The 1st of March is Employee Appreciation Day, so let’s all appreciate the people who work for us and with us! But what does appreciation actually mean? Giving them a bottle of vino? Letting them skip off an hour early? Shaking them by the hand, looking them in the eye and saying a heartfelt “Thanks”?
Kouses and Posner in their excellent book The Leadership Challenge look at the importance of managers appreciating the people they work with. One of their five Leadership Practices is called Encouraging the Heart which directly addresses the need for managers to make people feel valued for what they do. In the rest of this blog we will sum up some of the main points that they raise about this crucial part of being a great manager.
What is Encouraging the Heart
Kouses and Posner say:
“Getting extraordinary things done in organisations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognise contributions that individuals make in the climb to the top. And because every winning team needs to share in the rewards of team efforts, leaders celebrate accomplishments.”
But is Encouraging the Heart important?
Often seen as a softer skill, due to the importance it places on people’s emotions, encouraging the heart is no less important in leadership than more direct, motivational approaches. It can actually prove harder for some to implement.
Don’t just say you care, feel it.
‘Going through the motions’ is not effective when encouraging the heart; leaders need to genuinely care for the people they work with. The rewards that come from motivating and supporting people become a driver for the leader; it’s about what they can accomplish with support from their team, but what everyone can accomplish if the whole team supports each other.
“Without caring, leadership has no purpose. And without showing others that you care and what you care about, other people won’t care about what you say or what you know.” ~ Kouzes and Posner
We’ve spoken before about the reasons why people come to work. Pay is important but only a means to an end; it’s not the driving force why some people stay in jobs over similar opportunities. Spending 40+ hours at work is a long time away from family, personal hobbies, leisure time and more – most people want this sacrifice to mean something. They want to feel that they’re making a difference in some small way, that what they do is recognised and appreciated.
Therefore, a leader who praises achievements, small and large, and who recognises excellence will inspire that person to continue. Instilling a sense of community, so that the rest of the team recognise the individual achievements of others, is also a motivating force. Encouraging mutual respect and a genuine desire for others to achieve is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Sincerity is crucial.
Encouragement and appreciation from others are what we all seek as humans. “Encouragement boosts performance, strengthens our resolve, and improves our health. Otherwise, why perform to an audience? Why not just sing to an empty room, play to an empty arena, or sell only to yourself? We need the applause and knowing that we’re connecting to others in order to do our best. We need the enthusiasm and the energy from others.” ~ Kouzes and Posner
Leaders encouraging the heart endeavour to know and understand their people individually. An accomplishment for one is likely to be wholly different to an achievement by another; recognising when someone has pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and what success looks like to them personally can only be done if you’ve spent time evaluating and differentiating, not assuming or applying generic measures.
Great leaders continually ask themselves how they can make those they work with the best they can be. Their innovation and creativity often focuses on finding new ways to show appreciation and gratitude for the work and effort from others. It may mean dropping the ego and showing your vulnerability, which can seem alien when compared with traditional leadership methods. The benefit is that your team sees you as accessible, which further encourages cooperation and collaboration.
As leader, you exist to guide. If you implant negative thoughts and emotions on your team, what do you expect to get back? By using positive connotation and language, you can foster a positive spirit in people, even if they’re facing challenges outside of work and their mood is low. And when people feel good, they’re more productive and successful. Anticipate the best; inspire people to achieve.
To ‘encourage the heart’, you need to connect with people emotionally; your actions will speak more loudly than your words. If you want your team to demonstrate care for others and their achievements, for example, you need to do this yourself. Use your listening skills to best effect.
Greatness comes from working together, rather than lone pursuits. Encouraging the hearts connects others and brings meaning to our actions. It makes people want to root for others’ successes as well as their own.
If you (or your managers) to “encourage the heart” more effectively then Emerge can help you. We have many programmes that can help you learn the skills that will enable you to connect more effectively with those around you. Whether this is one to one coaching, for teams or whole organisations we have solutions that you will find interesting. For more information on these, or any other aspect of your development contact us on 01329 820580, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.