Leading Change: Increasing Employee Engagement Through Dialogue
For most organizations and individuals, this is a period of unprecedented change.What strategies can leaders employ to successfully increase employee engagement?
While there is an abundance of information and expert assistance available, teams are becoming more dispersed and distant. However, the complexity of the times necessitates that organizations strengthen their collective thought, communication and collaborative action. Simply put, leaders must connect with their employees, collaborate to create shared meanings, and master the art of dialogue, which goes beyond talking.
Dialogue humanizes our workplaces
Dialogue humanizes our workplaces and can be extremely beneficial in this new era of constant disruption and change. It enables us to recognize our colleagues’ perspectives and experiences, break down stereotypes, strengthen teams, and transform our ideas in seemingly magical ways. The ultimate purpose of dialogue is to let go of the outcome and learn from the person that you are communicating with. Do you think that this is important for building authentic teams and leaders in the Change Economy? You bet it is.
When dialogue is practiced in organizational settings, people are asked to learn about self- awareness before engaging themselves in unproductive collaborations. Once they are fully aware of their own emotions, idiosyncrasies, and feelings they will be better equipped to deal with them and not allow these emotions to hinder the dialogue process.
At times when teams feel unable to connect with internal and external customers or vendors, a good dialogue session is all that is needed to bring them back on track. Relationships are built on specific conversation with the intent to learn.
There is no doubt in my mind that genuine dialogue cultivates highly effective teams by building trust, increasing openness, stimulating creativity, awakening the leadership potential in everyone and accessing collective intelligence. It helps people become more effective when dealing with problems and when brainstorming for the future.
Remember that dialogue is not having a group of people talking TO each other. True dialogue involves more than that. You need to be clear about the intention of your dialogue as your intention will determine what you pay attention to and the results you get. Your intention is very important because it will shape the way everyone participates, the degree in which they open up and the productivity of the engagement.
When you choose to use dialogue in order to improve employee engagement, innovation and organizational change adoption, focus on these elements:
Have an Open Mind
All team members should come to the conversation with an open mind. They respect each ones opinion and do not try to impose their own beliefs on other people. There is no “one” right way; no opinion is more valuable than another. You cannot come and have a hidden agenda.
Focus on Shared Purpose
People are more likely to practice dialogue in an environment that allows them to bond, have a shared purpose and a sense of belonging. When you are in a meeting ask questions that will induce a dialogue on why everyone is engaged in that project. Why should they care? Once you bring it to the surface you will be able to bond a team, communicate the shared purpose and engage them.
Embrace that variety; do not get stuck in labeling people just because they are different. There is always a window of opportunity to learn something from somebody that is not like YOU. Embrace that difference and allow it to flow in your dialogue sessions.
Once you involve people and you hold them accountable, they become responsible for their own actions and decisions. Responsibility needs to come from all levels within an organization not only the top. As a progressive leader you will need to focus all people to understand that “we” are responsible for “our” actions.
Listen and Speak Without Judgment
Expand your horizons of understanding by suspending your own judgment. Release the need to have the last word for each conversation and be free to learn.
Be Assumption Free
One of the deadly communication illnesses is that people assume. These perceptions kill relationships, teams and simply stagnate our employee relationship growth. Ask questions rather than assuming. As you move with these principles in a dialogue conversation you will realize that the initial conversation evolves to something bigger than what it initially was. It transforms people consciously into people who know themselves better and want to learn from the people that they want to interact and work with. It changes profoundly the way we behave within organizations and with our coworkers.
About the author:
Carole Nicolaides, MBA is the CEO of Progressive Leadership Inc. and has over 20 years business experience in the areas of organizational change management, organizational effectiveness, program management and leadership development. She held senior roles in the information technology, financial services, communications, government agencies and healthcare industries. Carole’s pragmatic, fluff-free and grounded perspective on leadership prepares management and their teams actively to lead the change. Contact us today to learn more about how you can create a culture that supports your changing initiatives.
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