Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used (3rd Ed.). San Francisco: Pfeiffer-Wiley
THE CORE SKILLS OF ENGAGEMENT
Conversations aimed at engaging another require both intention and technique. The commitments listed in discussing the “changes of the heart” are all issues of intention. Here are some skills, methods, and techniques that are useful for encouraging and creating conversations of engagement. The list is neither complete nor comprehensive. The point is to get practical.
Telling the Truth.
Telling the truth is the foundation of engagement. Without disclosing the truth as we know it, nothing else is possible and engagement will fail. When we offer spin, distortion, omission, or lie as a substitute for authenticity, we create worlds we cannot believe in or sustain. Even more damaging, we affirm our belief that relationships cannot bear the simple light of truth. To tell the truth with goodwill is an absolute affirmation of faith in relationships.
Asking yourself or others to fully engage in work with hands, heart, and mind is impossible without offering and encouraging discussions about feelings and issues of the heart. Choosing and inviting emotional transparency creates authentic relationships and integrates the person with work.
Framing choices is the alternative to prescription, care taking, and other techniques that try to “get people to do something.” Naming the choices you see for yourself and asking others to do the same makes issues of freedom, accountability, and meaning immediately relevant and compelling.
Goodwill is not a feeling. It is an intention. To choose goodwill toward another is to offer a contribution to the person’s success and the success of whatever joint ventures you are pursuing. Goodwill does not require you to like or love the other. Goodwill bases the relationship on commitment to contribute, even in the face of disappointment.
Taking and Supporting the Other Side.
Extending understanding to others by publicly embracing their positions is one of the most powerful ways available to deepen a relationship, validate the value of the other, and move the conversation. It is the alternative to arguing, attacking, and treating the other cosmetically with statements such as, “I understand, but….”
Naming the Difficult Issues.
Unnamed and unresolved resistance, conflict, and cynicism debilitate organizations, draining them and their members of energy, optimism, and the belief that they can deal with confrontation. Avoiding, denying, and rationalizing the issue rarely fixes anything. Publicly naming these issues with goodwill and inviting engagement are central to getting “unstuck.”
Acknowledging Doubt, Anxiety, and Guilt.
Confessing doubt, anxiety, and fault does not come easily to any of us. No one welcomes anxiety, vulnerability, and responsibility for harsh realities. Yet nothing speaks louder for the value and power of accountability. Nothing does more to encourage the same act in others. If we want everyone to embrace accountability for the whole, for change, and for the creation of a common future, acknowledging doubt, anxiety, and guilt is a fundamental skill.
Few of us are eager to abandon or close all escape routes. Nothing in organizational life is quite so rare as someone who insists on offering accountability and giving guarantees. The skill to do this in forming work relationships with peers, customers, and other constituencies is one of the most powerful tools available for using conversations to change the culture.