Engaging Others – Stop ‘Telling’, and Start ‘Asking’

 In Leadership

Engaging Others – Stop ‘Telling’, and Start ‘Asking’

How does it feel when someone tells you what to do? It’s maybe one of those situations where you are not given a choice, you feel resistance in your gut, and yet you go ahead comply.  The reason you are being agreeable is that at some level it feels like it’s in your best interest to go with the flow.

And now ask yourself, how does it feel when someone actually takes a different approach. Rather than telling you what to do, or how to do it, they slow down and get your input. This is called engaging others.  Engagement creates a dynamic that fosters team work, creativity, and collaboration on all fronts. When we engage others, we give them the feeling and impression that we care and that they matter. And trust me, this goes a long, long way.

One of the #1 mistakes which shows up in the workplace is how leaders continue to default to a poor communication strategy of ‘telling’.  Telling someone is very different from engaging them.  Telling is lazy, authoritarian, often times offensive, and lacks the skill and understanding of how to truly engage your people. We engage others when we invite them to be part of the conversation.

Four Steps of Engagement

Step 1. Conscious Listening – stop talking and start listening.  

Conscious listening is having a deep and sincere desire to truly understand the sender’s world. To be a conscious listener you need to ‘let go’ of your own frame of reference, your autobiography, your value system, your own history and your judging tendencies. A conscious listener develops the ability to go deeply into the viewpoint of the sender.

When you consciously listen you create a safe and trusted space for the conversation to take place. Conscious listening is also established without words through energetic presence and body language. It is the responsibility of the listener to be present with the intention to give their entire attention to the situation which in turn creates the possibility for meaningful dialogue for all parties.

When you listen consciously, you show the other person you care and value them.  And now you are off to an excellent start to creating solid engagement.

Step 2.   Ask Empowering Questions – get inside someone’s world through inquiry.

Empowering questions are a valuable tool in the process of effective communication. They are the foundation to soliciting and qualifying information to help you gain deeper understanding specific to the person speaking and their current situation or challenge.

These questions support their experience of feeling heard. The questions also set the stage to keep the process moving forward.

Any change or correction is dependent on their buy in on the fact they feel heard by you. And the best way to show this is to ask questions and value their input.

Step 3.  Move Them Forward – help them take responsibility for their actions.

When we empower others in conversation, we help set the stage for moving them forward. Rather than mandate, we include them in the solution. When we include others in the solution they will more likely take responsibility for next steps rather than resist.

This is the empowering phase. This is where the commitment and action take place.

You can also help them towards their own appropriate action by asking more questions such as “what do you want to do now? or how do you see us moving forward?”

In order to help an individual with realignment of their performance, we empower them with use of our words in such a manner regarding what’s working and how they can be an effective and productive part of any change.

Step 4. Support Next Steps – follow up and follow through.

Don’t even think about dropping the ball here. It is your follow up and holding them accountable that will make any sustainable difference. Don’t just drop in and throw down some micromanaging because this will only cause frustration and mistrust. Leaders go into overtime and help with the follow up and follow through.

When you finish a discussion ensuring you have helped the individual come to their own solution to change the specific behavior. Ensure there is a specific plan and an opportunity to follow up on the plan.

Make the time to arrange for a time to revisit the issue at hand. Ask if there is anything you can do to support them. Show them you can be trusted and care about them their issue or challenge moving forward.

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