Ask a different question.

Another lightbulb moment to report, courtesy of the Heath brothers. I’m reading their chapter in Made to Stick about making your ideas unexpected. And then they go and shift my paradigm with this:

“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?” [p. 88]

The main differences in these questions, of course, are that:

  • the first focuses on the monologue, the blah-blah-blah.
  • and the second seeks dialogue. Conversation, that is — interaction.

Everyone’s asking why employees aren’t engaged — isn’t it possible they’re not engaged because we’re not engaging them? We’re not giving them the chance to ask the questions they want to ask, directly and free from unnecessary filters. Everyone’s asking how to fight the grapevine — isn’t it possible the best way to fight rumors and gossip is with facts? Why aren’t we talking with employees? Why aren’t we being more serious about this?

As a communicator it’s often frustrating that I can’t personally do more to affect employee engagement. But this new question to ask myself may be the way I can contribute: What questions do I want my audience to ask? I might have to approach my writing and communications planning in a whole different way.

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One Response to Ask a different question.

  1. tim wright says:

    Jennifer –

    I like your reference to Make It Stick (a good read!). I believe many mgrs share the “what can I do? why can’t I make them engage?” frustrations.

    I feel the mgr’s job is to make engagement opps and resources available…that the employee may choose to engage. And if the mgr communicates well enough, engagement will follow.

    I referenced Make It Stick back in December (http://c2e.typepad.com/culture_to_engage/2007/12/what-follows-ap.html). I think yours makes its point more concisely. Congrats.

    Tim

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