In our December 9th post we gave you an overview of The Engagement Spiral© that we created to help leaders in organizations, communities, and even families create engagement and alignment behind goals and initiatives. As you may recall, we believe that in life and work, you and your organization are either spiraling upward or downward and we have seen that effective engagement can accelerate upward spirals.
On December 16th we talked about the first step of The Engagement Spiral© – Tell Them They Matter on December 23rd the second – Teach People How to Provide Input and today we are going to talk about how to implement the third step – Take Input to the Relevant Decision-Makers.
Interestingly, most people believe that the third step is quite simple and straightforward. And they would be correct that it is simple, yet it requires thoughtfulness and savvy to do well. Let’s go through step 3 and take a look.
Step 3: Take the Input to the Relevant Decision-Makers
While simple to understand; how you frame what you are bringing to decision-makers, what you ask of them, and how you guide their discussion can dramatically influence how decision-makers respond to the input. So, we would suggest:
- Always include the decision-makers in the process before seeking input
- When bringing the input back to decision-makers, carefully review the goals of engaging staff and the key questions that staff were asked
- If you are an organization where engagement has been limited or non-existent – assume that people will be skeptical and cautious about believing you are genuinely interested in their thinking . . . and they should be
- Remember, when people say “they don’t trust leaders to listen” it is often because they have been taught by the leaders that they don’t, in fact, listen
- Remind decision-makers that some of the input may be angry or even inflammatory and that’s the good news. If you have done step 2, and taught staff how to give input, then you have shaped their input so that they have an opportunity to express negative opinions and concerns but you have also shaped their input to get a broader perspective, asking for benefits and suggestions
- Review the input twice, once reading through it individually and once talking through it as a group
- Identify the key points that have emerged and note them separately – that is your summary of benefits, concerns and suggestions
- Commit to using this input well, not taking it personally, and not using it to challenge an individual or group – if input is used as a weapon, it will be the last honest input you will get
Helping leaders and decision-makers gain practice and comfort hearing honest feedback and strong feelings is an important part of this process. This week, think about how you can genuinely be open to the input of others without taking it so personally that you close down the conversation.
Next week, we will talk about Step 4: Use the Input.