Thanks to everyone who contributed to our engagement in one sentence experiment. We’ve published your great contributions here so you can easily download them, share them, and hey, why not use them too! We’re very proud of the way this little experiment has turned out so far, hopefully we’ll hear from even more of you and add more fuel to the fire!
Be courageous. Courage is critical in your role because it helps build trust. Your leaders need to know that you will not shy away from conversations that they need to have, because you’re afraid. If you need to build your courage, start small. Do something today that’s just a little bit courageous.
Be curious. Curiosity is important because you can’t give good advice if you don’t completely understand the issue, the perspectives or the obstacles. You need to come from the perspective that your leaders are creative and resourceful and already have the answers. Your job is to be curious. Make sure your questions are open-ended, not a yes or no answer. Make sure you don’t lead. Ask 3 questions before giving an opinion. You’ll have more influence if you’re the person who helps people come up with the best answers they can stand behind.
Point out the possibilities. You must try to be the instigator of what’s possible. This can be accomplished by having an open mind, consistently asking what else? And wondering if there wasn’t anything in the way, what would be possible? Possibility is not a skill, it’s a choice.
Be knowledgeable. You may know most of what there is to know about communication, and that’s great. But if you can’t apply those skills to the business, you won’t be influential. You need to know what the corporate objectives are and how communication can help reach them. Easy ways to build your knowledge include knowing your gaps and making a list to fill them, reading what the boss is reading, getting curious and listening better.
Listen. We have an amazing capacity for taking in information faster than it’s tossed at us, yet most people are terrible listeners. Many people are thinking about how they’re going to respond to what’s being said and never hear what’s being said. You can’t advise effectively if you don’t listen. Some pointers for increasing your listening are to clarify what you think you’ve heard by bottom-lining it or putting it “in a nutshell”.
I kicked off a discussion about the hit and hope nature of employee engagement surveys. In summary it’s about why ask so many questions? Are our business leaders that far out of touch that they need to quiz us to that depth?
Jonathan Wilson offered some useful views which I share with you here:
Detailed social surveying produces at least three emotionally satisfying illusions. First is the illusion of activity. Just investing in the survey and getting everyone to complete it is a real activity that engages everyone and takes a lot of time. A survey of 50 questions will probably take a mean of 30-45 minutes to read, answer and submit. In a company of 100,000 people, if 80% respond that means it will takes about 28 person years, or more than £500,000 just to complete, before the costs of processing it.
The second is the illusion of precision. Few people read the small print that shows that any survey is a rough plus or minus estimate with distortions built in. Few surveys will claim retest reliability more than within 5%, 95% of the time. Because they include some percentages, which they choose to show to two or more decimal places, people are misled into thinking they are accurate to two decimal places. Can you measure your own attitude to two decimal places? So do you think they can measure thousands of peoples’ more accurately?
The illusion of precision leads to the illusions of tangibility, grasp and control. We think things we can measure are more ‘real’ than things we find harder to measure. We think we have a better grasp of them and can control them, or at least measure them again.
Other dangerous illusions include a mistaken belief in linearity, that the difference between 4 and 3 is the same as the difference between 5 and 4. On an attitudinal scale of 5, those two differences are huge, the difference between indifference, interest and passionate engagement.
I suggest that every manager should learn and be licensed in statistical literacy before being allowed to take or influence decisions based on survey responses – or anything else actually!
Statistics offer real insights, but rarely answers. Understanding them helps you see the questions better. The challenge is to meaningfully respond to the questions and the challenges they raise. What do you think?