The Missing Link to your Next Breakthrough- Bruce Ross, Ignite Business Leadership

A great read from local business-  Bruce Ross, Ignite Business Leadership on “The Missing Link to Your Next Breakthrough”.

Your Biggest Challenge: Today’s commercial landscape has been redescribed as VUCA – Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. Once used to describe a battle-scape, this is now our every-day disrupted reality.

Despite this, you still need to adapt, grow and thrive. Now, more than ever before, you need one thing: Bandwidth – quality thinking space.

In a VUCA world, there is only one way to achieve that: Deliberate Collaboration. Developing your team to become your company’s trusted think tank.

So, Where to Start? Your business greatness depends on:

  • Your culture, which depends on
  • Your relationships, which depends on
  • Your conversations… everything happens through conversations

No news there…  but what if you are inadvertently shutting your people’s brains down, unwittingly cauterising the very thing you hired them for – innovation and high performance?

Fortunately we have the benefit of Neuro-psychology (brain-based, predictable behaviours) to guide us.

The Neuro-science of Conversation: Our Watchdog or Our Sage

Simply put, we have a tri-une brain

  • Reptilian brain – survival focus
  • Mammalian brain – flight / fight / freeze response to threat
  • Neo-cortex (esp. the Prefrontal cortex) – Executive function


The reptilian brain (physical safety focus) and the mammalian brain (emotional safety focus) combined, create our powerful survival Watchdog mechanism.

The neo-cortex is what makes us distinctly human. From this evolutionary masterpiece comes behaviour modification, decision making, consideration of consequence, planning, innovation, wisdom – it is where our Sage resides.

Everything you want from yourself and your team (including insight, problem solving, confidence) comes from the pre-frontal cortex. Trouble is, you can’t access any of this if the Watchdog has been alerted. None. An alerted watchdog hijacks all focus.

So, What Alerts the Watchdog?

Fear. Distrust. Judgement. Uncertainty. Change. Mixed messages. Unrealistic deadlines.When these occur, the ever vigilante Watchdog bristles; we become self-obsessed, feel stressed and are no longer resourceful.

Management methods that rely on fear (positional power) to enforce compliance create sheeple. The status quo continues.

What has this to do with conversations? Everything. Most conversation patterns trigger the Watchdog.

To explain…

Conversational Intelligence: The Three Levels[1]

The patterns of conversation can flick a person into protect (withdraw) mode or bring them into co-creation (collaboration) mode

[1] Comes from Judith Glaser’s book Conversational Intelligence


Level I


No / Low Trust. Closed (yes/no) questions. Yell / sell / tell. Telling people what to do. Information exchange. Confirms

what we know

Level II

Advocate / Inquire

Conditional Trust. Influencing others to your position. ‘Who’s right?’ Listening for weakness. Power exchange Defends

what we know

Level III

Share / Discover


High Trust. What’s new / fresh for both. Share first – be vulnerable and disclose. Energy exchange. Discovers what we

don’t know



  • How much time does your team spend in each level (%)?
  • How much time do you spend in each level (%)?

Typically Level III is a very low percentage.

Want More Level III? 



  • Be vulnerable (share a mistake and your learning)
  • Ask questions that neither of you knows the answer to
  • Listen to connect
  • Ask for aspirations and fears around a project / initiative
  • Ask, ‘How can I be a better leader for you?’

As a company

  • Create a culture of continuous improvement
  • Formalise cross-function mentoring, innovation forums
  • Utilise online collaboration tools

In summary: Trust = Collaboration = Energy = Intelligence = Agility = Scale-ability

If you’d like to learn more about leading energised, collaborative cultures, contact Bruce Ross or 21 548 900