The Change Practice at Morgan McKinley are delighted to have the respected Communication Coach, Naomi Abbott, partner with us to release a guest blog.
Within this article Naomi looks at the road blocks which prevent us from collaborating effectively. On October 16th Naomi will be hosting an Event with Morgan McKinley that will expand on how you can be utilising Conversational Intelligence® to help you cultivate trust in your professional relationships.
The compelling reasons for emphasising relationship over task as a central pillar for effective collaboration
One of the greatest blind spots humans fall into is assuming that everyone thinks the same way, and this prevents us from getting beneath the tip of the iceberg of other people's perspectives. It also places us at risk of distrust, born from the uncertainty that rises when we start to glimpse that other people's maps of reality are not the same as our own. As uncertainty increases, corrosive "us versus them" thinking - and the associated protective distrust behaviours - can derail collaborative efforts.
By emphasising relationship over task, we instead seek to understand other people's perspectives and see what's below the tip of the iceberg. We may not share the same perspective, but when we seek to understand other people's worldview, it contains our sense of uncertainty and by extension, enables trust to be cultivated.
Why is trust vital for effective collaboration? Well, think back to the original intent of collaboration: to leverage multidisciplinary talent in order to achieve business objectives.
We know from neuroscience, that for people to operate at their best and utilise the extraordinary capacity of their prefrontal cortex, also known as their Executive Brain, they need to feel trust, or at least, not have their distrust networks dominating. When distrust networks are activated through a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, it can signal to the prefrontal cortex that it's not safe to open up and share, and so our access to our higher-order thinking shuts down. We can no longer tap into the full potential of our executive brain, where the capabilities of wisdom, innovation, strategy, empathy, foresight, insight and trust reside. So much for leveraging talent!
There's more that neuroscience has taught us. It's a key piece in the puzzle my clients are trying to solve when they ask: "How do you get people to want to work together in the first place?” When we place relationship over task and the associated intention to understand each other, we're also more likely to benefit from the social-bonding functions of our heart-brain. Yes, you read correctly, developments in neuroscience have shown that our heart actually sends more messages to our brain than our brain sends to our heart! These messages affect psychological factors such as attention level, motivation, perceptual sensitivity and emotional processing, so as you can see, collaboration is not all about using our heads. The heart, along with the brain, also produces the neurochemical oxytocin, commonly referred to as the love or social-bonding hormone, which has been shown to be involved in cognition, tolerance, trust and friendship and the establishment of enduring bonds. So when our heart-brain and head-brain are in sync, we optimise the potential of humans working together.
Google came to a complementary view when they sought to find out what made their best teams so productive and successful: their data from the research project code-named Project Aristotle proved that two relationship-oriented behaviours made all the difference. Firstly, all good teams practised conversational turn-taking, where all members spoke approximately the same amount of time, and secondly, they had high average social sensitivity, meaning the teams were "skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues". The interpersonal trust and mutual respect that these behaviours produce - aspects of what is known as psychological safety - are enablers for the interpersonal risk-taking that creativity and innovation stem from. So relationships really do matter. Effective collaboration goes beyond the task. It goes beyond the enabling conditions articulated by the late J. Richard Hackman of having a compelling direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context. When you place relationship as a central pillar you elevate the collective intelligence of the collaborative partnership and increase productivity and success.
On the 16th of October Naomi will look at what techniques you can adapt to stimulate the growth of the relationship pillar which in turn will lead to an environment where collaboration can thrive. Spaces for this exclusive event are limited. If you’re interested in attending or would like to find out more then please contact me for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naomi Abbott is a coach and facilitator who assists individuals and teams to enhance their communication impact and activate trust at work. She believes that the vitality of the cultures we work in stems from the conversations we have, and these can either enrich or diminish the best of business strategies. Naomi is proud to be one of 250 inaugural coaches certified in Conversational Intelligence® worldwide, and through her business Conscious Presence she is transforming the way people lead, collaborate, navigate change and embrace innovation.