K&P leadership series: Encouraging the heart

Oct 13, 2021

This is the fifth article of our seven-part K&P leadership series. Missed the previous article on enabling others to act? Read it here.

Stepping in as the leader of an existing team can be daunting. When you're given the opportunity to assemble a new team, you typically choose who you want to be on it, and you can create the culture you want from the start. But when you take over an existing team, you don't get to choose your team members, and you inherit an existing team culture—for better or for worse.

Gaining the trust and followership of your new team from the beginning is essential for establishing your new world—a team with your culture and your vision for the future. But winning over any team can be challenging, and the introduction of a new manager can be upsetting for team members. Even though you're the boss, you are stepping into their world; how you introduce yourself and your management style is key to a successful transition.

“Encourage the heart,” one of the five behaviors in the Kouzes and Posner (K&P) Leadership Challenge, can help you connect with your new team as a new leader. Encouraging the heart will help you create a team culture built on genuine respect and caring behavior. To do this, you need to focus on two areas at the same time: recognizing individual contributions and valuing team accomplishments.

Recognizing individual contributions

Developing individual workers into a high performing team of followers comes from setting clear behavioral expectations, rewarding their contributions, and recognizing their value in a timely manner.

  1. Behavioral expectations: Be clear about how your expectations for individual team members connect directly to the team's goals. Once you've communicated those expectations, take notice of the actions and outcomes that lead to the behaviors you want. This happens as you engage regularly with the team and during the time you reserve to work directly with each member. You don't want to miss the opportunity to recognize a natural or developing strength in an individual team member by being distant or focused on other things while building a new team.
  2. Recognition rewards: The people on your team will likely value the reward of recognition differently. Tapping into each team member's unique intrinsic motivation multiplies the value of your reward. Be creative and spontaneous. Small, on-the-spot acknowledgement of a team member's achievement builds more trust and followership than waiting to give positive feedback on an annual review. Occasionally make individual recognitions public to the team or to the entire organization. Even people who say they don't like public recognition appreciate when others see their hard work. Find different opportunities to recognize the extroverts and the introverts, but make sure that everyone gets their time to shine in the spotlight.

Valuing team accomplishments

Leaders create high performing teams by maximizing the positive with a well-planned timing strategy. This doesn't happen overnight, which is why good leaders acknowledge the small steps that they observe to help move the team toward those achievements.

  1. Maximize the positive: As the team's new manager, it is important to know what achievements should be celebrated. Team recognition must be based on quantifiable accomplishments while following clearly defined cultural values. Team celebration can be one of those critical areas where individual team members know more about what motivational support they need than their new manager does. Embrace that knowledge and maximize the potential energy available within the team by allowing it to create its own style of celebration.
  2. Well-planned timing: Being a successful team within an organization requires aligning goals with their delivery time. Team celebrations should coordinate with that organizational plan, gaining the team public recognition for its contribution and providing well-planned breaks to celebrate with organizational partners. Planning a team retreat after completing project work or being spontaneous with a creative team-building idea can work wonders for team interaction and trust-building with you as the new manager.

Leadership is defined by the people following the leader's vision and values. But don't forget that it takes a team of those people to achieve the goals that bring great managers personal satisfaction and job success. By encouraging the heart, you can build a stronger, more caring team. And when the team is successful, you're successful.

Be on the lookout for the next article in the K&P series, which will address how to “model the way.”