Every few years a word floats to the top of the leadership literature that provides a knothole through which to judge the current landscape. Transparency, authenticity, relationships - all have driven and framed recent conversations.
Now, “engagement” seems to be joining the group.
Businesses work diligently to find ways to engage their customers. Professionals seek to engage the key concerns of their clients.
The cashier at the grocery store checkout asks, “Do you have any plans for the rest of the day?” Done well this is not just a stock phrase from a recent training session but reveals the desire to be connected to a larger part of my life than just ringing up the grapes and tortilla wraps. The phone representative asks about my life and how a phone fits into my lifestyle before recommending a phone or advising upon a particular plan.
Engagement implies more than simply waiting for the right moment to sell or to tell.
The discipline of listening runs deeper.
What are the needs? What are the core concerns?
Today a leader looks not primarily to the “how to get people to do what I want” question but to the larger matter of alignment. In what ways do the deep needs and aspirations of those who work with me align? How can we work together to identify and engage the opportunities and challenges which are of concern to each of us individually and to the organisation?
The recent announcement by Facebook that it plans to modify its news feed ranking system to give greater weight to content from friends and family over posts by news companies and other organisations reflects a commitment to listen more deeply to its prime relationships.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook manager in charge of the news feed, said in a recent interview that while informing and entertaining users was part of the company’s mission,news and entertainment were secondary pursuits.
“We think more, spend more time and work on more projects that try to help people express themselves with their friends or learn about their friends or have conversations with their friends,” he said.
Part of the critique of much of the current church is that it has been so long in the business of telling people what they should be, think or do that it has forgotten how to truly listen and engage the concerns of the world God loves.
The church has forgotten how to truly listen and engage the concerns of the world God loves.
Engagement is a two-way street. The consumer mentality, “What can you offer me today at what price?” is a very low form of engagement.
Relationships that are vital and growing extend beyond transactions.
At the family level relationships defined by conversations solely about who does which household chores at what time or consisting of updates about the children do not necessarily engage the partners. For engagement requires some measure of honest discovery and disclosure about what really does matter, about what should get on the calendar.
Effective leaders depend upon people in their organisation to tell them the truth; a company of “yes men” does not make a strong organisation. Healthy couples require times apart, as a couple, to explore frustrations, hopes and dreams. As they engage the joys and struggles of each other they are better able to engage each other and their life together.
It is one of the great, sad ironies of our time that we live in the midst of, by all accounts, an explosion of interest in questions about the meaning and purpose of life by the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd. And those concerns are often just easily mocked or dismissed by the church.
The questions of the SBNR are often mocked or dismissed by religious professionals.
Engagement provides an opportunity for the church to engage the fundamental questions about which we say we yearn to be in conversation. Deeper relationships become the bonus.
This is one reason for the meteoric rise of coaching in our society. Those interested in developing their personal and professional lives seek assistance in helping them identify their deep dreams and obstacles and in formulating strategies to engage those challenges so that lives will be marked by a sense of joy and satisfaction.
As Captain Pickard said aboard the Starship Enterprise, “Engage!” Only then was the Enterprise able to pursue its mission: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
I wonder: What are the prime concerns of the Spiritual-But-Not-Religious group?