“Thank you so much for note. I normally only get bills at my work address, it added so much joy to my day.” I open a simple facebook message in response to a short note that I sent out a week earlier.
Encouragement. We all know that we need about 8 times as much positive feedback as we can handle negative — that’s right, I need you to tell me I am awesome 8 times for every 1 time you are going to tell me I missed the mark. And it’s not just me, you need that too. Which also means, the people you are leading need it. But, let’s face it, that is lots easier recited than executed. You are a leader, which means you are in the business of improvement. How does improvement happen? By figuring out what is not working and attacking that thing, right? Well, kinda.
Any gardener will tell you that it takes both sun and rain to make beautiful flowers. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that sun is encouragement and rain is criticism. True, some “flowers” need more sunshine than others and some can survive with a pretty limited amount of sunshine. But, no matter what kind of flower you are looking to grow, it needs sunshine to truly flourish. Some of the leaders that you are growing can get by with less encouragement than others, but every single one of them — even that one that says they don’t need any at all — need regular, consistent encouragement.
Productive, meaningful encouragement has to include a few things to really get the goods out of it. First, it has to be personal. It has to be directed toward a single individual, or very occasionally a specific team (but you can only get away with this a couple of times). General, “great job today people!” statements are nice to keep an atmosphere of celebration in your organization, but they do not qualify as encouragement. It doesn’t pull out who did a great job and it leaves too much room for those nagging thoughts. “Well, everyone else did a good job today, but I really dragged it all down….” There is only a sliver of space left for those thoughts when you pointedly choose an individual to direct your encouragement toward.