Engage Others' Hearts

Most leaders, with some hard work, feedback from multiple stakeholders, and many iterations, can get a compelling and clear message crafted that engages organizational members’ heads. Yet, our job as leaders is not finished there. Not if we want true engagement; not if we want the ultimate corporate culture that gets everyone moving in the same direction.

I find that most often the trickier part is getting employees’ hearts engaged, to have them feel emotion and passion about what they’re involved in. It proves challenging to many leaders, yet there’s a single secret: You show vulnerability.

Showing vulnerability increases engagement. As Christina Long, an executive I interviewed for The Courage of a Leader book and Chief Operations Development Officer and former Chief Culture and People Officer of Redemption Plus, says, “You can’t process your way into engagement.” To foster true sustainable engagement, leaders need to be real and honest and have conversations from the heart. Christina has seen the difference this makes in her organization. By creating a people-focused culture where everyone is encouraged to be themselves and be vulnerable and real, they’ve seen engagement levels rise to 80 to 90 percent. Leaders report high levels of trust and business conversations are now easier to have. This all leads to a better employee and customer experience. 

It’s important to show vulnerability with purpose and intentionality. It’s not about showing up one day to the office and sharing your most embarrassing childhood moments and most recent family dramas with anyone who will listen. Instead, it’s about saying when you’ve made a mistake, sharing what you know and don’t know, asking for others’ input and help, trusting others, and being willing to share about
when you are or have been worried or afraid. 

Let’s take a look at how you are currently showing your vulnerability. Rate yourself 1 to 10 on the common vulnerability behaviors listed in the following chart:

Choose one behavior to play with, amp up, and/or do more often. I’d suggest picking the item you rated the highest. This will be the fastest route to strengthening engagement.

Finally, write down specific ideas about how to further engage in this way to show vulnerability