Good Old-Fashioned Dialogue

How do you engage your people to be more involved in their work? The old cliché about the carrot and the stick comes to mind. Some managers feel that they need to be tough, demanding, or unrelenting in their approach.

Well, barking at your employees or dictating to them or condescending to them is usually more detrimental than effective. And if you randomly schmooze with them, people may feel good, but this doesn’t portend more engagement.

Instead, one of the best ways to engage people is good old-fashioned dialogue. Whether you speak one-on-one or one-to-many, having a talk can make the difference.

Intentional verbal dialogue enhances engagement, especially because it stands out in a sea of electronic alternatives. Think about how you feel when someone takes the time to speak with you and involve you in a conversation.

Keep in mind that this discussion should be intentional, not random. Have a goal about what you intend to communicate.

My friend, Josh, asked me to fill in at the last minute for a program he was doing. The discussion began over email, but then we set up time to talk about it. As long as we’ve known each other, talking gave more meaning to both of us than simply reading his words on a screen.

In his classic work, How to Speak How to Listen, Mortimer Adler discusses the nuances of oral communication. But what do we really know about speaking and listening? This may be one of the reasons why our oral communication needs work: many of us didn’t study it, let alone pay attention to its importance in workplace communication.

Think about people you know who are strong communicators. A manager who takes the time to pull the best from her people or a mentor who helps someone understand organizational dynamics, for example, can have a tremendous positive impact on employees.

How would you assess yourself? Pay attention to your verbal communication in the days ahead. There’s always room for improvement, and when you work on this, you’ll see different results with your people.

Header image by RDNE Stock Project/Pexels.

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