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Escaping the Engagement Paradox with Conversation

by Brady Wilson

Is your organization stuck in the Engagement Paradox?

Time and again, we see that the more leaders try to manage engagement, the more disengaged their employees actually become.

So what causes this paradox?

It’s not that employees don’t want to be engaged; many are committed and loyal workers who come in early, stay late, and try hard in-between. But in today’s Era of Exhaustion, they are simply struggling to make it to the weekend. Employees are engaged, but they are also exhausted.

As a result, organizations have become hubs where people are unable to think innovatively. Bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of work, they don’t have the time or mental capacity to identify root causes of problems, or to focus on fixing systemic issues. They are simply going through the motions—incapable of future-based, innovative, value-creating thinking.

And so, you get impulsiveness: firefighting, duct-tape fixes, quick workarounds and reactivity. It’s the perfect ecosystem for endless employee depletion

Engagement is unsustainable without energy

It’s not that employee engagement is dead. Quite the opposite: employee engagement is essential, foundational, and elemental to business. It is critical for building workplaces where people are dedicated, committed and willing to give discretionary effort.

However, employees simply cannot put forward their best work unless they are also full of passion, resilience, vitality and enthusiasm. And these are the natural by-products of energy.

In other words: engagement is necessary but insufficient. Without energy, engagement is simply unsustainable.

To create a sustainably engaged organization culture, businesses need to focus on both engagement and energy—essentially, moving “beyond engagement” as we know it today.

At risk: the customer experience

For more than 20 years, I have seen just how critical the employee experience is to the customer experience—and, as a result, the financial success of an organization.

Essentially, the employee experience can make or break the customer experience.

Think of it this way: an engaged employee can supply loyalty, commitment and even discretionary effort—but if that employee feels overwhelmed in their job, under-supported, exhausted and depleted, the best they can inject into the customer experience is something transactional and mechanical.

The human magic required for a great customer experience happens in one way and one way only—through an energized employee.

Why? It is energy that unlocks an employee’s enthusiasm, creativity, intuition and innovation, authentic human warmth, vigour and verve: all ingredients for an unforgettable customer experience.

In other words: the energized employee brings not only commitment, loyalty and effort, but also passion, intensity and vitality. And this makes all the difference in the world—because it is passion, intensity and vitality that differentiate businesses from their competitors.

So what’s the secret sauce? What can leaders do to energize employees beyond engagement as we know it today?

It’s all about understanding the human brain—and integrating that understanding into employee engagement initiatives.

Unlock energy through conversation

According to brain science, when we are low on energy, the “executive function” of our brain suffers: the part that helps us focus our attention, process information, regulate our emotions, predict outcomes, plan, prioritize, and take action.

But expose the brain to meaningful, face-to-face, quality conversation—and high-performance hormones (dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin) are released. And that’s not just within one but both parties. In fact, brain mapping shows that these ‘Miracle-Grow’ hormones boost creativity, amp up connection, and cut through fear and worry.

In essence, conversation deepens relationships, energizes employees and, consequently, unlocks easier results.

Moreover, conversations don’t have to take up a lot of time.

Short, simple “Energy Check” conversations are a proven and effective way to power up all the “apps” in your organization—critical things to your business such as customer service, feedback, coaching, strategy and innovation. Conversation syncs with how people think. It can be as simple as asking employees what is energizing them at the moment, and what is depleting their energy. Done systematically, this technique can catch issues before they become calamity-based, saving multiples of energy, time and mind-space for everyone in the process.

Conversation creates natural opportunities to unlock insight and possibility in employees’ minds. This generates energy, which fuels a great customer experience and great results.

Escape the Engagement Paradox

Without energy, all you get is dedicated under-performers.

But by understanding the “why” of the brain and incorporating meaningful conversation into the corporate culture, leaders can unlock the Engagement Paradox, and overcome resistance to employee engagement strategies.

As a result, you unlock passion, innovation, and enthusiasm, generating true and sustainable engagement—and unlocking a higher-performing workforce than you ever thought possible.

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