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Want To Improve Employee Engagement? Start with Dialogue

Renewed post originally published on Forbes.com | Aug 23, 2017

By Susan Taylor


Look around your office. Or at the tiles in your Zoom Room. How many of your employees are truly engaged?


According to Gallup’s 2019 study, if your company is like most only 35% are actively engaged, while 52% are not engaged and 13% are actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are excited and committed to their work, demonstrating higher productivity, greater performance, creative problem-solving and better innovation — directly affecting your bottom line. Study findings show that organizations where most employees are highly engaged average 147% higher earnings per share over companies with disengaged employees.


The benefits of an engaged workforce are clear, but this culture doesn’t develop on its own. It’s created by the leadership, cascaded throughout the company so everyone feels empowered to help the organization achieve its mission, setting the stage for sustainable success.


Why Start with Dialogue?

Dialogue is about awareness, being aware of how your own motivations and behaviors inspire and engage others — or not — using these insights to more effectively sustain the growth and development of your organization and the people who comprise it. But more important than what Dialogue is, is why it is essential to exhibit—especially now.

Today’s businesses face challenges like never before. There is tremendous uncertainty. Globalization offers opportunity, but also increased competition and cultural differences. Rapidly changing technology requires agility and innovation. New generations of employees entering the workforce demand an environment where they feel valued and instrumental in making a difference. Add to that a global pandemic, social unrest, inflation, and supply chain disruption and more!

To be successful in this knowledge economy where ideas, collaboration and speed rule, employees must be engaged. And to create that type of environment, leaders must learn how to lead consciously.


Four Behaviors to Help You Become a Conscious Leader

What does a conscious leader look like?


I once worked with a division president — I’ll call her Mary — who headed up project resources for her company. While all individuals are distinct in terms of their leadership styles, Mary was passionate, devoted and not willing to compromise on the internal development required to execute projects consciously. Mary was also a visionary, not one to settle for the status quo, forging ahead — even in the face of criticism — and did this in ways that were both engaging and inspiring.

The self-awareness and self-confidence one needs as a conscious leader is not only crucial; it fuels the courage and commitment for someone like Mary to do the right thing, inspiring others to do the same.


Although becoming a conscious leader is a continuous process, there are some specific behaviors you can implement to set the foundation for increased engagement—all of which are underpinned by the principles of Dialogue.


1. Self-awareness: Understand how you see yourself and, just as importantly, how others see you. Conscious leaders are open to objective views from their organizations, willing to absorb the feedback as a way to begin looking inwardly to see where they might start doing work. Typically, this falls into two categories: vertical development, which involves mindset transformation—how you think; and horizontal development, which involves adding more knowledge, skills and competencies to what you already know. The practice of Dialogue comes with the foundational principle of listening, which is essential to self-awareness—listening to fully understand another with an intention to learn.


2. Continuous learning: Accept that you do not — and should not — know it all. As leaders, we can get caught in the impossible trap of thinking we should have all the answers. Instead, we should become experts at finding the people who do have the answers. That’s done by establishing relationships with employees at all levels of the company—they have insights we couldn’t even imagine. The closer a person is to the problem, the better perspectives he or she can share. Dialogue helps us here as well because it teaches us to inquire. Being more inquisitive over problem solving and advice giving creates an environment where diversity of thought is not only welcomed and encouraged but essential.


3. Employee engagement: An engaged atmosphere is imperative to business success; employee engagement is therefore not a “nice to have”—it is a strategic priority — a "must win.” Ensuring your organization understands this priority requires clear and transparent communication throughout. While it’s true that information sharing increases more accountability, what we learn from Dialogue is the importance of shared meaning. David Bohm — the father of Dialogue — considered shared meaning the “glue” or “cement” that holds groups together. Including employees on what is critical to the business, when and why certain decisions are being taken, increases understanding and alignment through which we discover common ground.


4. People first: Put people first; no organization exists without them. Even though the goal for most businesses is to make a profit, conscious leaders know that it is hard to sustain a profit and all its underpinnings (innovation, collaboration, communication, etc.) if employees feel devalued and unfulfilled. Dialogue reminds us about the significance and meaning of what it is to be engaged at work — feeling emotionally fulfilled and the effect that has on overall our wellbeing.


Imagine if every single organization in existence today put employee engagement as their first and foremost business priority. What kind of impact could that have on us? Our planet?

As a leader, your primary responsibility is to be a catalyst for human potential, supporting the betterment of others — engaging and inspiring all of your stakeholders to take part in co-creating a healthier business environment. Through Dialogue, you do that intentionally — not only to create significant business results through a culture that motivates and empowers — but to give rise to a better world.

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