The Importance Of Engagement

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(By Deborah Parenti) Last month, I was prompted by a series of current events to pen a blog for our daily newsletter about the art, or perhaps the lost art, of communication.

It was a reflection stemming from several tragic occurrences that reminded me of the strength found in human connection — the one that begins at birth, follows us through life, and can be felt in the squeeze of a hand during the final moments of those we love. These are the times that become seared in memory and help light and even sometimes influence or turn the path we take in life.

And it is an instinct that never ends. It follows us through good times and bad. It is an innate part of our nature to seek out our fellow humans for comfort, celebration, and conversation.

Of course, this instinct is not confined to personal relationships. Communicating is critical to another area, one that dominates a good part of our waking hours: the workplace. And with the dawn of digital, the art of communicating has become increasingly complex and at
times confusing.

Driven by technology and social platforms, the 2019 workplace offers a mostly positive and definitely more flexible environment, allowing for communications from remote locations, but also office settings that, frankly, can feel distant and sterile. Many are devoid of
the hallway chatter and in-person interruptions that were more familiar before digital connectivity brought us both closer together and further apart. That’s because rather than grab a conversation in the doorway, it’s easier to text the person on the floor below. The
few opportunities for unstructured conversation seems to be at the restroom sinks or around the coffee pot these days.

Indeed, technology has vastly changed the way we interact, not to mention put us on overload. Even as you read this, you are no doubt being bombarded with e-mails, texts, and voice messages.

Managing all those interactions is not only challenging, but impacts a business’s ability to grow and prosper. As such, it should make workplace communications as important as communication with clients.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The pressure of non-stop competition has many leaders pushing internal messaging aside as a priority, instead focusing on time management, bottom lines, and minimal interruptions. The result can be a disengaged work environment, whether it’s an on-site location or across an expanse of virtual miles.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to embrace technology and take full advantage of its benefits. But it calls for managers to adopt a new skill set for communicating and to lead by example. Here are some simple suggestions gleaned from a variety of communications coaches:

Clarity is the first rule of good communications. Especially if the communications is non-verbal, it’s imperative to be clear and precise. Leave the hyperbole for the orators.

Communications should allow for give-and-take. One-sided messaging is a glass half full — and you could miss the next great idea. Writing massive e-mails and telling recipients not to respond is like inviting them to dinner but telling them not to eat.

Don’t let people operate in silos. Find ways to encourage collaboration and break down virtual barriers.

Pause before texting. Remember that rule from early e-mail days? Be careful before hitting send. Today, it’s texting — fast, not always thought through. Make sure the message and the tone are what you really want to convey.

Stay in touch. Whether it’s a walk down the hall or a phone chat with an off-site team member, take time to share a moment with people one on one.

Finally, how we execute our communications strategy is also important. Time and again, I am reminded of a lesson I learned years ago from a 3-year-old. When my sons were little and still sharing a room filled with nighttime giggles and sweet dreams, I would come in for that kiss goodnight. One night, the younger one popped his head up and asked, “Why do you always kiss him first?” It never dawned on me that my route through the room took me to his bed second every night. There was no conscious intention, but at some point, that became his interpretation. Obviously, he felt, if not slighted, perhaps outranked. There’s a message here. Whether around a conference table or in an e-mail, rotate who gets the nod to speak or ask a question.

And yes, I made sure to “take turns” after that night.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at parenti@aol.com.

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