Increase employees’ engagement as owners, drive company success and grow ESOP stock value by adopting these practical communication tips shared during Jim Bado’s keynote at the 5th Annual Great Lakes ESOP Conference at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH.  (If you want the presentation PDF, contact me at

1) Get to the point, stick to the point

Timely, consistent communications are key to building understanding, enhancing trust and increasing organizational effectiveness. Improve engagement by preparing for individual, team and company communications before you start them: make an outline of what’s important and stick to it.

When you’re assembling the agenda for a team meeting, ask who needs to be included. If they don’t need to be there, don’t involve them. There’s almost nothing worse than realizing ten minutes into a meeting that there was absolutely no reason for you to attend. Be just as judicious before you send a company-wide email or a group text.

2) Focus on what people need to know

Adults are keenly interested in things we need to know. Most times, we’re disengaged when the topic seems irrelevant. To successfully engage employees, make your communications useful and pertinent by focusing on what employee-owners need to know.

Target your message to specific audiences and connect your communications to their knowledge and experiences. Case in point: ESOP diversification rules. If someone isn’t eligible to diversify, they probably are uninterested in the details of the process. Educate them about the big picture and leave the nitty gritty specifics until when they become eligible to diversify.

3) Be present

Finding yourself bobblehead-nodding instead of being engaged? Mind drifting off, thinking about something, anything, other than what the speaker is saying? Being engaged means being present despite the topic at hand and the sender’s idiosyncrasies. It’s not easy to be a good listener: it takes effort, but the effort is worth it.

If you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, rather than listening, you’ve stepped into a common communications sinkhole: mental rehearsing. This happens when someone brings you a problem or a challenge and, rather than being present, you start formulating a response before the speaker finishes talking. Be an engaged listener to have better business outcomes.

4) Deploy all your mental horsepower to the matter at hand

Part of being present entails using all the awesome power of your beautiful mind. The challenge: nature has equipped mouths with the ability to speak at about 150 words per minute. But our wonderful ears and brains have the processing capability to listen at 450 words. As the communications engineers would sagely note: we have listening overcapacity.

You can utilize the extra brain power to listen to the speaker, watch his or her body language and focus on the message at hand. Or, you can disengage, letting your mind wander to the work waiting for you, tonight’s soccer game, the next Netflix binge, or even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. You know what you need to do to enhance owner engagement: deploy your listening force for good, young Jedi!

5) Control distractions

We all have the power to manage at least part of the time, place, length and tenor of any communication. Stroll away from loud equipment, leave the lunchroom, shut the office door, close the laptop’s lid and send the call to voicemail to create a better environment for a more effective employee engagement.

Respect others by informing them when you cannot listen. Too often, when someone approaches us, we feel like we must listen now. Rather than asking them to return in fifteen minutes or later that day, we engage in some half-hearted hearing, believing we are doing the right thing. We aren’t. Tell them you cannot talk right now, but a later time would work. Most problems don’t need immediate resolution. Respecting the other person’s time, energy and concerns will enhance trust, build connections and strengthen your ownership culture.

6) Manage technology

For better and worse, we are in the age of instant communications. Almost everyone has a smartphone and most of us are quite i-dumb with it (including this writer). The problems are untold: taking a call when you’re talking to someone else, meeting tweeting, checking pinging updates during dinner, having a conversation while watching TV and playing Candy Crush (does anyone still play that?). Putting your phone face down on the table isn’t enough (but it’s a start).

The technological genie has left the lamp, but that doesn’t mean it controls us. Quite the contrary, we decide how to utilize it. Different people have different communications preferences. Consider the receiver, the topic, urgency, timing and the emotional impact of your message as you decide which channel to use. Remember, you control how you send the message. Use that control to be as effective and efficient as you can. If the topic packs an emotional wallop, talk face-to-face, not through electronics.

Take advantage of technology by incorporating it into your employee-engagement efforts. Send short texts, for example, about the benefits of employee ownership, business results or company events. Post quick-hit videos on your website; integrate cell phone polls, challenges and games into your meetings. There are countless tools and approaches to utilize technology to enhance your company’s ownership culture.

7) Practice, practice, practice

All of us communicate all the time; there are endless opportunities to practice being better. Successful employee-owned companies put in the practice to create more employee engagement and reap positive results: higher retention rates, improved job satisfaction, enhanced customer service, better processes, a safer workplace and growth in sales, profits and ESOP stock value.

Contact Jim Bado at 419-427-2435 or  to learn more about WDI services that improve the impact of communication in your company.