You’ve Reached the Top! Now What?

Four Communication Blind Spots that Derail Leaders 

by Judith E. Glaser

Starting a business from scratch is different from stepping in and adding value to an existing company. Entrepreneurs love the challenges, risks, and thrills of doing what others have not done—envisioning new horizons, exploring the unknown, moving to the next peak and eventually reaching the top.

Communication Skills for Entrepreneurs

So, why do so many ambitious and talented executives and entrepreneurs plateau, burn out, and at times regress once they “reach the top” of whatever ladder, mountain or organizational structure they’ve been climbing?

My answer, based on both research and reflection, is that while they tend to be great talkers (because they continually pitch their visions, strategies, products and services to investors, banks, employees, customers, clients, and partners), they may plateau when it comes to connecting deeply with others.

Reaching the summit today requires us to develop a new perspective and paradigm of leadership and to climb two peaks: 1) creating and selling the vision, and 2) connecting with other people as we build the business around our innovative ideas. Connecting with others enables us to build concentric circles of engagement with employees and customers to expand the brand in magnificent and exciting ways. Entrepreneurs who put relationships before tasks and build bridges for connection become multipliers of the DNA for entrepreneurship—a powerful path for getting to the next level of greatness.

Expand Your Connecting ProfileEntrep.2

With the right digital tools, we can now connect 24/7 from anywhere in the world at any time, but it’s not enough to have the tools to connect. We also need the wisdom to connect. We need Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ), a framework for knowing which conversations trigger our lower-level brain activity, such as primitive instincts for fight, flight, freeze and appeasement, versus what sparks higher-level brain activity, such as trust, integrity, strategic thinking, empathy, and capability to process complex situations.

The more we see how much of our brain is devoted to social connection, the more we realize how connecting with others in healthy and productive ways becomes vital for our mutual success in teams and organizations.

Problem: What Inhibits Healthy Connections?

Here are four behaviors that often inhibit healthy connections:

  • Having communication blind spots. Sadly, I see many leaders bomb in critical meetings and situations because of low C-IQ: they don’t speak to influence and thus fail to connect. C-IQ is a rating of the level of trust we create with others and the quality of our interactions. People with high C-IQ activate their audience’s prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that enables trust and good judgment. People with low C-IQ engage the lower brain, where fear and distrust reside. High C-IQ correlates with business turnarounds and sustained success.
  • Talking Past Each Other. Breakdowns happen when people talk past each other, not with each other. Once you recognize your conversational blind spots, you can boost your C-IQ by identifying what is going wrong in conversations and situations and flip the switch in your brain and others’ brains to get communications back on a productive and neural path.
  • Not Seeing Beyond Your Vision. The tough road of leadership and entrepreneurship demands total belief in the enterprise and it’s vision. It’s an invigorating emotional state with a natural dopamine high. Unfortunately, having total belief can blind you to the need to see beyond your vision and gain buy-in from diverse constituents, or listen to their push back if they don’t at first agree.
  • Not Minding the Gap. To bridge blind spots, you need to mind the gap and step into your conversation partner’s world, shift from talking about yourself and your solutions, and start co-creating by focusing on shared success. This involves identifying what the people in the loop want from you. For example, if you are presenting a business plan to venture capitalists, you should focus on how the plan generates revenue, since their objective is ROI.

Read more on Four Solutions to Strengthen Your Influence.

Judith E. GlaserJudith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is an Organizational Anthropologist, and consults to Fortune 500 Companies. Judith is the author of 4 best-selling business books, including her newest, Conversational Intelligence. Follow her @CreatingWe  or call 212-307-4386 .

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