People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt is consistently rated as one of the top 5 American Presidents. He is known for driving change for the greater good, including the conservation of natural resources (preserved 230 million acres for national parks), control of corporations (dissolved 44 monopolistic corporations), and consumer protection (Pure Food and Drug Act to better regulate food production and labelling).

He achieved these remarkable feats through “playing fair”, compassion, mutual respect, infectious enthusiasm, and tenacity. Workplace research also backs up the need for care and compassion to inspire people and change.

The Gallup organisation has found that the engagement survey question which best predicts discretionary effort from an employee is “my supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person”. Their research shows that the more people that agree with this statement, the higher the productivity, customer services levels, and employee longevity. Care is demonstrated through conversations and actions.

The care in a conversation determines the success of a relationship. The care in relationships determines the success of the team. The care in teams determines the success of the organisation.

Conversations can also inspire trust and high performance.

Judith Glaser in her book Conversational Intelligence identifies 3 levels of conversation.

At Level I – the most basic level – people ask and answer questions, share information or conduct transactions.

At the next point, Level II, people share viewpoints and try to guide others toward them in “positional” conversations.  They are trying to influence others towards their desired outcomes.

At Level III – the highest level – people speak and listen in order to “transform and shape reality together” in a “co-creating conversation.” Glaser’s work in neuroscience shows that the brain is hardwired to achieve Level III conversations, but negative emotions – fear and distrust – often interfere with how it is received. Trust enables healthy conversations and allows relationships to thrive.

Perhaps this is why Conversational Intelligence was nominated by Inc. magazine as one of the Top 5 Business Trends for this decade. In these volatile times, a leader that embodies trust will achieve results that a less trustworthy peer can’t – no matter how competent they are.

This is confirmed in research contained in Amy Cuddy’s book Presence, which shows that we want to deal with someone who is both trustworthy and competent, but by far the most important quality is the former. We would rather work with someone less competent if we feel we can trust them.

So how do leaders create trust through conversations?

Taking conversations from a “ME-centric” to “WE-centric”orientation is critical for Level III conversations, according to Glaser.

All successful conversations around change should be with a win-win outlook. The most successful groups have a mindset of ‘we’re great’ rather than ‘I’m great”.

Questions to ask your tribe

  1. How can we improve the courage to ask questions and the courage to listen?
  2. How can we strive for win-win in our conversations?

We can inspire people and change by having more caring conversations.