Stop Fake Compliments - 4 Rules For Encouragement
"Atta-boy" (with a head tousle)
Newsflash. Although these are words, this is not encouragement.
Encouragement is not a random shot in the dark. It is a thoughtful and intentional process. We want to empower people who will innovate, create, and do great work. But it's more than saying, "great work." Here are four rules for encouragement which will move us toward helping people be better.
Encourage must be based on clear goals and defined rules. This is leadership 101, really. People must know what is expected of them and defines a "good job." If goals and rules are not clear, "good job" is on a whim. Pure subjectivity. This leads to insecurity and lack of trust. Clarity is your friend. People are created with an innate desire to do great work. No one wants to do a crappy job. If we believe otherwise, we don't need to think about leading people. A crappy job will be done of that, as well. People respond best when they have clear expectations. Take the time and thought space necessary to have a clear understanding of what you expect. Listen. Get feedback. Clarify. Then, figure out a clear and compelling way to communicate your expectations to others.
Lack of specificity shows lack of attention. People are not simply doing "good jobs." People are running numbers on spreadsheets and analyzing the data to provide valuable feedback for the organization. People are driving dump trucks with a 100% safety record. People are doing thoughtful and creative customer service. People are writing clear copy and coding beautiful websites. Be specific in your encouragement.
A general session, post-staff meeting, rah-rah, "great job team" is less effective than a hand-written note. A visit to the workspace to understand colleague's work is better than a "check-in" on a video conference. If you lead people and are too busy to recognize the contributions your team is making, you may be too busy. Or too self-absorbed. Or you have the wrong team. I'm going to guess it may be the first two before the last. Use names. Use specific attributes. Be personal with all feedback, especially encouragement. It's a powerful motivator.
Take advantage of the magic of reminders. Put the things you intend to do on your calendar. Set a reminder. When your phone dings or your watch buzzes - do the thing. I use this for prayer. I use this for completing tasks and appointments. Try doing this to encourage. Make this a part of your meeting agenda. "(insert name here) is (insert specific project/task/attitude here) - and I'm grateful for her."
And a note for those who are leading without positional leadership - all this applies to you. You may not be the actual "boss." Most of us are not. But you influence people when you personally and intentionally encourage others. This has more power in their lives than we know.
Don't fake compliment. Be the one who connects through encouragement.