When my soon to be son in law bought his new car, I wasn’t surprised to see that it wasn’t the base model. He specifically sought out a high specification model in a colour and with bodywork that’s a bit unusual. And he’s had more work done on it since to individualise it even more. If I see it when I’m out I know it’s him, I haven’t seen another one exactly like it around the area. That’s the appeal I think – it’s different and reflects his personality. The days of the Model T Ford and the "any customer can have any colour he wants so long as it’s black" approach has obviously long gone and we all now select a car based on what’s most important to us, whether it be performance, economy, number of seats or whatever. We’re all different.

I thought about this recently when helping a manager engage his people more effectively. He felt levels of engagement were patchy and was clearly frustrated about it, because he felt he put a lot of effort into it. And to be fair his engagement plan was thorough, he was committed to creating a great place for people to work and he devoted lots of time to it. The problem was that he was adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach to delivery of his plan. For example, he held a weekly meeting to give them information he thought was important for them and also asked for their feedback at the same time. "But some people never contribute" he said, "I just can’t get them to get involved and express an opinion".

Because it worked for some people he’d assumed it would with all of them. A trap we can all fall into when we’re thinking from our perspective rather than through the eyes of those we’re seeking to engage. The solution wasn’t difficult. He talked to those people he felt weren’t engaged and asked them what might work better. He’s had a variety of answers apparently, one person said they’d like to know in advance what the topic of conversation will be so that they can prepare, another that they’d like to reflect on the conversation in the meeting and then have an individual conversation afterwards, and another would like to break into smaller groups to talk before returning to the main meeting. Approaches reflecting our individuality.

Engagement is like that. Plans that aim to engage a group of people with a common perspective tend to be less well developed and less successful than those which recognise and reflect we’re all unique and individual.

Engagement happens one person at a time…

LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/timhadfield
Twitter: @accordengage
Telephone: (0044) 07906650019 

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