According to Tony Codianni, “encouraging the heart is the most important leadership practice, because it’s the most personal”. Codianni believes that leadership is all about people, and if you’re going to lead people, you have to care about them.


Does the data substantiate Codianni’s belief? Kouzes and Posner’s text, Encouraging the Heart, provides us with a collection of relevant data and case studies, as well as the principles and best practices of individuals functioning at their personal best as leaders.  


They report that 96% of North American workers in a Kepner-Tregoe study agreed with the statement “I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing I’ve done a good job”. Unfortunately, their data also showed that only about 40% of North American workers say they receive any recognition for a job well done, and another 40% say they never get recognized for outstanding individual performance.


Why does this matter?


When the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) examined the critical variables for success for the top three jobs in large organizations, they discovered that the number one success factor is “relationships with subordinates”. Furthermore, they found that the single factor differentiating the highest-performing managers (top 25%) from the lowest-performing managers (bottom 25%) was higher scores on affection – both expressed affection and wanted affection.


Naturally they also all scored highly in areas such as thinking and influence. But the results clearly indicate that empathy is the core skill of leadership excellence. So how can leaders demonstrate empathy and affection? 


The Graphic Recording you see here was created during a debrief of participants in a leadership development workshop series which uses Encouraging the Heart as a key component of it’s curriculum to great effect. In this session, participants shared with each other all the potential ways in which they could practice these seven essentials of Encouraging the Heart back in their own teams and workplaces.


The result was a collection of best practices from across their organization which had proven successful, as well as an understanding that taking the time to perform even the simplest acknowledgement, such as a “thank you” for a job well done, was the key to increasing team performance and productivity. So, yes, the “soft stuff” really is the differeniating factor!


I encourage you to check out Kouzes and Posner’s Encouraging the Heart – it’s a quick and easy read chock full of great data, stories, best practice ideas, and even self-assessments to support aspiring leaders in understanding why and how to bring empathy and affection to the workplace for best results.


And please do share your own experiences: what worked well (and what didn’t) as you’ve practiced leadership in your organizations?


I look forward to hearing from you in a comment to this blog or on social media!