No encouragement is discouragement
Those who make a difference, encourage.
Encouragement infuses others with courage, hope, and confidence. Sounds like a good thing. So…
Who have you encouraged in the last day or week? You’ve been meaning to say the good word. You’ve intended to offer a listening ear. But you’re dealing with too many issues and solving so many problems that encouraging others slipped off the agenda.
I don’t think there’s middle ground. Either you encourage, or through neglect, you discourage.
Evaluate your encouragement.
Find out if you encourage by sending an email asking, “Have you ever felt encouraged by something I’ve said or done?” If they say yes, ask them to explain the behavior. “I want to improve my encouragement skills. What did I do or say that encouraged you?”
Create an encouragement calendar.
Write the names of people you plan to encourage on your calendar. One name a day is a good start. Friday is the receptionist’s day. Saturday is your daughter’s day. Monday it’s the colleague down the hall. Tuesday it’s the boss.
What can leaders do to encourages others?
Dan, you nailed it! Encouragement is like abstinence. It works 100% of the times it’s tried. I have found a tremendous benefit not only for the receiver but the giver of encouragement. Plus, as the saying goes, “celebrate what you want to see more of”. So I’ve tried hard to make it part of my life.
Here’s how I weave encouragement into the fabric of my journey:
– I keep a stack of encouragement cards handy. I also have envelopes and stamps all in the same place. This makes it easier to complete the loop.
– I have a recurring task in Outlook that pops up everyday that says “Encouragement Cards”
– Ever since my kids have been in college, I’ve been sending them a note every Monday. Nothing profound. Just a short note to say I’m thinking of them. They call it their “Dad Notes”.
– I periodically review my Twitter feed and prayerfully think of who may need encouragement and shoot them out a quick DM. It’s amazing how much I’ve been encouraged when I receive an encouragement that is less than 140 characters.
Great stuff as always Dan and struck a very timely chord with me as, I’m sure, it will with many others.
Dan you just helped me realize something – in my job I am paid to encourage job seekers.
My whole job IS encouraging others.
I’ve seen firsthand the power of encouragement. Often times encouragement is the simple difference between successful job search and failure.
Love this! Encouragement can turn the tide for someone. It can fan into flames the spark inside someone. Scott’s ideas above are super as well. I made a new, lazy way to do that this year- went to http://www.amazingmail.com and purchased a bunch of postcards. Now I can easily tailor the graphics on a card for someone- and I don’t even have to do the mailing!
In my volunteer work with my nonprofit, Broken Hearts of the Big Bend (a support group for families affected by congenital heart defects), I’ve learned just how much a short note, a quick phone call, a brief visit, or a firm and genuine hug can lift up the weariest, saddest souls, and enrich the strongest, most joyful hearts. Sincere encouragement and genuine caring are traits of all truly good leaders. Thank you for the reminder, Dan, and the encouragement.
Thanks for chiming in from Tallahassee, Karen. And I am so pleased to be able to vouch for the fact that you personally follow through on the types of encouragement you mention. You do it so well!
Good morning, LF community.
This is a great post, Dan, and I agree with you. I try fastidiously to send out as many “good for you” messages (whether verbally or in writing) as complaints. I like to use my blog as vehicle for encouraging people who have jobs where they don’t necessarily get public acclaim but who make a positive difference in my life every day. Here’s an example:
I do feel compelled to say one thing that detracts from my desire to encourage. I hesitate to say something kind of negative in response to a post that could easily be full of 100% positive comments. Maybe this will lead to a positively constructive insight. One of my employers had a receptionist who had held the position for a very long time (and I know it’s a tough job – you are the front line of everyone’s anger when they first get you on the phone). But honestly I had learned to talk to this person about a business-related issue (“can you FedEx this letter?”) knowing that the receptionist would not break stride in the personal cell phone call she was on while processing my request also. I honestly joked in a more sarcastic moment one year that instead of a “Happy Administrative Professionals Day” card we should give her a “Thank you for putting down your makeup mirror long enough to acknowledge my business related question” card. As I type this, I am thinking of QBQ – what is the question behind the question? – I suppose this situation could point up a lack of a supervisor monitoring this individual’s performance (back to evaluation again!) – and rather than complaining someone could say “what could we do as an organization to engage this individual more in the mission of our organization?” I do find it a disincentive to my tendency to encourage when the individual seems to be on my team’s roster but not-so-secretly playing on a different team.
Maybe the great LF community can give me some of those constructive insights I mentioned. Any takers?
I’m not sure I would be as patient, Paula. Perhaps a fault on my part. Maybe there’s another form of encouragement she can be given, to train or improve her skill set somehow. We find with children, sometimes when they are encouraged through something they love or that is more interesting (or simply new), they improve their performance in other areas as well.
I do concur that encouragement can have a dark side too. We focus on encouragement and hope and other good things as being necessary for positive outcomes. But I think sometimes, too much can have an opposite affect. People who can’t release themselves from a poisonous relationship, because they have too much hope. Those who might not make a move or decision that’s best for their family or organization, because they’ve had too much encouragement to stay exactly where they are. We can analyze whether these are truly forms of hope or encouragement, but still it’s the balance thing again, isn’t it? An extreme of anything (even critiques vs. encouragement) is an extreme. And psychologically we tend to find that states of extremes are generally not beneficial.
Thank you for those well-articulated comments, Julia. It does take someone with a “leader” mindset to be able to customize encouragement in a situation where the “encouragee” is embroiled in a difficult or unproductive situation and has not yet accepted that. Thank you for commenting directly to my example.
Paula and Julia – this is an intersting dscussion. One point I always try to remember is to encourage positive behavior, attitudes, and actions. Similarly, we must address negative behavior, attitudes, and actions promptly. Otherwise, not only is it likely that will the negative behavior will continue, but you also risk discourageing other members of the team. (Just as Julia’s example illustrates.)
Joan, that is a great point about the discouragement of other members of the team.
Great Reminder Dan. A simple word can make a big difference. To encourage is to strengthen the courage and belief of another. It shows that they matter and they cando what they set out to do. It builds future leaders; encouragement is contagious and is often passed to another just as you have done today.
This post goes right to my heart and my head. I spend my professional life encouraging and inspiring others. I enjoy it — always have. Sometimes I wonder if others find it a chore to encourage others.
Your post lends insight on that. I think you summed it up with this line:
Either you encourage, or through neglect, you discourage.
That is how natural “encouragers” feel when others don’t encourage them!
Great post. Have a good weekend.
Great post. I have a boss who is great at this! She’s always aware of the atmosphere in the office and encourages people to keep the morale, passion, and effort going strong. Love the idea of making a calendar.
Ashley, you are fortunate to have a boss like that. And being aware is a BIG part of a well-timed encouragement.
I have people in my life like that too and I try to identify the character traits that I can emulate as well.
This is a great reinforcement as we exit the holidays and I head back to charity fund raising land. Encouragement is vital grease for an organism of volunteers. Everyone, paid or unpaid, needs to now that what they do matters.
Encouragement can also be vital to anyone in the face of obstacles not to give up.
I am reminded of Spirit Jump – a wonderful organization that really demonstrates the power of encouragement. It’s about jumping the spirits of people fighting chronic and life threatening illness, primarily cancer. It was started by two women who were themselves fighting cancer, one of them with stage IV melanoma at only the age of 24. They realized just how helpful the encouragement they received from friends, and others who heard their stories, was to their battles against cancer, as well as just getting through the “usual” demands of every day life. So they started an organization who’s sole purpose is to “jump the spirits” of those facing such difficult hurdles by sending cards or gifts of encouragement.
You can find them at http://SpiritJump.org if you’d like to know more.
I agree proactive encouragement will engender good results. But, encouragement can be projected in many ways. Here is a little thought exercise.
Let’s say you are a VP of operations in a Fortune 50 company and one of your employees (a manager) is “threatened” by a functional VP based on hearsay from one of his employees. The functional VP’s reactive behavior toward your employee was totally out of line and a direct violation of company policy. In fact, the behavior could lead to grounds for termination of the functional VP.
Now you have a choice, do you come to your employee’s defense or do you merely console your employee? Think about it, would you confront the functional VP, especially if the functional VP had a direct line to the CEO?
I think leaders can encourage others by connecting, engaging, exploring and creating. All the elements are closely linked and lead to others. Leader should connect with audience and when they are connected with the purpose they will be engaged. Then leader should explore options, opportunities and possibilites. Explored options lead to creation of responsive environement and this is the virtuous cycle how leader influences others for positive change.
I agree that no encouragement is discouragement because encouragement creates change. Now, impact of change decides whether change is good or bad. So, when change is bad, encouragement should be discouraged and when change is good, then encouragement should be encouraged and inspired.
What about negativity. My brother is my business partner. I find him lazy. So I rarely find myself encouraging him, rather I admonish him for sitting on his butt.
He lacks focus. Loves busy (when not sitting on his butt) work and doesn’t bring home or create value or leads. How do I encourage someone who hasn’t done a thing (in my opinion) in six months. I’m totally at a loss.
Reiterate, you are talking about a unique circumstance: working with family. Your challenge may be deeper than negativity. I suggest a good, qualified family business consultant. Trust me. I’ve worked with my 3 brothers for over 20 years.
I’m going to look for one right now! I’ve never heard of such a thing. We could use it.
Here’s a start:
Once upon a time, I was consulting in the arena of Performance Management when it meant Behavioral Engineering, the use of reinforcement theory into the business / workplace. Proponents were people like Tom Gilbert and Ed Feeney and others (I worked for Ed). Basically, we were implementing reward systems in businesses and my particular work was heavily linked to high-impact, profit-improvement focuses. We got some really great results, all measurable stuff. High ROI and all that…
BUT, even with a doctorate in psychology, it was easy to see that it was NOT the rewards part of this that was driving behavior but the FEEDBACK system improvements. I have a model/ checklist of how a feedback system should operate and the reality is that few are very good at giving effective information. Most people are in a situation analogous to learning to play the piano with them only hearing 1 of ever 4 notes and those being delayed by 5 seconds or so. (Just try to learn piano playing in such a situation, but that is commonly how the workplace works!).
So, I see the “encouragement” thing as extrinsic reward and thus out of the locus of control of the individual performer. Sure, who does not like to get praise and reinforcement for a job well done. But once one DEPENDS on that, and it does not occur, we get into a more difficult performance situation.
I will compare it to the “theme” of empowerment that we used to hear so much about (now, I think the term used in so many workplaces is simply “survival.”).
I think one cannot empower someone else and also that most people are actually un-empowered; they let things interfere with their behavior, things we often call roadblocks. So, my framework is that managers need to act in a way that I call Dis-Un-Empowerment — managers need to use coaching and expectations and other tools to remove the things that people perceive as roadblocks. Google “Dis-Un-Empowerment” and you can turn up some of my writings on this.
So, maybe just maybe, we could also view the typical worker in the American (as well as other) Workplace as un-encouraged. And maybe we need our managers, supervisors, team leaders and others to look for ways to remove the “un” from this, doing Dis-Un-Encouragement.
Being circular in my thinking, I think that if we provide clear goals and expectations and then very effective FEEDBACK systems, we make it more likely that workers will be self-encouraged.
Great idea, having managers provide this external encouragement. But more likely, they will continue to do the constructive criticism (oxymoron) and other kinds of behaviors that have gotten us into the motivational mess we find in so many workplaces. You think by TALKING about this stuff, we are really going to make a change in how people manage other people?
Geeze, how many copies of One Minute Manager did Blanchard and Johnson sell, anyway.
Encouragement is a GREAT Idea. Getting it accomplished is markedly less likely, methinks.
(I have a bunch of articles and the like on my website that you can download – http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com )
Have FUN out there.
Well done everyone. I think this is one of then best sets of comments I have seen to Dans posts. Great work, Great cooperation,made for Great read. And Dan, great work for keeping this community so alive.
You encourage and inspire me. Thank you for your words of wisdom. This post is a gentle reminder of the power of words.
This post should be a timely reminder to any managers of the importance of encouragement. I particularly like the idea of an encouragement calendar, as I know when I was a senior manager I had good intentions but I frequently forgot to encourage people.
Heavy title but I can’t disagree with you. Sometimes by saying nothing we are not acknowledging what is and it sure can discourage people who are putting in their efforts.
Thanks Dan and others enlightening comments. I have found encouraging the right behaviors in a timely fashion very effective. It shows you care, are aware, genuine, and builds trust. Most important coaching I received over 10 years ago is be specific in what you are encouraging and never pair an encouraging statement with an ‘improvement suggestion’in the same delivery moment. People will only remember the criticism and you as a manager will be ineffective.
Keep it coming Dan. I love how your topics build on those prior and reinforce.
I consider myself fortunate to reach your blog as it that provides some valuable insights on leadership. Leadership is a topic that stimulates me. I was lucky to serve in an organization where ‘leadership’ virtually became our DNA – army. And now I teach in India.
“Evaluate your encouragement” in your post is something that never struck me. And I intend using it right-away with my students.
Many thanks for sharing these valuable learning. I have made a modest attempt to pen some thoughts on Leadership for the benefits of my students at http://tiny.cc/aadfs .
With kind regards,
I love the encouragement calendar.
I’ve also seen the value in encouraging someone on the spot. Sometimes people need that extra boost when they are on the verge of a decision.
You are extremely resourceful and keep me on my toes. I look forward to reading your blog and thinking differently after I read it.
I will definitely start the calendar, thank you.
Great thread. So, let me weigh in with one more caution. Back when I was doing the behavioral interventions in the workplace, I strongly suggested to one very good guy / very senior manager for one of the three-letter companies to go out and provide some praise and recognition to one of his offices that had really great, over-the-top sales results.
With good intentions, Bob went through the room saying things to the workers at their cubby-desks, all of which were in pretty close contact with each other.
What I could not interupt or disconnect was the reality that he said precisely the same thing to each and every one of them, glancing at their name plates on the desk and commenting about the good results of the group and that he appreciated that individual and the groups efforts.
This WAS a sincere effort on his part; he was just uncomfortable giving that kind of praise and compliments to people and thus he got into what he thought was a good “pattern.”
Most perceived that; some people thought that it was insincere.
I had a really good personal relationship as trainer and coach (and outside consultant) and had lots of “correcting conversations” with different people after this event.
Most of us can offer praise effectively. Be cautious when we are encouraging others so that they do not simply go through the motions and send the wrong messages.
Here’s how not to use an encouragement calendar.
VIDEO: Encouragement Calendar
A large part of my job is to encourage. I have been told I am very good at it. However,for the first time in my life I have come across someone who when they are facing difficulties,perhaps blue, says: Do not encourage me right now. I don’t understand that. I do as they wish, but I though encouragement was always welcomed when sincere and simple. He says he finds it difficult to take encouragement. I wonder why – I have never had this reaction before and since this is my boyfriend, I truly want to understand this. I have asked him b/c sometimes he says, please encourage me and actually seeks praise and encouragement but other times just flat out says give me none right now. I have asked him and he does not answer the question. Perhaps he does not know.
This man is a mixture of self-confident Alpha male and at other times sensitive low-self-esteem male.