Does your team have heart?

As human beings, we need a heart and a brain in order to live. We need most of our other organs too, but our heart and brain seem to represent the two main engines that fuel and shape our survival and health. You could view these as the ‘Yin and Yang’ of our well-being.

We could continue to exist without a heart or a brain but it wouldn’t be much of a life.

Well, it is the same when it comes to the well-being of any team or organization. In order to be vibrant, strong and healthy a team must have a heart and a brain.


The heart of the team is reflected in people’s passion, commitment and sense of ownership toward the game and the future. You develop the heart by aligning team members around a compelling purpose and inspiring vision and/or strategic objectives that they can identify with, rally around and work together toward.

When the heart of the team is in great shape people are energized, they feel that they ‘are in it together’, they trust each other and the company, and they collaborate and go the extra mile to execute on their shared goals.

When people lose touch with their higher purpose; with why they love to come to work; why they work so hard and why they are willing to put up with corporate obstacles and challenges, you could say the heart of the team is broken or unhealthy. In fact, we often describe a team without spirit as ‘a team that has no heart‘.


The brain of the team is reflected in the strategies, processes and execution plans of the team. You develop the brain by establishing clear and effective processes, metrics, ground rules and tracking mechanisms to ensure the team is, in fact, hitting its targeted milestones and results.

The heart is all about the spirit and motivation of the team, while the brain is all about team effectiveness and efficiency. The brain wants to know “What do we need to do, by when and who will do it?” The heart wants to know “Why are we doing this… for what reason and purpose?

In our human body if our heart or brain is unwell, or if there is a lack of balance between these two key engines, it will have a negative effect on our ability to function, our livelihood and our productivity. It is the same with any team or organization.

In addition, if the brain wants to push us to a higher performance and results it better make sure that the heart is healthy enough to sustain it. Athletes are very clear about that. They know that the more they want to push their performance the more they have to make sure their heart can endure and support their goals. It is the same with any team or organization.

Any organization or team is always a reflection of its leaders. The leaders determine and shape the culture and mindset of their organization. If the leaders bring heart to the game the team will have a lot of spirit and heart. I refer to this leadership style as: “Leadership informed by some accounting.”

However, some leaders only bring a cold analytical number-driven perspective to their leadership. Their leadership approach is one of “Accounting informed by some leadership”.

Unfortunately, I see teams that have no heart all the time. All their leaders care about is hitting the bottom line at any and all cost. They are quick to cut expenses, fire people and take harsh measures in order to make their financial results look good in the short term while weakening and deteriorating the long term.

This approach is very common with Venture Capitalists who purchase sub-optimal organizations only to slash costs and take advantage of people’s sense of survival and loyalty in order to gain quick returns, without regard for longevity or long-term health.

But, I see it also in regular companies who bring in professional CEOs with no long-term commitment or regard, only a short-term focus to turn performance around, show higher numbers and leave with a big payout.

I also see organizations and teams that have a lot of heart. Their leaders genuinely care about building a strong business and brand that will transcend their tenure. Leaders who bring heart to the game care about people. They truly understand and believe that their people are their most important asset, so they go out of their way to invest in inspiring, motivating and developing their teams.

Leaders who only care about the bottom line see their people and resources as merely the means to their personal agenda and end. Their legacy is to make sure their personal brand and resume are stronger and they are richer than they were when they arrived, even at the expense of a poorer organization.

Leaders who care about the longevity and well-being of their organization see themselves as responsible for, and the means to the success of their people. Their legacy is to leave the organization with a stronger brand, capability and prosperity than the one they inherited when they took the helm.

If you want your team to be at its most healthy and prepared to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the present, as well as those of the future, make sure you manage the balance between the heart and brain of your team; build strong practices and rituals that focus your people on both critical aspects of organizational well-being.

In Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces that are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent give rise to each other and form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.

You can’t and don’t need to do it all yourself. You have team members around you who are naturally more oriented around (and skilled at) the aspects of the heart to balance the brain of the team. You need to bring all sides together to create the best harmony and balance for your team.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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