Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

It seems like Valentine’s Day is a good day to write about Kouzes and Posner’s concept of Encouraging the Heart. In their books The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart, these two authors and researchers on the topic of leadership write about the importance of recognition as a leadership skill. This is not a touchy-feely sort of recognition – the first essential component is ‘Set Clear Standards’ – rather it is an acknowledgement of that fact that leadership is first and foremost a people skill.

When I talk about leadership I often say that leadership starts with a simple mathematical reality; if I walk out the door and no one follows me, I’m not much of a leader. There has to be at least two of us for leadership to exist. This makes the follower a critical component of leadership. Once you have two people involved then leadership is no longer about technical skills, but it's all about interpersonal relationships and people skills. At the end I’ve included a citation for the website I found that is a pdf of Kouzes and Posner’s chapter on “150 Ways to Encourage the Heart." Here are some of my favorite examples from their list:

"...20. Practice smiling. This is not a joke. Smiling and laughing release naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies that fight off depression and uplift our moods. Try it. ...

22. The next time you talk to one of your constituents about a difficulty she's having with a project, make sure that sometime during the conversation you say, "I know you can do it," or words to that effect. And you better mean it. ...

28. Walk around your facility and examine the images that are on the walls. Are they images that communicate positive messages or negative ones? Analyze your company's annual report, your own and your executive's speeches, the company newsletter, and other forms of corporate communication. Are the messages positive or negative? Do whatever you can to change the images to positive ones.... When images are positive, cultures and organizations are in ascendance. ...

36. Leave your desk for fifteen minutes every day, solely for the purpose of learning more about each of your key constituents. Who are they? What are their needs and aspirations? What do they need to find greater joy in their work? How do they like to be rewarded? ...

37. When you're out there caring by wandering around (CBWA), take along a pocket notebook to record the things people are doing right and the right things people are doing. Make sure to record not only the names but also the details about setting, people involved, how the act is special, and how it fits with the standards you're trying to reinforce. Use this later when telling your recognition stories. ...

40. Don't wait for a ceremony as a reason to recognize someone. If you notice something that deserves immediate recognition, go up and say something like, "I was just noticing how you handled that customer complaint. The way you listened actively and responded was a real model of what we're looking for. What you've done is an example to everyone. Thank you." If you happen to be carrying around a few extra coupons for a free drink at the local coffee or juice shop, here's an opportunity to give one out. ...

43. Wander around your workplace for the express purpose of finding someone in the act of doing something that exemplifies your organization's standards. Give that person recognition on the spot...."

As I picked these few out, I realize I’m not practicing what I’m preaching. My calendar has gotten very full lately and I’m sitting in my office or a conference room for meeting after meeting. It’s hard to do even a few of these let alone all 150. So pick one or two and make an effort to live them for a while. Then add another and when it is ingrained, add one more. The reality is that when you act this way, you will enjoy your leadership life more and so will the people in your organization.

Paying attention to the heart every day – it’s not just for Valentine’s Day anymore.

Happy Valentine’s Day,


Kouzes and Posner website:

Barbara Glanz’s books are also great sources for ideas. I’ve used ideas from CARE Packages for the Workplace – here’s her website

What are your favorite ways to encourage the heart or do you have a great story about the way someone recognized you?

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