often called the Executive Brain.

When we share power, we redefine the relationship with a person from "power-over others" to "power-with others." Our brain experiences this as one of the highest signals of trust known to human beings. Sharing power with others signals the brain that we can co-create and innovate with this person -- the most important partnering state of mind known to man.

When leaders, on the other hand, operate from "power-over" others and use power to intimidate and at it's worst, create a culture of conformity and compliance - our instinct is to retreat and close down, eliminating our ability to contribute to new thinking in the organization.

Conversational Intelligence at Work

Developing innovation as part of your cultural DNA, and developing employees with a mindset for innovative influence, is vital to organizations that want to release the power of their employees to shape the future.

To make innovation part of the fabric of the organization requires that people feel they have opportunities to influence. Influence means they can take risks safely, they can engage in hearty debates without fear of retribution, and that they can challenge the status quo without permission or recrimination.

Organizations and leaders who set Conversational Intelligence norms for innovation to thrive, will release higher levels of influence and engagement in their workplace:

Step 1: Create a Risk-taking mindset ... This means setting new norms that encourage people to think of innovation conversations as "experimenting to learn" rather than "risk-taking to fail" - making mistakes and failure are often coupled in people's minds - and the result is social embarrassment or worse yet, punishment. People need to be allowed to try and learn from mistakes and errors, within reason, rather than fear punishment.
Step 2: Move from vested interests to healthy debates... This means setting new norms that encourage people to let go of the need to win every debate, and think of conversations as opportunities to let each person exchange and catalyze new thinking for each other. I call that having "co-creating conversations."
Step 3: Look for Opportunities to Influence... This means setting new norms that encourage people to speak up and influence. Too often people wait to be asked for ideas. Encourage employees to step up and step into conversations with enthusiasm to contribute. Set norms where people can take on the ownership to create learning spaces where divergent thinking can evolve.

Ask Yourself ...

What are you doing to create an environment for risk-taking?
➢ What are you doing to dissolve vested interests and foster a we-mindset?
➢ What are you doing to allow people to step up and influence your thinking?

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of 7 books including her new best selling book - Conversational Intelligence; How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion)
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Joan Lawrence-Ross is the Chief Learning Officer at AIG.