An often cited study by the Gallop Organization found that only 20% of the employees in a company are engaged. That means that only one in five are passionate about the work they do, the products and services that they create, and the values and goals of the company. This leaves an enormous untapped potential in the reaming 80% of employees that are not fully engaged. But how do managers to release this potential? Savvy managers start by following this simple model of engagement.
From the employee's perspective the model works this way. If I am heard, then I can be understood. If I am understood, then I will trust. If I trust, then I will engage.
For managers the focus is on listening and understanding the concerns, suggestions, and ideas of people in the organization. This is the controllable part of the model because a manager takes these actions. The uncontrollable portion of the model is the response to the actions taken by the manager. A manager cannot make employees trust and engage, a manager can only create the conditions for trust and engagement. However, once these conditions exist, trust and engagement will naturally follow.
There are three things that mangers have to do to be successful in using this model. First when employees express concerns or ideas the manager must become curious and see the interaction as a learning opportunity. The manager has to learn what the employee is proposing and how they think and feel about the proposal. They do this by asking questions to explore the idea seeking to understand what actions are proposed, what impact the employee thinks these actions will have, and how the employee thinks others will respond to these actions. This is the first step of the model. Once the manager has heard and explored the proposal, then he confirms his understanding by restating what he has heard to the employee. The manager does this in his own words and concludes by asking the employee if the manager's description is correct of needs to be modified. In this way the employee realizes that he has been both heard and understood.
What the manager does not do is debate the merits or the employee's proposal, interject his own thoughts and opinions, or take action before the process of hearing and understanding is complete. Employees want to be heard. They want to know that their issues and ideas are understood. They do not expect that management will always agree with their suggestions. They recognize that it is the responsibility of the manager to make decisions and set a course of action. When they are heard and understood, they know that they are valued and respected. This lays the groundwork for trust. Employees who trust their manger will become fully and productively engaged in the tasks at hand.