Effective communication that leads to peak performance starts with trust. Trust is tough unless both parties feel safe. When we don’t feel safe our internal “brain cocktail” consists of fear, power, uncertainty, being right, and group think. Whereas, when we are in the “CEO of our brain”, using our pre-frontal cortex, we are transparent, relationship focused, seek understanding, want to share success and feel comfortable telling the truth.
If you want to build and maintain a high performing team that is capable of solving challenging problems and effectively managing change, this information may be helpful to you.
One of the best books I’ve found regarding leadership and communication, based on the most recent brain science, was written by Judith Glaser, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results.
Glaser explains that “when we connect with others, our mind toggles through a series of five hardwired questions at a pace so rapid our conscious mind doesn’t know it’s doing it.” Depending on how our brain answers these questions determines how we will react and interact with the other person:
Question I: Protect How do I protect myself, and do I need to?
Question II: Connect Who loves me, who hates me, and can I trust this person?
Question III: Belong Where do I belong and fit in?
Question IV: Be strong What do I need to learn to be successful?
Question V: Partner How do I create value with others?
If you want to motivate and engage other people to their peak performance, they need to be able to answer these questions in a way that would make them feel safe and trust that you have their best interest in mind.
If you are currently struggling with a particular team member or peer, it’s possible they are answering one or more of these questions in a negative or unclear way. Maybe past experiences with you have made them feel like they need to protect themselves. It could be that they aren’t exactly sure of their role or how they fit in. Maybe they are wondering how they are bringing value to you and the team. It is possible that they simply don’t think that you like them.
A short cut to building trust is to focus on appreciation. Seeking honest ways to intentionally recognize and appreciate specific talents or actions of others can establish safety quickly. Judith Glaser explains:
“When we receive public praise and support, we unlock yet another set of neurochemical patterns that cascade positive chemistry throughout the brain. Highly motivated employees describe the feeling of performing well as an almost drug-like state (because of the dopamine and endorphins released by these interactions, it is actually quite similar). When this state of positive arousal comes with appropriate, honest, and well-deserved (sincere) praise, employees feel they are trusted and supported by their boss. They will take more risks, speak up more, push back when they have things to say, and be more confident in their dealings with their peers.”
How people are effected by ways we communicate:
7 percent to words
38 percent to tone of voice
55 percent to nonverbal behaviors
If you have an unpleasant “resting face” you are going to have to work twice as hard to connect with others to make them feel safe with you. That unpleasant face that rarely smiles, doesn’t make much eye contact, and looks like you just don’t care that much when people are talking to you is working against you if your desired outcome is to inspire others to be their best.
At your next team meeting, discuss the following questions to help build trust and transparency:
- Which of the 5 questions does each team member struggle the most to answer with key people at work?
- How would they rank theirs and others “resting faces”? When they are talking to team members do they feel like they are being heard and understood by the way they are being responded to?
- How appreciated does each team member feel by other team members, you, and the organization?