The One-Minute Encourager

Encourage v: to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.

A story in Bits & Pieces is told about the Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. He was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower subordinates with compliments.

Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age, a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, and then replied, "I'd give more praise."

While it was too late for Wellington to go back and do things differently, the approach you take in your leadership style can make an immediate impact if you implement this one small yet powerful leadership characteristic: encouragement.

If you think encouragement is not significant or necessary, think again. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number one reason people leave their job is because they do not feel appreciated. The Gallup organization reports that one poll found that 65 percent of Americans reported receiving no recognition for good work in the past year. How tragic. Almost 7 out of 10 people last year were not recognized, acknowledged or told how much they were valued or appreciated.

In a recent survey of nearly 2,000 people, Monster.com asked this question of their readers: "Would you actively encourage children (your own or others) to enter the career you're currently in?"  Forty-seven percent said never, 22 percent said maybe, 10 percent said probably, and 21 percent said absolutely. What would you say? While there is no direct correlation between the Gallup poll and the Monster.com survey, the results are striking. While many variables contribute to the feelings, morale, and satisfaction each person has as it relates to their work, encouragement is one small investment that can pay big dividends. Here is three ways it can help.

Encouragement builds relationships. When you take time to notice what others around you are doing and the way in which they contribute it can make a world of difference. But encouragement takes it a step further because it is grounded in reality.

An encourager sees the struggle and appreciates the sweat equity involved in making your organization a success. Robert Martin said: "Taking an interest in what others are thinking and doing is often a more powerful form of encouragement than praise." When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage your team? The one minute encourager understands that the best retention policy you have is in the form of encouraging words.

Encouragement builds morale. Think back to the survey. Sixty-five percent of the respondents reported receiving no recognition for good work in the past year. To be sure, the state of morale within your organization can be subjective and is not always what you think. But without a strong leader that knows how to encourage, think of where your organization would be without it.

Encouragement can take on many forms; a hand-written note of thanks to an employee for a job well done, a gift-certificate for dinner, a day off with pay. The possibilities are endless.  When encouragement becomes a natural part of your leadership style the residuals of strong morale will be evident. The one-minute encourager understands that strong morale is built when the team is the focal point of appreciation.

Encouragement builds loyalty. For the leader who understands the power of encouragement this is the reward. The difference between superficial praise and encouragement is found in the results. Superficial praise doesn't mean much and is short-term; both in meaning and outcome. But genuine encouragement is long-lasting, and builds loyalty.

As you develop as an encouraging leader it will change the atmosphere in your organization. Not only will your team begin to believe they are appreciated, but they will begin to act like it. Now the way in which they are being encouraged is the way in which they handle their relationships. The one minute encourager understands that one of the single greatest resources at his or her disposal is not only cost-efficient but also time-efficient.

 Who have you encouraged today?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is a nationally recognized leadership columnist and speaker. He is the author of the new book, Great Leaders Wanted!  Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com for more information. Follow Doug on Twitter @managemntmoment.

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