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10 ways to engage your team in 10 minutes or less  

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10 ways to engage your team in 10 minutes or less  

This year’s Gatehouse State of the Sector report makes grim reading when it comes to line manager communication.

While only a quarter of internal communicators view managers’ communication skills positively, even fewer plan to tackle the issue in 2019.

‘We’ve surrendered the battle against poor line manager communication,’ the authors conclude.

So what stops managers becoming great communicators? Time? Every line manager has competing demands on their time, so devoting extra resources to communication may feel impossible. Confidence may also be an issue. If they don’t have a great relationship with their team, they’ll feel like that child raiding the spare kit cupboard before cross country.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to tackle both these issues, which you can use either with line managers or with your own team. They may not be rocket science, but together they can reap big rewards.


Smiling may seem trivial, but this seemingly humble gesture has science in its corner.

Research shows that making a conscious effort to smile not only makes you feel better, it improves the mood of others too. Colleagues ‘catch’ the mood of their leaders: if those emotions are positive, they’re more likely to perform well.

But what if you’re not feeling positive? Try smiling for around 15 seconds. Studies suggest it tricks your brain into releasing neurochemicals that actually do make you feel happier.

Say hello in the morning

Greeting your team in the morning shows you’re visible, approachable and open to conversation. But it’s surprising how many managers don’t make the effort to do this.

Taking an interest in what your team members did at the weekend or finding out what they do outside work takes little investment, but builds relationships rapidly.

If your team is more dispersed, schedule frequent times to check in and say hello.

Introduce senior leaders to your team members

One easy way to make your team feel valued is to introduce them to senior leaders whenever the opportunity arises.

If senior leaders visit your site, ask them to walk round so you can introduce them. You could also ask them to comment on any recent team successes. Not only does this make your team feel more important, it also makes your leaders seem more human and approachable.

Discover your team’s motivators

Everyone finds intrinsic motivators in their role. They may like a company’s products, purpose or stature. They may like the work itself. They may feel a sense of belonging, or the reward of helping others.

If you work in a fast food restaurant, for example, you’re more likely to be motivated by the fun of working with like-minded colleagues than by the challenge of creating the perfect burger.

As Bob Matha and Macy Boehm point out in Beyond the Babble, if we know our team’s motivators we can tailor our communications accordingly. And if you don’t know, just ask them: ‘what do you like most about working here?’

Create a huddle board

Huddles are an effective way to improve communication with your teams. You can take them a step further with a huddle board.

Simply put a noticeboard in a communal area and ask your team to add post-its with questions, ideas or agenda items. Then go through them in your next huddle. You can also use the board to add a brief summary for colleagues who couldn’t attend.

If your team work remotely try setting up something similar using online tools.

Ask open-ended questions

It’s disheartening to be greeted with silence when asking if anyone has questions. But closed questions like this discourage input.

It’s more effective to ask open-ended questions that encourage colleagues to offer personal opinions on specific issues. What’s your view on that? How do you feel that relates to our team? What concerns do you have about this week?

Ask for advice

Some managers feel they should know all the answers, and act accordingly. But this can have a negative effect on their team, stifling engagement, innovation and creativity by implying team members have little to offer.

One simple way to change this perception is to ask individual team members for advice. It doesn’t even have to be about work: ask for advice on your travel plans or which smartphone to buy. Asking for advice shows you don’t have all the answers, and that you value your team’s knowledge and opinions.

Take responsibility

Everyone makes mistakes, but failing to take responsibility quickly erodes trust. Unfortunately, our brains tend to conspire against us. Studies show we often reconstruct the narrative of negative events to place us in a better light.

But admitting a mistake can strengthen our standing. President Kennedy’s popularity soared after he acknowledged his culpability for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. ‘This administration intends to be candid about its errors,’ he pronounced, adding that responsibility for the failed mission was ‘mine, and mine alone.’

Acknowledge personal events

Some organisations are hot on recognising their employees’ personal milestones, and with good reason. Acknowledging birthdays, weddings, births or bereavements makes a statement: ‘we recognise you as a person, not just as an employee’.

It’s easy to find out your team members’ birthdays and give them a card, or buy them a coffee. But the impact is significant.

Ask for feedback

Take a minute at the end of a one-to-one meeting to ask a team member if there’s anything they need from you, or would like you to do differently.

Asking for feedback sends a clear message: you want to help them deliver, and you’re open to improvement.

Simple engagement tactics like these can help managers build deeper trust and stronger relationships with their teams, and make them better communicators. So perhaps it’s not time to throw in the towel on poor line manager communication just yet…

By Dave Wraith for Alive!

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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