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How To Engage Employees Without Saying a Word

A blog about active listening and intentional problem-solving.



You’ve probably noticed how good it feels when someone truly listens to you. Our egos get a little boost, we feel a little more confident in our thinking, and as a result, we try a little harder. We all want to feel like our opinions matter, especially at work—where we’re likely to be more engaged and willing to contribute to a business's success.


Yet, according to a recent Gallup survey, employee engagement is at its lowest in almost ten years. 


So, as leaders, how can better listening lead to better engagement? Try approaching a conversation with the goal of understanding rather than responding. 


One of my favorite Ted Lasso episodes is when Ted presents the “Suggestion Box” to his team. He encourages the players to anonymously write down their thoughts on how the club could be improved. And while many use it as an opportunity to call him a wanker, one anonymous individual takes the opportunity to heart.


The beauty of this storyline was that while no one “spoke,” management was able to listen and take action without making a big deal about it. As a result, the team literally felt the difference (with better water pressure!).


Honing your intentions to truly listen to what others say provides a remarkable opportunity to learn, connect, and potentially take advantage of innovative solutions and feedback that might otherwise be lost.


The best part? It’s easier to implement than you might think. 


Create opportunities to address concerns.

Sometimes, it’s addressing the little things that can make the biggest difference in employee satisfaction and camaraderie. The key is to choose the process that best suits your team.


For example:

Forums and round tables create a defined structure for discussion, helping team members focus on a topic, share ideas, and solve problems collaboratively.


Suggestion boxes are a simple yet effective way to promote innovation, address areas of improvement, and encourage participation without fear of judgment.


Anonymous emails and forms are an equitable way to address sensitive issues by asking specific questions while protecting the respondents' privacy. They ensure that everyone has a chance to share their honest feedback for the common good.


Listen to Understand

As Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, told VerywellMind, "Active Listening requires de-centering from one’s fixed position to be fully present with another.” It means validating someone else’s feelings and situation rather than simply replying to what they are saying.

The art of active listening comes with a desire to learn, empathize, and grow. Want to become a better listener? Remember the three A’s.

  • Attention: Tune in completely to the speaker’s words and body language.

  • Attitude: Project a positive outlook and keep an open mind.

  • Adjustment: Pay attention to your facial expressions and physical reactions as you listen.


Take Action—Not Credit

Think employee feedback doesn’t affect employee engagement? Think again.

A study by LeadershipIQ found that “only 6% of people say that at their organization, good suggestions or valid complaints from employees Always lead to important changes. By contrast, 25% say that good suggestions or valid complaints from employees Never lead to important changes.”


Seeking feedback is a good start, but it means nothing without action to follow it up. Show your team what they mean to you and that their experience is important by instituting changes or, at the very least, acknowledging that a suggestion has been heard but might require additional resources or consideration.


The goal of employee engagement is to encourage collaboration, open communication, and healthy dialogue, but occasionally, putting yourself on mute may give your employees just the space they need to express their concerns.


My challenge to you: What steps can you take to empower your employees to actively and consistently share their opinions with the knowledge that they won’t fall on deaf ears?


 
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