Engaging anyone

Engagement is the buzzword of the day; employee engagement, leadership engagement, stakeholder engagement…the list goes on.

So, what is the secret to “engagement?” How do you become successful at engaging anyone?

Engage, the root of the word, can essentially be done by someone or done to someone. If you are soliciting someone’s engagement it starts with you and ends with them. So let’s look at what it means to engage someone:

Engage: to occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention).

If you want someone’s interest or attention, what is the first and most important thing you have to do? Let’s try communication.

Have you ever gone to a party and stood in the corner or sat in a chair all alone? How many people come up to you to talk to you? You can walk into a room full of people and mentally think to yourself, “Ok people, engage me, I dare you,” but that seldom works.

Yea, perhaps the extremely extroverted might come over to bang you out of your shell, and they might already be wearing the lamp shade for the evening, but in most cases you’ll probably go home disappointed. You’ll consider the party an entire waste of time and probably would think twice about going again.

The number, based on the first stratified random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998, showed Introverts 50.7% and Extroverts 49.3% of the United States of America.


If 50% or more of the population–half of the room–isn’t the engaging type, the. It’s up to us to make the first move. Even if you are an introvert.

If you desire engagement, then you probably are going to have to initiate and continue to initiate the conversation. Your leadership staff, your employees, your stakeholders, your audience, your customers, etc. all need to be engaged in conversation constantly to feel engaged. Otherwise they’ll leave your little party possibly vowing never to go back again.

So, engagement of anyone starts with communication. Small talk it is…

That won’t work…it has to be engaging conversation…”How’s the weather Bill,” isn’t going to work!

The rules of engaging conversation are simple:

1. It has to be purposeful–you are communicating for the purpose of engaging the audience.
2. It has to be consistent–one and done or fire and forget styles of communication (very prevalent in our email age) do not work. The message must be the same and repeated often (but not like repeating a phone number three times on a radio ad–that’s annoying)
3. The message must be understood. This means a lot of things. You must communicate clearly and this includes the channel you use. Kids today tend toward text message talk over long conversation. Speak to the differently than they like to receive, the message isn’t as clear. The language and jargon you use is just as important. Talk to your audience in a manner that they understand otherwise you’ll sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. That’s an example of a message that only some of you will get.
4. Mean it. Be sincere when you communicate. Honest and open communication is a key to engagement. If it’s a one way conversation that you’re doing based on some checklist mentality that tells you that you have to communicate at 9 am every morning, then it isn’t real. Yes, you can plan communication, but don’t let your plan dictate when you will communicate.

This is the startup engaging anyone. Also, this is the number one thing that people don’t do. If you’re A boss, make a point to get up from your desk once a week–plan it, don’t let the plan tell you–and talk to people. Encourage open and honest communication in the office and in your staff meetings. Make communication your number one goal for the year for your organization.

It all starts there.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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