Creating Massive Engagement
by Sharonne Phillips


We all want to learn how to create the kinds of relationships that will keep our customers, clients and staff coming back for more.  And if we were honest, we would probably extend this wish to virtually all of our relationships.

There really is a simple recipe for this.  It is:

Say what you mean,

Listen with your ears and not your ego

Mean what you say,

Then do it!

It is that simple or it should be.  The problem is that it is not so straightforward to achieve.  The theory is sound, but life gets in the way of life.  It is easy to be distracted in the middle of things, or to feel that there is so much happening at any one time that it is almost impossible to start one task and see it through to completion before moving on to the next.

We are all busy and at times facing conflicts of desires versus needs, timing versus resources.  We need to consider the people around us – our staff, colleagues, clients, customers, family members, relatives and friends, as well our own individual needs.  Most people talk about the need for a balanced life – this is the NOW age approach to living in developed nations in the 21st century.  This is a luxury associated with living in developed nations – people living in developing and undeveloped nations are too busy chasing the basic necessities of life to able to focus on the idea of work-life-balance.

So, much as we might moan and groan, it is really a blessing in disguise that we can consider these issues.  Imagine how good we might feel if we could only allow ourselves to feel lucky in this all the time without other feelings creeping in!

It would be glib to say that we can just do this – feel happy and contented with our lot in life because we are relatively privileged compared to many others.  But it is up to us to deal with EVERYTHING that comes our way each day, and each moment can be a choice of what to do – what is most important to us and our own “big picture” in any instant.

So how do we truly develop massive engagement? 

Say What You Mean

Be clear about what it is that you want others to do, and be precise in how you ask for it and explain it.  Make sure that you have actually said it.  How many times have you thought that you have said something only to be challenged by the people with whom you are certain you have already spoken to about the topic?  They say that you haven’t said it, you are certain you have - and there is an impasse, with possible anger and frustration on all sides. 

Just because you have thought your point through many times to reach completion and had multiple “imaginary” conversations with a number of different relevant people on the topic does not mean that your staff, your friends, your spouse or your children have heard the conversation, understood your point and agree with you to the point that they will take your desired actions.  So make sure you have said what you need to say clearly, cleanly and out loud!

Too much time is wasted with staff not understanding what is required, not understanding why it is required (people are unlikely to do something just because they are asked to do it) or are unable to do the tasks they are asked to complete – for any number of reasons.  Getting agreement on what should be completed will help to achieve the desired outcome.

If there is a need to negotiate any details for task completion and furthering the relationships, then make sure all people involved feel comfortable to be able to voice their opinions and acknowledge all comments.  It is important for individuals to know that their ideas are appreciated – they may not be practical, appropriate or relevant but shutting people down for offering suggestions means that they might be reluctant to report things that really do matter.  This has been seen time and time again in factories and workplaces – staff are often the first to notice when systems and processes are going haywire, but if they are not encouraged and acknowledged when making simple statements, they will not feel it is worth their while to speak up about the important issues that can affect productivity and efficiency in the workplace. 

Develop a simple procedure staff can use to report anything they can think of to improve the efficiency of their work.  Some factories I have visited have a rule that only “sensible” or “reasonable” ideas should be put forward – to contain and control time wasting pranksters and comedians.  You might like to have all ideas supported and could even have a voting system in place to allow all staff to consider which ideas should be developed further.  Some businesses offer some small incentive – tickets to a movie, a meal voucher or something similar as a “reward” for the best and most practical ideas.  Remember, if you are using anyone’s idea, acknowledge the author of the idea when it is discussed or used.  Pay tribute where and when it is due – this builds trust and respect as well encourages people to speak up.

Listen with your ears and not your ego

It can be hard to allow others credit for ideas and actions that should have originated elsewhere, particularly if the idea should or could have come from you.

Consider these questions:

  • Is it more important to have the idea or to have it come from the “correct” or “ideal” source?

  • Is the outcome more important than the processes that lead to it?

  • Who knows more about the intricacies of any operation – the person actively working on the task, or the person who manages it, or the person who designed and/or implemented the task?

Often people removed from a situation can offer a cleaner, clearer or more appropriate perspective.  This is one reason that consultants can do the work they do.  Their attachment to an organization, a system or a process is different to that of the person or people who developed the system in the first place.  If we can get above our own needs to feel validated, valued and smart we might find a better way of doing our work or an easier, smoother way to engage with, and communicate with others.

Conversely, the people actually completing any task will know how they go about completing their work.  They will know where any likely hold-ups are, and what works efficiently and what doesn’t.  They will also have a clear idea of what could be improved.  And, it is often helpful to watch how new staff learn to complete any task – because lack of familiarity with any process or system will highlight any problems that might be inherent with that process or system.

Hearing what is being said without judging is a true skill.  This does not mean that you don’t need to be discerning.  It is still important to distinguish the value and merit of suggestions, but without judging the person who made the suggestion.  If you can find your way to listening without judgment or hierarchy it is possible that you will learn a great deal more about the day-to-day operations in your organization.  This is the same for sole practitioners or solopreneurs.  When we work on our own it can be very difficult to receive critical feedback (positive and negative) – so try to build in some way to find out this information from colleagues, clients and customers.  Your suppliers might also be able to provide you with some insights into how you operate.
Mean what you say

Don’t make empty threats or promises.  Become known for your honesty so that people know that when they talk to you, they get it straight.  You don’t have to be mean, hard or nasty when speaking the truth – just truthful.  And we know that can be a rarity in our busy modern lives.

There are many times when it seems preferable to soften a message by diluting it, or telling “little white lies”.  The problem is that little lies often get taken as truth – taken out of context and the misinformation grows.  The impact of this niceness can be huge.  For example, telling a new employee that they are doing a great job when in fact they have made huge mistakes means that it will take them longer to learn the correct methods of work (if they EVER learn).

It is easier to correct mistakes and poor performance earlier rather than later – so provide new staff with adequate training, supervision, support and encouragement.  And if they still cannot complete the task to your satisfaction consider whether there is a good fit between staff members and the work they are required to do.  Wherever possible, allow your staff to individualise the actual way they complete their work so that they can find the best methods that suit them.  They will be more efficient, happier and productive to have some autonomy over their work.  Obviously quality control and legal responsibilities must be observed and staff might need to be guided to achieve this.

Be acutely aware of what it is that you want.  Be true to yourselves, find your values and embrace them.  Do not be ashamed of what it is that you want, and what it is that you can offer.  And don’t be afraid to ask that of others if it is appropriate.  Similarly, be respectful of their needs and the way that they work.  If you can, align your goals for your business with those of your staff. 

This is similar to the idea of a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement, but it is stronger if staff can be included in the development of your customer service agreement and standards of operation – they will feel included and that ownership will assist you to gain loyal and dedicated staff.

Do It!

Once you have decided what it is that you want to do, a service or product you wish to deliver, and once you have agreed with a client what you will do for them – JUST DO IT.

Start with first things first – do what is front of you and necessary.

Consider time frames for work and any deadlines – are they realistic?  If not, renegotiate sooner rather than later – to allow all parties the most time to set plans in place if they need to.

Work to a standard that you are comfortable with, and that you can maintain/ sustain.

Keep your clients informed of any changes that will affect product/service supply, delivery, standard, quality, price and deadline.

In point form:

The fundamentals to building massive engagements are:

  • Find your own value and live to your values with honesty and integrity.
  • Acknowledge when someone else has a fair point (even if you don’t like it, or agree with it).

  • Give credit where credit is due.

  • Respect others and their views.

  • Explain things clearly, cleanly, succinctly and in a timely manner.

  • Once you have reached agreement on something – do it as agreed or better.

The Author

Sharonne Phillips

Sharonne Phillips helps you to create effective systems that streamline your business and simplify your life. Sharonne has worked within the health, hospitality, administrative, manufacturing and mining industries for over 25 years and has worked closely with staff and managers to achieve greater understanding and efficiencies in the workplace. She is the developer of The Systems Model™ a unique model that can assist organizations to understand how their existing systems serve their best interests, or detract from their core purpose. Sharonne is the Director of Occupational Ergonomics Pty Ltd. Visit for additional information.
Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives

Copyright 2008 by
Sharonne Phillips. All rights reserved.

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