Why We Must Engage Both Heart & Mind

Engaging both the heart and the mind is not an easy task…but it is so worth the effort.

Many leaders simply don’t see the value of truly engaging team members. For organizations like these, clear goals and strong accountability are the keys to success.  I’m a big fan of clear goals and strong accountability but, to me, these are just two small pieces of a much larger puzzle.

Engaged team members have a way of lifting an entire organization up.  They set their sights higher, they push harder to overcome obstacles, they challenge each other and succeed more often.

Here’s a look at what it takes to build engagement…of both the heart and the mind.


First, learn what team members have to offer.  I spend a little time with all new team members during their first month with the organization.  It gives me an opportunity to learn more about them – their background, their interests, their goals.  It also gives them a chance to know me a little better. Encourage new team members to not hold back when they see an opportunity to improve the way things are done. I still remember one team member sharing how pleasantly surprised he was to know that we were interested in all that he had to offer…not just his ability to complete assigned tasks.

Bring your own vision and mission to life. We all give a little more of ourselves when we feel a strong connection with the outcome. Once you have a compelling vision and clear mission, make sure they become more than just words on a poster. Bring your vision and mission to life by helping team members understand their individual impact on the organization’s success.  Incorporate vision and mission into company updates. Give concrete examples of things that have brought the organization closer to your vision…and things that have taken you in the wrong direction.  Ask team members how well they feel the organization is carrying out the might be surprised by what you hear.

Create a clear sense of purpose. Help team members understand the importance of succeeding. Sure, everyone knows it’s better to succeed…but I find that quite often team members don’t really understand how significantly success or failure can impact customers, stakeholders and the team.  Give concrete examples of how success (and failure) impacts your customers and the organization.  It also helps when you can share customer input or feedback that reinforces your message.

Collaborate. It makes a huge difference when you collaborate in setting goals and establishing priorities.  This approach has helped me to end up with better goals and priorities than I would have set on my own and always creates much greater buy in. Start with vision and mission, drill down to the most important company goals and then to strategies, priorities and departmental goals. Ensure you maintain alignment and stay focused. It’s easy to get too far down in the weeds or to set too many priorities. Encourage team members to focus on what will have the biggest impact on the organization’s success and help them see how that approach is shaping up around the company.

Tap into each team member’s full potential. Create an environment that encourages team members to think and act beyond their defined roles.  Team members often have much more to offer than what their assigned duties reflect. Make them feel valued for all that they have to offer by asking for more than just assigned deliverables. Ask for their opinions and ideas about ways to improve, new directions to take, things that may be holding the organization back.

Demonstrate genuine interest. Team members who feel valued for their contributions often put more of themselves in to ensuring success. Invest time with team members focused on their world…not trying to focus them on yours.  Ask what they are working on, how it’s going, what’s getting in the way and what they know about the organization’s plans for the end product.

Shine a light on their success. Make a big deal about accomplishments, milestones and breakthroughs. Stop by in person to recognize a team or team member’s success. Send hand written notes.  Mention accomplishments in organizational updates.  Take it to another level by setting up a platform for peer recognition.  At one company, team members awarded Angry Bird stuffed toys to peers who they felt had broken through a significant barrier to success.  It was fun…and impactful.

Encourage risk taking.  People who fear the negative impact of taking a risk and failing will often hold back. And what they are holding back may just be the breakthrough you need to move the organization forward. Help team members see that you value the attempt…even when it doesn’t deliver the desired results.


Ric Leutwyler
Ric Leutwyler
MY work journey has taken me from dishwasher to CEO, from fast food to cloud based technology, from Davenport, Iowa to more than 30 countries around the globe. Along the way I have enjoyed leading, learning, contributing, mentoring, strategizing, innovating and giving back. One important lesson learned along the way is that there are opportunities to make a difference in all aspects of our lives. This has made the journey all the more rewarding.

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