Head, Heart, & Hands

Appeal to the Head, Heart and Hands. Your role as a manager in engagement is to capture the discretionary effort of employees by doing all that you can to prepare employees to be successful. A useful metaphor that can guide your actions as a manager has to do with the desired outcome, stated in terms of head-heart-hands.

In all of your interactions with your direct reports, seek to help them be fully engaged:

  • HEAD–"I am mentally engaged in the work"
  • HEART—“I am emotionally engaged in the work”
  • HANDS—“I am engaged in doing the work”

Catalyze daily progress and remove barriers. HBS Professor, Teresa Amabile, believes that our greatest motivator on the job is the ability to make daily progress on important work, which she has labelled The Progress Principle. In her article, co-written with Steven Kramer, The Power of Small Wins, Professor Amabile discusses the role that managers play in providing the resources and environment for daily forward progress. As a manager, you can help by removing barriers to progress when possible by providing goals, resources, and support to team members. To achieve a highly functioning relationship with your employee, a foundation of psychological safety, trust, and intimacy must be built.


As a manager, part of your role is to support your employees when they are in these stressful moments. If it’s happening during a coaching session, start with some empathy. Here are a few tips:

  • Establish emotional congruence. No one will think you understand their feelings orproblems if you aren’t emotionally congruent with them.
  • Share an experience. Ideally one much worset han what you just witnessed.Your acknowledgement of your personal mistakes will give others permission to experience failure and go on to learn and recover with dignity and increased capability.
  • Be detailed in your sharing. Go in to the pains and talk about your feelings.
  • Share what you learned from the experience. Ask yourself questions like:
    a. What did you learn from it?
    b. When did you learn from it (how long after)?
    c. How did you incorporate this learning into the future?
    d. How has it helped you be a better leader (and how will it help them)?
  • Get a pulse on the stress gauge. Is it a receptive time for feedback, or should you circle back later?
Eustress vs. Distress Graph

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