Engagement Skills

As we continue to implement engagement programs via AZENTIVE, it’s important to understand the immensity of the challenge before us. A staggering 69% of managers surveyed feel uncomfortable communicating with their employees, and 37% of business leaders are uncomfortable giving direct feedback.

Pause for a moment. Communicating and giving clear feedback are essential to working effectively. Without these skills, we might as well be sailing without a compass.

Let’s look at some approaches that work. The same survey, by Interact, and reproduced in the Harvard Business Review, lists strategies for how to effectively give feedback:

  1. Be direct and kind
  2. Listen
  3. Don’t make it personal
  4. Be present
  5. Inspire greatness

Easier said than done, and it takes practice.

Besides effectively communication and giving feedback, other skill sets are crucial to keeping our employees inspired and productive.

The very gifted best-selling author Seth Godin, in his excellent blog, “Let’s Stop Calling Them Soft Skills,” presents an index of what he calls real skills, in five categories. This list is exceptionally perceptive because it captures traits that distinguish a leader from others with a similar resume who might lack these skills. I’ve summarized the list below in my own words:

  • Self-Control – being able to do what it takes to persist with achieving goals and priorities, through adaptive capacity, integrity, resilience in the face of failure, compassion, a collaborative approach, willingness to learn from feedback, enthusiasm, ability to manage stress and be flexible with change, confidence and passion, and sound ethics.
  • Productivity – the ability to produce results and keep moving forward through sound decision making, diligence, delegation, goal setting, attention to detail, crisis management, creative problem-solving, planning, research, time management, facilitation of discussions, and testing, learning, and adapting.
  • Wisdom – the knowledge we gain from experience, not textbooks, and apply through our artistic sense and creativity, instincts for mediation and dealing with difficult people and situations, showing empathy across diverse settings, supervising and mentoring, and exercising sound emotional and social intelligence.
  • Perception – the art of seeing things accurately for what they are and could be, through design thinking, esthetic and fashion sense, evaluating people and situations intuitively, and creating mind maps and strategic plans.
  • Influence – the ability to move others to take action, through delivering clear feedback and constructive criticism, appropriate body language, written and verbal language skills, ability to speak, reframe, sell, tell stories, and present ideas in compelling ways, and charisma.

Studying these qualities affirms our thinking and approach to nurturing leaders and inspiring engagement: it begins with the true self. Charisma and confidence don’t come from outside us; they are fostered from within by facing fears and diligently learning and practicing the skills and traits we want to hone.

These “real skills” remind me of two resources I loved during graduate school: Crucial Conversations, which is about the importance of having difficult conversations in order to be a leader. And, as a behavioral scientist, I also loved another book by the same authors, called Influencer.

One of my greatest experiential lessons through facilitating workshops is that my confidence, passion and enthusiasm can be contagious. Another is that persistence with those who are slow to open up, or afraid to fail, or shy, pays off in brilliant solution ideas once they overcome the fear of failure or discomfort. Once a person feels cared for, and has permission to play, fail, and be silly, all things become possible.

I chose engagement and behavior change because I love helping people and seeing the sparks of inspiration in their eyes – my calling is a gift to me, and I hope, to all I serve.

How do you engage your employees and peers – what are your engagement skills? Share your stories with me!

Engagement requires many skills, including the ability to inspire others to act, to resolve conflicts and challenges, and inspire creativity.

Engagement requires many skills, including the ability to motivate others to act, to resolve conflicts and challenges, and inspire creativity. Unfortunately, 69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating with their employees, making engagement programs extremely important across organizations. Photo: courtesy of AZENTIVE, via Shutterstock.

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