Recently, we hosted an online forum as part of the Australian Future Grain Leaders Progam. Our challenge was to share our best tips for engaging others. There are some great tips here, so hope you find one or two you can have a go at. And if you think of something different, do let me know.
Communication + Connection = Engagement
Communication comes first and engagement follows – at least this is what all the literature says. The challenge for all of us is to recognise that speaking and sharing information is not enough. It is important to make a connection and for this to become so strong that a relationship of engagement follows and sustains through time and change. And it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Our Australian Future Gran Leaders group recently completed a mastermind activity where each of the leaders shared a tip to encourage and support engagement. And here is a summary.
Tip 1 – Classic Manners Go A Long Way
“Something I notice occasionally are the classic mistakes of people who tend to only contact you when they need something, who may not be willing to return a favour if there’s nothing in it for them, and who never follow up with a simple thanks when you’re going out of your way to help them… so the message would be classic manners go a long way, and remember relationships are two-way and not simply transactional!”
Tip 2 – Ask Open Ended Questions
“Ask open ended questions. I find it particularly important when first getting to know someone, or if in a work situation you are trying to gain someone’s business. It’s a good one for building relationships and learning more about the other person. And talk with each other, not at each other.”
Tip 3 – Share and Show Passion
“Share stuff- put yourself out there, I think lots of people appreciate it when someone makes the first effort (I could be wrong on this and just annoy people). I think it is important to be passionate about something. It might sound weird, but passionate people are a lot easier to listen to and share with, even if their passion isn’t shared.
Follow up. It never hurts to fire off a thanks or an acknowledgement shortly after the event to keep the lines open.”
Tip 4 – See Things from a Different Perspective
“The secret I have learned over the years is to enjoy the other person. Sometimes we tend to be drawn to people with similar worldviews to our own, but more and more I have found the fun of seeing the world through a different set of eyes to my own. You don’t always have to agree with the other person, but I think you grow a lot more quickly if you allow yourself to see things from a different perspective and maybe question your own beliefs.”
Tip 5 – Be ‘Present’ and ‘In the Moment
“Try to be ‘present’ and ‘in the moment’ with the other person and don’t allow yourself to be distracted!”
Tip 6 – Confirm and Follow Up
“Here are some pretty simple and commonly known steps for engagement. Actively listen to what a person say and ensure you pick up on all the detail. Respond and confirm. Respond to what the person has said and confirm you understand what they have said. Timeframe and follow through. Set a time frame to complete the task in or contact them again and always follow through earlier than advised. And make contact, not just because there is something wrong. But just because you can.”
Tip 7 – Be Spontaneous
“It probably depends on your personality but I find some spontaneity can go a long way. A conversation that is flowing both ways is always more enjoyable, it makes both people think and get something out of it. Always be willing to learn more and draw on the people you are engaging with to tell them something you didn’t know.”
Tip 8 – Seize the Moment
“When negotiating with a person/party, if an opportunity presents itself, or a deal can be done, then ‘seize the moment’ and do it. This type of engagement provokes respect and action. I think if people see this they will want to engage you again in the future when another opportunity occurs. I think this theory can also assist with internal decision making, where the core objective of a deal can sometimes be lost when ‘squabbling over peanuts’.”
Tip 9 – Be an Active Participant
“I like to think of “engaging” as interchangeable with “participation”. Meaningful engagement centres on being an active participant – whether that is initiating contact, following up, listening (actively!), providing support or delivering on what you may have promised. Some of these can be quite a challenge! But for me – thinking of engagement in this way helps set realistic expectations of the person/people involved. If I’m not willing to give, then I can’t expect to fully benefit from the relationship.”
Tip 10 – Let Others Have Their Say
“How you react when coming under criticism is important so that the other person remains engaged and focused on the reason you are meeting with them, resulting in a good outcome. As I work for a newish company that is doing things slightly different to the ‘norm’, I often attend meetings where the people I am meeting with proceed to throw criticism at what we do, to which I use to proceed to inform them of why they were wrong, which ultimately resulted in a negative vibe from both parties and obviously a low or poor outcome from the conversation. I have found that it is much more beneficial to let them have their say and then actually proceed to ask questions about what they mean, explore their thoughts further and accept that it is an issue, and then over the coming weeks include those people in further discussions about how you could overcome the issues through to the implementation stage (where possible of course). This always seems to make them feel that they played a part in evolving and improving our system and business and they seem to then hold a bit of a bond around that, so creating a form of ongoing engagement.”
Tip 11 – Value the Contribution of Others
“Make sure everyone feels and knows that you value their contribution to the conversation. Be sure you listen to the point of view of others, whether you agree or not. Remember they may not agree with you point of view either. In a team situation, everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. A great way of engaging them is to ensure everyone involved knows what the end goal is. Right from the MD to the store person! Some of the best engaging and informative conversations I have had at conferences have been at morning tea or over dinner after a full day of speaking sessions. It’s amazing how a cup of coffee or beer dare I say it open up the conversations. I have been reading some online articles this week about engagement this one is well worth a look. He talks about the water cooler conversation which is sort of like the morning tea conversation at a conference.”
Tip 12 – Engage Others Through Electronic Media
“As for engaging people electronically, there is only one way as far as I am concerned and that is via Social Media. Face Book is more of a way of keeping in contact with personal friends. Twitter on the other hand is a great way to engage people that you have in most cases never met personally who are involved in similar lines of work to you. Because of the way Twitter works you can only enter text of 140 characters in a single tweet. You have to be brief and concise and to the point but it also gives out enough detail to keep people interested and engaged to want to ask you more. And so that’s how the engaging and conversations start and probably why Twitter is so popular. It’s the same old chestnut though, like anything else you only get out of Twitter what you put in. If you don’t contribute you won’t receive. But the rewards can be very inspiring, educational and rewarding too! I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the people personally I have met through Twitter circles and have become very good friends. I am now part of a very large network across Australia via the #agchatoz Twitter hash tag. For those of you not familiar with Twitter and want to get into it, I will gladly offer you some advice on how to get started.
Here is another web page that’s got some great tips on engagement. It does refer to Twitter use but some generally good ideas on engaging people.”