Cardiac Arrest – When work causes too much stress

The following article is a transcript interview between Lyn Christian and Judith E. Glaser, the hosts of What’s Your Conversational Intelligence®? Podcast. You can listen to this full episode and others like it on iTunes (here), GooglePlay (here), iHeart Radio (here) and the official What’s Your Conversational Intelligence®? website (here).

Do you suffer from chronic stress? Your workplace or home environment could be the culprit. This episode of What’s Your Conversational Intelligence®? investigates how stress could be negatively impacting your bio-chemical systems, giving you anxiety, and causing you physiological harm. Lyn Christian, an ICF Master Certified Coach and founder of SoulSalt Inc. has partnered up with Author of Conversational Intelligence®, Organizational Anthropologist Judith E. Glaser to present the podcast episode: Cardiac Arrest – When work causes too much stress. 

Lyn Christian:
Do you suffer from chronic stress? How do you know? Chronic stress can be defined as any prolonged emotional discomfort, which eventually affects the body as well as the mind. You see, chronic stress negatively affects our bio-chemical, physiological, and behavior patterns. It can lead us to perceive that we have very little, if any, control over stress-induced situations. Now, a little bit of stress can move us into protection, or into activity, and productivity.

However, too much stress over too long will eventually damage our cardiovascular system. As each succeeding stressor bumps and dings the cardiac system, it makes us more and more vulnerable to something terrible, something like sudden cardiac death.

Now, what’s most striking about cases of sudden cardiac death is how frequently they occur during the presence of an extreme and emotionally ridden incidence. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s say a woman has just received shocking news that her child has died, or an overworked office manager finds out he just lost his job. Maybe a missing loved one, presumed to be dead, suddenly appears out of nowhere. Or even, you win the lottery for a lot of money.

When an extreme situation like this occurs, we humans break down; we cry, scream, rage, maybe exalt. And this can cause damage to our systems, systems that have been compromised, because the heart can no longer withstand the strain of some of these extreme experiences of trauma. So, by the time we’ve finish this podcast, no one will have died in this episode, but someone will be in the emergency room with a near fatal heart attack. And what put this person in the hospital could be placing a target on your back right now as it lurks somewhere in your workplace or your home environment.

I’m Lyn Christian and this is What’s Your Conversational Intelligence®?, where Conversational Intelligence® teaches us how to be great leaders, build trust and get extraordinary results. I’m about to interview Judith E. Glaser, organizational anthropologist and author of Conversational Intelligence, and she is the executive coach who got the call and the assignment to work with an executive who was actually giving his employees a heart attack. Let’s talk to her and find out what she did, not only for the employees, but, more importantly, how she supported an executive who was unwittingly causing great anxiety in the people who worked for him.

Judith E. Glaser:
In my career, I have certain landmark experiences with coaching senior executives who are very sophisticated or making an impact (good or bad, it could go either way), right? And I happen to have one that I think is probably, for me, one of the most profound. So I’m thrilled to share this with you.

Okay, so, I got a call to work with an executive at Verizon. Verizon is an extremely significant company. And being in the communication business, it just turns out that it made it almost like a double entendre, or something. It was fascinating.

So, I got a call, and the call was: “We have an executive that we want to interview you. We’re going to tell you about this person, so that you know going in, when you meet him, what’s going on.

Question number one: How much should they tell a coach versus a coach learn about a person?

But what they did is they passed along their biases to me about this person. And basically what they said is: This guy reports directly to the CEO. He is the head of the department that manages a lot of financial growth. So, people put money into Verizon, Verizon has special money set aside to invest. And that’s how Version grows. So, it’s the growth engine behind Verizon. This guy had been winning or had been told that he was one of the best leaders for a couple of years in a row. And then all of the sudden, he dropped down from being number one, two, or three down to below three and four. So, something was going on that was not good. He was no longer thought of as a great leader, and he reported right to the CEO.

Lyn Christian:
Oh! Wow!

Judith E. Glaser:
So, they did a little investigation. And they found out that one of his direct reports ended up in the hospital, who had been with the company for 20 years and said he would give up his pension in order to not report to this guy anymore.

Lyn Christian:
Oh my goodness!

Judith E. Glaser:
Now, this was after he had built up 20-, 25-years of pension, and he said, “I can’t do it. I had a heart attack. And I’m in the hospital now, and I cannot die because of this guy.” That was the first sign. And then as soon as he spoke up . . . you know this: once one person reveals the problem, others, who are fearful of speaking up, get the courage to reveal the problem. So, there were four direct reports, and the other three spoke up and talked about how they have never experienced anybody like this in the world, and it was the most horrible thing in the world, and so forth. So, it turns out, that I was one of 13 coaches that he interviewed.

Lyn Christian:
Wow! He was really going through the interviews, wasn’t he?

Judith E. Glaser:
He was going through the interviews; and he was looking for something. All of a sudden, he realized that he wanted me, and this is why: Everybody else had been prepped for his bad behavior; everybody had been told that the problem was his. So when they came in to talk to him and he interviewed those 12 other people, he said, “So, what do you know about me?” And they shared that he had put somebody in the hospital, and that he was, you know, doing horrible things to people. So they came in with the negative story that it was his fault that this was happening. And he picked me, because he said I was the only person that didn’t come in and say, you know, “I’ll work with you on your problem.”

I said, “You know, you and I have to do some research together. I don’t know what’s going on. I have no idea, but we’ll work together, we’ll partner together, and figure it out. And we’ll sort this out together. There’s confusion here, and I will help you with what ever it is we need to do.”

So, I took away judgment. I took away bias. I took away . . . I didn’t go up the Ladder of Conclusions. I kept it down to: You and me, we’re going to work together as partners and whatever happens, happens.

Lyn Christian:
Well, I see, Judith, some things that you did do: like you embodied curiosity and wonder. And you embodied partnership like: “Okay, so something is going on. Let’s find it out together.” That’s a beautiful way to approach it, and an honest way. Because I know your work, that’s how you were going to approach it.

Judith E. Glaser:
Yeah. Yeah. And I truly didn’t believe all the things, because at one point he was the best. So, what happened between being the best, and then not being the best? I mean, there were so many holes in this story that people filled in with bad things about him. Did he need coaching? Yes.

This is what I chose to do with him because he was so unusual. I chose to spend as much time as I could using what we call Pull Strategy. So, instead of trying to tell him things and guide the questions toward what I wanted him to think I knew, or that I was smart, or that I was addicted to something that I knew about already. Everything I did was: “Tell me more about that. Help me understand.” We have essentials called Double Clicking, for example, where you just go deeper and try to explore and: “What were you thinking? And what was going on for you?” And what I uncovered was a story of a brilliant executive who wanted to make sure that he developed best practice leaders. That was his goal. That was his ambition. His ambition was to help his people grow and become the best they could be. And so, the way he did it was . . . he would do things like send people home over the weekend with articles to read, articles about leadership.

Lyn Christian:
Ah! Okay.

Judith E. Glaser:
Okay. What he would do is on Thanksgiving (because they worked internationally) he’d put together a meeting with Europe on Thanksgiving. And so, his four people couldn’t go to their family Thanksgiving events. Instead, they had to be on the phone with people in Europe, in places where they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. And it was his way of delivering stellar, non-negotiable, successful work through Verizon anywhere in the world.

He had mottos about what good looked like, and what great looked like, and what he wanted his people to learn how to be able to do. What he was known to do is . . . (some of us have gone to school where teachers red-line our materials) . . . He had a red pen, and many of them. And so, he would go through the reports that his people wrote, and he would redline it. And the story would be, the tale that came with him was that he sometimes could do 14 iterations of edits using his redline pen. And at some point he started to edit his own words, not even their words anymore, but the edits that he had made. He was now editing his own editing.

Lyn Christian:
Oh my goodness. So, in an effort to be best of class, this aspiration, this drive got to be a driver where it was driving the agenda. And he lost even vision of maybe why he was doing it.

Judith E. Glaser:
Yeah. He lost . . . he definitely . . .
So we have: “Here’s my intention.” “Here’s my impact.”

Leaders that become successful align: “I intended this to happen,” “This was the impact—success.” And it creates a cascade of neuro-chemistry for success inside of human beings, and all of those good things that happen.

He didn’t notice impact. His impact was: he started to think, “Well, maybe some of these people aren’t as good as I thought they were.” So, it started to erode his perception of his people when they weren’t delivering as well as he thought they could too. So, it was a downward spiral. So performance became less, and less, and less, and less good from his people. Then he started to say, “I’m going to make stuff up.” And he started to say, “Well, maybe they’re not as good as I thought.” So it caused all sorts of unintended consequences.

So the first person in the hospital, obviously they found out that he was having a heart attack. The other people only spoke up after the heart attack, so that they felt a little safer not being the only ones to complain about this guy. And in the mean time, the anxiety, the anxiety was so high in the team. Everything he did was a Push Strategy.

So, I said, “How often do you meet with your team?” And he said, “Every week.” And I said, “How do you prepare for it?” And he said, “I make an agenda.” And I said, “So, what do you mean you ‘make an agenda’?” He said, “I put down all the things I want to tell them, and ask them to do, and talk to them about, so that we can accomplish the goals that we have for this week and next week, and next week, because we deliver. And I want to make sure that we’re on track to deliver, and everybody knows what they have to do, and all that kind of stuff.” No asking. No pulling.

The energy from when we pull out from other human beings their ideas, their suggestions, their thoughts, what they want to share with the world and help make it better. When we Pull, then human beings just light up. I mean, the whole chemistry of what happens inside us is different when we’re asked to submit our ideas.

So I said, “Okay, Glaser this is what you need to do. You need to create an experience . . . (everything is experiential) . . . an experience where he feels that he’s okay pulling instead of pushing. And then we get to see what the results are. So, he had to become an experimenter, a mentor of a new type of experiment he’d never done before.

So I said, “How often have you ever checked in with your people to ask them what they want to put on the agenda for the meetings?” He said, “It doesn’t work that way.” He said, you know, “I’m the boss. I’m driving the ship.” So, I said, “Well, let’s experiment. This time, before the meeting, send a note to everybody and say, ‘What would you like to put on the agenda.’” And he did. And in addition to the things he had to accomplish, like handling Thanksgiving, and all these things that he had to do so that he could perform, he got ideas from his people. They’d never been asked before.

He came to the meeting, and I said, “So, when you get into the meeting, and you start to have your conversation, I’d like you to Pull out and ask your people what they meant by this data point that they wanted to talk about. So, you’re pulling more from them, you’re getting clarity, you’re Double Clicking, Listening to Connect. I didn’t overwhelm him with these new ways of communicating, because he was so not open for that. I mean . . .

Lyn Christian:
Right. You had to meet him where he was, and give him one little thing to look at.

Judith E. Glaser:
One thing, and just shifting the Push and Pull Energy.

And so, people came to the meeting. And that night, I got phone calls from four people. And the first person said what I will remember forever and the other people echoed it in their own language. The guy said, “What did you give my boss to drink?” And I said, “Tell me what happened. What are you talking about.” And they said, “He has never asked us to contribute ideas. He has never asked for a conversation. He has never praised us for spurring him on to think in better ways. None of the things that happened in this meeting ever happened before. And so, he showed up as a different human being. And we don’t know how to describe it except . . . what did you give him to drink? Because it’s like he was drunk. He was drunk on something different.”

Lyn Christian:
He was drunk on curiosity or Conversational Intelligence®?

Judith E. Glaser:
Yes.

Lyn Christian:
Yeah. So, Judith, I want to segue into something. If people that are listening would like some advice; if they are in a scenario where either they are the executive, and they don’t know how to change their behavior, but they can tell it’s doing more harm. They are going up a ladder of conclusions. They’re down a Downward Spiral. Or they are an employee that can see something happening with their bosses or their directors. What are a few practical things that can be done when you get into this scenario?

Judith E. Glaser:
There are two phrases that I’ve heard over the last five or ten years, which have been the placement of what to do. And I’m going to break it down now, because I think it stopped us from getting to where we’re going now. And that is: Put the elephant on the table. Put the moose on the table. All those things where we just were so miffed by how to describe the political behavior of leaders that are not sensitive, or what this particular leader was doing—a lot of Push, and Addicted to Being Right, Tell-Sell-Yell.

I’ve invented language to explain syndromes. It’s like if you go to a doctor, and the doctor says, “Let me tell you what you have. You happen to have Whooping Cough disease,” or something, “or Foot and Mouth,” or whatever. Those never existed before. Those are diagnostics that help people understand that these are universal disease states that impact human beings.

And so, what I have been working on my whole life . . . I wrote my first business dictionary with random house in 1984–86; it took two years. And I was asked to come up with 3,500 new business terms.

That’s when I realized that if you don’t have a word for something . . . words create worlds . . . and if you don’t have a word for whatever it is that you are explaining, then you come up with your best-cased scenario for how to describe what it was.

And so, we’ve said all sorts of things in business: you have a selfish, egocentric, narcissistic, all those words that have described people that are insensitive. And I said I have to help create this new language so that we can begin to help the leaders who are Addicted to Being Right.

Addicted to Being Right is natural and normal. When you go to school, and you have your teachers rewarding you for getting good answers, and they give you A’s, and now you have dopamine high. And you have endorphins that skirt through your body every time you get a good grade, when you speak up and say, “Here’s the answer. I’m right. This is what it is.” And all those behavior patterns that we have learned over hundreds of years, if not thousands of years, that our brain has moved towards.

We’re now at a time where we’re at least knowing how to identify . . . We can see inside, we can x-ray what goes on in the brain and see that these are habit patterns that cause us to be who we are. This guy was so Addicted to Being Right and his brain was just eating up the dopamine, and the testosterone.

At the top, we’re . . . so much of who we are came from the animal kingdom, so we want to be the top dog. We are now looking at breaking chemical patterns that we have built over, I could say, six million years, you know, and know that, if you believe in evolution, that there are pictures that show when all this started, to really, really take hold.

Lyn Christian:
So I’m hearing what one of the things that we can do is just put language to it. Start naming the thing. Start talking about it. And if you’re not sure what to name it, I would think people would want to connect with somebody who has been in an emersion program with you and understands some of this language: a C-IQ coach or a C-IQ certified consultant, somebody that can help them put language to it. Besides putting language to it, and be willing to open up and talk about it, is there any thing else that somebody can do? Let’s say they’re in a leadership position. What are one or two things they could start to do like this gentleman did that makes them a better version of themselves?

Judith E. Glaser:
If you find . . . And I have found . . . let me reverse this saying. I have not yet found a leader, who once I started to talk about the neuro-chemistry of conversations, I’ve never found anyone who didn’t go: “Oh, my God! This is amazing! Boy, does that explain this, this, this, and this.” Right?

So, find someone who has an articulate way of describing and helping you get into this new language and learn some of the words. The Addicted to Being Right, for example, which is a syndrome that is present—men, women, every age, little, big, you name it. In other words, this is humanity this is what it means to be a human being. And just sit down and enjoy learning the stories about what this is all about. Put these new terms into your language. Begin to observe. Notice if this happens in your family. And share your “Aha’s” with people and your family. And saying, “You know that thing that happens to us a lot, where we get caught up in all this stuff? Well, there’s a name for it. Can you believe it? It’s called addictive . . .”

So, let me tell you, very quickly, that I was out in Los Angeles about three or four weeks ago giving a talk to 175 of the top financial executives in the world, the CPA world. After I did my session, and blah, blah, blah, I came home. I signed books for people. And I got a call from a guy named Will. And Will said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” And I said, “For what?” And he said, “My life will never be the same. You changed my life. I got your book. I read about Push Energy, Pull Energy, Addicted to Being Right, all the things that you were talking about. And I got my team together and we talked about it. We shared our thinking about it. And he said, “We decided to practice working as a team to do things differently.” He said, “It only took one meeting where we shared all these new ideas.” And he said, “Our team has never performed as successfully as they are performing now. It was so right. It was so clear. It was so easy to follow that we just stepped into it.” So . . .

Lyn Christian:
That’s great. That’s great advice. And, you know, our team (we only have three employees here at SoulSalt), but the dynamics, our sales funnel, our marketing, the way that we’re interacting, our projects . . . I mean, we have more money in our savings today, because I believe in part . . . we even had a debrief in December (why are things moving better), and one of our employees, Shannon, said, “I think C-IQ had something to do with this.” And I was like: “Absolutely! It does.” So, there is a direct correlation.

So what would be the next steps if you decided to apply some of the lessons we learned today from Judith? Well, first of all, you may want to observe yourself as you lead your teams, or as you interact at home. Notice if you are Addicted to Being Right, being the top dog. And if you are, start to talk about it. Find language to tell people: “You know that thing? I’m doing that. I’m trying to be right. And I want to redo this conversation.” Be willing, even, to keep a journal and track yourself in terms of how you are doing. Notice if you are Telling more than Asking and Listening. See if you can break the chemical patterns of creating that need for dopamine and being right. And fill in the blanks with oxytocin and connection with other people.

For more information on this topic, check out Judith’s book, Conversation Intelligence: How Great Leader Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results. For more information on Judith E. Glaser, go ahead and look at creatingwe.com. If you would like to find a C-IQ certified coach, send an inquiry to info@soulsalt.com.

What’s Your Conversational Intelligence® is produced by Benchmark Communications, Inc., and SoulSalt, Inc., with editing by Jessica Draper and Gavin Bruderer. Writing and research for this podcast were completed by myself, Lyn Christian. Shannon Dee and Molly Levine were in charge of logistics and scheduling. And a big thank you to Judith E. Glaser for bringing her energy, her experience, and her expertise to the table and helping us all improve our Conversational Intelligence®.