Once someone attains a leadership position they have worked towards, through refining their abilities, increasing their knowledge and honing their management, they plateau. Why does this happen? Often because the path to leadership is about engaging with yourself, whereas being a leader is about engagement with others.

Leadership is not a pinnacle to reach, it’s the base camp of a whole new journey.

The time has come to take that internal focus, those discussions we’ve had with ourselves, and externalise them and start to have meaningful exchanges with the stakeholders we need to engage to make our vision work. While the conversation we have with ourselves is a focused and specific one, the way we talk to others needs to be tailored to the person, the situation and the ultimate aim of that conversation.

The Fine Art of Persuasion

Rhetoric, discourse, argument and showmanship are often thought of as keystones of the persuasive process. But what of silence or empathy? There are few conversations that are purely about what we say, there’s also how we say it, what we don’t say and how we behave physically. 

Consider mirroring as a part of the persuasive process. It not only makes people feel more comfortable but it can actually produce physical responses in the brain to release oxytocin, the chemical responsible for comfort within physical and emotional settings. This will make them open up more, making them more responsive to ideas and concepts that they may otherwise feel uncertain about.

Working Together Works

The comparable opposite of oxytocin is cortisol, a chemical that forms part of the fear response and makes us hostile to change or ideas. While working in groups our reactions are not limited solely to our interactions. The environment around us and the interactions we observe are all feeding into our own responses. 

Observing someone in a brainstorming session being dismissed or treated in a way that is likely to trigger a cortisol based reaction will have a knock-on effect within the observer group. We’re all aware of the stereotype of a manager who asks for suggestions and lambasts the first idea given, leading to everyone else in the room immediately resolving to stay quiet. This is no good for leaders and no good for stakeholders. Tyranny simply doesn’t work. 

Maybe an idea isn’t a good one, but maybe someone hearing it is prompted to think of a better one. Creating an environment of co-created interactions will encourage your stakeholders and the use of conversational intelligence will help develop a group rather than demotivate it.

Begin at the Beginning

Your conversationally intelligent interactions should not wait until we have become familiar with others, sometime after their arrival, they must begin as soon as we meet them. In those first few moments of meeting someone, you are setting the bar for every subsequent conversation that you will have together. So engage them personally. 

Compliments are a useful conversational path and should match decisions that a person has made, perhaps about their attire for example. This welcomes them to a new group or setting by validating their choices, providing an immediate emotional and physical bump.

By using conversational intelligence to engage our stakeholders from that first day, through all our subsequent interactions, we get ourselves back on track and start moving beyond the leadership plateau we may have arrived at, there’ll be problems on the way forward, challenges to overcome. But when they do come, do you want to take them on your own, or with a team that is intelligently, emotionally and physically engaged in getting where it needs to go?

If you’d like to know more please contact me at sue@open2change.org.uk.