The Key to Increasing Engagement

PresentThis past month, I conducted a workshop on increasing employee engagement with two awesome groups of managers: one at Pratt Miller Engineering and the other at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. According to Gallup’s 2015 study, only 32% of U.S. workers are fully engaged at work, meaning they go above and beyond without being asked. In other words, 68% of U.S. workers are doing the bare minimum to remain employed and using only a small portion of their potential.

The biggest factor that impacts engagement is the type of relationship that employees have with their manager. Employees do more, perform better, and give more of themselves when they are emotionally committed, and this comes from believing they have a manager that cares about them, appreciates them, and supports their growth and development. The key element in developing this type of commitment is EMPATHY, according to the book “Bring Out the Best in Every Employee” by Don Brown and Bill Hawkins. Empathy is showing that you understand and care about another person’s circumstances.

The key requirement for empathy is being PRESENT. We must show up, actively listen and give our full attention without being distracted by emails, texts, and calls on our smart phones. When we aren’t fully present and listening to the person right in front of us, it sends a strong message that they are not very important to us, and we don’t really care about them as much as the message we are getting on our phone. It seems simple, yet we seem to have a very hard time being fully present with all of the distractions that we have around us.

Here are 10 ways to cultivate presence from Bring Out the Best in Every Employee:

  • Activate your five senses. Look for opportunities to engage your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight or hearing. Purposely engaging any one of your senses brings you into the present.
  • Audit your continuous partial attention (CPA). What is your temptation of choice when your mind wanders off from one subject to the next? Our distracters tend to be identifiable and consistent. If you can name it, you can tame it.
  • Breathe one count in, two counts out. Deep breathing is a high-value strategy in that it usually engages your senses in some way as well. It also provides an unintended time out for everyone – just a moment or two where the person doing the deep breathing won’t be speaking.
  • Condition your physical being. Rest, diet, and exercise play more of a part in your ability to effectively interact with others than you might imagine. The less we care for ourselves, the less we are able to care for others.
  • Dedicate time and attention to those you are with. This means verbally, overtly, and obviously pledging the moment in time to them. Say to them, “I am trying to do better at paying attention to the people I am with.” In dedicating time to someone, everyone wins.
  • Disconnect from annoying technology. Designate technology-free zones and technology-free times. Set some rules and follow them. If you care at all about being present, then it’s not okay to text, email or surf the web while engaging in a conversation with someone.
  • Narrow the scope of your intentions. Research has shown that the number of tasks that we can handle at once, without degradation of effectiveness, is one. We can multitask, but with each additional item added, our performance goes down. Reduce the number of action items to cover, or at a bare minimum, tackle them one at a time.
  • Reboot your RAM. When you find yourself overloading on tasks or interaction, reboot. Perhaps put a conversation on hold. Agree to revisit it at a point in the future. Go for a short walk, get a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths – whatever it takes for you to reboot and start up again.
  • Schedule regular, intentional, daily interaction. Set aside time for interaction, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Much the way we look forward to a workout or a run, we begin to eagerly anticipate the interpersonal workout as well. Schedule one every day.
  • Silence the auditory interruptions. Your auditory interrupters may be the television at home, the radio in the car, the sound of the engines on the airliner. Take steps to find a short, quiet respite from the noise. Earplugs on the plane. Leaving the sound off on the TV. Driving in peace. Give yourself a few minutes of quiet every day. It’s even more effective when you aren’t forced to do it.

Being present is not only the key to increasing employee engagement and building better relationships both at work and at home, it’s the key to living a happier life. When we live in the present moment, not only are we more fully engaged, but we are free from the worry of the future and regret from the past, and more able to fully enjoy what we are experiencing in the present moment.

 “The psychological equivalent of air is to feel understood.” – Dr. Steven R. Covey

 If you are not living this moment, you are not really living. – Eckhart Tolle

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