Want to engage me? Communicate
January 22, 2009 · Print this post
It’s a new day in the federal government. As this kickoff post of the new White House blog says, change has come.
Regardless of your political beliefs, I hope you’ll see that this post from the White House blog is a model of clarity and transparency. It uses plain language and a personal tone that lets me know someone on the other side sees the audience as human beings, not cookie cutter “citizens.” It’s a great starting point for creating a relationship that balances between individual communication and the need to deliver information to hundreds of millions of diverse people. That’s what companies need to do too. The size of the audience is not important: every organization has its own diversity, whether they are a company of ten or a country of 350 million.
The White House now has to deliver on the communication promises they’ve made — just like any manager. If they do, it will certainly make me feel more involved and connected as a citizen. More engaged.
Behavior is the heart of engagement, and communication is one of the essential behaviors. It’s often the first interaction we have with strangers, and it’s a defining factor in any relationship that lasts more than a minute. This is especially true of our relationship with, and as, managers. It matters that we communicate — there is no relationship without it, and without that relationship it’s mighty hard for people to get work done together. It matters what we communicate — people need complete, clear information to do their jobs. And it matters how we communicate — yelling at me at work simply guarantees that I’ll miss any meaningful content because I’ll be too busy covering my ears, literally or metaphorically.
If you want me to engage me, don’t corporate-speak me, don’t condescend, don’t bully me. Talk to me as if you actually want me to be engaged.
If you’re interested in learning more about communication skills for managers, take a look at the teaching notes for Session 2 and Session 3 of Humans At Work (or start with these descriptions of key session topics).