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Communication – the secret sauce of engagement

October 6, 2010

Being a line manager isn’t easy

Not only do you need to excel in your specific area of expertise, there are typically a whole raft of other challenges and targets you are held to account for – all with limited time and resource.

In many organisations, an annual engagement survey to measure the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute can further add to the stress of managing a team.  No line manager wants to be labeled the ‘manager of a poorly engaged team’. And rightly so.

But a manager’s role is key to a productive team

While many factors impact on engagement scores (for example, how well the company is performing against competitors or how popular recently introduced policies and procedures are),  research consistently indicates that it is an employee’s direct manager that has the most influence over the contribution an employee makes. Engaged employees are more productive employees.

So how do you get a highly engaged team?

This is easier said than done particularly when many managers report feeling ill equipped with the skills required to have meaningful conversations and to inspire and motivate their teams.

…add the secret sauce – Communication

Improving manager capability through targeted improvement in communication skills is hugely beneficial, but good intent and an understanding of the basic communication needs of your team is a good place to start.

A framework for conversations with team members

Roger D’Aprix, a leading authority on business communication and author of Communicating for Change, devised an easy to understand model that provides a practical framework for managers to understand what conversations they need to be having with their team members.

Figure 1.  Manager communication model by Roger D’Aprix

The model identifies six ‘communication needs’. The first three focus on ‘individual’s needs’ (What’s my job? How am I doing? and Does anybody care?) that have to be met before the ‘organisational needs’ (How is my unit doing? and Where are we heading?) can be absorbed and only then is an employee finally ready to go above and beyond with How can I help?

I’ll be revisiting elements of this framework in more detail in future posts. But for the moment, planning for conversations with individuals and the team around these six broad headings is an excellent foundation for improving engagement and productivity.

So for a full flavoured, wholesome and satisfying engagement score… add lashings of secret sauce!!

One Comment
  1. Kerry permalink

    This makes so much sense! It’s like basic survival skills, only when we have food, water and shelter can we begin to think more broadly about our needs. I suppose it helps if your management knows where they’re heading and what their unit is doing too…

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