By Paul-Stuart Greenough
Communication and engagement are conversations often intertwined. Can you communicate properly without the right factors of engagement and can you be engaging without communicating effectively?
World-renowned thought-leader Scott Leiper stopped by Raise the Bar to talk about the how communication and engagement should be used and why it is so vital for learners and businesses alike.
“I think engagement is not only good practice but also good manners,” he begins. “Engagement is more specific than the more general theme of communication. It’s more people led. It’s more focused on people understanding the message. Communication can be a number of different things. It can be a skill, it can be a tool, but I think for me it’s more of a practice that you have in place to make sure that your business and you, yourself are really listening and responding to people.”
You could be forgiven for thinking that communication and engagement are as simple as talking and listening, and in a way, they are. Putting that into practice in your home and work life is not always that easy though. We can often find ourselves repeating the same actions and practices on a daily basis, without really thinking about whether the way we are approaching something – a task, a conversation even – is the best and most effective way to do so.
“With communication, the most difficult thing I observe is how to communicate creatively.”
People often come out of an educational system that is structured and linear and move into organisations that are hierarchical and orderly. They are then challenged to think and communicate differently. Staff are being asked to move away from a comfortable and logical process that they are used to working with and that becomes a barrier for people to communicate creatively.
“When you sit people down with a problem and then we invite them to brainstorm about how to solve it in a new and innovative way, quite often you will see that they find it difficult and come up with ideas they would have done anyway because they’re used to thinking in a structured and logical manner. That’s how many people’s day jobs tend to work. Whereas if they had more of a view of ‘How could we?’ ‘How might we?’ ‘What if?’ rather than ‘How will we?’ ‘How do we?’ they may indeed approach problem solving more creatively. People often jump far too quickly to solution mode rather than thinking of different possibilities first.”
You need to actively think about communicating to do so effectively. With engagement, clarity is one of the key issues.
“One of the biggest difficulties with engagement is ambiguity. Sometimes there is a lot of silence within engagement, there isn’t definition of context in what people are saying. I’ve worked with many organisations and I have seen them building engagement strategies but then being fairly, ambiguous about how it is going to work. Even if you don’t know what the future looks like, it is better to tell people that you don’t know what the future holds than saying absolutely nothing. It becomes really, difficult for people to feel and become engaged when they don’t fully know what is going on. I think that peaks people’s stress as well, when they don’t know the answers and they aren’t being given any clarity. It then makes engagement a very tough ride”
For learners, as well as teachers and coaches, engagement and communication can be made easier through the use of technology. Facilitating these issues isn’t just about how we interact human-to-human, but the methods we use to do it. As developments in the tech-world accelerate exponentially , it spikes organisational drive for change and business transformation, as they try to keep up. As we look forward to where this could potentially lead, it expands the need for virtual work spaces and virtual meetings. Creating a more inclusive environment for learners, staff and leaders.
“Right after this conversation I will get on a train, to then get a plane, to then get a taxi to go to a workshop. In the coming years, I imagine that we could all be in our own space, in our own environment and I could be standing anywhere in the country delivering that workshop via a hologram in a virtual work-space. The technology will be good enough to do that, it might even be good enough to do it now, but it is too expensive. We won’t need to be in one room. We will enable people to attend a workshop without the need to travel and be able to interact in a manner that is as close as face to face and human touch as digitally possible.
“In summary I’d say if you are trying to build engagement it’s not just a one-person job, you’ve got to really involve people throughout an organisation and try to build a coalition. You need to create change agents and make sure they are good examples of best practice for what good engagement looks like. Your approach needs deep consideration rather than just building a strategy with pillars and organisational objectives. It has to really involve people and consider the hot spots where you can really have an impact. Work with people. Have better quality conversations and listen to make sure engagement works well.”