Using Conversational Intelligence to Build a Culture

In this podcast, we chat about what the industry of human resources can make possible for people and our organizations, and each episode will have raw conversation around inner development and organizational culture change to create a working world we’re both people and organizations thrive. Thank you for listening. Now, let’s get this episode started.

0:00:45.9 S2: Hello there and welcome to this episode of the HRart of it podcast. I am so excited that you are joining us today in your busy schedule, so… Good morning. Good evening. Good afternoon whenever you are listening, and as we continue with our new episodes for 2021, once again, I just wanna say welcome to the new year. I’m so grateful we’re in the New Year, and 2020 is a thing of the past, so here’s to optimism and embracing that, and we are continuing our conversations, and I’m really thrilled to share with you my guest today, Ms. Jennifer Thornton, she reached out to me and dropped a magical word to me, which is neuroscience and brain, which is something that I have been very passionate about, because I do think we need to be more aware of what’s happening in our brain when we’re thinking about working with people from an HR perspective, from a leadership perspective, and because we kind of discredit with what’s happening in the brain is why we’re running into the challenges that we’re running into in the workplace, but

0:01:52.8 S1: Before we get into that, let’s… Jennifer, you wanna say a lot of the listeners… Hi and welcome to 2021. I know we are all so glad to be here.

0:02:03.1 S2: Yeah, Jennifer, why don’t you tell me a little bit about themselves, because I know when I throw out a big, big, heavy term like neuroscience, you could be… You could be anybody. So tell them a little bit about how that falls into your path, then also a little bit about all the work that you do, ’cause you do… You do a lot of amazing things. So I am the CEO of 304 Coaching, and what we focus on is talent strategies, because what I found in my previous life, when I was working in Corporate America, I always was on the new strategy, whether it was a new brand to do country and new this and new that. And sometimes they worked out really beautiful, and sometimes they fell apart and just… It didn’t go well, and when I stopped and was like, Okay, why does it succeed sometimes, and why does it not? Because I think some of the best things we worked on actually didn’t make it, and I was just floored by that, and what I realized and what it always comes down to is when we do not have a talent strategy built into our business strategy, the business strategy does not come to life.

0:03:10.1 S1: I became incredibly passionate about business strategies with baked and talent strategies, and so I started 304 coaching, and through that process of creating a business and creating products that help organizations get their business results, I found the neuroscience of the mind and specifically a program called conversation intelligence, and it was one of those programs that you take and you’re like, Man, if I’d only had known this early in my career, where could I be… What could I have done? And what I started to learn and then became totally obsessed with much like yourself, is how does your brain work, how does it take in language and conversations, and then how does that manifest into our reactions and how we do our work? And then at the end of the day, how does that influence our business results? And so I really spend my time talking to executives and leaders and entrepreneurs about their brain, because when we can understand it, we can do about anything we want and we could have incredible relationships.

0:04:16.9 S2: One of the things that you said that really just resonated with me, and I wanna make sure the listeners hear this, is when you laid out that map about how valuable talent strategies are to making the business actually be able to achieve what they want to… In their missions and ultimately reaching for that vision that they put out there is in those talent strategies, and that’s something that I always… When I don’t know why we have to have these discussions about what value does HR ad… It’s right there, unless you’re running off of AI box, that programmers are constantly and that’s… Your talent strategy is programming those bots, if we’re focused on people and people are the game-changers, were critical in order to make those business strategies happen, so I love how you lay that out, and I love that that was the be foundational for the work that you’re doing at 304 Coaching and your curiosity took you there… I also love where you go with the brain, because my obsession with the brain… My background is in training, so on that side of HR, and obviously, my initial introduction to the brain was how we did not fully engage it when we were developing adults, and how much that was hindering our ability to be effective in the corporate training arena, and when you reached out and you started talking about the conversational piece, which I think I always knew I was there, I just had never gotten to that aspect ’cause I was just focused on education, that really struck me and I never thought about introducing concepts of how to use the brain…

0:05:56.8 S2: And what’s important about the brain to leaders… So let’s start there, Jennifer, tell me why should we care about how the brain works as a leader, why is that so important for me.

0:06:08.5 S1: Why that’s important for you and for any of us in the world, and the good news is this, this works anywhere in the world, because our brains are made the same no matter where we’re from, we’re humans, and so therefore our brain works the same, and so what happens that we have a mechanism in our brain that we need, and it’s fear, and we need fear because fear keeps us alive fear keeps us from jumping off the building and thinking we can fly, it keeps us from touching something we know is hot, we need fear because it’s there to keep us alive, but fear gets a little confused sometimes, and sometimes fear can be… Oh well, if I speak up in this meeting, my boss won’t like me anymore, and therefore I’ll be in trouble, or if I take this new idea, because I’ve heard our customers and I’ve heard the true from our customers, and I share that with my CEO. This is his pet project, and he’s gonna get mad at me, so I’m just gonna put aside this information because I don’t wanna get in trouble, and as soon as our fear kicks in and our permanent brain works, it actually shuts down our prefrontal cortex, and as you know as a trainer, that’s where the good stuff happens, that’s where our learning or innovation or creativity, all that good stuff, we want…

0:07:31.2 S1: That’s where it happens. And when you look at leaders, especially the way we’ve led in the past, the way we’ve been taught to lead actually creates fear, and it doesn’t work in today’s world, and it really wasn’t working back in the day either, but in today’s world… Or there’s so much fear and unknown, and you go to work and you compound that fear with a way of using your language, you’re just not gonna get the business results you need and your team, ’cause they’re not gonna perform, they just physically… From a science standpoint, can’t because they are in so much fear of you…

0:08:08.3 S2: Yeah, just when you talk about the parts of the brain that are basically shutting down, which holds all the things that we want from our employees, that makes the case pretty crystal clear. We should care about what’s happening in the brain. And also, I love the examples that you give, because what’s causing this fear to be triggered are these simplistic things that happen in the workplace that sometimes we’re not even provoking as a leader, like that fear is more so about the individual. Sometimes, yes, there are some of us they can and still fear in other people and cause that reaction, but most of the time, that’s just nerves, and if you think about young professionals going into the workplace wanting to impress people and all of that survival mode of trying to make it in my career, we’re only seeing a piece of that employee rather than the whole in Galata, which is what we want in… People are interviewing them. So brain pathways, when we talked before, we were planning this episode, it was really interesting how you shared with me about how these brain pathways are obviously very significant when it comes to our ability to build cultures that meet the needs of love and belonging in our teams and how important that is? Even more so, there were several studies done, I know for the millennial generation, and I think even for the newest generation, that love and belonging piece is really important in the workforce, and in fact, if they can’t find it, they’re leaving and they’re creating their own organizations to basically, make that happen.

0:09:51.2 S2: And so the fact that the brain can provide us some answers in culture development to help us make people find out where they belong and where they fit, which is another big term being used right now, cultural fit. So just at the starting point, how do the brain pathways impact our ability to develop cultures that meet this need of love and belonging for our teams?

0:10:18.9 S1: So often when we are leading our teams, we create unhealthy boundaries or we create unhealthy competition, and we do this through language, and one of the things that I see often is people do not do a good job of letting someone understand why they are important and why their role is important. And so when you think about belonging, you have to know how you belong and why you belong and feel appreciated and what you deliver, and then you want to show up and do more and more of it. And so when we say things like, Hey, you know, I hate that we have to do this. Hey, Marsha. Will you go do it? Well, marshes like, Well, gosh, I have to go do stuff that no one likes, and I guess that means I’m the person no one likes, you know, so it’s just so simple, the things that we say and we create this sense… And we are tribal creatures, and our brain was created to keep us in a try because that’s how we survived. And so early on, were all of an in a cave and we’re in our tribe, and we needed our tribe because we couldn’t provide shelter and clothing and food and water and fire and protect us from the scary big animals, you couldn’t do that by yourself, and so we are hard-wired to be wanting to be part of something, because if we’re not, we would physically die back then because we couldn’t do it, so if I try to pick this out, we were in big trouble.

0:11:57.9 S1: Well, in today’s world, you think about belonging, were still tribal creatures, so if you feel like you’re being judged or you’re not doing a good job, or no one really needs you, or you’re being cut out of the conversation, your brain responds in the same way you’re like I’m not part of this tribe, and so, Oh, I either have to find a tribe or I gotta act out, so my tribe notices me and things and will keep me. And so all of that behavior starts to play out, and when you don’t feel belonging, it’s because your tribal mechanisms are like, I don’t feel part of this tribe, and that’s scary.

0:12:37.9 S2: Yeah, and what a different way to look at organizations as a tribe, and when you take it back historically like that, your tribe is your village in your family, and when we think about taking that translating it to organizational loyalty, which is severely on the decline right now, definitely correlations right there. One of the things that came to mind as you were talking is like, I couldn’t help… The term cultural fit is really under scrutiny right now with the call for DEI work within organizations, and what does that mean, and the unconscious bias embedded in there, and I couldn’t help but as you were talking, hearing whispers of, Here’s the true definition of cultural fit of who we want to be there. Do you have any thoughts about in regards to the brain or maybe just the other work that you’ve connected to it, we’re truly hiring for cultural fit for these talent development strategies, and when we’re thinking about culture fit, we’re thinking about love and belonging, we’re looking for those people for our tribe. And so when we’re interviewing and things like that, and who we are hunting for, who are we really looking for to add to our try, what…

0:13:52.0 S2: Is that definition to you?

0:13:54.7 S1: So I have kind of a different view point that I think a lot of people have, and people will interview for say your values are collaboration and entrepreneurship. We’ll say those. And so they’re looking for people who maybe have entrepreneurial experience or… They’re looking for team players. And what in the world does that mean? Because everyone’s got a team, so they may not be play nice on your team. And so how I look at it is how do people make decisions? How do people… When they stop and kind of think about how do they do the work, because we hire people all the time on experience, we hire them on knowledge, education, but they don’t work out because of how they actually do the work. And that’s what we have to start focusing on is how does this person enjoy doing their work, because if they enjoy doing their work in a way in which that organization does their work, then there are culture fits that I don’t think… We really stop and talk to people about how they do their work. I

0:15:07.8 S2: Love that the how is really what we’re after, and the how removes that there’s always a possibility for unconscious biases be embedded anywhere, but for the most part, that’s what we’re after when we’re thinking about how are you gonna work with our team? How are you going to add to that team? And you’re right, we focus on skills, we focus on trying to figure out what attributes are needed to fit you in with the team, but I can’t even personally say from my experience, have I focused on how… Questions, and so that’s huge. And I appreciate that I have… I teach part-time at the college, and my students are actively right now working on recruitment strategies that are more inclusive, and so they’ve been diving into this cultural fit, and we’ve had all kinds of discussions, and that alone… My gosh, as I say it on the podcast, often it’s like you dropped the mic and I could totally just end there because my mind is kind of blown and going in a 100 different directions, but very. Very essential and very important. So let’s get a little practical ’cause I like to try to give the listeners something that they can take with them today, we like to plant the seeds of what are we working towards and things that are…

0:16:23.9 S2: In what we’re talking about today, huge seeds that we’re planting that might lead to monumental work that has to be a Ramah amount of work that needs to be done, but you shared with me that there are certain phrases and language that produce trust-inducing neuro-chemical responses in the listeners brains, are you able to share some of those with us so that maybe there are some things that we can now quickly help us to move in that right direction as we’re trying to build love and belonging?

0:16:56.0 S1: Absolutely, and there’s some really simple stuff we say all the time that we just need to flip, and this isn’t about being honest or trying to be overly nice, this is about delivering the information and clarity in a way in which the brain responds, and so some of those is, you see something happening at work and you may say, Wow, that’s a train wreck waiting to happen. And that creates fear because then you’re like, Oh gosh, I’ve gotta go in and I have a train wreck now, or I’m gonna cause a train wreck, and so it’s all fear. And so instead of saying something like that, you could say something like, You know what this looks like, this might be a difficult lift, let’s first focus on what’s on the other side of this, where are we going and why are we going to fight this battle or why are we gonna go and do this work because if you can get the brain excited about what’s on the other side, then the work becomes worth it, and it’s not like, Oh crap, I’ve gotta go be in pain, it’s Wow, I’ve gotta do this really important work because this is on what’s the other side of it? I think one of them we often say is too, is like, Why change what’s not broken, someone comes to you and they’ve got this amazing idea, and you’re like, really, in all the things you wanted to pick today, that’s the idea you wanted to work on, and so we say things like, Hey, that’s…

0:18:12.9 S1: Don’t worry about it. It works fine, but what we’re telling someone is we don’t want you to continuously look for improvement, so I appreciate you thinking I wanted you to look for improvement, but I don’t… And they go back to their desk and they’re like, Wow, I guess we’ll just do it the way we’ve always done it, but that’s about to become obsolete and we’re gonna be in trouble as a company, and so that’s… And said, Say, You know what, I think we’re okay in that area, tell me why it’s important for you to elevate this, tell me why that’s important, and let them use their voice and tell you because you may learn something you need to know, and they’re being heard so even if you don’t move forward with it, they’ve had a chance to tell you, gosh, there’s so many other things like we sometimes say, what could be hard about that is something you’ve taught someone and they’re struggling. We’re like, Well, super simple. Then you get it. Well, then that is fear, it’s like, Oh gosh, everyone else in my tribe gets that and I’m not smart enough, and so you start pull back and you don’t ask questions, and as a leader, you may say, Wow, my team never asked me questions, or my team never…

0:19:18.5 S1: Comes to me before it blows up. Well, ’cause you taught them that through your language, that you told them that it’s not okay not to know, it’s not okay to ask questions, so you get what you got, and so it’s just really simple things like that that can really change things how noble onboarding… Someone who’s brand new with the team… This is what I hear all the time, and they come to you and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I wanna do this, this and this. And here’s an idea, and those are ideas maybe you’ve tried before as an organization, and so typically we say, You know what, we’ve tried that before and it never worked, and so that brand new person with brand new view on your company goes, Oh, well, I guess you told me you hired me because you wanted me to re-invent social media for this organization. But no, you don’t want to. So I guess I’ll just go and do what I’ve always done. And again, that doesn’t create an ovation and doesn’t open up that brain, and it’s just so simple little things we say that create that fear, you know.

0:20:23.6 S2: Once you’re saying that, I know several organizations that I’ve worked with that almost kinda have this unwritten rule that you gotta take the first six months to a year to get to know the organization before you can really add any real input or make suggestions, but you are spending six months to a year of basically training that person and almost subduing them that they’re not gonna be able to provide those innovative solutions. In fact, when they first come in, when they haven’t had exposure to everything, they’re probably more likely to catch stuff that no one else has seen because they’re not ingrained in the culture, they’re coming in with a fresh set of eyes, and we’re making assumptions that we think we fully understand what they are seeing, what they’re seeing with eyes that we can’t even replicate, ’cause we’ve usually been… For the leader, usually have been embedded in the organization for several years, and what has happened to us as leaders, ’cause our supervisors are doing the same thing to us, there’s so many layers when you’re thinking about it, that we’re kind of working against to make this happen. So yeah, and I love how just looking at just swapping it and thinking about what are we training our people to do through our choices and the that we respond in our conversations as leaders, whether they are formal delegations or not, every time then we talk as a leader, we are sending influences one way or another, and this is one of the things, this is why I love the brain, and I’m sure this is why you probably obsess about it as well, when you see the magnitude of impact and the ripples that it sends, like how can you not be concerned about it? So yes, so once again, these episodes are always just too short to dive in as deep as I would like to, and definitely when we’re talking about the brain, we could probably do a whole season with Jennifer and other people, just unpacking it from that aspect, but before we leave, I would like to, and I always like to give the guests an opportunity, if there’s anything that you want to share with the listeners on this topic today, like when we talked about briefly, I kinda throw that curve ball question at Jaji about cultural fit, ’cause it came to my mind.

0:22:43.0 S2: And even just what you shared as a part of some of the vision of where we need to be as HR practitioners moving forward, and so when you’re thinking about the brain or even your work collectively, what do you wanna share with the listeners as far as what they should really, truly keep in mind as they walk away from this episode.

0:23:01.5 S1: I think when you walk away from this episode, what I would say is, Watch the people around you be a student of your own voice, and after you engage with someone, whether it’s a peer your supervisor, someone on your team, across functional anyone. After you engage in conversation, pause and think about what you said and how did they respond, what did they say to you? And what did your brain tell you, because sometimes your brain tells you a story that’s not quite true, and then you start making assumptions and reactions based on that, but be a student of your language, because what you will find is you will find habits. We all have them of things that we’re saying that for whatever reason, we unconsciously are saying it to put people in their place, to protect our own ego to… If we’re in fear, our brain likes to put people and more fear than us, because again, that means the spotlight of, Oh, that person’s in trouble goes to someone else, so be a student of your language and really start to watch yourself and find where your habits are because then you can do something with that, you can recognize that and say, Wow, when I feel like my work isn’t being appreciative, here is how I respond.

0:24:23.5 S1: And you know what, that’s my fear responding, that’s not my collaboration responding, and how do I want to respond and start to purposefully respond in different ways? Because you want a different outcome.

0:24:39.7 S2: I love the fact that fear has been a heavy topic and theme throughout this entire episode with you, and Jennifer and I had a fun connection because she has also a passion for China, she has a connection there, and we talked about my studies in medical Cheong and in traditional Chinese medicine and the classics, they come down to two emotions, you’re their functioning from fear or love, and I whole-heartedly agree with everything that we talked about today as far as fear and… Well, I guess the one thing I will just say as thinking of your closing comments is, the alternative is we went… When we finally can conquer that fear or have an awareness of it, then we’re actually able to function from a place of love, which is when we have the best intent for our teams, for our organizations, and also have the capability to achieve those amazing things that ultimately and I do believe who hardly change the world, so thank you. And the work that you’re doing, Jennifer, is critical, and it takes an army of us practitioners out there to help shift the way that we need to be for leaders, for HR practitioners, ’cause we do need to elevate.

0:25:52.8 S2: And I think that’s one thing that was very clear for me just talking to you is that you’re definitely elevating multiple aspects of our profession, and I appreciate that, and I’m so grateful that you took time today is Join us on the podcast. And you are more than welcome to come back any time to share about brain stuff or anything else, ’cause obviously you piqued my curiosity, and I went down to another body hole and then I had to put myself back out because that’s not what the episode was about. Today, but I wanted to just get your opinion on that. But thank you, thank you so much. Any other final words?

0:26:25.7 S1: Oh my gosh, well, I wanna thank you for all of your work, and I think when you think about creating incredible environments with belonging, do it with good intent, and it will always take you where you need to be. Alright, well, thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the heart of a podcast. I will talk to you next week and hopefully Jennifer will join us again sometime in the future. Thank you, have a good day. A 21st century hiring process can’t be dependent on resumes alone, but most companies over-complicate their process with ineffective un-validate, although very common personality assessments.

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