Communicate with HEART and watch your people thrive

Communication styles naturally vary from leader to leader. They may even look and feel dramatically different. However, if you want to engage, inspire, and empower those you lead, focus on the most effective communication styles and practices. In particular, the approach I call communicating with HEART.

HEART = Honesty + Empathy + Authenticity + Relating + Two-Way Communication

Communicate with HEART graphic showing the 5 points in this method.

HEART is a powerful blend of Honesty, Empathy, Authenticity, Relating, and Two-Way Communication. Use it consistently to lead your people more effectively. In the process, you’ll be building the foundation for trust with those you lead.

Communicating with HEART is an approach that many leaders I work with now use with confirmed success. They find it helps them strengthen their relationships and their leadership impact. We also know from research that HEART practices contribute to higher employee engagement and performance.

HEART flows from a set of skills and practices you can build and strengthen to make this powerful differentiator work for you. Let’s take a closer look at the FIVE essential practices on which it thrives.

1. Begin with HONESTY

Being open and honest must be part of the equation to get to the heart of any conversation. HONESTY starts with you and your willingness to be vulnerable. For example, acknowledging that you may not have the answers or that your answers may not be the right ones. It’s also a willingness to hear and explore other points of view – demonstrating your commitment to being a fully engaged, active listener.

Whenever you lead with open, honest communication, you’re leading with HEART.

2. Engage with EMPATHY

When you tap into your capacity to sense the emotions of others and imagine what they may be thinking or feeling, you’re bringing empathy to the conversation.

Did you know there are different kinds of empathy? This short article by renowned psychologist and emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman provides a helpful overview of the contribution each type of empathy makes to communicating and leading with HEART.


Have you ever found yourself in a conversation that felt shallow or superficial? Perhaps everyone was just skimming the surface and unable or unwilling to engage in an actual dialogue? That’s a conversation without Authenticity.

To communicate with HEART, you must be willing to get real. Being authentic means being sincere—sharing what’s really on your mind, even when the topic is a bit sensitive or may feel challenging. It also means sharing even when ideas or points of view may be quite different.

Being authentic opens the door to meaningful conversations, at the very core of communicating with HEART.


Your ability to relate to those you lead is essential for communicating with HEART. The more you get to know your people, and allow them to do the same with you, the better able you will be to understand what matters to them and what kinds of assignments and feedback are most relevant and appropriate.

For example, what inspires and energizes team members to do their best work? Conversely, how and when do they struggle? What do they need and want from you to empower them to grow and succeed?

5. Make it TWO-WAY

When you make the time and space for the ebb and flow of two-way communication, you invite an exchange of information and points of view. Doing it well requires you to be a full and active listener, being open and willing to hear what is—and isn’t—being said.

Combine it with a deep sense of curiosity about what others have to say, and everyone can begin to open up, feeling comfortable that different opinions and perspectives can be shared and considered.

Whenever communication flows and a dialogue emerges, you encourage meaningful relationships and build the foundation for trust.

When you communicate with HEART, your people thrive. You can do it well by doubling down on the five essential practices on which HEART depends: Honesty, Empathy, Authenticity, Relating and Two-Way Communication.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at

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