When there's a disconnect between actions and words, how can we expect our organizations to change?

Communication is Not Enough


Many employee engagement strategies include communication as a best practice, yet communication, like collaboration, is ill defined and varies wildly in quality of execution.

In an enterprise world, communication can be code for message or broadcast. A one-way push that checks the task list box, but may not ultimately serve the business goals.

With messages simply being delivered, we see roughly the same degree of effectiveness that one would find in an email marketing campaign, or a twenty participant conference call. A hopeful shot across the bow of a target audience that may or may not resonate with those who need its content most. Box checked. Welcome to the major disconnect of employee engagement.

We feed the disconnect when we:

  • Assume awareness equals comprehension or alignment
  • Assume authentic and transparent equals excellence and clarity
  • Deliver polished broadcast communication that comes off as cold and impersonal.

Authentic assumes what is, and transparency is a lens that works both ways. In communications, if we are intending to broadcast, that is our authentic voice. If we are engaged it shows. We are participating, listening, yielding and exchanging deference just as we would within a personal exchange. We learn and demonstrate that we're doing and adapt within the engagement. Whatever is… is. The current situation at Yahoo will be a very public example of this in the coming months.

Communication Backed by Demonstration Brings Results

The quality of the demonstration of the behaviors you are suggesting directly impacts your ability to influence others to embrace your ideas. I'll ask a question to illustrate. Would you work with a personal trainer who smoked and ate donuts while calling out commands? Not so much? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Likewise, education and awareness campaigns may not have the lasting impact those alliterated best practices top five lists so frequently promote, without some meaningful demonstration of buy-in from the source of the message. My point: we've all got to demonstrate in practice for behavior to meaningfully change.

Great leaders are already great examples offline -- they can also be powerful influencers online.

  • Leaders who participate in regular and meaningful workflows demonstrate their buy-in and personal commitment
  • Leaders who offer quality participation and regular activity elicit more participation from those who wish to engage them.

How Do We Reconnect the Disconnect?

Great communicators and leaders are not great simply because they are good orators or taskmasters. They've created relationships through networks long before there was a networking tool to extend their reach. The great ones relate and teach others how to do the same. They do it through conversation, through participating, by offering guidance on work in progress, and they do it by contributing. That deft influence greases the wheels of the organization's ability to adapt rapidly and build its overall resilience, despite rapid change.

  • Social tools help great leaders scale their relating by making their efforts visibly demonstrable to a larger network
  • Participation offers leaders unprecedented cultural business intelligence
  • The regular use of social tools help scale the reach of influence and insight their relationship building has created
  • Leader resistance to using these tools in an authentic way often has an damaging demonstrative effect.

In the face of a shifting enterprise world, should we not step up our game and truly seek a more resilient and agile organization? Those who've rolled out attempt after attempt of collaboration, intranets, portals or social tools are well versed in the frustration of low use, low returns on messaging and training and lack luster user sentiment.

Should we continue on the path of push or build relationships that create transformative relevance? What we assert and what we demonstrate, as well as the gap between, speak volumes to our ability to develop reciprocity. That reciprocity is an important part of the development of trust and the agency needed within a healthy relationship… business or otherwise.

As the shift continues it will be fascinating to see who steps up to change the game. What's exciting is that we can all do it if we choose.

Image courtesy of Olegusk (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To get more of Megan's thoughts and insights, read her A Question About Customer Experience