Using Your Skills to Inspire Others to Excellence
"The key to encouragement is knowing what gives people courage, what spurs them on to action." -- John C. Maxwell
Too often, we focus -- as leaders and as peers -- on what others are doing wrong.
But what would happen in our homes, businesses, and communities if we got more excited about the potential in others than their failures and encouraged them in their strengths rather than exert our energy and theirs in attempting to fix their weaknesses?
Research shows that our brains more quickly recognize a negative experience and that for every negative experience, it takes three genuinely positive experiences to counter the emotional and psychological effects.
Consider that for a moment, for every discouragement you feel or express to another; it takes three encouragements for our brains to recognize the positive emotion. While you may not consider encouragement to be a big deal, it can have a tremendous effect on someone's life.
So as a people person, encouragement is your key to helping others succeed, so how can you incorporate it into your daily interactions?
As a business and leadership coach, I will focus our attention on how this applies specifically to being an encouraging people person in the workplace. Still, the general principles apply to all areas of our lives.
When Can I Be an Encourager?
As a general rule, encouragement should be given when:
Someone achieves a goal or accomplishes a difficult task.
Someone is feeling discouraged or low.
Someone is trying something new or stretching outside their comfort zone.
Someone is facing a complex or challenging situation.
Someone exhibits a valued behavior or attitude.
Notice that only two of these incidents are related to when a person is already in a positive state, but more often than not, we need to offer encouragement when it is hardest and the person is likely not at their best.
What qualities should I encourage?
When encouraging someone to reinforce a desired behavior or attitude, you must first identify the factors associated with long-term success and aim for quality, not just quick fixes.
These qualities might include the following:
A positive attitude
"When you encourage others, you, in the process, are encouraged because you're making a commitment and difference in that person's life. Encouragement really does make a difference." --Zig Ziglar
How can I offer encouragement?
While encouragement is more of an art than a science, you must develop an understanding and sensitivity to those around you to offer genuine and meaningful encouragement. Meaningful encouragement means that not everyone will feel encouraged in the same way, and you need to recognize the different ways you can offer encouragement in the moment.
These methods may include:
Recognition (public or private) for a job well done or effort put forth
Monetary or gift rewards
Autonomy in tasks
Personal growth opportunities
Quality time together
Words of affirmation
Offers of support or assistance
Promotion or increased responsibility
Consider who you can intentionally encourage this week. While you may think that encouragement should be spontaneous (and it can be), it is a good practice in intentionality to plan.
Write down the names of those you want to encourage, along with how and when you will encourage them. Be specific. Be intentional.