Byron's Babbles

Managing Strategies for Engagement


This post is an excerpt from the book Authentic Conversations by James Showkeir and Maren Shokeir. This book is included in BKpedia, a new digital subscription service from Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Please visit for graphics, tweets, and other resources.

Managing Strategies for Engagement

Engagement means being able to make meaningful decisions and to have the resources to act on those decisions.

The marketplace demands results now. Your customers want attention in this moment. The necessity for flexibility and speed in the face of change is paramount. The question is how to create an organization that can:

• Quickly create and apply new knowledge
• Grant exceptions and deliver unique responses
• Foster passion and accountability throughout the entire enterprise

For these significant changes to occur, three areas in the organization must be affected: (1) culture and management/governance practices, (2) architecture, which includes the ways jobs are designed and how people are grouped, and (3) the ways in which employees are rewarded. For all these changes to be planted and take root, new conversations are required.

Individuals must accept personal accountability for the success of the whole business and be responsible for their own motivation and morale. The culture must generate passion for the work and action in service of customers and good results. This requires less focus on personal ambition and a sincere commitment to the success of others.

Organizations have to create and sustain universal business literacy and adult-to-adult conversations, one person at a time. Management practices, such as budgeting, meetings, training, objective setting, performance reviews, and so on, must be recreated to encourage partnership. Dissent must be viewed as healthy. Through different conversations, knowledge and collaboration are baked into the work process, replacing compliance and control as the operating values.

Where to start? If the longest journey begins with a single step, it won’t surprise you that our advice is to begin by changing the conversations. Better conversations will reap rich, diverse information. They will encourage an examination of who plays key roles in improving business results. They will allow you to address difficult issues in a constructive way.

New conversations will champion the kind of learning and resourcefulness that lead to innovation, cost efficiency, and personal accountability—essential elements in addressing the complex problems of organizational renovation.


James Showkeir and Maren Showkeir are principals of Henning-Showkeir & Associates, Inc., whose clients include 3M, Ford Motor Company, Kaiser Permanente, British Airways, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Levi Strauss, the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership, and the Nature Conservancy. Together they authored Authentic Conversations and Yoga Wisdom at Work. James passed away in August of 2015.


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