Have you ever been blindsided in a meeting? You adequately prepared. The objectives were clear. But then, BLAM! Someone objects to one of your assumptions about halfway through the meeting and others just add to the objections. You try to explain your reasoning, but no one comes to your defense. Others join in and you feel as if you are at the bottom of a Rugby pile-on. It seems like chaos and anarchy have taken over, and your meeting is about to end with no clear resolution.Far too often, executives try to minimize this possibility by making meetings “rubber stamp” events, where everything has been decided ahead of time and there’s no room for open discussion. But that’s a huge mistake. Repressing differences of opinion makes you less adaptable and make your meeting a boring waste of time. Instead you need to be open — and ready to handle — differences of opinion, dissent in the ranks, or even outright rebellion. Diversity of opinion is when one or more people offer a different way to view the situation. Dissent is when there’s a disagreement with a position or proposal.via hbr.org
To dissent is to engage. To offer a different opinion is to engage.
Yes, so is its extreme form: rebellion, open and aggressive. But that's a sign of failure to engage, seek dissent and offer a safe platform for different opinions.
I only bring this up because A. this is an excellent article from HBR; B. the article reminds us of a simple solution, honed and polished in the toughest of human resource labs: the kindergarten; C. employee engagement is not always a happy-faced picnic with colorful balloons and everyone holding hands and agreeing because to do otherwise would signal you're unhappy.
You're not unhappy are you? Where's the Chief Happiness Officer? Someone?
Let's talk about the simple solution.
… when children get worked up in a class, and others get caught in their emotional frenzy, the only thing to do is to distract them. Telling them to calm down does not work. Asking them to reconsider does not work.
In the moment you’re feeling besieged, go back to basics – talk about the vision or purpose of the organization or group you are leading. Psychology studies show empirically that shared vision plays a major role in leadership effectiveness, engagement, and citizenship – and it invokes neural networks and hormonal systems that help us open up to new ideas and others’ opinions.
Now, that's tough in front of a live audience whose members are who you thought were trusted peers, colleagues, even friends. I guarantee you that this solution works. I've tried it. It works.
Let's talk about that last point. Employee engagement is not always a happy-faced picnic with colorful balloons and everyone holding hands and agreeing because to do otherwise would signal you're unhappy.
There's a childish, patronizing, nanny-state tone in too many conversations about employee engagement. The experts are the adults and the employees are the kindergartners. With a patient smile and simple words they explain to the children … their work including what's meaningful for them. See? That's not a shared vision, one that invokes neural networks and hormonal systems that help us open up to new ideas and others’ opinions.
A shared vision means ... different opinions are allowed. Dissent is accepted, even encouraged.
Parroting the boss's words is not engagement. Always smiling and never disagreeing does not mean you're engaging.
Being engaged means … bringing your heart and mind to the day. Sometimes your heart is troubled, your mind is agitated. Honestly, that's a good sign. That means you're engaged, paying attention, wrestling with, debating, the plan, the policy, the tactic, the hours you're asked to work. It means you care.
Some of the times I've been most engaged have been when I've also been fired up, kicking ass and taking names. I'm, as one boss said, Busy and bitchy and I don't have time for nonsense. I've had "discussions in parking lots" when I was younger. We were both highly engaged in defending our positions and being able to have an "open" conversation helped us figure out where our interests overlapped and where we each needed to throttle back.
I've had vigorous disagreements with bosses about policies, decisions. Fortunately, I was clear on the issue and that helped them understand my dissent.
My point is ... engagement means bringing your heart and mind. It means being honest. It means caring. Sometimes that involves a different opinion. Being engaged means being able to share those opinions, being able to hear them, and being able to combine them into a new vision, one that's shared by everyone.