Helen Green

Encourage the heart: Build commitment in your team

Encourage the Heart - building commitment in your team

Business booms when it’s more than just business as usual. Remember the joy you felt when you started making a living from something you love? Top leaders stir that same emotional response in their teams, turning them into communities.

This is Encouraging the Heart, the fifth Practice of Exemplary Leadership explored in The Leadership Challenge. But it’s not all Friday beers and kumbaya; let’s explore what this really means for your organisation.

Expect the best

Celebrating your team in a meaningful way will vary depending on the personalities involved. What inspires one team might feel like saccharine platitudes to another, this is beyond your control.

As with all exemplary leadership, the one thing you can control is your own attitude; you should expect the best. Note, this isn’t demanding the best, it’s not about being a taskmaster. It’s optimism, believing that your team are capable of great things.

Optimism creates a virtuous cycle, hinging on the fact that performance increases as a team’s achievements are visibly celebrated:

  • Vocalising your appreciation motivates the team
  • Motivation drives achievement
  • Achievement meets business goals, motivating you
  • You then feel compelled to vocalise your appreciation

So far so good, but it’s up to you as a leader to steer this cycle. ‘Achievement’ in this context isn’t a mad scramble to win at all costs, à la Wolf of Wall Street. That way lies a toxic culture.

Be as clear about the rules for meeting goals as you are about the goals themselves. It’s ethics and personal growth which Encourage the Heart.


  • Encouraging others starts with encouraging yourself
  • Be optimistic about what your team can do
  • Keep ethics and personal growth at the heart of achievement

Personal recognition

When you’re laying out that roadmap, make feedback a two-way street. That way, you see how you’re perceived while you learn what motivates others.

This is important, not everyone is motivated by chocolates or a bottle of plonk. Really knowing your team lets you tailor motivation to the recipient. Knowing you lets them understand and better contribute to your vision, bringing us back to virtuous cycles.

Effective motivators have personal meaning. Think of the last time you received recognition that really touched you. Did it feel like a simple transaction, the outcome of an obligation? Or did it share some of these traits:

  • Someone went out of their way to make you feel appreciated
  • It wasn’t simply part of a standard process, it was extraordinary
  • It made you feel unique, seen, and valued for who you are
  • The gesture contextualised your efforts within the team, letting others know you’d done well

Teams of friends routinely outperform teams who are simply colleagues. Don’t be afraid when workplace friendships develop naturally. This isn’t automatically exclusionary or cliquey, it’s something to embrace. We go the extra mile to support those we like; encourage these friendships.

This is harder in some cases than others, but teams suffering from a lack of cohesion are the best candidates for Encouraging the Heart.

Persist, and you’ll be amazed how relationships can develop. Abraham Lincoln, an exemplary leader by any standard, summed this approach up when he said, “I do not like that man, I must get to know him better.”


  • What motivates person A might not interest person B
  • Embrace natural workplace friendships
  • Persist in bringing fractious teams together, they need it most

To the victor go the spoils

The curse of successful people is to have their success normalised; normal is boring and boring doesn’t Encourage the Heart. It’s vital you take the time to give credit where due.

For starters, say thank you. Say it as often as you mean it. It works. Beyond that, it’s a question of who you thank. Make it clear that when the team wins, everyone wins.

This can be tricky, good leaders know how to balance celebrating publicly with giving proper credit to those responsible. Individual achievements inspire and drive the team without getting lost in it.

Striking that balance is made easier when celebrating victory is fun. The ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos isn’t a cliché, it’s a foundation of exemplary leadership.


  • Don’t let success be normalised or taken for granted
  • Balance the good of the team with celebrating individuals
  • Make it fun!

Get yourself involved

With an optimistic team on a clear mission, united and motivated, the only thing missing is your personal stake in the situation.

Exemplary leaders get some skin in the game, they’re cheerleaders for their teams. Celebration among peers is expected, but serious advocacy from above is less common and always appreciated.

Don’t just tell the team if person A did a good job – celebration is the norm, remember? Champion your team to the wider organisation; make them famous and they’ll do the same for you.

Beyond the so-called soft skills, Encouraging the Heart should be built into your formal processes. Team meetings and performance reviews should have time set aside to celebrate and commiserate together.

Getting over setbacks and sharing lessons learned is as important as cheering about wins. By sticking it out together, not staying aloof when times get tough, you build a closer team that gets results.


  • Be a champion for your team even outside your organisation
  • Build celebration into formal processes
  • Stick with your team through thick and thin

Ready to find the heart of your organisation? Quest can help, book a call today and let’s get started.