Boosting Conversational Intelligence: An Intro to C-IQ and Why We Love it

In Converation with the Safety Collaborators Podcast

Episode 038

Aug 2, 2023

"If You're Not Getting The Results You Want, Maybe It's Time To Give Your Conversational Intelligence A Boost."

[Listen at approximately 00:11]

This quote by Daniel H. Pink is on the cover of the book 'Conversational Intelligence' by Judith E. Glaser.


Before I dive into how I came across it, it might help to understand why I even wanted to go down that path, which is a good starting point.

Many years ago, I started working in the industry as a safety coach [back then, we were called consultants], working out on rigs in environments different from where I grew up and lived. And in fact, my first gig was off the coast of Nigeria.

I'm talking in the heyday of behavioural-based safety, so 20 years ago - and I can remember sitting there thinking we're having these conversations and trying to teach people to do things differently, yet something was always missing for me. I didn't know what that was back then, so it always played in my mind.

[Listen at approximately 02:20]

I had started studying coaching skills [through WBECS] - how I could improve at being a coach and how to improve the types of conversations we have.

They were running their yearly conference, and one of the speakers was Judith E. Glaser. She had just written her book 'Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results'.

At that conference, and through her session, she started talking about the tools she uses and her journey to better understand and help people have the right conversations [which started in sales, where she consulted with organisations to improve their sales process]. Her actual background is in anthropology and cultural anthropology.

So all of this learning and consulting started to formulate ideas. As a result, the next part, of course, with these conferences is that you can become a learner in that process.

So I did - I signed up to become a certified C-IQ [acronym for Conversational Intelligence] coach - there are only a few of us, probably at most 5,000. Sadly, Judith has since passed away, but her work continues.

So we are some of the early adopters of C-IQ, and we love to bring it into our work.
And that's how I got into it.

In 2018, I attended an ICF conference in Ireland, where they had a raffle, and the lucky number drawn would win the gift of joining one of Judith's programs.

When purchasing the ticket, I had to write down what I would do with the prize, and as I didn't need it, I wrote that I would give it to my friend Nuala.

Lo and behold, I won it, promptly burst into tears [as I do], and Nuala was delighted.

And that's how we became CI-Q [Conversational Intelligence] coaches and some of the rare breed out there that are certified.

[Listen at approximately 04:24]

So that's the origins of conversational intelligence and how we got to it.

But really, it's about helping people we work with have conversations that build trust and understand the difference between a power with conversation versus a transformational conversation.

So we talk about three levels of conversational intelligence and a range of tools and frameworks within that.


As we started this conversation, one of the things that triggered for me was the need to do a deeper dive into it again because there are many things that I have maintained and kept up; however, just going through some of the resources before we started, there were so many golden nuggets that I have dropped out of my toolkit, and I would love to bring them back.

The whole 'asking verse telling', 'selling versus yelling', and some things that made us realise that we need to share more of this.

It had such an impact when I was learning it.

And I remember it was great because the live sessions were after hours; at that stage, I was using a trampoline to get fit. So I would often have the lessons going whilst jumping on the trampoline. So I was multitasking, and you will be happy to know I no longer do that kind of multitasking; I've learned to get a life. 😉

But there are many happy memories during that learning and many moments where I was so grateful that I was also being challenged and learning myself.

Judith was a great fan of 'being challenged and learning' and had an extraordinary aura and energy.
Being in the program and becoming one of the inaugural certified coaches was a joy.

Understanding from a Neuroscience Perspective

[Listen at approximately 07:06]

In the early days, we were just getting introduced to neuroscience as well. It played a significant role in the foundation of conversational intelligence – understanding what's happening from a neuroscience perspective was key.

We often discussed the concept of the six brains, ranging from the prefrontal cortex (our executive brain, you could say) – our newest brain – all the way down to the gut-brain, which we now believe and have evidence for being an important component of how we show up as human beings.

It's fascinating to consider the ongoing conversation between the brain sending messages downwards and the gut sending information upwards.

From the viewpoint of emotional intelligence, the gut tends to be where we first feel things.

Then, that information travels through our nervous system to our brain, triggering either fast or slow thinking – fast being emotional reactions without self-management.

Understanding the chemical perspective within us is crucial.

We often delve into topics like downregulating cortisol, which can cause quick reactions, and increasing oxytocin, known as the "hug hormone."

Of course, we're not suggesting everyone should go around having constant hug conversations, but it's about creating a more positive and connected atmosphere.

One interesting aspect is the idea of downregulating cortisol and managing adrenaline while upregulating oxytocin and dopamine.

A team member cleverly likened it to a set of cocktail glasses – which one are you filling?
What kind of conversational cocktail are you presenting to the world?

It's a fun idea; we could even dedicate a whole episode to exploring conversational cocktails.

C-IQ Catalyst & the L.E.A.R.N. Tool

[Listen at approximately 08:58]

There are other measuring tools in this body of work as well.
One of our favourites, especially for one-on-one coaching, is the C-IQ catalyst.

It consists of 10 questions that shed light on a leader's conversational patterns. Interestingly, the same 10 questions are used for everyone, but the order in which they come back varies because we all have distinct conversational patterns.

It acts as a catalyst for conversation between us and our coachee, where we can then take a deeper dive into their patterns. For instance, if they excel in one pattern but have another that is more cortisol-driven, we explore the overlap and the disconnect.

Another tool we love and use frequently is an acronym called L.E.A.R.N.

We often recommend using it at the end of conversations, meetings, or just before the conclusion.

It's also useful in programs, serving as a reflection process for the start of a new day based on the previous day's happenings.

So, there's a wealth of tools to explore and apply here!

The L.E.A.R.N. Tool

[Listen at approximately 10:59]

It's a fantastic tool for leaders to adopt and provides an excellent structure for what we have previously called the ponder or the review of learning.

In the past, we would ask what stood out for people and why, but it gave them little structure to help internalise the learning. With this tool, though, a fabulous amount of structure encourages people to think things through thoroughly.

It's especially helpful for those who aren't naturally inclined to journal or find reflective learning challenging. This approach helps them consider what they're thinking, what they've learned, and how they plan to use it going forward.

As facilitators, coaches, leaders, or team leaders, this tool offers valuable feedback on what comes next. It helps identify what people need, what adjustments might be necessary, and how to cater to them.

The L.E.A.R.N acronym stands for...

L- Like

It involves asking what participants liked most about a meeting or workshop and what they would like to explore further. It can be especially useful in meetings where the participants may be hesitant to ask questions or share thoughts openly.

E - Excited (or Energised)

In other words, what aspects of the topic or discussion sparked enthusiasm or motivation?

A - Anxious

What made participants Anxious (or uncomfortable)? This question helps identify areas where there might be uncertainties or concerns that need to be addressed.

R - Reframe, Refocus, Redirect

This helps participants consider whether any shifts or adjustments in their approach are necessary.

N - Needs

Participants can reflect on what they might need to understand better, implement, or address concerning the topic at hand.

What's Missing?

[Listen at approximately 13:23]

The idea of the anxious word is what's missing to bring out the sense of frustration or dissatisfaction that sometimes arises after a meeting or conference, where you feel like nothing substantial was accomplished.

How do we address this feeling?

How do we bring these concerns into the conversation, whether it's a fear of wasting time or not making progress and staying stagnant? This is where the R of reframe, refocus, redirect comes into play.

  • How can we redirect that fear or anxiousness?
  • Do we need to reword things differently?

The letter N, which is often overlooked, is all about needs. How often do we end a meeting by asking,

"Do you have any needs you'd like us to discuss?"

The word "need" can be daunting. People may fear that admitting their needs implies something is lacking or that they haven't addressed everything adequately.

So by addressing needs in a safe and trusting environment, we create a space where people can openly ask for help or express what they truly require to move forward, whether it's additional resources, support from others, more time, or even more buy-in from the team.

Trust is a significant component of our C-IQ journey, and it's a topic we will explore together.

Using L.E.A.R.N. as an Activity

[Listen at approximately 15:27]

With the L.E.A.R.N. activity, you can use it as an engaging exercise in various ways.

For instance, if you're working with a group, you can have individuals work alone initially, answering the questions attached to each letter. Afterwards, you can pair them up to discuss their responses before bringing them together in groups for further exploration.

This activity has the potential to be a valuable session, and it can easily extend to one or two hours.

Karin used this activity as part of a safety unconference for the entire global H.S.C. team of a large oil services company. During the unconference, the L.E.A.R.N. activity was the foundation for meaningful conversations. Participants came up with some excellent ideas and identified needs that required addressing over time.

To tailor the questions and make them more focused for the exercise or day's session, we modified the word "like." Instead of simply asking what they liked, we asked:

  • "What do you like about the current state of safety at the client?"

And then for "energised" and "anxious", we asked:

  • "What energises you about your role as an influencer of safety within the client site?"
  • "What makes you anxious about the current state of safety at the client? Let's address that."

Reframing the questions enabled us to hone in on specific safety-related aspects and encouraged more targeted discussions.

What Do We Need to Reframe or Reimagine?

[Listen at approximately 17:12]

How do we reimagine? We love that word! 

  • How might we creatively reimagine anxiety in a constructive way? 
  • How would you envision the future of safety at the client's site?
  • What needs to happen to turn that vision into reality? 
  • Share your ideas.

The tool we use for running events allows us to capture all this valuable input from participants. With the help of AI, we can summarise all the rich data and distil it into a one-page takeaway, even when we have many attendees.

An example of where we use this tool is in a program called "Energise2." The letter E represents energising, and we explore what participants like about the event, workshop, or program and what brings them enthusiasm.

We incorporate this activity at the beginning of day two after they've spent a whole day together and had one-on-one coaching sessions. It helps us gauge how to continue with the immersive program for them and tweak it as needed. 

You can play around with the words if you want to get creative.
For instance, you could replace "like" with "love" [some might find that awkward] or
"energise" could be "exciting" or "enthusiastic."

In a room with a group of people, you can put each letter on separate flip charts and hang them around the walls. Participants can then walk around and write their responses to each word on the flip charts. 

This activity can be highly engaging and informative. 

We did this at another conference for environmental representatives, where participants freely shared their thoughts and ideas. The event facilitator takes away the flip charts and uses the feedback to develop the program further.

Final Thoughts & Parting Gift

[Listen at approximately 19:32]

So, that concludes our quick introduction to C-IQ.
It forms the foundation of much of our work, especially in our facilitated programs.

As a parting gift, we have provided you with a downloadable version of the L.E.A.R.N. activity.
[which you will find in the Resource section below].

You can use it in your upcoming important sessions to add meaning to meetings or gatherings. It's a powerful tool to understand where people are before leaving the room, ensuring everyone is aligned and headed in the same direction.

This activity can offer insights that you may not have otherwise received, making it one of the many valuable conversational rituals. Establishing this habit within the organisation creates a safe space for sharing, promoting psychological safety, and fostering a learning culture.

The advantages of using this seemingly simple tool are far-reaching.

In the words of Judith Glaser, "Words create Worlds", and we are excited to continue sharing these valuable tools in many more podcasts to come. We believe these nuggets of wisdom will positively impact you, just as they have us.

With that, may your next conversation be conversationally intelligent!


Download the  L.E.A.R.N. Infographic

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.

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