This is the first step, chapter, in my next book on employee engagement. It's titled: Now Engage Your Team. ( October, 2015)
It's a sequel to my earlier book: First, Engage Yourself which you can buy as a PDF at Contact Center Pipeline.
Step 1: CLOSE YOUR LAPTOPS. CLOSE YOUR DESKTOPS, SMARTPHONES and TABLETS.
Step 2: CLOSE YOUR MOUTH, too.
Step 3: OPEN YOUR EARS and YOUR EYES.
Or, you can:
Step 1: OPEN YOUR EARS and YOUR EYES.
Step 2: CLOSE YOUR MOUTH, too.
Step 3: CLOSE YOUR LAPTOPS. CLOSE YOUR DESKTOPS, SMARTPHONES and TABLETS. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH, too.
Either way works.
Yes, I know writing in ALL CAPS is like SHOUTING.
Then I bolded all the letters, too! It’s the writer’s equivalent of a bullhorn and sledgehammer.
I could write it as whisper, using teeny-tiny font size like this:
Step 1: Close Your Laptop. Close Your Desktop, Your Smartphone, Your Tablet.
Step 2: Close Your Mouth.
Step 3: Open Your Ears and Eyes.
Or, you can:
Step 1: Open Your Ears and Eyes.
Step 2: Close Your Mouth.
Step 3: Close Your Laptop. Close Your Desktop, Your Smartphone, Your Tablet.
That’s like whispering.
Ever been somewhere where two people start whispering? If you’re like me, you lean forward, listen closer.
Regardless if I whisper it or shout it, just do them, all of them. You can mix which one comes first. However, you have to do it. A text is not engagement, neither is an email. Engagement is a personal conversation. To do that, you have to do these three things.
Look around you. People want to engage. That’s why they’re standing right in front of you, just across your desk, waiting for you to notice. Or, they could be sitting across from you at a conference table or a coffee shop or at lunch. For that matter, maybe they sit, nights and weekends, across from you at the dining table. They all share the same frustration: You’re too busy engaging with THAT to engage with THEM.
They want, possibly need, to share something with you. They need your reactions to help guide them.
Yes, that’s right.
They need your direction. Not like a pre-schooler needs direction for what to wear and how to take their bowl to the sink.
You set the tone and the direction. You also hold the cards of praise, promotions, raises, empowerment, autonomy and authority. So, it comes with your job. They look to you.
Many times they just need a pat on the back, too, or just a kind word to let them know they’re doing great or their recent error is not the end of the world. We all need that sometimes. .
Until you take these two steps, you can’t see their:.
- eyes trying to lock onto yours or circling over your eyebrows or avoiding you altogether;
- shoulders sagging or clenched so tight they almost touch their ears;.
- hands. Yes, what are they doing? Digging deep into their pockets, clutching a hem or beltline, stuck on their hips or pointing at you..
You can’t hear their voices. Are they:
- louder than usual? It’s urgent. Maybe their frustration is what’s urgent.
- whispering? They’re uncertain, tired, respectful and hesitant. Maybe, they know that whispers make people listen. Sure, it may be annoying but they’re smart. Something to recognize the next chance you get.
- gritty, grim, clipped or jubilant, happy?
See? All this, eye contact and listening with undivided attention, is ... engaging with that person and they with you. THAT is employee engagement. I guarantee that moment when you put down those devices and pay them your full attention, that they deserve, you will discover more about them and you and your relationship than any survey can ever deliver. Ever.
Our addiction to these devices creates, or aggravates, “Inattentional Blindness”—“a psychological lack of attention … not associated with any vision defects or deficits. It may be further defined as the event in which an individual fails to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.1”
That “unexpected stimulus [hiding] … in plain sight” are those who want to engage with you. And, we’re blinded by all these distractions, especially those pretty, shiny, distractions delivered in pretty, shiny digital devices.
Granted these things are seductive even addictive. With each swipe, flip, like, comment, retweet … our brains are hard-wired to release dopamine, the pleasure drug.
“Digital multitasking creates a strong, habitual preference in the brain for short-term rewards achieved through less work. Because the Internet offers so many instant rewards as new information and social engagement opportunities, digital multitasking feels very pleasurable to the brain …
“What the brain values most is the hunt itself, not the payoff. The release of a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, dopamine, creates strong feelings to seek a reward, and then the reward triggers more dopamine to be released, starting the cycle again. 2"
The irony here is that what we’re hunting for is meaning. It’s usually standing right in front of us in the form of a co-worker, friend, colleague, spouse, partner, child, parent or leader. They’re all waiting for us to stop hunting and start engaging.
“When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring—you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline,” says The New York Times technology journalist Matt Richtel. “Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You’re conditioned by a neurological response: ‘Check me check me check me check me.’”3
The result is: .
“We have been seduced by distraction,” says psychologist Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence. “We are being pulled away from paying attention to the things that enrich our lives.” 4
No. Going faster won’t help, either. .
“Of course, everything can’t speed up,” says David Levy, a professor at the Information School of the University of Washington. “You can’t speed up the time needed to be intimate with one another. Thinking is not an activity you can speed up. It needs time to muse and reflect, and some of the things we need to do in order to think, like, walk, or read deeply, or even take naps, simply don’t fit into this globalizing idea of more-faster-better.” 5
To that list I’d add “engage.” We need “time to muse and reflect, some of the things we need to do in order to” [engage], like [have a conversation], recognize our colleagues, debate ideas, challenge assumptions, learn from our mistakes … “simply don’t fit into this globalizing idea of more-faster-better.”
I know it is a big challenge to close those devices. I remind myself almost hourly to put them down. Then, there’s no peer support. Everywhere we go, everyone seems to be glued to their devices. It’s like trying to stay sober in a bar.
The question you have to ask yourself is:.
Do you want to create a team of professionals who are like the married couples who no longer speak to each other?
You see them at restaurants, studying the menu or their plate or recent works of a local artist hanging nearby or “on the hunt” with their digital devices. It’s sad.
Or do you want to sit with your team at a conference table or at lunch, scanning each other’s eyes for excitement or humor, listening to each other’s ideas or doubts, answering the latter and building on the former—a team of dynamic, engaged, enthusiastic, leaders who regularly exceed their goals? .
If that altruistic vision doesn’t motivate you to close those shiny devices, here’s an enlightened self-interest to consider: YOU need to engage with them. You’re a social being. That’s “social being,” not social media persona. No matter how reserved, no matter how big of an introvert, you need to engage with others.
That goes for everyone on your team or in your department. Your workplace is a social place. You get work done together, you move forward together or you don’t. And if you don’t, your company dies and so does your career and income. .
Putting those things down and engaging with them leads by example. This is a very positive, very refreshing example. One conversation at a time. One day at a time. .
Now that I have your attention - this far - let’s talk in a normal voice.
1: Close Your Laptops. Close Your Desktops, Smartphones and Tablets..
2: Close Your Mouth, too..
3: Open Your Ears and Eyes.
1. Inattentional Blindness - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inattentional_blindness
2. Digital Distractions - Chrissy Coleman Miles, Working World, http://www.workingworld.com/articles/Digital-Distractions
3. Digital Overload: Your Brain on Gadgets - August 24, 2010 NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129384107
4. Digital Overload - How We Are Seduced by Distraction - Globe and Mail March 29, 2014 - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/digital-overload-how-we-are-seduced-by-distraction/article17725778/
5. Ibid http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/digital-overload-how-we-are-seduced-by-distraction/article17725778