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Many of us think that communication is talking - and talk we do. We interrupt, advise, reassure, judge, analyze, criticize, argue, moralize, threaten, divert, diagnose, etc., etc. But, good communication requires good listening as well as talking. In fact, since we have two ears and only one mouth, listening just might be the more important skill. However, we receive almost no training in good listening and usually do not realize that really "hearing" someone is not a passive activity.

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Employee engagement is NOT a fad.

One of the most important skills a leader in the work place can possess is the ability to actively listen. This means that sometimes you just have to be quiet in order to hear what others have to say. Often employees who are engaged in the working environment have lots of valuable insights that can help a business run more smoothly. This doesn’t mean a forum for complaining, it means that there should be active listening practiced. By guiding the direction of the conversation most of the small minded talk can be avoided so that the valuable topics can be addressed.

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Another great key to remember is that all people crave and need to feel respected. This can happen when their thoughts are given real consideration or at least there is an open forum for these thoughts and ideas to be conveyed. One of the best methods, especially when giving difficult news is to communicate personally. This allows for much more thorough communication as a person can use voice inflections, body language and eye contact to get more direct messages across. This also shows a caring for people because you have shown the basic respect by talking to them directly.

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Holtz’s historical overview of engagement goes all the way back to Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army juggernaut in the late 4th century B.C. Alexander was perhaps the first, and certainly one of the greatest, practitioners of employee engagement who ever lived, besides being a military genius.

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Writing in the workplace is highly collaborative. Different individuals may be responsible for setting goals, outlining, researching, drafting, editing, fact-checking and formatting a document or presentation. An intern may be involved in specific roles as part of a project. For example, a web design intern takes text provided by a customer and tweaks it slightly for use on the customer’s website. Or, for example, an intern working for a funeral home drafts, edits, fact-checks or types obituaries, but always works in collaboration with others to ensure accuracy of this important information. Or, for example, a group of interns re-write a company manual, using the text of the current version of the manual as a guide, and creating a more readable and user-friendly format.

You must listen to what Shel Holtz says about communication’s role in engagement:

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The result: Alexander’s men did astonishing, unprecedented things. Long before the Romans, they conquered most of the civilized world known to Western man.

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To be a good listener, we must, first, pay attention. The remainder of this article will focus on "attending" skills. The next article will discuss how to listen "actively" rather than passively.

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Each written product in a workplace may be part of a larger set of products. For example, a summer intern may produce a research summary, which will provide material for a grant proposal or policy report that will be written sometime later. Or, for example, interns at a newspaper maycontribute to a “bank” of story ideas that can be turned into full stories in the future. Or, for example, classroom interns review textbooks, novels and other assigned reading and contribute to banks of vocabulary lists, discussion questions, and quiz and test questions.