Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vital Conversations - Deciphering the Language of Leadership

The brain is like a black box, which has always been a mystery to human beings since the beginning of time. Every generation tests the brain with different forms of "drugs" and "chemicals" to try to see what the impact will be, making us better from illness, giving us highs, helping us see the world in a positive way if we are depressed; all forms of substances that test the brain's capacity to be changed. When we impact the brain chemically, we impact our state of "being" - we impact what it means to be a human being.

Language evolved only 6,000 years ago. Its function is yet to be fully understood. My premise is that language is the "new and natural medicine" with the capacity to trigger states of being as powerful as do drugs. That is why we are seeing a rebirth in psychiatric counseling in the treatment of psychoses and a big movement in the business world toward Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology.

Historically, the medical model has been about fixing what is broken. However if we adopt this new thesis about the power of language, and we focus on the facilitative role language has in evolving the brain's capacity to expand perspectives, and create a "feel good" experience, then leaders can shape the workplace in profound ways.

Business Case for Mindfulness

We now have a business reason for understanding the power of this new linguistic framework for leaders. In the past decade, neuroscientists have corroborated that there are two types of genes. Those that are fixed - called template genes, and those that are impacted by the environment - called transcription genes.

We now know that children who are raised by parents who understand how to positively shape a child's environment with appreciative and value based conversations, will shape the child to become more optimistic about life, and more confident about themselves. Those children who grow up in punitive and judgmental environments will tend to be less positive about themselves, and more judgmental about others - passing along the "gene" for judgment to others with whom they interact.

We have a strong belief now that many of the "illnesses" we see today can be reduced by focusing on the "feel" of the conversational environment that we create both for our children and for our employees. To take this a step further, this suggests that mentally healthy people will have a strengthened immune system, affording them increased protection against disease. Studies of those who grew up in families where they were loved, where they learned to discover their strengths, and where they were challenged in positive ways, tend to be very healthy of mind, body and spirit. They will lead healthier lives.

Truth Be Told

What is exciting is that the field of genetics is proving that this premise of the power of language is actually true. There are many, many scientists working on deepening our understanding of genetics and neurobiological changes and they apply to human development and human behavior. One scientist, Dr. David Haig from Harvard University has spent 30 years studying life in the womb and the birthing process. He has shown that genes are turned on and off in utero and that they continue to be turned on and off during life based on the impact of conversations and the environment at large. These genetic changes, some permanent and some temporal, have a profound impact on our well-being.

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. believes that every cell in our body is part of our body-language system talking continuously to ensure we are in a state of optimum health. Language is an environment in the same way that food is an environment, or unhealthy water is an environment, or toxic waste is an environment. Language impacts our state of being, and through that impacts our evolution as human beings.

We are Social Beings

No human being can function in a healthy way alone. When we are alone our brains shrivel up and we die earlier. Feral children, children experiencing no human contact, are unable to function in society simply because their FOXp2 gene is not activated during their development.

We need each other to grow and develop - and that development continues from our birth to our death. The notion of independence is false. We are interdependent and thrive through conversation. Conversations drive our social evolution - and raise all of our intelligences. Conversations shape our future.

Creating WE Institute's focus is to help leaders understand the power of language to trigger health and create positive growth. In genetic terms, it's to create positive epigenetic changes. What is pivotal to our work is that through language we connect with others and how we connect has a huge impact on us all, not just on a personal level, but on the future of the world.

Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:

Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386



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