Let’s Get to the Heart of Employee Engagement

Remember waay back at the end of last year when you celebrated because you and your team had actually achieved your goals for the year? Or, heaven forbid, exceeded them? 

And then (since no good deed goes unpunished) your organization thanked you by asking you to go 10, 20, even 30% higher, harder, or faster this year? 🤨🥹😭

Tell me about it. 

Lesser leaders might have been crushed by the challenge. But not you. No, you put your Courageous Leadership hat on and dug in hard against those freshly impossible goals. You and your team leveraged the momentum of the new year to power through January. 

Now all that full steam ahead is wearing off, and you’ve got to find a way to re-engage your team against goals that are starting to sound like old news. So how do you find a new and inspiring way to talk about your goals? 

To keep the momentum going, you’ve got to aim for the heart.

One of the core tenets of Courageous Leadership that we teach in our workshops is “taking a pause.” Taking time out to take a breath and really think about what might get our teams to freshly engage with their goals, not just intellectually but emotionally too.

Research has repeatedly shown that the “head-heart” connection results in FOUR times the discretionary output compared to just engaging with people intellectually. Think about it. Everybody understands logically that they need to hit the goal. What produces the extra effort is emotional engagement—being able to taste the victory before it happens and savor every step of the way there.

As Courageous Leaders, we need to zero in on how to talk about goals in ways that trigger our team members’ passions and get their hearts into the picture. If we take time to do this, we can quadruple the output. How amazing is that?

It’s all about getting clarity around why the goal matters. 

Even something as dry as consumer banking (no offense, bankers 😬) can provide a great example. Right now, most banks are promoting deposits. “Let’s get those deposits up, people!” But just telling a customer-facing team member to go after more deposits only engages the head. How do we engage the heart?

Spend time thinking about why. Why would a customer bring more deposits to a bank? What’s in it for them? There’s a big difference between “keep more money with us” and “let us make your life easier by having everything in one place.” There’s a real benefit to the customer in the latter statement. 

Dealing with one bank can make managing day-to-day finances immensely easier. Having a personal relationship, rather than a series of transactions, makes people feel safer and more certain about their money decisions. They learn more about their overall financial wellness, and ultimately, the relationship helps them manage their finances more effectively and efficiently.

Think about it. If you have a credit card, a savings account, a checking account, and a mortgage, all with one bank, life is simpler. So communicating the goal of “get more deposits” in a way that enables team members to feel like they’re making the lives of customers better, rather than fighting resistance to deposits, allows them to fully engage the mind (it makes sense) and the heart (it feels good). 

“But, Cindy, I’m not in consumer banking,”
you say.

You can frame any goal with the head-heart connection. Upgrading a software service is about making customers’ lives more efficient. Selling the latest athletic gear is about boosting customers’ athletic performance. Beauty products build customer confidence. 

Even something as routine as selling tires or oil changes has an emotional component to it. People ride a little higher, confident in their engines, their braking, and their turns when these things are taken care of. 

So, step one: take a pause. Step two: figure out the “why.” Step three: find the emotional connection, the emotional benefit for the end-user or customer. If we’ve done those three things, then we can call our people together and get them fully engaged in bringing those goals to life.

If I’m just another cog in the wheel, I’m less likely to do more, to think innovatively, or to seek more creative solutions. If I feel as though my participation in achieving this goal is important, well, then I get a lot more interested. So, helping people feel like they have that meaningful role is huge. 

Anything is possible when we’ve got that winning feeling.

Every single one of us gets truly, deeply, and madly engaged when we feel like we’re winning. It’s human nature. So, as Courageous Leaders, we need to think about how much negative language we’re putting around the goals versus positive language about what the team has been able to achieve thus far. Every single day, there’s a win. It might be little. It might not have led to the full realization of the goal yet. But if our teams feel like they’re winning, they’ll want to pursue it more. 

Right now, in football playoff season, the most exciting moments are when a team is beaten down, but then they have that one game-changing play, a minor win in the scheme of things … and the crowd goes wild. The players get that wonderful dopamine release in their brains, and it gives them the extra lift they need to come back against all odds. 

A lot of people don’t know that, in World Cup tournaments, the host countries’ teams are automatically fast-tracked into the competition; they don’t have to qualify. Last year, when the Women’s World Cup was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, those teams had to play against fierce national teams that had fought their way up through the ranks. 

And both Australia and New Zealand played way above their abilities—because they had a purpose beyond winning a soccer match. They were representing their home countries on the world stage, showing women and little girls across Australia and New Zealand the power of soccer and playing on a team.

Our job as Courageous Leaders is to be the crowd going wild. 

We need to be the dopamine hit. We need to call out and celebrate game-changing moments, however small they might be. We need to recognize the incremental wins that give our teams momentum to finish strong. 

The bottom line is that the goal is the goal. It’s a cold, hard business fact. We can’t control that. As Courageous Leaders, what we can control is how we talk about the goal. How we help people see their meaningful role in achieving it. And how we help people feel like they’re winning every step of the way. 

Are you celebrating the little wins? Are you praising the processes that people are using, noticing their incremental progress even if they haven’t yet hit the goal? Are you spending as much time talking about what’s working as what’s not working? All of these leadership actions engage with the emotional side of people and propel them forward toward their goals. 

WHAT’S NEXT? Right now, at Cindy Solomon & Associates, we are neck deep in Courageous Leadership training around goal setting, storytelling, and skills development. If you’re an executive or leader seeking guidance on how to engage and inspire your teams to perform beyond their wildest dreams, go to www.courageousleadershipinstitute.com to grab a webinar, workshop, or keynote customized to your organization’s specific needs.


Signature of Cindy Solomon, Courageous Leadership expert and keynote speaker

Cindy Solomon is CEO of the Courageous Leadership Institute, a thriving leadership and customer experience training organization with access to up-to-the-minute insights on how today’s most innovative corporations are defining the future of leadership. Learn more at www.CourageousLeadershipInstitute.com.

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