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.