What does a thriving business look like? One characteristic is employees who are enthusiastic, motivated and engaged. But with only a 20% employee engagement rate globally*, I’m guessing that’s not what your workplace looks like. It’s sure not what my former workplace looked like.
The office I went to was bristling with stress, friction and looming crises. It was fraught with unmet deadlines and unachievable expectations. It was cubicles and closed doors and quiet. Way. Too. Quiet….
I never polled my teammates, so I don’t know the actual employee engagement rate of that company, but I do know that almost every one of my former colleagues have also left that organization. I think it’s safe to say that most of us had checked out long before we let the door close behind us for the last time.
To move the needle on employee engagement – which is to say, to increase the well-being and mental health of working people everywhere, as well as company profitability and productivity – we have to do something different. Really different.
We could start by embracing the full power of our communication as a catalyst for relationships. We need strong relationships at work and in all areas of our lives to meet our basic human needs for safety and belonging. We need them for resilience. We need them because we are not automatons – we are social creatures whose well-being depends on having robust relationships with other people.
This brings us to the third principle of Authentic Communication: ACT.
The hallmark of ACT is mindful communication that privileges relationships. In Authentic Communication, we embrace communication as much more than a consensual code for exchanging information. We understand that it possesses an incredible power to shape teams, increase impact and excellence, and, yes, engage employees, when we communicate to connect with and care for others.
In short, we treat communication like an ACT of Love.
Yes. I just did that. I just used the “L” word.
OK – if talking about Love makes you a little uncomfortable, please hang in there. I know it’s not the #1 word on LinkedIn. I’m going there anyway because, with 80% of all employees disengaged from their work – and everything that means for individuals and organizations – I think it’s time to be bold. Love-style bold.
And you are ready for this.
You already know that every team, organization, group – every family, community, classroom – all are made up of human beings who are in relationship with each other. And you know that the quality of the communication taking place in those systems either nurtures or depletes the relationships. And, you know that the quality of those relationships is directly reflected in the quality of work, collaboration, results produced.
That means you already know about making communication an act of Love, and you know why it matters.
To be clear: This is not the kind of love you have for your favorite pizza or a shiny new car. This definitely is not “office romance” love. This is not even the kind of love you might experience when you see a real Monet or a shooting star.
This is the kind of Love that arises in relationship with yourself and other human beings – including those humans who happen to be your work colleagues. It’s the kind of Love that can be nurtured, grown and delighted in through mindful, authentic communication.
Treating communication like an act of Love means you consciously, mindfully exchange energy, ideas and information to plan projects, assign responsibilities and establish structure that smooth the path to productivity. You take agreements seriously, and you make them in ways that increase predictability and ease in an uncertain world. You articulate your expectations and create strong containers – like meetings that have with clear start- and end-times, clear agendas, clear roles. You use precise distinctions to foster trust, which in turn strengthens individual and collective welfare, not to mention efficiency and excellence. You have the courageous conversations that are inevitably necessary for any team to thrive and have fun, even when the going gets tough. You don't hold back on expressing gratitude and appreciation.
The true and inherent power of communication as an act of Love gives you the ultimate competitive advantage. It diminishes disengagement, hones focus, enhances workflow, cultivates creativity, and so much more – all through mindful communication that puts a priority on people and relationships.
The solution to the employee engagement crisis is rooted in Love.
The delivery mechanism for that Love is Authentic Communication.
I hope you’ll join me and do one of the most audacious things ever:
Bring Love to the Workplace.
* Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace Report says that 80% of employees globally (and 89% in Western Europe) are not engaged at work.
"Being listened to is the psychological equivalent to air." – Stephen Covey
A few weeks ago, I had a breakdown at home.
I have immense gratitude for my relationship with my husband. We both work at our marriage, and our work generally bears sweet fruit. Recently, though, there was a spate of time in which I felt like I was not being listened to by my beloved. He was hearing me speak, but I sensed that he was not really listening. My words were met with a non-sequitur or a witty remark. In that time of his not listening, I felt cut off, isolated, disengaged.
It’s not just my husband. I also can be a lousy listener (just ask my husband). And – while I know I’m making a big assumption here – I’m pretty sure you can be a lousy listener too.
That’s because listening is simple, but it is not easy. Not easy – and absolutely critical to our communication, our relationships, our teamwork, and even our mental health.
Listening is one of the principal ways we connect with each other. And by listening, I don’t mean waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can say something. I don’t mean fiddling with the phone and saying, “uh-huh” while someone near you is speaking. I don’t mean daydreaming about what’s for lunch against the murmuring background of a human voice.
LISTEN is the second principle of Authentic Communication. It’s the golden bridge between “who I am” (BE) and “what we can do together” (ACT). It is how we come toward each other, honoring our human needs for relationship and connection. It’s how we connect with each other.
Listening builds on the understanding of ourselves that we develop with practices of BE. From that foundation of personal presence – where I learn about more hidden aspects of myself and how they may be exerting undue influence on myself, my behavior, my communication, and my relationships – I can wholeheartedly turn to others. I can listen.
With the Intentional Listening practices of Authentic Communication, we build capacity for new ideas, far-out stories, and challenging perspectives. We drop the need to judge, correct or object. We listen not just for comprehension but also for connection. We strengthen relationships. We re-engage our colleagues, teammates and employees in what really matters.
When we think about the 80% of employees around the world who report that they are not engaged at work, and the incredible power of listening to connect people, we could ask two questions:
Listening is simple, but it’s not easy. You can start to strengthen your listening muscle by taking a few small steps. Eliminate distractions, don’t multitask, sit with both feet flat on the floor, and remember to breathe. These incremental acts of attention will help you become more present to the person speaking. They’ll create an inner environment that opens you to listening for connection.
From the connection we gain by practicing LISTEN, we can move to Authentic Communication’s third principle, ACT – mindful communication for productivity, efficiency and excellence. We’ll look at ACT in the next article in this series.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
We all need purpose and vision – an idea of where we’re going. We need a sense that our efforts are producing something of value to ourselves, our company, our families, our communities, our planet.
Purpose gives us direction. Without it, we tend to go in circles or on wild tangents, expending time, energy and resources without achieving any real sense of accomplishment.
When we move along the path of our purpose, though, we derive deep satisfaction. We feel an upsurging, “Yes! This is what I’m here for!”
When we work on purpose, we’re motivated, encouraged and enthusiastic about doing the job at hand. We are engaged.
With a global employee engagement rate of only 20%, it seems that there quite a bit of room for improving that sense of purpose in the workplace.
The first principle of Authentic Communication, BE, might offer some helpful insight here.
As Authentic Communicators, we believe that all communication begins with the communicator. We practice self-reflection to strengthen our understanding of ourselves. We set judgment aside and look at who we are as communicators, as teammates, as human beings on the great adventure of life.
We are not looking to change who we are. We are, instead, doing the honest and fearless work of getting to know – and accept – ourselves. This is when we pull back the layers to know the truth of who we are. For how can we practice Authentic Communication without a genuine connection to what is true, meaningful, and authentic for us as individuals?
There are many paths to self-awareness. One of my favorites is mindfulness. A daily sitting practice in which I observe the fluctuations of my mind has been a reliably honest teacher about my own patterns, habits, self-deceptions, and unique magnificence.
Another favorite of mine is Values Discovery. This is a two-part process. First, we rank our personal values using an organic system that mimics the way the mind prioritizes core beliefs in any real-world situation. Then, we tell stories that help us connect with these values – stories that bring our own values to life.
With self-awareness (or, “BE”) practices like these, we bring what is hidden into the light so that we can become aware of the parts of ourselves that, though perhaps not obvious to us, have a profound influence on our behaviors.
If, for example, we are not aware of or connected with our values, we lack a basic understanding of whether the work we’re doing is aligned with what is true and authentic for us.
Being in sync with our values needs knowledge of and engagement with those values. When we are in sync with our values, we are on purpose, full of energy, teeming with meaning and satisfaction. Being out of sync with our values – that is, not knowing them, not being connected with them, or not choosing to express them – can translate into doing work in a way that is unproductive, irrelevant, and even sabotages good results.
You can uncover a wealth of energy and engagement in your team by encouraging BE practices. Invite team members to commit to a discipline that develops self-awareness – daily journaling, mindfulness, values explorations, working with a coach. Then have them buddy-up with a teammate to share their BE journey. In this way, they can support and encourage each other, and hold each other accountable, too.
And please let me know what you discover about yourselves and your teams. I have no doubt that it will be magnificent.
First the good news. Better interpersonal communication means stronger relationships and tighter teamwork. That translates into higher employee engagement, higher productivity, higher profitability – not to mention the mental health improvements that come when people experience more joy, purpose and vitality at work.
Now the bad news. Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace Report says that 80% of employees globally (and 89% in Western Europe) are not engaged at work.
This is a crisis of massive proportion. It creates a climate for burnout, excessive stress and personal breakdowns. And, it's a major financial drain.
Companies of all sizes are losing significant amounts of money from higher absenteeism and lower productivity. One estimate says that every disengaged employee costs a company the equivalent of 34% of that person’s salary.
What does that mean for you? Well, add up all the money you pay your people, multiply that by 80% of the number of employees in your organization, and then multiply that by 34%. That’s a lot of cash going right out the door.
Back to the good news. You can help make work work better for your employees, yourself and your company. Applying the principles of Authentic Communication can help. I’ll be writing a short series of articles on how you can introduce this simple and rich methodology to help re-ignite enthusiasm and engagement in your team.
You can also check out my video, which talks about the employee engagement crisis and two other workplace trends of our time: trust erosion and loss of psychological safety.
I’d love to read your comments and learn how you support your teams and colleagues so they feel more engaged at work.
#Teamwork is #LovingWork