How’s Your Conversation Intelligence?

Jen and Mark discuss what conversation intelligence (C-IQ) is, creating fear, speaking language that creates trust, shutting people down, Jen’s thoughts on confidential surveys, and more!

0:00:00.0 S1: This is The Mark Struczewski Podcast. She spent over 20 years as an HR professional. Now, she has a consulting firm called 304 Coaching. Jen Thornton from Dallas, Texas, welcome to the show.

0:00:15.5 S2: Thanks for having me.

0:00:17.9 S1: I love fellow Texans on the podcast ’cause we’re different… We’re a different breed of people.

0:00:23.3 S2: We are a very different breed. And unique. Every day, yes. We’re a very unique group.

0:00:28.2 S1: And what I find very interesting is when I tell people from outside of Texas that you should come down and visit the country of Texas, they kinda look at me like when you make a high pit sound to a dog, but if you’re from Texas, you get it.

0:00:41.9 S2: Absolutely get it. I moved here 21 years ago. I wasn’t born here, but I got here as quick as I could.

0:00:48.0 S1: I came from Rochester, New York, and I was done with the blizzard in 1997, I said I’m double the blizzards, tumble to arms, I’m done with the single digit temperatures and I were… Go downward worm. And it’s much warmer. Especially in December, January, February down here. That is up north, so I don’t miss that at all. It’s great to look at on TV. I like watching snow on TV, it’s so pretty, but I don’t wanna have to go shovel it…

0:01:15.0 S2: Yeah, I don’t wanna shovel it and I certainly don’t wanna have to start my car like two hours before I wanna go somewhere, I just wanna get in the car and I’m gonna drive away. And that’s it. I use my auto start for the air conditioner.

0:01:26.1 S1: Yeah, first world problems right there. Exactly. Now, I remember this, this is gonna give a little inside baseball to the listener, but I remember when I lived up in Rochester, New York, and I used to… I think I was like 20 years old, 21 years old, I was in college. And my parents, they were child abusers, they’d made me park my car outside, they kept the grade, I don’t wanna stand with up with that, but I would have to go out and start my old Globe. It was a sloppy… And I hit to veteran for 25 minutes while I shovel the driveway. And now my parents didn’t abuse me, I’m just saying… That’s a joke. We could laugh, people. Okay, but I would be out there freezing and my parents would be come out in the garage and start the car and go to work and I’m here, I’m freezing, and I’m like, That’s not fair. I used to park in the grade, I am a young child, don’t you care for me? And my parents just rolled their eyes and they just thought it was funny, I’m

0:02:13.0 S2: Sorry, you gotta earn your stripes, and they wanted to show you why you should work hard, you will have a garage or something, you can… I’ll show you, I’ll move away. And they want to to know… So there you go. Well, they live in Florida now too, so we all have enough of the blizzards anyways, so before we get started, let give the listeners some context, who in the world is Jen Thornton anyways? Other than what, I just introduced you as… I live in Dallas, Texas, as you said, but my background actually is mostly in the retail industry, most of my life… I started in the retail. I won’t give away my age, but I will say that I worked in the mob, but when the mall was really cool… And that’s what I wanted to do. Yeah, I wanted to be a cool kid at the mall and… So I spent the first half of my career in the operations, the second half of my career in HR and did all different types of disciplines in HR, and ended up leading an international HR team, which was incredible and fun, I got to live around the world and then a few years ago, I kind of just woke up and I knew I needed to make a change, I wanted to do my own thing and kind of just see what that was like to go out on my own, and I was really passionate about talent strategies and teams and how that created business and that type of kind of concept and so…

0:03:31.4 S2: Yeah, so today I am the CEO and founder of the 304 Coaching, and that’s what we do, we help organizations with talent strategies and ensuring that their talent strategies and their business strategies go hand at hand.

0:03:44.0 S1: So… Where the name 304 Coaching come from.

0:03:47.7 S2: Oh my gosh. So this is so funny, I was gonna leave. I knew I was leaving my job, and I have a person I used to work with who was an executive at another company, and she knew I was leaving, and she calls and she said, I need you to come in tomorrow and pitched to my CEO, and I was like tomorrow, I haven’t left my job, I don’t have a name for my company, and she’s like, Well, you better figure out one tonight, and I’m like, Okay. And so I didn’t really know what to call it. I had just a couple of hours and 304 is a combination of dates, and it’s always been my lucky number and I thought, Well, I’ll just go with my lucky number and see how that goes, and it’s been absolutely lucky since then.

0:04:27.7 S1: That is so funny, I love that story. That is incredible. So now you say that you are really fascinated with conversation intelligence, you call it can IQ. So what do you mean when you talk about conversation intelligence? What does that mean?

0:04:44.6 S2: So conversation intelligence is a methodology, program education, but what it does is it really helps us start to understand the neuroscience of the mind and how does the mind take in language and conversations, and then when as you’re taking in language and conversation, how does that impact the chemicals in your brain or reactions that are unconscious, that we can’t control, and then as we are reacting to conversations or someone’s at reacting to our language, how does that influence their behaviors and therefore their business results and the company’s organization… We spend a lot of time understanding how to create environments of trust in safety so that people can do their best work.

0:05:28.1 S1: Well, I am utterly fascinated by this conversation intelligence, so let’s camp out here for a while, give us some insights, and maybe you give us some strategies on how we can become better conversationalist.

0:05:41.5 S2: So what’s interesting is how we’ve been leading for the last long while, the last century, it actually is a very fear-based… Very fear-based, and even when we think we’re saying something really nice to someone or not, we’re creating fear and it’s how we were taught to lead… So for example, often times we were taught that as a supervisor, you need to have a strong opinion about everything as a supervisor, you need to make sure you know it all, and so all of this stuff that we’ve been told that we’re supposed to do to be a great leader actually creates fear within our teams, and therefore our teams are hanging out on their perimeter brain, and so what we wanna do is really think about language that creates trust and inspires people, so… Gosh, you know, one example were the ones I see happen all the time. You hire someone and you’re excited about the experience they bring to the table, and you’re so excited about their ideas and the interview, and you’re like, This is gonna be great, and that person comes to you that after two weeks and says, I have all these ideas and you’re like, Yeah, we’ve done all that before and it didn’t work, and so just by trying to be honest, which the IQ is about honesty, but it’s how we deliver it, we have actually now told this person, I know I hired you for all your brains and your intellectual horsepower, but I’m not gonna want you to use it while you’re here.

0:07:06.8 S2: And it shuts people down from being innovative and creative, and so in that situation, someone comes to you and they’re like, Hey, I’ve been here for two weeks, I see all this opportunity, I wanna talk to you about it. We start to kind of get defensive, don’t get defensive, look at it as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to explore, opportunity, connect with this new employee. And so saying things like, Hey, I wanna hear what you have… And if they’re telling you things that you’re like, You know what, and you know inside it may not work. You can say things like, Hey, I don’t see that. Or we’ve tried that before, but today is a new day, it’s a new era. So sell me on your concepts, tell me why you think it would work this time when we know it hasn’t worked in the past, so you can still say No, you can still negotiate through that conversation, but it’s allowing someone to use their mind and all of this stuff they’re bringing to the table and encouraging someone to be truthful and honest with you over time.

0:08:06.2 S1: Hey, There, it’s Mark and I will coach you for less than 2 a day, plus give you access to a group coaching call every single month for more information, visit Mir productivity dot com. I can remember back when I worked for a company, it was like in the early 2000s and back, I had a supervisor and a manager, they could have both used your help because they did not listen. They looked at it like, I’m the supervisor, I’m the manager. You’re just a minion. They’ll go do your work. If I brought them ideas, they would dismiss them outright, they didn’t wanna hear what me or anybody else that was working there how to say, and I remember I would get so frustrated because I would hate going in the work because I didn’t feel heard. If I had a better way of doing something that would improve the bottom line of the company, I didn’t feel her head, and after a while, you’re like, Well, I’m not ever gonna bother opening my mouth anymore because they’re not listening to me, and I could have saved them some time, some money, I could have made processes better, but they really were not open to that now, they were old school manager.

0:09:22.5 S1: They were like, Hey, I’m the boss. I tell you what to do. You say Yes, sir, and will be happily ever after. But I think that we’ve come a long way in the last 15 years.

0:09:34.2 S2: Yeah, it’s interesting how we start to shut down as employees, and there’s nothing more dangerous than your most vibrant and boisterous employee getting quiet as you know something’s wrong. And I have leaders come to me all the time and they’re like, Oh, you know, I need you to work with my team because they don’t tell me ideas, I never think of anything new, they can’t make a decision without me, and I’m like, I don’t know if I need to talk to your team. You and I made it may need to talk, right? Because if everyone on your team has the exact same problem and it’s not making decisions and those types of things, then the chances are that’s how you’re leading, you’re creating an environment that tells people, I need you not to be honest with me.

0:10:18.1 S1: Now, when you say this to the leader, what do they say, ’cause you said that you’re looking right in the face, you tell them that… I mean… What are they saying? Response to that.

0:10:26.9 S2: Yeah, sometimes they’re kind of a little shock like how to do… Right. But what I say to them is, If everyone’s doing something similar and you have 10 people that are reporting to you, there’s one common thread, and that is your leadership style, and so I sometimes have to say and negotiate through that. Let’s just pretend. Let’s pretend that someone comes to you with an idea and you think it’s just ridiculous, it’s no good. What do you say? Oh my gosh, I let them know they better combat it back better next time I let them bubble and I’m like, Really? And how many people do you say that in front of… Will I let the whole team now… Okay, so let’s think about what that means. Right, and so you kinda just ask them questions and back them into the reality of it, but that’s what a great business coach does it, great business coach brings the mirror and helps you see what… You can’t see yourself.

0:11:25.0 S1: Now, the last job I had, I was actually fired from… They did something called confidential surveys, and I remember the organization is really big on these, so everyone got to take these surveys, you didn’t take him on the job, you took ’em, like at home, they didn’t wanna know anybody who took them. Have you ever used those? Do you think they’re effective? Because I know my manager, my supervisor of the old school, they hated the idea, they won though. Who was answering what question? What’s the whole purpose? Because when you give people a confidential outlet, the more likely to be honest, and the C-Suite wanted to know, but my supervisor manager didn’t wanna know for obvious reasons because like I said, they weren’t listening to us, so have you ever dealt with a confidential survey or suggested to a client.

0:12:11.8 S2: So I have dealt with them, and I think there’s a lot of ways to deploy them and you have to… Before someone deploys them, I think the first thing you have to say is why? And what will I do with this information? Because oftentimes, we think it’s a really good to deploy these types of surveys, and we’re gonna get great feedback, if your company is really not willing to change and hear it, then don’t do it, because what you’re going to do is you’re going to remind people why they gave you that feedback. I’m gonna… So if you ask me to be honest and then we’re confidentially honest, and then you look at and go, and that’s not true. Well, you’ve just validated their opinion and you’ve proven to them that they are right, that you aren’t going to listen to that feedback, so they can be good in the right ways, but no company should deploy them unless the executives, the highest of the high… Because that’s where the culture starts, says we’re gonna take this information at face value, we’re gonna take it as a fact, we’re gonna look for common themes, ’cause you’re gonna get some things on the far ends of the spectrum, but we’re gonna look for common themes, and we’re going to be honest and share those with the organization, and we’re gonna share our action plan and we’re gonna try to make mark improvement and we’re gonna come back and follow up, if you’re not willing to do all of that, then I tell people, Don’t waste your time money, because you’re actually gonna damage the culture more by doing it…

0:13:34.7 S1: You know what’s interesting is after the surveys were done and they’re collated and the C-Suite looked at him, they came out to my department and they gave us, Okay, here’s… You guys were saying… And I remember saying to myself, This stuff is so simple. It wasn’t like, we want a million dollar raise or… I’ll have brand new cars. It was really simple stuff, and I’m like, seriously, it came down to the… It was the simple things that the people are complaining about, that they didn’t feel comfortable going to the supervisor or manager… And here’s the thing, I don’t know what the conversations were between like we had assistant director, we have directors and we have the supervisor, the manager, I would love to be in the room when those results were first announced to the staff to those people, because I would like to know what the director said, What did the assistant director saying… What was the mood in the room? Because I got a feeling that based on what I knew about my supervisor manager, they were really ticked that these people did anything other than give them glowing recommendations, when you come on, you’re smart.

0:14:42.2 S1: You gotta know if you mistreat people and then to help the opportunity to do a confidential survey, they’re going to be honest, and I don’t… I would love… I wish I had a recording one on that room come… Sure, it wasn’t very pleasant.

0:14:56.8 S2: Yeah, well, in those supervisors in the room, they probably entered with a lot of fear because they probably knew the chances are they were not gonna get great feedback, their boss might find out they weren’t as amazing as they had been putting on a show to be right. Look at me, I’m so amazing. And they probably walked in with a lot of fear, and then when they read the results, that fear also then felt like judgment towards them, and when we are in fear and our brain is in fear, especially in the workplace, because we’re tribal to creatures, we were created that way, when we were… Way back when we were first evolving, we were created as tribes because you couldn’t survive by yourself, you can provide heating and food and warmth, like all that stuff, shelter, and in today’s world, we’re still that way, you lose your job. You may not be able to provide housing. Food for your family, right? So we’re still in that tribal place, and so when they got that feedback, chances are they were in judgment, then they acted out, because when we’re in fear, we have to kind of act out to make sure that we can start to gain control back so that we’re not voted out of the tribe, so I’m sure it was very interesting, but at the end of the day, if you think about it, I was really just a chemical reaction, that is all fear is a chemical reaction to keep you alive, and that’s why we have it.

0:16:20.5 S2: And so, yeah, so they’re fear chemical. I’m sure I was just going crazy.

0:16:25.8 S1: One of the benefits of being a subscriber to my email newsletter is you get access to free weekly training from me to sign up for my email newsletter. Just go to Mister productivity dot com. Now, let’s talk about… Let’s zoom out a little bit about conversation intelligence, because we all have conversations, now we’re doing more of them Virtual or On face time, what have you, but we always have conversations with the people in our houses or for work… Whatever the case may be, what are some of the mistakes you see people make when they are engaging in a conversation that you would… Wish you come up to us and through a flag like in football and say, Hey, finally, you’re doing the 15-yard penalty from what you just did, what are some of those things you see all the time…

0:17:12.9 S2: Oh gosh. There’s so many good ones. So one of the ones that I see a lot is the supervisor has to think that they are making the actual decision, you know how you always say, Oh well, just make your boss think it’s their idea, you know that

0:17:26.6 S1: One or that…

0:17:27.8 S2: Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard that a time or two, so saying things like that. So if I am the leader and my team comes to me and they have to tell me bad news, like Why is this product struggling? And every time someone says, Well, it’s because of this, Opus has a bat. And the boss is like, No, no, that’s not it. That’s not it. Those are the things where I’m like, don’t know, let them talk it out because they need to talk out the problems, they’re the closest person to the product, the closest person to the customer, they need to talk it out and asking questions versus shutting people down, maybe you do believe it. Something else, but you have to ask questions. To really kinda dig into that. I think that so often as supervisors, we just say no flat out at the beginning and saying things like, I don’t see it, but change my mind, and I just had this experience with someone on my team Friday, we were talking about some marketing and she wanted to go a certain direction, and I’m all about hire an expert and let them be an expert, so my team pushes back and they tell me all kinds of stuff all the time, and that’s great.

0:18:35.4 S2: I want that, I need that. And so she had a really firm belief on what we should do going forward with marketing, and I have a very different one, and I was like, I’ll hear you out, like, Tell me everything you think, and so she told me why she thought that, and I gave her… The feedback on why I thought that it wasn’t the right decision. Now, I’m no marketing expert, but I know where I wanna take the brand in the business, and so we ultimately decided not to do it, but instead of just saying to her like, I don’t wanna talk about it, I said no, that would have shut her down for giving me great ideas in the future, and I meet great ideas, all of us, any great ideas, and so by allowing her to work through it with me and to me work through it, she got to see my viewpoint, I got to see hers, and I create an environment, that even if I’m gonna say no, it’s about the journey, it’s about the conversation to get to the knower. Yes, and then my hopes are that I did in a way that she continues to bring me great ideas.

0:19:34.4 S1: When you were talking there, I thought of a story I heard about a off Hitler… I’m not calling you a of Hitler unsaid. I heard a story of him, I just wanna clarify that Jen, his people knew that you only brought him good news, because if you brought in bad news and say, Oh yeah, we’re losing on this front, he would kill the messenger, so people learn really quickly, a, only tell them the good news. And what I learned, ’cause I like the study or War II is toward the end of World War II, even if they had bad news, they were telling good news ’cause they didn’t wanna be killed. You knew I was gonna kill you. And that’s when you’re talking about the leaders who had closed mines and just say, only tell me the good news, that’s the same thing. You’re ultimately gonna hurt yourself because you cannot make good business decisions on a lie, you have to know the truth, if a product is doing horribly and your staff goes ’cause they’re afraid of you going, Oh yeah, it’s going great, and then now everybody gets hurt and so it does hurt to go to your leader and say, Hey listen, I’m going the way we wanted to go, and they may get mad, but then they can begin, okay, how do we recover from this? But if you don’t tell them the truth, then everybody’s operating with incomplete information…

0:20:51.8 S1: Yeah.

0:20:52.1 S2: You’re absolutely right. And you have to get excited about failures, and I know that’s really hard for leaders sometimes, and there are failures that we’re not gonna get excited about policy violations or something that costs a million dollars, ’cause we didn’t do something… That’s not what I’m talking about, but I’m talking about failures like fell fast, and if you can get your team excited about failures or excited about, Oh, this didn’t go well. And here’s what I learned. So this is how we’re gonna do it, and it’s gonna be better than it ever was. That’s when you start to get the truth out of people, and so as a leader, if you have your team together once a week, then part of that meeting needs to be, tell me what we messed up on, Tell me where our failure was this week, because all of us need to learn from it, and we need to celebrate it and get excited about that failure, and what that does is it tells people, Hey, when things are going south, I can tell you… Early in the game, and you have a chance to step in and course correct, and you have a chance to learn from that person’s failure just like everyone else on your team, and if you expect everything to be perfect, you expect everything to be going just like you want it to, especially in the times we live in today, it just doesn’t work that way, you’re going to have to get excited about failure, so people learn how to pivot and pivot quick.

0:22:12.9 S1: One of the things that as I study leaders, the greatest leaders, they listen more and talk less, there’s been books I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen where the leader will just be at the head of the table and maybe see anything, but they’re listening to everyone, and I think a true leader is going to listen far more than they talk because they wanna get all of the information, and if you don’t have all the information, like I just alluded to, and then you responded to it, if you don’t have all the information, it’s really difficult to make the proper decision. Is that correct?

0:22:50.5 S2: Absolutely, you need to listen, but you also need to ask great questions. Yes, and I think that is when I look at really strong leaders, they know how to ask the question, that get some of the information to make a decision, because as a leader, basically we’re just decision trees, we just say, yes, no, yes, no, we’re just making… Or making decisions, right? And if you don’t listen if you’re just talking more than hearing and then you can’t make… You don’t get the information you need, you don’t have enough view points to make a strong decision, and if you only listen and you get what surface because you’re getting what someone picks to tell you, but if you ask fantastic questions, that’s when you start to really learn and dig in, and it helps your team start to think in a bigger way, ’cause questions… Expand the mind.

0:23:41.8 S1: Yes, and one of my favorite questions to ask, especially my coaching clients, is why… ’cause they’ll say, Well, Dustin, such and thus and such, and thus and sides. Now, I’m like, Why? And they’ve never thought about the Y, and I’m like, Okay, why is this happening? Why do you think this happening? And I force them to dig deeper, and I know the common question that leaders ask is Why, why is this not exceeding expectations, why is it this product struggling because that is like the question, Why is only three letters long, but it’s like a ginormous powerful shovel and you’ve got to ask enough questions, like you said, great questions to get to the root of the problem, because let’s be honest, very rarely is the problem ever of the services, you have to dig deep to get the problem, and that’s where the great questions comes at the play.

0:24:33.9 S2: Yeah, and if you’re wondering, the wise questions you can also ask are, when I look at what you brought me, if none of these options were available, what would be your next option? Right, and because you’re really trying to expand people, and you can even ask, you said that this fell because of these three reasons, if these weren’t the reasons, what would be the reason? Because it starts to get them to think even deeper because they have to come up with one more thing, and then as your brain comes up with one more thing, then it’s like, Oh, wait a minute, here’s a number two and number three item. And my favorite question to ask is, what did I not learn in this conversation that I should have learned, or what questions should have asked that I didn’t, or what do you wish… What do you know that I need to know? That you’re afraid to tell me. Come on, just tell me because I need to know. So asking and getting people to expand on what they’ve brought you from a surface standpoint…

0:25:35.5 S1: One question I read about recently, I don’t remember where I wrote it, is I hate this question, is you come in and bring the finished product or the report or project, what would the case may be to your boss and you hand it to them and they go, Is this the best you do… And I hate that question because you have it run it yet, and it’s like, you know how about looking at the report and then asking the question, but when you just dismiss it, I think that’s very disrespectful. The person did the work. What are your thoughts on that?

0:26:04.5 S2: Yeah, it’s funny in one of my trainings, I actually use that exact example is, is this the best you can do? It’s so funny you bring that up, but how we wanna change that is when you look at what you delivered here, based on your time and resources, what grade would you give yourself if you had one more… If it’s something time-sensitive, if you had an additional 72 hours to work on this project, would you deliver something better for me, because often times we get what we get because of the constraints we give someone… So if we ask them to do a project that really takes 30 hours, but we want it and five, then guess what, we get a five-hour project, and so really getting them to kind of think about that question you ask, because getting them to get honest about what they delivered is much easier than you saying something like, Is this the best you can do, because all of a sudden that person’s in fear, and when we’re in fear, again, it’s a permanent brain and that pre-frontal cortex shuts down, and that’s where learning ideas, collaboration innovation, everything you’re asking for is in the pre-frontal cortex, but the way we talk to people move them away from that and it doesn’t allow that part of the brain to work.

0:27:18.5 S1: Wow. Well, this has been an incredible conversation, Jen. I really appreciate all the insight you gave us, where can we go to find out more about you.

0:27:27.7 S2: So you can go to 304 Coaching, and we have some site resources there you can download or connect with me on LinkedIn at Jen Thornton-ACC.

0:27:38.3 S1: I call that a Hyannis. How little I knew. It’s called IQ, that sounds so much better.

0:27:44.9 S2: Conversation intelligent. Yeah, it’s a CI Q.

0:27:47.8 S1: Okay, well, it sounds much better when you say, Well, thank you so much for being on the show today, I really appreciate your time and your insights. You share with us. Thank you so much, it’s always fun to spend time with you, and just before we go, don’t forget the… Head on over to my website, Mr. Productivity dot com, M-I-S-T-E-R, Mr. Productivity dot com, find out how I can coach you for less than a dollar a day, no joke, and also you can get my top five productivity tips and so much more. It all happens at Mr. Productivity dot com. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the marks Duchesne podcast. Until we meet again, my friend, go, be productive.

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