Here are 3 fast steps to employee engagement change from BJ Fogg and the Standford Persuasive Technology Lab:
Finding Optimism: Deliberate Story Construction
In Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations we help participants understand how detrimental ugly stories can be to successful conversations or confrontations. For many of us, as soon as something that might be negative is occuring our mind gets busy constructing negative stories that may thwart our success and a future of achieving great results while building robust relationships.
What negative stories have you created around your employee engagements?
I have appreciated the work of Tony Schwartz for many years. Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. I have reposted a chunk from his blog post from the Harvard Business Review because it is so relevant to working with facts and stories. It demonstrates how the cultivation of more optimistic stories through a positive story construction ritual can help us navigate through challenges and help us quickly change course.
I had also become deeply interested in the difference between facts and stories. A fact is something irrefutable. It can be objectively verified by any person. A story is something we weave to make sense of the facts. We are meaning making creatures. We seek to understand.
The problem, I’d come to realize, is that these sorts of negative stories are dispiriting and disempowering. Meanwhile, negative emotions such as anger, fear and blame make it harder to think clearly and creatively, and can even be paralyzing.
Over the previous several months, I had begun experimenting with a new morning “ritual.” It was built around cultivating something called “realistic optimism” — namely the practice of telling the most hopeful and empowering story in any given situation, without denying the facts.
For years, when I woke up, my pattern had been to scan my mind until I fixed on some imagined difficulty I was facing that day. Then I started ruminating about what might go wrong. By the time I stepped out of bed, I was usually anxious and off balance.
The new ritual I built was to get out of bed when I awoke, go to my desk, and write down what I was worrying about — just the facts. Next, I wrote down the story I was telling myself about those facts. Finally, I worked to conceive a more realistically optimistic story I could tell myself, based on the same incontrovertible facts.
I did this every morning, dutifully, for several months, and it usually made me feel at least a little better. I also began to notice that the negative outcome I initially imagined rarely came to pass. Finally one morning I woke up, and as usual, a challenging issue for that day came into my mind. This time, however, before any negative story could take its usual place, a more realistically optimistic one occurred to me, effortlessly.
How about you? What stories do you automatically create around potential negative events or situations at home or at work? What would happen if you told yourself a more neutral or even an optimistic story about the same facts? You are not trying to change the facts while realizing there are many stories that can be told about the same facts. Would you benefit from a story construction ritual?
Try it for a few weeks. Carve out 5 to 10 minutes each day to write out the facts of one or two challenging situations. Write out the current story you are telling yourself? Now write an equally believable constructive or positive story about the same situation. After 3 or 4 weeks see if your emotions and actions around challenges and setbacks have changed.
End of story…or perhaps the beginning of a new story.
Safety trumps fear: Are you creating better conversations for employee engagement?
Fear immobilizes. We may stay frozen in place with the unwillingness or inability to move forward. We may be ready to do something but not willing or able to do something. I sometimes see participants in our courses on Crucial Conversation and Crucial Confrontations work on a significant conversation they plan to hold after the course only to return to the workplace and fail to hold the conversation.
Stated Reasons. There are a variety of reasons for this. They may state that they are unprepared and need more skills. They may not be ready, willing, or able to hold the conversation. Yet this is puzzling to me after developing skills and conditions and structuring the conversation during the two day course.
Fear. I believe what often holds people back from the conversation is fear. Fear that they may fail. Fear that they may be incompetent. Fear that they may hear something from the other they don’t want to hear. Fear that nothing will change. Fear that they will need to change. Fear that if they are successful once they may need to engage in even more conversations. Or a host of other result and relationship fears.
Safety extinguishes fear. As a counsellor educator for 20 years at the University of Manitoba I was influenced by Dr. David Martin who taught that most counselling issues were fear or anxiety based. The only way to overcome a fear according to Dr. Martin was to experience the fear while also feeling safe. Safety extinguishes fear. Counsellors use empathic understanding to create safety while letting the client experience the fear by talking about what they fear and thereby dissipating the fear away through safety.
The feeling is mutual. In Crucial Confrontation and Crucial Conversations we teach people how to install mutual purpose and mutual respect to create safety in a conversation. The mutual purpose and respect must be authentic but when experienced they create safety both for the person receiving the conversation and the person initiating the conversations. To be fearful or anxious requires a focus on the self and when the focus broadens to the other person we lessen our capacity to experience fear.
Don’t be afraid of fear. When you feel fear move beyond yourself to mutuality. Find or create mutual purpose and mutual respect not only to help the other person but to help yourself experience and extinguish fear.
The fear busting pathway. The pathway to achieving solid relationships and robust results when the stakes are high, with differing opinions, and strong emotions or surrounding broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior is to move into and through your fear by creating mutual purpose and mutual respect to extinguish the fear.
Yes. Say yes to your conversational fears and trump those fears with your ability to create safety.
Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons: FEAR, http://www.flickr.com/photos/allthehopeintheworld/4900490358/
Engage the Day
Here are 33 ways to engage today:
Focus on the work right in front of you.
Savor your morning cup of coffee.
Connect to your peers.
Esteem your organization.
Laugh to keep perspective.
Stretch yourself to grow.
Stretch yourself for flexibility.
Appreciate your strengths.
Be mindful of your emotions at work.
Recognize another person’s good work.
Recognize another person’s humanity.
Remove obstacles to progress.
Keep making progress.
Experience how progress can fully engage you.
Change a bad day.
Limit work engagement to maintain balance.
Innovate a new way of doing things.
Hack your work to make it better.
Smile your way through the day.
Walk for 10 minutes to gather energy and change your mood.
Serve a customer like a best friend.
Respectfully stand up to a bully at work.
Connect with a former co-worker.
Stay fully engaged with 45 minute chunks of work.
Read just one blog post to get a new idea about working.
Find a meaningful measure to track your work.
Change what is no longer working for you.
Change your locus of engagement to refocus and re-energize.
Fully engage in your own well-being.
Model the spirit of a child at play in your own work.
Share a meal with someone you can help.
Go to bed early to fully engage tomorrow.