Best Practice

The 3 Secrets of Work: Engage. Invite. Whisper.

We are just a few weeks away from 2020 so it is time to unlock the 3 secrets of work that can make the next decade at work more engaging, invitational, and connected.

The surprising thing about these secrets is that they reside in plain sight. I call them secrets because they are right in front of us yet so many of us fail to notice them, and then to act on what they offer us.

Let’s take a moment to go to Greece. I love the Portara on the island of Naxos. It is a massive 2,500-year-old marble doorway that greets you at the port.

It is a fully open door that offers you a view of Naxos on one side and the ocean on the other. It inspires me to think of the very open door we can pass through to make work better for all by using the 3 secrets of work as our keys.

Photo by David Zinger, The Portara on Naxos.

Secret #1: Engage

Engagement is a static noun but to engage is an active verb. We have reduced engagement to an annual or bi-annual survey of work in our organization. We have turned a dynamic connected process of working into a static noun represented by languishing survey scores and stale PowerPoint presentation. Engage means connection and we need to connect with our work, others, and our organizations every day.

I define engagement as: good work done well with others every day. Center your work on making strong connections every day. Internal communicators can be beacons of engagement by strengthening connections in their organization and by staying fully engaged with their own work. If we are not engaged, how can we expect those we are communicating with to fully engage with our message and their work?

Secret #2: Invite

Too many people see work as an imposition, something that gets in the way of our lives between weekends. We must reframe work as an invitation. It is not something we merely do because we are paid (but of course, I also like to be paid).

We need to feel invited to work and ensure that we invite others into meaningful work experiences.

Most people do not resist change; they resist being coerced. Removing coercion embedded in work decreases resistance.

I encourage you to see what you do as a leader or internal communicator as extending invitations. Review your recent communications and programs to see if they have an invitational tone to your audience and recipients.

Ask yourself: Am I offering an invitation that people feel they want to accept and act upon? Are they aware they can decline the invitation while knowing there are natural consequences if they decide to decline?  An invitational approach to our work enriches internal communicators’ roles into organizational hosts.

Secret #3: Whisper

Just whisper while you work. Encourage people to listen by whispering and helping them know there are hearing something special. Google was very effective in improving psychological safety through 10 brief email nudges that they called whispers. The whispers encouraged leaders to take small specific actions to improve psychological safety with their teams.

Google managers who received the simple e-mail whisper lessons improved on their behavior by 22 -40% versus a control group. Whispers can offer internal communicators more reach and influence by broadening their impact into both training and organizational psychological safety.

As a short aside, it is astounding to me that the grandfather of engagement, William Kahn, in an article 30 years ago when engagement was just beginning talked about how fundamental psychological safety was for engagement yet we just seem to be only catching on to his “secret” now.

Conclusion

Turn the 3 secret keys of work: engagement, invitation, and whisper to open the door of enhanced work in 2020. Acting on these secrets will contribute to a better workplace for yourself and others.

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