Encourage the Heart

One of the five practices of exemplary leadership in The Leadership Challenge® starts from the heart

Most leadership books talk about how great leaders manage change by communicating their vision, motivating their team, and grooming the next generation. What about encouraging the heart? That sounds like something that belongs in the self-help section.

That is a common first impression among those who are just starting to learn all about “The Leadership Challenge®” by best-selling authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner. To some, being encouraging comes naturally, and to others, encouragement is akin to flattery.

Upon closer reading though, we learn that Encourage the Heart is deeper than just giving encouragement and is certainly not about giving compliments for the sake of it. it is about:

• Recognising contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
• Celebrating values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

In the course of an ordinary day, most of us probably say or hear “thanks” numerous times, in emails, messages and even from interactions with strangers (i.e. when the food court auntie clears your tray). This is a simple way to start practising saying thanks, but more than that, leaders need to personalise it to make it more meaningful.

This goes both ways: the leader has to personally show appreciation, and he/she must be clear and specific about what is being recognised. While a simple ‘good job!’ is sufficient for little things, when we truly want to encourage the heart, it is better to say “you did a really good job in planning the event and working with the team to make sure it went smoothly.”

Encouraging the Heart is about setting standards and recognising those who meet them; it is not about lowering standards just so others would not feel dejected. The younger generation is often called the strawberry generation because they bruise easily, but it is still possible to give praise where it is deserved (i.e. “your enthusiasm has influenced the team to work harder”), while also helping them to reflect on points for improvement.

And when things go right, always celebrate. it does not have to be a big party; it can be as simple as a five minute mini-break to retell the story and talk about the values that brought the victory. These shared experiences forge bonds and foster team spirit.

“Encouraging the Heart is about setting standards and recognising those who meet them.”
How you can encourage your students’ hearts
  • Be creative! There is no prescribed way to encourage the heart. Do what you are comfortable with— through spoken words, note cards, a pat on the shoulder, a candy bar, or even extra points for effort!
  • Be clear about your expectations, and communicate and reinforce them regularly.
  • Tell stories about one student who has done something well. This not only gives recognition to the student, but it also reinforces the values that you want the rest of the class to show.

The fast-moving nature of today’s world underscores the need for recognition, reinforced values and community spirit. They serve to strengthen both leader and team, and buffer them against uncertainties brought by changes. It then becomes easier to bring people together towards a common vision.

In the course of a school year, students go through many big events and changes— starting in a new school or academic level, adjusting to new teachers, facing more challenging examinations and taking up new positions in CCAs. often, the structure that prepares them for these is well-built: worksheets, training courses, mock exams. What is equally important but not as often addressed is the human dynamics of transition.

This is where Encourage the Heart comes in. in practising this, leaders play a big part in building their followers’ confidence and resilience. Fears and anxieties about the future are turned into trust and enthusiasm in facing it.

Among all the Five Practices of Exemplary leadership, Encourage the Heart is probably the easiest to start doing, because every day presents opportunities. So why not start today?

How you can help your students practise
  • Hold a Secret Santa or Angel and Mortal activity, but instead of giving items or doing acts of kindness, the Santa/Angel gives encouragement.
  • Task your students with planning a recognition and celebration day, but instead of giving awards for high grades, let them think of different categories to recognise good values.
  • In your class or CCA, start or end meetings by asking students to praise their fellow team members for something good that they have contributed recently.

Article by Darlene Joy Uy
The Leadership Challenge® (TLC) is a leadership development programme created by bestselling authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This programme is backed by 30 years of original research and data from over three million leaders. It is a comprehensive suite of products, programmes and services proven to cultivate and liberate the leadership potential in every person, at every level, in any organisation. Halogen conducts TLC workshops for MOE educators at a special price.

If you have attended TLC, you can also up your leadership a notch by joining the Student Leadership Challenge® Certified Facilitator’s Training (SLCCFT) which will certify you as a student trainer for the student edition of the programme.

For enquiries, please contact Kenneth at [email protected] or +65 6509 6700.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *