As a featured speaker at the 2015 Training Magazine Conference and Expo, this was my second opportunity to interact with the nationwide learning and development community, and here I’m going to connect the dots between my seminar (“A Story for Engagement”) and new learning I received from the other speakers.
The topic is engagement, and given Recruiting Magazine’s statistic that 75% of the 2015 workforce will be actively seeking other employment due to dissatisfaction with their current workplace, this issue couldn’t be more important for trainers, human resources, and learning & development professionals.
The two kickoff speakers, Dana Gaines Robinson and Michelle Gielan, along with keynote speaker Shawn Achor, provided valuable insight that dovetails with SagePresence’s approach to employee engagement.
Dana Gaines Robinson, author of Performance Consulting, spoke her way across the knowing/doing gap, pointing out that many work environments don’t support new skills, so training is wasted because people don’t do what they know unless the environment nurtures it.
In my presentation, I talked about how leaders can create that environmental support by facilitating story creation with teams. This approach spreads team-wide agreement around challenges, goals, and action plans, and can create an environment that nurtures new learning.
Michelle Gielan, a former broadcast journalist, talked about the stories that team members tell on a day-to-day basis within organizations. That storytelling can be positive or negative, and can affect the culture of the team. A study showed that amongst the positive employees found in statistical research, 31% of them remained silent, thus substantially tilting the effect of storytelling inside an organization toward the negative.
Story structure can align positive and negative people in an optimistic point of view because story has a place for both energies. In fact, story doesn’t view positivity and negativity as oppositional at all. It views these two charges as compatible and complementary.
Negativity is very valuable in defining a story beginning, where positivity is sourced in the goal outcome we desire. Together the two define a change, and provide both “push away from” and “pull toward” energy that excites people around actions that move the team forward.
Additionally, SagePresence has been able to find that “silent 31%” who at times remind me of that kid in the choir who stood next to me in the concert but didn’t sing. Personality inventories are a great starting point in finding the people less likely to serve as active voices in the positive “broadcast.”
DiSC profiles identify two personality types who are more private and soft-spoken. Learning and development professionals will want to reach out to those types with storytelling training to help them activate their voices for the greater good.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, spoke to the positivity principle by looking at group behavior instead of individual behavior. If you can develop “rational optimism” that recognizes problems while remaining positive, and if you can train positive body language into the team, the resulting “wireless communication” places optimism into the social script of your company culture.
As we’ve already discussed, story has a place for both problems and goals. It’s an ideal tool for rational optimism. Stressors are the Beginnings and desires are the Endings of story. Actions are Middles. Group-wide participation in story-building creates a sense of ownership in the problem/solution/outcome sequence, which is a way to bring some intentionality to the social scripting that otherwise forms by default.
I was fascinated by Shawn’s “wireless connection” idea, which happens through body language. This takes us from story creation to storytelling, by focusing on aspects of delivery.
Emotions control body language and we train appreciation as an activity to practice and integrate into communication. This alone can represent a wireless communication message that integrates a tone-setting message into the naturally forming social script that defines a corporate culture.
Secondly, building an emotionally intelligent understanding of how to use feelings – like happy to affirm, sad to share empathy, mad to show seriousness, and a mix of mad and happy to combine urgency with opportunity to drive actions – can liberate your employees to be authentic and free with their emotions, and use those emotions constructively in rationally optimistic story communication.
We’ve seen it happen, where people learn to create trust with appreciation, and tell complete stories with their heads and hearts at the same time, within messages that go toward positive places, amongst fellow team-members who participated in creating them.
Story creation and storytelling: These skills can be key in:
- Engaging your team
- Getting new training across the knowing/doing gap
- Creating a culture that knows to nurture the skills you’re building
- Encouraging rational optimism
- Bringing positivity into the culture
- Freeing your untapped positive team members
- Building the wireless body language communication that sets cultural tone and forms social scripts intentionality
The 2015 Training Magazine Conference was a great experience, helping me recognize even more clearly the fit for Story inside of the challenges that corporate learning professionals are facing as they work to help leaders maximize the engagement of their teams.
As a member of today’s professional world, what is your experience around engagement? How would you characterize your own engagement level and your own ability to engage the team members around you? Share your thoughts below!
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