The Impact of Encouragement

For nearly thirty years, my work has been devoted to helping people become better at this thing called leadership. One of the major sources of my passion around this work comes from the research and writing of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Their names are very familiar in the field of leadership development as they are the authors of the multi-million best seller, award winning book, The Leadership Challenge. I have been friends and colleagues with Jim and Barry for years, and have found great value (personally and professionally) from their discoveries about what they have called The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. These Practices describe what leaders most frequently do when they are leading at their best. I have found this body of work to be extraordinarily practical and applicable.

Encouraging the Heart is one of The Five Practices. This explains what leaders are doing when they are recognizing people for accomplishments and spurring them on when they need a lift. It is not about thoughtless backslapping or formal incentive programs. It is about letting people know how much they are valued and appreciated, and thanking them appropriately for their contributions. There is plenty of solid research showing the correlation between higher levels of engagement or performance, and the feeling of being appreciated and recognized. Anecdotally, in all my years of work, I have never met anyone who said she or he was going to start intentionally screwing up or even quitting the job, because of too much genuine praise and appreciation.

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? For those of you who have ever received that kind of encouragement, especially at just the right time, you already know the value of this leadership practice. And for those of you who intellectually agree, but perhaps do not practice it too often, I am hoping to encourage you to consider its importance and impact a bit more closely.

Following is a link to a one or so minute video about an example of the power of encouragement. I will not spoil the experience for you, but will tell you that Sarah, the individual featured, desperately needed some help to achieve something very extraordinary. She had people all around her extremely willing to provide it. However, as you will see (but may not know), they were unable to physically assist her in any way.

You may have people around you at work or in other parts of your life, who are at a similar point as Sarah was, in their quest to accomplish something remarkable. I hope you will remember how much of an impact your encouraging leadership might have on them.

Enjoy the clip and remember that as a leader you must be intentional about letting other people know how much you value them. And, don’t just make that an end-of-the-year/holiday season endeavor. Make it a habit you can call on at any time, to lead someone to do his or her very best.

Thank you all for your ongoing commitment to leadership, and all the best to you as you move forward into 2016.


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